Friday, December 21, 2007

The Good Ole Days/ Academic Dystopia

Came across this a while back (I forget where now):

"But authoritarian control over colleges and universities is more often exerted by conservative presidents. In 1991, four former Hillsdale College professors, all members of the conservative National Association of Scholars, criticized the small college and its president, George Roche. They wrote: "For years the Hillsdale administration has neglected its academic program to pay for 'outreach' activities designed to promote Dr. Roche, maintained a curriculum that requires no appreciable knowledge of Western culture, and used every possible means including dismissals and threats of lawsuits, to silence dissent of any kind among faculty and students." (Academic Questions, Fall 1991) They noted that in 1986, "the administration began to attack the student newspaper, the Collegian, for its disagreements with college policies, threatening lawsuits and other reprisals against the student staff and any faculty who defended it." The editor of the Collegian was forced by the administration to resign, and the rest of the student staff resigned in protest."

I was writing for the Collegian at the time of the controversy (1986, my sophomore year). In fact, I wrote a piece expressing solidarity with 2 of my poli sci profs, which was critical of the administration, especially after one of the profs (Dr. Hancock, my advisor and a simply wonderful man) decided to leave Hillsdale because of the shenanigans explained above. Behold, the next year some of my merit scholarships were mysteriously cancelled without explanation. One of the lower level hacks in the personnel dept. went so far as to suggest I transfer since the financial hardship would be too difficult; I chose to take out bigger loans. Why I wanted to stay at Hillsdale is now unclear to me. I think it was that I was commited--the political whirlwind was intense (and as a poli sci student, it took on larger dimensions), I had close friendships, I felt comfortably trapped in a degree I couldn't imagine finishing elsewhere. But most of all respect for my professors knew no bounds. Looking back I see it was a moment in American history in microcosm where the shift from conservatives who believed in freedom were killed off by neo-conservative cynicism. One could say it was always "bad" conservativism underneath it all--pro-tradition (judeo christian, greco-roman), anti-left, pro-capitalism. Yes, that's true, but there were some who taught me to think critically, to value learning for its own sake, to question historical limits, to love philosophical ideas and to see that love as a political act. They might have been conservatives, but they taught me to be a radical. Finally, I believe that's why they were targeted, shunned, ex-communicated. It taught me a lesson: politics takes place on many levels the repercussions of which are often difficult to delineate, and institutions of learning, like any other place, are important sites of struggle. Perhaps it prepared me for being a grad student, or professional academic. We shall see.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Hearing Trumpet

Reading Carrington feels like for the first time it's been so long. So wonderful. This passage is a remarkable interlude (and reminds me of Carla's work);

"Force of habit rather than my own capacity carried me
home and sat me down in the back yard. Strangely
enough I was in England and it was Sunday afternoon. I
was sitting with a book on a stone seat under a lilac
bush. Close by a clump of rosemary saturated the air
with perfume. They were playing tennis nearby, the
clump clump of the rackets and balls was quite
audible. This was the sunken Dutch garden, why Dutch I
wonder? The roses? the geometrical flower beds? or
perhaps because it is sunken? The church bells
ringing, that is the Protestant church, have we had
tea yet? (cucumber sandwiches, seed cake and rock
buns) Yes, tea must be over.
My long dark hair is soft like cat's fur, I am
beautiful. This is quite a shock becuase I have just
realized that I am beautiful and there is something
that I must do about it, but what? Beauty is a
responsibility like anything else, beautiful women
have special lives like prime ministers but that is
not what I really want, there must be something
else... The book. Now I can see it, the tales of Hans
Christian Anderson, the Snow Queen.
The Snow Queen, Lapland. Little Kay doing
multiplication problems in the icy castle.
Now I can see that I was also given a mathematical
problem which I cannot solve although I seem to have
been trying for many years. I am not really here in
England in this scented garden although it does not
disappear as it nearly always does, I am inventing all
this and it is about to disappear, but it does not.
Feeling strong and happy is very dangerous, something horrible is about to happen and I must find the solution quickly.
All the things I love are going to disintegrate and there is nothing I can do about it unless I can solve the Snow Queen's problem. She is the Sphinx of the North with crackling white fur and her tears rattle like hail on the strange diagrams drawn at her feet. Somewhere, sometime, I must have betrayed the Snow Queen, for surely by now I should know?
The young man wearing white flannels has come to ask me something, am I going to play tennis? well I am not really very good you know, that is why I prefer to read a book. No , not an intellectual book, just fairy tales. Fairy tales at your age?
Why not? What is age anyway? Something you don't understand, My Love.
The woods are full of wild anemones now, shall we go? no Darling. I didn't say wild enemas. I said wild anemones, flowers, hundreds and thousands of wild flowers all over the ground under the trees all the way up to the gazebo. They have no smell but they have a presence just like perfume and quite as obsessive, I shall remember them all my life.
Are you going somewhere Darling?
Yes, going to the woods.
Then why do you say you will remember them all your life?
Because you are a part of their memory and you are going to disappear, the anemones are going to bloom eternally, we are not.
Darling stop being philosophical it doesn't suit you, it makes our nose red.
Since I have discovered that I am really beautiful I don't care about having a red nose it is such a beautiful shape.
You are hatefully vain.
No Darling, not really because I have a frightful foreboding that it will disappear before I know what to do with it. I am so horribly afraid I don't have time to enjoy being vain.
You are a depressive maniac and I would be bored stiff if you were not so pretty.
Nobody could ever be bored with me I have too much soul.
Far too much, but lots of body too, thank Heavens. The green and the gold light in the woods look at the green ferns. They say witches make magic with fern seeds, they are hermaphrodites.
The witches?
No the ferns. Somebody brought that colossal bluish fir tree from Canada, it cost millions and millions, how silly to bring a tree from America. Don't you hate America?
No, why should I hate America, I've never been there, they are frightfully civilized.
Well I hate America because I know that once you get in you can never get out and you go on crying all your life for the anemones you will never see again.
Perhaps America is covered head to foot with wildflowers, mostly anemones of course.
I know it is not.
How can you possibly know that?
Not the part of America I am thinking about. They have other sorts of plans, and dust. Dust, dust. Probably a few palm trees and cowboys galloping hither and thither on cows.
They ride horses.
Well horses. Does it matter when you are so sick to get home again that you wouldn't notice if they were riding cockroaches?
Well you don't have to go to America, so cheer up.
Don't I? Who knows, something tells me that I am going to see a lot of America and I am going to be very sad there unless a miracle happens.
Miracles, witches, fairy tales, grow up Darling!
You may not believe in magic but something very strange is happening at this very moment. Your head has dissolved into thin air and I can see the rhododendrons through your stomach. It's not that you are dead or anything dramatic like that, it is simply that you are fading away and I can't even remember your name. I remember your white flannels better than I can remember you. I remember all the things I felt about the white flannels but whoever made them walk about has totally disappeared.
So you remember me as a pink linen dress with no sleeves and my face is confused with dozens of other faces, I have no name either. So why so much fuss about individuality?
I thought I heard the Snow Queen laugh, she seldom laughs."

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien

Occurred to me after seeing "I'm Not There" and even more so after a fellow student recommended listening to Todd Haynes's interview on Fresh Air that the following, written by me age 16, was my youthful attempt to think about regret, opportunity, identity, etc. (In its original format, it's handwritten. It was an asignment from a psychology class, which asked that we complete the trite saying: "If I had my life to life over again" within a triangle for some quasi-poetic reason, I suppose.) It always makes me a little sad when I read it both because it's so very trite, and because I know I really meant it -- and maybe still do. (I've tried to reproduce the way the triangle made the lines break):

I had
my life to
live over again
I'd be more under-
standing when it
comes to other people.
I would try to give more
of myself instead of always
holding back. I would enjoy
the present and stop worrying
about the future. I'd laugh more
and cry less. I'd have more confidence
in myself. I'd play more and work less, I'd
try things that I probably won't succeed at.
I'd be myself and not care what other people think of me.
I'd wear weird clothes and say weird things. I would read more
poetry. I'd gather leaves in the fall and make snowmen in the winter.
I'd live a thousand lives instead of just one.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Politics of Performance/ I"I'm Not There"

Saw Todd Haynes's "I'm Not There" last night. Just stunning. Too rich to even adequately address its many dimensions and evocations, so any discussion of it will necessarily leave something out/feel inadequate. But I think I can fairly say this: it is, above all, " about" performance--on a number of levels, which means the meaning of performance itself is at issue. In what way performance and Dylan, performing Dylan, Dylan as performer, are unpacked and fragmented and stitched together through the various narratives and the characters is a complicated question, and I don't really have the capacity to deal with it adequately (I need to see it again to do that any real justice). Yet I think I can at least say that the various dynamics and themes that circle around and through the film: identity/authenticity/politics/cultural, temporal, musical, and visual frames as they overlap or are mutually structured can be seen through the prism of performativity. (I'll have to define the term at some point, I know.)

For example, as you're experiencing "Dylan" being performed and are constantly aware of the shifts in names, locations, genders, time periods, etc., the differing acting styles become ever more apparent and you start to perhaps unconsciously think: is this particular performance any "good" or "right" or close to the "original; What is this performative moment going to teach us or give us in terms of our desire to know (more than the performer) Dylan? What does it even mean to expect that a performance is "adequate"? So Christian Bale pulls off his strikingly tongue in cheek, ironic, funny yet somehow, at the same time, totally moving and endearing performances as both early folkie and as sad Christian preacher Dylan (the latter complete with bad polyester suit and queer molded jewfro) precisely because he makes you aware of it *as* his performance of Dylan's performances and of what perhaps Dylan himself might have thought a musician should sound or look or feel or be or believe (and he gives you this layering even tho he doesn't have a direct line in the entire movie, I don't think. It's all musical performances.) It's like the movie "performs" a Bulterian "citation-chain" of musical performance and characterological references, which is totally dizzying and amazing and I actually would have like to have seen more Bale and a tad less Blanchett because his work was equally as fascinating and evocative and has gotten far less attention by the media than it deserves. Yes, Blanchett was fantastic, but it did seem to be a concession to popular audiences that her section dominates most of the latter half of the film. (As a side note, one thing the film's definitely fascinated with in the Blanchett section is Dylan's hair--it's practically a character in its own right as Haynes does a spot on directorial appropriation or "performance" or citation of Pennebaker's Don't Look Back, when Dylan was, indeed, really a hottie. The main reason I've seen that film like 20 times. Tho I was a little pissed that Haynes didn't take the opportunity to do something w/ the Dylan/Baez dynamic in that part).

So, yeah, If you start to compare the acting performances you get a range--naturalistic, you might call it, from Heath Ledger (and Charlotte Gainsbourg); campy and ironic yet completely driven in Bale; method channeling to the nth degree in Blanchett; sincere and goofily sweet in Gere. And then there's the guy who played the Rimbaud character and the young black kid who plays Woody Guthrie/Dylan, or even Julianne Moore's performance, which, like Bale's, is both a weirdly spot on and a campy spoof of an older Joan Baez, and which is so doubly, delightfully mean-spirited. And then some of the time we get "failed" or surface-y attempts at sticking to character or a tendency to ham it up a bit with the over-dramatic, corny acting style-- kind of like in the tradition of Warhol's "bad acting" movies--and at other times we get acting at its most depth oriented. "Acting the part" of Dylan takes on so many dimensions and performance itself becomes so unstable that, at various moments, whether Dylan is either truly "not there" (Gere and Ledger) or so hyper-present it verges on uncanny (Blanchett), or so silly it's laughable (Bale), performance as identity is taken to a whole other level of complexity. (I would expect if I were reading this that Judith Butler was going to come up at some point, right? Sorry tho-- sadly or thankfully, depending on how you feel--no Butler quotes will be forthcoming....)

Next I want to talk about the politics of anachronisms in queer cinema, the film's musical/visual language, and directing as a kind of homage-like appropriational performance. More later... maybe....

Here's Haynes on Blanchett "channeling" Dylan an her embodied approach and Dylan's own "adrogyny":

Monday, December 03, 2007

This Weekend at Mocad

"Friday & Saturday, December 7 and 8

Friday, December 7
8 pm doors, all ages
$16 admission
Tony Conrad will perform live in collaboration with M.V. Carbon (formerly of Chicago's Metalux) along with internationally acclaimed, Dearborn-based, ambient "space rock" minimalists, Windy & Carl, and Detroit/Ann Arbor-based, international compositional-noise-rock icons Wolf Eyes.

Saturday, December 8 at 7 pm
2.5 hour program
$9 admission

Tony Conrad will screen and discuss a 2.5-hour retrospective program of his films.

$23 advance tickets for both weekend events available until November 30th through the MOCAD website, at the MOCAD bookstore, and at Stormy Records (Dearborn). After November 30th tickets will only be for sale at the MOCAD bookstore or at the door on the night of the event. Online sales are will call only.

TONY CONRAD (b. 1941) is the quintessential cult figure; resident outsider; rebel angel; Tony Conrad's got the kind of immaculate credibility that can't be bought and can't be sold -- and how else, otherwise, could he have persevered? Rumbling under the cultural radar since the Kennedy Era, Conrad is at once first cause and last laugh, a covert operative who can stand as a primary influence over succeeding generations." --(from the Mocad website)

I can't wait!!!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

The Thin Man

Oh boy, it's always a good night when this movie's on. I adore Myrna Loy.

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

Friday, November 30, 2007


Saw great show last night at Marygrove College. Holly Hughes read kind of funny and sweet improv-y piece that started out riffing on "her" "come", "coming," and frustrated relationships. "Her" or "she", in a nice funny perverse twist away from assumptions abut lesbians and sex and queer relationships, turned out to be her dog, which then turned into thoughts on playing with queer identity, and living in Michigan after being a "professional homosexual" in NYC. It was good; she's funny and natural, not like what I expected. In other words, she was way more Michigan than NYC.

But let me back up...I came in a bit after the first performer, Blair, had begun. he was singing a snippet from a Journey song, which immediately made me grin (the "born and raised in South Detroit" song, of course). Then he read a few pieces which were basically about being a queer black man, Detroit's down and dirty landmarks, poverty, desire, knowing someone/yourself. It sort of reminded me of Samuel Delaney. Then he played acoustic guitar and sang a beautiful song and then ended it with this piece called "Dig," which was sort of about telling the truth about oneself. The way I'm describing it makes it sound not that good, but it was actually really amazing. I was very moved not only because he is quite talented--beautiful voice good performance skills--but because it was so heartfelt. It wasn't all that sophisticated (some obvious metaphors, too concerned with his presence) but something about his sincerity and the beauty of some of the lines and delivery and his gestures were just very refreshing emotionally--direct and lovely. I had tears in my eyes when he finished. When Holly Hughes took the stage after him she was just blown away, kept saying "that was AMAZING." You could tell she was a bit startled by being in Detroit and coming across something actually good. She does, after all, teach at U of M (snob central). At one point she said" "why haven't I heard of this guy?" and," I have to follow that?" So that was cool, to see that reaction.

Then there was a stupid interlude where some chick had piled a bunch of rocks and a cluster of rolled gauze bandages in the middle of the gallery space off to the side of the performance stage. She and a few people sat on the floor and started rolling the gauze around the rocks. The audience stood there and watched for a while and then rocks and gauze got passed around and people rolled the rocks together. A rock and roll gathering. Get it? And I'm guessing it had something to do with war. Now I love rocks and gauze is pretty cool too, but I hate shit like that. I want to *throw* rocks when I'm supposed to do something meaningful with them. It was a sophomore art project, but then it also did become kind of fun to stand in the corner with my friend Lindsay and make fun of it and chat and think about gauze and rocks and just hang. So, in an unintentional way, it *was* about community and gathering things together. But the larger commentary was lame. I hate participatory art. "Fuck you! I don't wanna play your art reindeer games." Yeah, that's right..I'm a bad ass.

Finally that ended and it was Carla Harryman, Anna Vitale and Lindsay (aka Viki)'s turn to perform a piece by Carla called "Sue." Carla and Anna read the piece in a double voiced, echoing splitting loud/soft play off each other while Lindsay/Viki had her electronic set up behind them coming in at certain points with noises, atmospherics, rhythms, boops, rattles etc etc. I've seen Carla read this piece before at my friend Lisa's house as a solo and this was a very different way to hear/experience it, which was a nice comparison to have in mind the whole time. Carla reading it the first time solo made it seem like a narrative that, while difficult to follow in its elusive framing as both prose narrative and poetic voicing, held togeher and built a kind of spatial, accretive meaning. This time, with the two other "voices" echoing and splitting it into a dynamic work, it was much more difficult to keep in mind what was being spoken or narrated, sometimes the words were hard to hear even when they were echoed between Carla and Anna. You really had to work to "get" it, but then, because of the way they were reading, the meaning shifted to being about the performance too. Like someone said afterward--I think it was Christine Hume--it was like watching free jazz. So "Sue" was pulled open by sound. (I'm leaving out any direct summary of the piece itself since I just can't do justice to it, but it's really great, so I feel a little bad at my inability to say more about it.)

It was really great to see my friends collaborating. I've just recently met Anna and she's so cool and friendly and smart and real I feel like she's a friend already. Carla and especially Lindsay I've known for a while and it was so nice to see/hear three women I've admired personally and as artists coming from quite different aesthetic and personal places, backgrounds, ages, sensibilities making something together. I hope that wasn't the last time they work together.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

art & evolution

I guess there was (is?), according to a NYT Op-Ed, a "free-wheeling conference" at U of M on art and evolution. A month long conference, it seems. I felt intrigued until I read this:

"In the main presentation at the conference, Ellen Dissanayake, an independent scholar affiliated with the University of Washington, Seattle, offered her sweeping thesis of the evolution of art, nimbly blending familiar themes with the radically new. By her reckoning, the artistic impulse is a human birthright, a trait so ancient, universal and persistent that it is almost surely innate. But while some researchers have suggested that our artiness arose accidentally, as a byproduct of large brains that evolved to solve problems and were easily bored, Ms. Dissanayake argues that the creative drive has all the earmarks of being an adaptation on its own. The making of art consumes enormous amounts of time and resources, she observed, an extravagance you wouldn’t expect of an evolutionary afterthought. Art also gives us pleasure, she said, and activities that feel good tend to be those that evolution deems too important to leave to chance."

So art is "too important to leave to chance? Huh? Evolution, then, is deliberate? I mean, what's the opposite of chance here? I'm sure the article is doing a bad job but I *hate* it when folks try to make art seem more meaningful or interesting by explaining it in evolutionary terms, especially when they don't know jack shit about theories of evolution. And what exactly might that explanation really tell us? I don't care if Martians landed on earth a billion trillion years ago and implanted a DNA code for artistic production or that plants and ticks and monkeys and birds make art too and thus the whole world is one big art project. Ok, the latter example is a jab at Elizabeth Grosz who I greatly admire but who gave a stunningly silly lecture on art and evolution last year at Wayne' English dept. According to Grosz, after a long explanation of environment and something about ticks, it all adds up to--are you ready for this?--art equals "vibrations." Please. Come on...I mean, duh, whatever. *Everything* equals vibrations. The whole fucking universe. It's like a more boring version of string theory. I get it, it's just... so what? What, as a critic, are you supposed to do with that? The meaning of Jackson Pollack's drip paintings? Vibrations. Motorhead's super fast bad ass punk rock metal? Vibrations. Bach's Mass in B Minor? Vibrations. Foghat's crappy rock songs? Vibrations,. Tyree Guyton's urban detritus installations and legendary dots? Vibrations. Please. Kill. Me. Evolutionary explanations for art like Grosz's say nothing *interesting* or specific about art practices--their history, their form, their politics, their pleasure. Evolution, on the other hand, is fascinating.

Well, you know, maybe the article just sucks but it really annoyed me. End of today's rant.

Monday, November 26, 2007

"Filmed by Andrei Tarkovsky in 1979 as Stalker, the Zone is visualised as a Chernobyl-like scarred, postindustrial landscape of ruins, waste, rubbish, of the remnants of industrial civilisation corroded, dilapidated and rapidly being reclaimed by nature . Tarkovsky's version of the Zone has gradually, over the last thirty years, become the foundation of an entire aesthetic. If Modernity, or Modernism, is our Antiquity, then its ruins have become every bit as fascinating, poignant and morbid as those of the Greeks or Romans were to the 18th century. Tarkovsky’s Zone is in some ways specific to the former USSR and a few locations in Estonia, yet practically every industrial or post-industrial country, has something resembling the Zone within it. Such an area would be, for instance, the remnants of industrial districts of East London. Beckton, Woolwich, Stratford, outposts marked by the cyclopean remains of silos, gasometers, factories. These are the places that inspired the Modernists of the 1920s: every manifesto from Le Corbusier's Vers d'une Architecture to Moisei Ginzburg's Constructivist response Style and Epoch had their lovingly photographed silos and power stations. Appropriately, also in the Zone can be found the bastard children of the Modernists, the scatterings of overambitious social housing, with their crumbling highrises and streets in the sky. These are remnants of something as alien and incomprehensible to the seamless mallscape of 21st century Capital, or the heritage Disneyland of European Urbanism, as Shklovsky’s Futurist Martians were to their contemporaries: only here without any of the insurrectionary promise of a new world, merely the ruins of a defunct future." --
read more "Delirious Moscow"

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The uncanny city stroll

from the article "Repeating Making Meaning in Freud and Aristotle" by William N. West--

"Freud gives an example of repetition and meaning more closely related to the tripartite structure visible in Aristotle. In "The Uncanny," written a year before Beyond the Pleasure Principle, he recounts getting lost one summer in an almost deserted Italian town and wandering by accident into the red light district. Embarrassed, Freud "hastened to leave the narrow street at the next turning" (237). After wandering a bit more, though, Freud found himself back in the place he had just left, "where my presence was now beginning to excite attention." Freud leaves again, only to return by accident once more. It is the third time that strikes Freud profoundly and oddly: "Now, however, a feeling overcame me which I can only describe as uncanny." Freud's story expands on Lacan's aphorism in a few ways. First, he shows that the sign of a subject is not always the sign of a subject, or at least not always the subject it seems to be the sign of. The sign in fact produces the subject, but outside of the subject within a spectator--that is, the spectator (mis)recognizes a certain intention in Freud's repeated return. Freud's returning is not a sign for him until his third arrival, but it is a sign of him to the prostitutes the second time he shows up, when he begins to "excite attention." Meaning, then, accumulates out of stupid repetition and coincidence--the first of which Plato fears when he describes the imitator of weather, and the second of which Aristotle decries as a bad plot--but not in the repeater or imitator, only in the spectator. But Freud's awareness of the awareness of the watching prostitutes doubles his own displaced meaning back onto him; their gaze constitutes him as meaningful for himself, or rather he sees what he means to them. In effect, Freud recognizes in himself the split that characterizes the mimetic object. For the prostitutes, he is not mimetic at all; he truly is what he seems, a slightly nervous potential customer suitable for traditional life-instinct relations like cathexis or identification. Freud recognizes this, and the embarrassment he feels is his knowing misrecognition of himself as the abashed would-be client."

Thursday, November 22, 2007

It's About Time

"Gov. Jennifer Granholm has issued an order that bars discrimination against state workers based on their "gender identity or expression," which protects the rights of those who behave, dress or identify as members of the opposite sex.

The order, which Granholm signed Wednesday, adds gender identity to a list of other prohibited grounds for discrimination that includes religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, height, weight, marital status, politics, disability or genetic information.

"State employment practices and procedures that encourage nondiscriminatory and equal employment practices provide desirable models for the private sector and local governments," says the resolution.

The Triangle Foundation, a Michigan-based group advocating rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, praised Granholm's action.

"Coming out as transgender is a career-ender. Transgendered people lose their jobs all the time," foundation policy director Sean Kosofsky told the Detroit Free Press.

James Muffet, president of Citizens for Traditional Values, expressed doubt about the seriousness of sexual identity discrimination in state government. He said Granholm more likely was making a political gesture toward gay rights groups that backed her 2006 re-election bid."

Saturday, November 17, 2007

New Favs: Wooster Collective/ Doris Salcedo

Doris Salcedo is a woman after my own heart. Dissertation/art project idea: Stacks, Mounds, Piles: Aesthetisizing Insane Accumulation... or, uh, something like that. Actually, always wanted to do a pictorial series of all the built material industrial mounds, stacks, and piles of shit in and around Detroit. The industrial wasteland area of Fort St. has these amazing *mountains* of broken glass that glitter beautifully in the sunlight of an apocalyptic landscape. Wonder if they're still there? This image also reminds me of the Cathedral of St Anne de Beaupre in Canada, which has these amazing columns covered with wooden crutches. (Seems there' aren't any photos of it on Google. Odd.

Blog/website for Wooster Collective:

Things I've Lost

Adorable little turquoise ring bought in Arizona by my mother-- age 5 in the local swimming pool. (She never let me forget it).

Small pieces of Petrified Forest rock.

Opal ring stupidly lent to unstable college friend who promptly went "crazy" and was carted off to hospital the day after.

Copy of Michel Leiri's Manhood.

Favorite brown sweater (How?)

Picture of high school friend with my new mohawk and pink blue diejob.

Tape of me and 2 friends both named Heather stoned out of our minds performing various high school gossip rituals, singalongs, insane ramblings--a work of complete mid 80's genius!

One earring of small little woman made of clay. (The other earring--the little clay man--still haunts my jewelry box and bums me out every time I look at it).

Slovenian Grandmother's recipe for plum pudding.

Birth certificate.

To be continued...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Still reeling a bit after Tuesday's stunning lecture by Steve Shaviro in Barrett's poetics seminar on Whitehead/Olson. (The assigned reading included: selected Olson prose; an essay by Robert von Hallberg on Olson, the Objectivists, and Whitehead; selections from Whitehead; and a few essays by Steve that are available on his website (do check them out).) Doing the reading I'd been thinking about the relationship between Whitehead and Heidegger--how a Whiteheadian reading of Olson's form and poetics might compare to a Heideggerian account. So I was a bit shocked when Steve finished up his lecture with a series of questions addressing the significance of the differences between the two. It was as if he had answered--and warned me about--my sense of their connection and possible affinities. Of course, my knowledge of both philosophers is extremely limited (esp. in the case of Whitehead), but, that being the case, I felt semi-justified in seeing that the connections, though fraught, are there. Steve's brilliant--straightforward and simple yet really significant--lecture, the chance to see him engage with Barrett on a subject he is less familiar with--Olson--was cool. It isn't often that you see two scholars in the department trying to talk across their respective interests; it should happen more often.

And here is an amazing piece from the magazine Cabinet on Heidegger's hut:

"I stood on a steeply sloping hillside deep in the Black Forest, panting, bathed in sweat and covered in mud. A group of llamas had stopped grazing nearby to watch me. After disorientation and fatigue, flying, driving, walking, and running, after springing over an electrified fence and sliding down a wooded slope, after losing my phone, my wife, and my bearings, I had at last found Martin Heidegger's hut."

Read the rest here:

Sunday, November 11, 2007


I get the feeling as I approach the end of my final semester of classes (not to mention a few years into being an instructor) that students are unwilling or simply do not know how to learn. These days they all seem insanely passive, apathetic, intimidated, cowed. I vacillate between blaming teachers, the system, and the individuals. All are to some extent culpable. Even the "smartest" people in class are often hesitant, fearful. Why? What's at the bottom of this mood? I sense that most people have come to expect that they'll be taught everything they need to know/think/feel about the subjects they read exclusively by the professor. They may read the material, but they form absolutely no opinions, ideas, areas of interest, connections, etc., for themselves prior to the class discussion since they expect that the professor will simply tell them what to think about it and *then* they will have learned something.

And it feels like they've been discouraged from thinking of themselves as even having opinions or ideas, particularly when it comes to approaching difficult material. But what I mean by opinion might more accurately be called a questioning and/or desiring mode. Students don't want to bruise their sensitive egos by talking in class and taking the risk of being "wrong." And the evaluative nature of academic institutions just exacerbates their fears, or it's where they learned to be silent in the first place. Ego is, in many ways, the enemy of learning--whether one has a fragile ego or an over-developed one. One can't protect oneself and learn at the same time. Learning demands that one must find a way to "forget," to move outside, to risk boundaries and the demands from outside (or from inside, for that matter). Asking questions of the text means asking the self questions, asking what one thinks and why, and why and how the text makes one think/feel differently. That is, simply put, learning makes the self a question, a site for change and development not reinforcement.
And desire is inextricably a part of learning in that desire is always an undoing of one's self-image, of what one knows about oneself. (I'm thinking of Plato's Symposium here, as an example of how desire and knowledge are united.) Engaging with literature or theory or any text (musical, visual, performative) offers a potentially transformative encounter with the self because it offers a way to explore not only what our own desires are/might be, but because it develops a desiring operation that unfolds who we might be in relation to the desires of the text. A desiring encounter is a performance between the text and the reader that offers the opportunity to explore how the desiring self--rather than the "ego-self," if you will--has been shifted, tested, *poked*. Learning through/with desire undoes the ego-self and provides the occasion for exploring how others might respond; it creates a kind of dialogue with the text and with its other potential interlocutors, offering multiple positions that contrast or inform one's responses and feelings in relation to these others. This is learning. It is always an active, dialogic, desiring, and ego-risking endeavor.

How then does one t/reach desire?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Acker and teaching

I found this on Amazon's reviews of Acker's _My Mother: Demonology_, which is my favorite of hers. The review is fascinating (and helpful for how one might explain Acker's work to students):

Notes from September 9th, 1991: "Acker talked about taking a piece of writing and jamming with it, sampling it, altering it. A phrase, a word, a section. The way jazz is made . . .not interested in the assignment of meanings, of the formalizing academic way. Thinking of working with structures or getting to intuition are similar. . . "
I know that I was exploring many formal things in writing when I encountered Acker (being interested in Georges Perec and Oulipo). I was writing haikus, pangrams, always starting with a structural idea in mind, also being familiar with Queneau's Exercises in Style. Kathy was pushing me to be more intuitive, raw, exposing the unconscious. She emphasized Surrealist types of strategies. She wanted us to write every word and every sentence in an interesting way. She wanted us to explore dreams. Dreams were a big deal with Kathy. I see My Mother: Demonology as one long extended dream.

Kathy wanted us to break through with writing, to reach some key moment, some epiphany, or some crime, whatever. Jill St. Jacques explained this to me as exhausting oneself in thought, coming to a wall, then going beyond, and getting to another wall.

I had been reading some books by Michel Leiris and I had finally got to Guilty by Georges Bataille. Also after reading Illuminations by Rimbaud, I realized what a big influence he was on me, and most of the poetry that I had written between 1987-1992. Surrealism and Rimbaud. The story that I wrote in 1991, "The Seasons," was referring to Rimbaud; and slightly to Jasper Johns. I also wrote a few things in imitation of Leiris.

The next meeting Kathy talked about the writings of Blanchot and Borges. She talked about the "surface story" and what is it about. She made us think about how certain parts work together. Kathy told us to read parts of Rimbaud. I read many of Rimbaud's prose poems. Some of them are indecipherable. I wrote something in response to "After the Flood." It was like a mad lib, substituting words. Our take-home assignment was to take the poem, "Devotion" and to make a story out of it. I wrote something vague influenced by Leiris again. I forgot to do a few of the assignments so I decided to read whatever I had been writing. That would do instead.

Once Kathy was totally bored with our stories. She said that we were not trying to be good enough. We need to really think about what we are doing when we write. She looked at us: "Why are we writing? Why write at all? Writers do not make money. Some writers are beautiful technicians but do not have any soul." Kathy gave us Paul Auster as an example. She talked about Blanchot's "Madness of The Day." Kathy played tapes of music in between what people read. Like two people would read, then a tape of NWA, two more, a tape of Nine Inch Nails, etc.

Kathy Acker's next few writing assignments:

"An ex-lover is dying. Describe what they say to you before they die."

"Write an paragraph on what is happening in American fiction in the 1990s."

"The only thing I want is all-out war."
Kathy Acker, My Death, My Life (p. 233)

Kathy made us read a section of The Unavowable Community and Madness of the Day by Maurice Blanchot. She talked all day about Blanchot, Bataille, and Klossowski.

Blanchot: "The narrative voice is a voice that has no place in the work."

Kathy talked about Acephele which was a group of writers that included Bataille and Laure. Much discussion about origins, identity, ouroboros, labyrinths, transcendence, eternal recurrence and the body.

Blanchot: "Writing is the absence of the work as it presents itself."

Another KA writing assignment: she wanted us to write a film treatment. She also suggested that we take a part of Justine and turn them into a film treatment. Kathy also did a similar thing with her treatment of Dario Argento's "Suspiria" in My Mother: Demononlogy (1993). I later saw another Argento film with Kathy. She seemed to know his films well.

Next she wanted us to bring a foreign language dictionary of a language that we didn't have any particular proficiency in (I didn't take part in this assignment). She made us translate our original text into a foreign language. Then we translated it back into English without help of the dictionary. Kathy was always pushing us into creating nonsense. Does anything exist that is truly random and without meaning? It is a very hard process. Because words can be analyzed and interpreted. She liked the writing to veer off into babble. I think she was exploring the idea of a surface translation, like with some of the French stuff she did with Laure's letters to Bataille and earlier with the Persian poems.

Monday, November 05, 2007


My response to Silliman's dismissal.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A quote by Walter Lippman from a fascinating article about the "objects" of democracy:

"The democratic tradition is [..] always trying to see a world where people are exclusively concerned with affairs of which the causes and effects all operate within the region they inhabit. Never has democracy been able to conceive itself in the context of a wide and unpredictable environment [..] And although democrats recognize that they are in contact with external affairs, they see quite surely that every contact outside the self-contained group is a threat to democracy as originally conceived. That is a wise fear. If democracy is to be spontaneous, the interests of democracy must remain simple, intelligible and easily managed. [..] The environment must be confined within the range of every man's direct and certain knowledge." [9]

Read the rest here:

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Cecil Taylor

After Joel's presentation today in class, I wanted to see/hear some jazz. This is so fucking amazing. The energy transforms playing the piano into some other form of being with an instrument. Incredible.

Wedding Present

This song, this band, in many ways encapsulates, for me, my experience of the 90's--the soundtrack for that time, its feeling, its mood. Wedding Present songs were that kind of nostalgic music , like The Smiths, that made it feel good to be sad. Funny, I can't even tell now what it might sound like to someone who didn't experience it. No possibility for disinterested judgment in this case. As Stendahl says: "C'est la Promesse du Bonheur." Why that occurs to me in light of this little ditty I can't say, but it does. And yet, you know, the guitar playing is magnificent.

Sunday, October 28, 2007


So beautiful. I have so often gone to sleep with this on. Landed in a different world, softly.

Thoughts on Silliman's visit

It was weird. I was sick, heard everything through a phlegmy fog, so take this as you will. Perceptions may be equally phlegm-bound. (Yuck.)

Ron is very literal, anecdotal, avuncular, a bit of a pontificator, funny. He seems, overall, to have a set of narrative playing cards that he just endlessly reshuffles. When he walked into Barrett's seminar I thought his affect was slightly defensive, but maybe this was nervousness masked as a certain diffidence. He and Barrett pushed back and forth at each other, which was fun to watch. Ron would be a good teacher. Was surprised at how un-theoretical he was. (Not "anti" just, "un-" or maybe "non-", which I enjoyed, don't get me wrong). He is grounded in particulars and in the genealogy of the poetry world, which makes sense, I guess.

Then the talk he gave on blogging was a bit weird. His long intro detailing his migration from the San Fran area to Pennsylvania and the resultant loss of a vibrant, face-to-face, challenging and inspiring poetic community (I was thinking of it as a "critical region" but that didn't go over that well, for Ron at least) and then the replacement of that with the blogworld seemed odd. You could read the influence of the on-going Grand Piano work in that narrative, and one wondered how much he was just reciting from memory much of his contribution to that. In contrast to that collaborative, engaged history and present project that is attempting to make sense of it, I was struck by the sense that Ron doesn't seem particularly challenged or engaged by others in his blogworld. The blog may be a way of connecting, but it was interesting to hear him lay out a personal historical narrative of that prior connected life and then compare it to the the blog he writes. Of course, Ron's blog is, after all, Ron's, so he can do with it as he wishes!
Unsurprisingly--for those who have any familiarity with his blog themes--his introductory framework for the blog talk was the increase in published poets over the past, say, 50 years. Ron points this out a lot, and it always makes me wonder what, exactly, is his point. It has occured to me that there's a pattern to Ron's use of this quantitative trope. Ron claims: There's a ton of possibly excellent poetry out there; Ron gives a list of works he's received in the last week or month or so; Ron picks from this overhwelming pile of possibly great stuff, *one* gem.; Ron tells us why that book is worthy, has value, might just be historically significant; Ron does an impressive and careful job of close reading the work, convincing his readers why this is, indeed, excellent work. Ron has made a name for someone, to some extent, because, he, Ron Silliman, has placed his impramatur upon them. A few stalwart poetry geeeks complain, rant, pontificate endlessly, write non-sensical poems in response, point out infinitesimal "errors," etc. A few others comment carefully and thoughtfully, if hesitantly. Usually, the poet pops up to say, "Wow! Gee! Thanks Ron!" Interesting poetry folks stay silent. We all know the drill. I find it all fascinating, lubricious. The poetry world. This, of course, is where the wonderful, terrible Jim Behrle comes in.

Ron and Tracie Morris's reading that same day was amazing. Organic, moving, intelligent, funny.
The combination of Ron and Tracie was inspired and inspiring. It was as though two distinct yet resonant phenomenological methods as poetry, grounded in attention to attention, to material engagement, and to the political valences that crop up through those grounded modes of attention, were set off against each other, allowed to inform each other. An expansiveness that accrued in each performance triggered different responses for me, yet I felt their connection in the rhythmic forms they produced and expanded upon. That is to say, Tracie's sound poetry made sense of Ron's cumulative and accretive syntax, and Ron's expansive, repetitive form played off Tracie's verbal/sonic emotiveness.

It was a good few days in poetry-land.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Ninth Gate

I am now content to be down for the count with a very bad cold. Polanski's The Ninth Gate on AMC. The perfect fall night, wind and rain blowing outside, must stay on couch under blanket, and watch movie about Satanism and books. Perfect (even tho I've seen it around 10x's). And I won't even mention Johnny Depp. No, I won't.

"Some books are dangerous, not to be opened with impunity."
"Very True."

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


"Living Stones"

"Stones are the core of our planet. You can find them almost anywhere in what we call our ‘natural environment’ (mountains, desserts, oceans). The industrial revolution created two new kind of stones: bricks and concrete. Slowly they are taking over the natural environment."--Maarten Vanden Eynde

"We are so complicated, and then we die. We are a subject one day, with our vanities, our loves, our worries, and then one day, abruptly, we become nothing but an object, an absolutely disgusting pile of shit. We become an object you can handle like a stone, but a stone that was someone." --Christian Boltanski

Monday, October 22, 2007

Silliman, Stein's Dog, the "New Sentence," Emotion

I am thinking of [reading Silliman in preparation for his visit]...rhythm of sentences, attention. economy, emotion, materiality. integration. particulars, form. There's something organic or phenomenological about Ron' approach to poetic production, to form, and the economy of production and reception. A way of thinking totality without idealizing in an immaterial or transcendental way. Immanent form, which keeps the part/whole relationship together through a material mode of attention, attention to the materiality of attention and thing attended.

A dog drinking water. Well, I have paid attention to my cat drinking water, listened to the rhythm. Which reminds me now of Zukofsky's use of Reznikoff's "the ceaseless weaving of the uneven water" to describe what he means by "Sincerity." (the sincerity of the line? of the poet? of both together for the reader?) In Reznikoff there's an image (an experiential image, I think) evoked by his single sentence, whereas in Stein it's the sentences themeselves, as they weave together, that are sincere or, for her, emotional. (Tho, certainly, rhythm plays a huge part in Rez's overall structure.) They--the sentences-- are what creates the totality of the form, and they, the sentences/waves, are preserved in their particularity as they work to make up that form. Stein says this can be seen by "anybody listening to any dog's drinking," that we realize/experience that "sentences are not emotional but paragraphs are" by way of what is available in the everyday, at the smallest level of temporal/material units. It took me 'til today to really think this was right. I thought back to the attention I have paid to my cat's rhythmic drinking and how, in my attention to that rhythm, to its variations---slurp, slurp. slurp. slurpslurp, slurp. slurp, slurp, slurp, slurp, slurp. slurpurpurpurp, slrup, slurp.--I *felt* pleasure, love, sympathy, delight, amusement, connection, fascination.

Now what is the "new sentence" in relation to this emotional context? The following explanation seems important and conclusive in light of Ron's overall argument, yet I find it elusive, still: "This continual torquing of sentences [in Bob Perelman's a.k.a.] is a traditional quality of poetry, which in poetry is most often accomplished by linebreaks, and earlier on by rhyme as well. Thus poetic form has moved into the interiors of prose." If verse "moves" into the "interior" of prose, then we have the issue of non-narrative (an inadequate term) as an alternate temporal mode, which establishes meaning in a material way, without closure, through movement and a new way of thinking incorporation. The function of poetry has shifted, the possibilities and requirements of prose have been challenged. The historical, material particulars are not 'redeemed" as they might be in Zuk or Rez, nor are they held together as a phenomenological experience of cubist like perceptions a la Stein. They are "new" because they provide a context for units of language and meaning to interact and to form a multi-referential, ever-expanding whole. That is, "referential focus"--between sentences and paragraphs--and "writing which focus[s] the reader onto the level of the sentence and below, as well as the uits above," "incorporate[s] all the elements of language." What then is the emotional force of this mode of writing and form? What does an open totality feel like?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

My Complaint about Curtis Faville (w/ special thanks to Scott Pakin)

My topic is nothing new. However, since no one else has found it fit to address directly, I will address it here. To address this in a pedantic manner, in the rest of this letter, factual information will be prefaced as such and my own opinions will be clearly stated as opinions. For instance, it is a fact that the impact of Mr. Curtis Faville's adversarial tricks is exactly that predicted by the Book of Revelation. Evil will preside over the land. Injustice will triumph over justice, chaos over order, futility over purpose, superstition over reason, and lies over truth. Only when humanity experiences this Hell on Earth will it fully appreciate that Curtis's viewpoints are geared toward the continuation of social stratification under the rubric of "tradition". Funny, that was the same term that his mercenaries once used to jawbone aimlessly. Curtis will engage in an endless round of finger pointing in the coming days -- not necessarily by direct action, but by convincing his understrappers to evade responsibility. If there's an untold story here, it's that even if one is opposed to mudslinging, overbearing pharisaism (and I am), then surely, he is careless with data, makes all sorts of causal interpretations of things without any real justification, has a way of combining disparate ideas that don't seem to hang together, seems to show a sort of pride in his own biases, gets into all sorts of untoward speculation, and then makes no effort to test out his speculations -- and that's just the short list! A person with a functioning brain does not use both overt and covert deceptions to pilfer the national treasure. Let's remember that.

The key point here is that Curtis would have us believe that children should get into cars with strangers who wave lots of yummy candy at them. Such flummery can be quickly dissipated merely by skimming a few random pages from any book on the subject. He is always prating about how he holds a universal license that allows him to siphon off scarce international capital intended for underdeveloped countries. (He used to say that he does the things he does "for the children", but the evidence is too contrary, so he's given up on that score.)

Efforts to feed on the politics of resentment, alienation, frustration, anger, and fear are not vestiges of a former era. They are the beginnings of a phenomenon which, if permitted to expand unchecked, will turn our country into a destructive, despicable cesspool overrun with scum, disease, and crime. I fear that, over time, Curtis's analects will be seen as uncontested fact, because many people are afraid to establish clear, justifiable definitions of totalitarianism and allotheism so that you can defend a decision to take action when Curtis's forces force us to do things or take stands against our will. Although Curtis has managed to avoid indictment, or even a consensus that he did anything illegal, someone has to be willing to take advantage of a rare opportunity to rage, rage against the dying of the light and encourage others to do the same. Even if it's not polite to do so. Even if it hurts a lot of people's feelings. Even if everyone else is pretending that his ebullitions are Right with a capital R. To end on a more positive note: Many know-nothings have an intense identification with cankered mountebanks.

My Complaint about Ms. Kristine F. Danielson (by Scott Pakin)

In this letter, I will try to describe Ms. Kristine F Danielson's recommendations in such a way that my language will not offend and yet will still convey my message that as far as Kristine's closed-minded adages are concerned, I will not capitulate today, tomorrow, or ever. With this letter, I hope to reverse the devolutionary course Kristine has set for us. But first, I would like to make the following introductory remark: Kristine likes to cite poll results that "prove" that we have no reason to be fearful about the criminally violent trends in our society today and over the past ten to fifteen years. Really? Have you ever been contacted by one of her pollsters? Chances are good that you never have been contacted and never will be. Otherwise, the polls would show that I'm not a psychiatrist. Sometimes, though, I wish I were, so that I could better understand what makes people like Kristine want to palliate and excuse the atrocities of her proxies. If you look soberly and carefully at the evidence all around you, you will honestly find that she really struck a nerve with me when she said that she is the way, the truth, and the light. That lie is a painful reminder that this is not wild speculation. This is not a conspiracy theory. This is documented fact. Kristine thinks that skin color means more than skill and gender is more impressive than genius. However, she should take a step back and look at everything from a different perspective. I like to think I'm a reasonable person, but you just can't reason with feckless killjoys. It's been tried. They don't understand, they can't understand, they don't want to understand, and they will die without understanding why all we want is for them not to open the gates of Hell. Her ethics are as predictable as sunrise. Whenever I follow knowledge like a sinking star beyond the utmost bound of human thought, Kristine's invariant response is to feed blind hatred.

Some readers may doubt that Kristine is rotten enough to waste everyone else's time. So let me provide some evidence. But before I do, let me just say that if you don't think that her henchmen are irascible at best, the downfall of society at worst, then you've missed the whole point of this letter.

Take a good, close look at yourself, Kristine. What you'll probably find is that you're unregenerate. I could accuse her of using intellectually challenged hostes generis humani to get her way, but I wouldn't stoop to that level. The end.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Umm Kalthoum

Can't believe I found this. The Voice of Egypt.

Aphrodite´s child-The four horseman

I remember first hearing this at the Ann Arbor Marshall St. house with Aaron and John and having a moment of pure joy. And I don't even think we were high! This video is pretty silly, but I guess that's the point.

CAN - Paperhouse

words cannot express how cool it is to see/hear this.

totally wired

possible favorite song lyric of all time: "Can't you see? A butterfly stomach round ground. I drank
a jar of coffee, and then I took some of these!"

The Monks on German TV in 1966

I remember first seeing this mid-90's and being on the edge of my seat.

Sonic Youth - Put Blood In The Music 1989 Part 3 of 3

overall theme--ny is cool, so are guitars.

Sonic Youth - Put Blood In The Music 1989 Part 2 of 3

best/weirdest part--SY talking awkwardly w/ john cale.

Sonic Youth - Put Blood In The Music 1989 Part 1 of 3

god, how cute is thurston in this!

Galaxie 500 - Tugboat (Live)

there's a place i'd like to be...

Thursday, October 18, 2007


a copy of Joe Brainards' _I Remember_ came in the mail. I'm in love. It's one of those, "why didn't I write this?" kind of books.

Work "Ethics"

Below I've copied in full an op-ed article in todays NYT by some putz named Roger Cohen. Now I'm not very clear on the global economic issues that France faces in light of the EU, nor do I know much of anything about the strength of the euro in comparison to worker productivity or other national currencies, so even though I've been struggling to come to terms with this more practical kind of knowledge and discourse, I can't yet adequately or confidently comment on these issues. Ever get caught in a conversation with someone who has a background in economics? In my case, that would be my staunchly status quo brother who knows a shit load more than I do about the economy but is still, for all that, totally wrong. It's just that I can't seem to explain to him *why*! It can get brutal, frustrating. Thus, I'm hesitant to engage in any kind of critical anlysis of global capital, a weakness among academic, post-Marxist thinkers that desperately needs to be addressed, I'm more than willing to acknowledge. I often challenge my students to explain the stock market, and yet I'm totally hazy on the subject, which is often my point to them--a la Jameson's claim about the difficulty of cognitively mapping late capitalism, but still, we owe it to ourseleves to have some basic grasp on how the global economy runs. Read the Financial Times, or The Economist, alongside Gramsci or Althusser fer chris' sake!

OK, end of rant.... What struck me as I was reading this tripe was the inherent value the whole world is now demanded to place on something like a "work ethic." An "American" vaule I've always despised, having been chided at several poverty-level wage jobs for having an "inconsistent" one, and which has always reminded me of my poor immigrant family's struggle to believe in the "American Dream" as they ascetically denied themselves much of any joy or pleasure. The American Deam fits nicely into a feudal mentaility from the old country who bred their peasants to be docile work-horses. Come to America, own your own sweatshop! Come to America, work hard, die young! Come to America, live long, work like a dog, leave all your money to your fucked-up, ungrateful kids! Oops, I'm ranting again....

Which leads me to that new "reality" show "Kid Nation." I caught a bit of it the other night and was appalled to see 10 year olds discussing one of their fellow comrades--deciding which one was a "hard worker." The decision left to this group was who they would ultimately award a "gold star" to, which, as it turns out, equaled some kind of 20K scholarship fund, or something like that. Do 10 year olds really need to worry about a work ethic? Do we really need to reinforce the dubious and ideologically suspect link between hard work and economic success to a group of little kids some of whose lips quiver while others literally sob as the votes are being publicly counted for their election to a fantasy town council? So all we can offer as an educational setting to idealistic children is the over-blown fantasy of hard work and competition as a flimsy cover for the principle of eat-or-be-eaten, winner-takes-all, survival of the most cynical or, at best, least reprehensible, all adding up to a "win"? And France needs to grow-up? Yeah, right. Apparently, France doesn't have enough reality TV shows. And they obviously don't begin their indoctrination techniques near early enough.

Hard work, and the concept of a "work ethic" are highly over-rated, but the train keeps rolling. Climb aboard world!


"Not only is Christine Lagarde France’s finance minister, ready to forsake her native tongue, she is, she says, “happier doing this in English.” With that, right off the bat, she declares in ringing Anglo-Saxon: “We are trying to change the psyche of the French people in relation to work.”

A hopeless task, some might say. Deep in the Gallic soul resides the notion that work is exploitation, a ruse concocted by American robber barons, best regulated and minimized and offset by hours of idleness. The demise of the Soviet Union left France leading the counter-capitalist school.

But Lagarde, 51, tall and striking, is not known as “the American” for nothing. Think of her as the face of a new France ditching its cold-war hangover. The sobriquet reflects her linguistic skills, her background as a highflying executive for the Baker & McKenzie law firm and her Chicago-cultivated candor.

In an interview, Lagarde says that more than two decades at a U.S. corporation taught her: “The more hours you worked, the more hours you billed, the more profit you could generate for yourself and your firm. That was the mantra.”

The equivalent mantra in the French bureaucracy might be: the fewer hours you work, the more vacation you take, the more time you have to grumble about the state of the universe and the smarter you feel, especially compared to workaholic dingbats across the Atlantic with no time for boules.

So Lagarde, appointed four months ago by President Nicolas Sarkozy, is aware that she faces a big challenge: “What was really striking to me when I came back from Chicago in 2005 was that the law on the 35-hour week had passed and been internalized by individuals and, I think, had produced disastrous effects.”

What effects? “People did not really talk about their work. They talked about their long weekends.”

Lagarde’s goal, she says, is to slash France’s chronically highly unemployment — now about 8 percent — to 5 percent by 2012 and increase the proportion of the total population in jobs to 70 percent from 63 percent. Rehabilitating work is central to this ambition.

Tax cuts, the termination of unemployment benefits for those refusing two valid job offers, later retirement, incentives for those working more than 35 hours, a slashing of the bureaucracy associated with job-seeking and improved professional training are among measures enacted or envisaged. Legislation to reverse the 35-hour week is possible.

“I think we have to go around it,” Lagarde says of the law. “To demonstrate that it’s not a holy principle and it can be modified, varied, mitigated and possibly reversed.”

Not without a fight, however. French workers are expected to take to the streets today in what will likely be one of many big strikes against the Sarkozy-Lagarde reforms. Former governments have caved as Bastille-storming specters rose.

Not this time, insists Lagarde. “We certainly have the resolve to see reforms through,” she says. “A significant majority voted in support of a reform program that was completely advocated, advertised, trumpeted.”

France, she suggests, is changing in the image of a president whose approach “is not being constrained by rules, principles, protocol, straitjackets.”

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Why Doris Lessing sucks

Sorry, to say (well, not really) I've never been much of a Doris Lessing fan (find her rather boring), but I was felt pretty indifferent to the announcement of her Nobel prize win until I came across this rabid, misinformed, cold war era, anti-communist article she wrote in 1997, which makes me want to gag. "Hi, um, Doris? you're full of shit."

Nothing worse than an ex-commie, (David Horowitz? Whittaker Chambers?) except of course an ex-smoker. And Lessing is both!

(I can't make proper links with my new computer yet, so this'll have to do for now.)

Sunday, October 07, 2007

privacy and blogs

The subject title to this post may be deceiving. I don't mean to write here about the issues of public knowledge or copyright infringement, or even what kind of subjectivity is produced by blog writing. Why? Because I don't find those questions very compelling, even tho I'm very interested in public sphere theory, and subjectivation. What I want to comment on is my own reluctance to write about my every day life, my thoughts and feelings, daily habits, fears, desires. I've noticed this blog often becomes silent when I'm in a particularly private or contemplative state of mind. When my mood seems to focus on the personal, and I become highyl attuned to my own interiority-- to past issues, to a present sense of time, etc.--the presence of my inner self encroaches in ways I find difficult and bittersweet. Or my desires, at times, feel inchoate, contradictory; they impinge upon my ability to write, which, it seems, I develop in a distanced way, or rather, through a distancing technique. I don't know how people keep private journals. I've tried, and the evidence of my repeated failures are the numerous, half-filled moleskine journals strewn about my apartment. Most of the time, when I read through them I want to vomit. I have a hard time finding my daily life that interesting, and it seems I have an even harder time writing in interesting ways about it.

But there are times when I do wish that this space could be more personal. Not because I feel the need to share my life and thoughts and concerns with others, (tho maybe I do), but for my own frustrated desire to articulate and thus to *see* those confusions manifested, stored, acknowledged, maybe even forgotten. I don't want what I write here to take the form of a self-administered therapy session, yet I do wish for a way to record what I was, at one moment in time, attempting to come to terms with.
I suppose this is all prompted by a realization that this blog does *not* represent what I'm really thinking about and experiencing on a day-to-day level most of the time. And that "innacuracy" bothers me for some reason. But the innacuracy of private thoughts made "public" obviously bothers me even more.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Suspiria (1977), part 1

Possibly my alltime favorite movie. This seems to be from the original Italian cut; I think I've only seen the Americanized (bowdlerized) version. Whateever, the *amazing* Goblin score is as spectacular as ever.

Fleetwood Mac Tusk USC Trojan Marching Band UCLA SUCKS 1979

Good God, I love Fleetwood Mac!And Marching Bands! and the song Tusk!And this video!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Powers of 10

By the amazing Chalres and ray Eames, tho I think there's an earlier version of it in black and white.


My favorite response to this in the comments field: "What the cock cheese is going on here? Acid Rock?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Bronski Beat - Smalltown Boy

Watching this with the sound off is interesting.

Friday, September 07, 2007

"What Would Judy Say"

First, a list of terms I'd like to remember and use but often have a hard time with since etymology is a dark and mystifying labyrinth I often find myself wandering aimlessly in:


"originally and more broadly a method of logical reasoning or argument by denial, a way of telling what something is by telling what it is not, a process-of-elimination way of talking about something by talking about what it isn't.

A useful inductive technique when given a limited universe of possibilities, the exclusion of all but the one remaining is affirmation through negation The familiar guessing-game of "Is it bigger than a bread box?" is an example of apophatic inquiry.

This denotation has generally fallen into disuse and is frequently overlooked, although it is still current in certain contexts, such as mysticism and Negative theology.

An apophatic theology sees God as ineffable and attempts to describe God in terms of what God is not. Apophatic statements refer to transcendence in this context, as opposed to cataphasis referring to immanence.


An anacoluthon is a rhetorical device that can be loosely defined as a change of syntax within a sentence. More specifically, anacoluthons (or "anacolutha") are created when a sentence abruptly changes from one structure to another. Grammatically, anacoluthon is an error; however, in rhetoric it is a figure that shows excitement, confusion, or laziness. In poetics it is sometimes used in dramatic monologues and in verse drama. In prose, anacoluthon is often used instream of consciousness writing, such as that of James Joyce, because it is characteristic of informal human thought.

In its most restrictive meaning, anacoluthon requires that the introductory elements of a sentence lack a proper object or complement. For example, if the beginning of a sentence sets up a subject and verb, but then the sentence changes its structure so that no direct object is given, the result is anacoluthon. Essentially, it requires a change of subject or verb from the stated to an implied term. The sentence must be "without completion" (literally what "anacoluthon" means). A sentence that lacks a head, that supplies instead the complement or object without subject, is anapodoton.

As a figure, anacoluthon directs a reader's attention, especially in poetry, to the syntax itself and highlights the mechanics of the meaning rather than the object of the meaning. It can, therefore, be a distancing technique in some poetry."


I came across the term anacoluthon quite recently in an essay by Celeste Langan on Coleridge, Daniel Schreber, and communication theory, and it occurred to me it might be relevant to Kasey Mohammad's recent posts on catachresis in terms of arrangement or syntax. I suppose that's what happens when you start talking about language and meaning-- terms, definitions, uses start to overlap and resonate. Since I felt unsure about my understanding of these terms and my reliance on Oed/wikipedia definitions, I've been looking around for a better understanding of these rhetorical and etymologically flexible terms. So far, all I've really found are simplistic definitions used for poetry or rhetoric classes. I asked Barrett about anacoluthon and he mentioned that it crops up in a work by Ron Silliman--can't recall the name-- in which it is self-reflexively positioned within a "new sentence" as a definer of the new sentence and as what it purports to define. That is, it is both index and sign, both "inside" and "outside" the poem. Clever, that. Reminds me of conceptual art, or the verbal/visual puns of DuChamp.

Also, and not to step on Kasey's toes here (as if he cares or reads this), I became intrigued by the term and the concept of catachresis, when I came across its use in Judith Butler's Antigone's Claim. I remember being a bit obsessed with Butler's emphasis on Antigone's catachretic speech acts as evidence of the subject's exclusion from, or unrepresentable function within, the legal/political/ social systems and discourses she was both overturning and submitting to. Catachretic meaning(s), then, develop out of the position of the marginalized subject (marginalized as gendered, female, daughter, sister, motherless non-citizen, NoOne), and pushes at the boundaries of the political dimension, a dimension that is rhetorical and poetic as much as it is seemingly contained within a drama about kinship relations. That is, the work, of course, combines dialogue, argument, metaphor, syntax, plot, action, climax, resolution-- all of which unfold precisely in a moment of linguistic, and thus representational crisis. Antigone's claim, --for her brother's body, for the right to legitimately mourn, to chose her destiny, to claim her deed and act of burial-- can only be catachretically stated/represented.

Butler points to Antigone's statement: "Yes, I confess: I will not deny my deed" as not, precisely and crucially, the same as directly claiming the act. To "not deny" is to refuse to "perform a denial" and even as the "Yes, I confess" claims the act, "it also commits another deed in the very claiming, the act of publishing one's deed, a new criminal venture that redoubles and takes the place of the old" (8). This exemplifies the complex condition of language and agency that the marginalized subject exists within. Antigone's tragic insistence on mourning the unmournable--her brother and her nephew--is her "real" claim or, rather, desire, and it is, ultimately, in excess of the (representably) political and social. Yet catachresis is, finally, for Butler--and in opposition to both Hegel's and Lacan's readings of Antigone as a perversion of the public/private dimension or as a symbol of the death drive--a condition of possibility, as it registers the mobility of and in language.

Obviously, Butler's conception of catachresis is primarily rhetorical, not really poetic or, as Kasey (and Anne Boyer) are using it, syntactic, nor is it even, as the standard definitions explain-- metaphorical "abuse." Yet, as a figure of speech/language, catachresis performs a relation to the social and political subject (in public language), which is, I think, a crucial move that a merely "poetic" sense of the term might miss. I suppose my "merely poetic" is unfairly minimizing the significant issue of referentiality and poetic meaning. But I'd like to think that an examination of figures of speech and representability in rhetorical terms can and should be placed alongside poetic descriptions that highlight Jakobson's "message for its own sake," perhaps providing a bridge across critical and discursive gaps. I suppose what I'm trying to say is something like: the separation between the rhetorical and the poetic as methods--as modes of analysis and critical discourses that analyze language and forms in the world--should not be, and cannot be, so strictly separated.

This idea that rhetorical and poetic analysis occupy a blurry boundary resonates, I think, with Butler's argument that the separation of the public/private or the policing of the universal as always and only a public, heteronormative, transparent, rationalized domain that must exclude the private, irrational, particular "other" is ultimately undone by the complexity and mutability of figurative language. As Butler suggests, Antigone "figures the threshold between the public and kinship relations, and her unassimilable act productively haunts the margins within the Law." Catachresis--as an "active trace"--haunts the public domain and its "hasty foreclosures." In a way, Butler is asking, or, rather, I'm prompted to ask by way of thinking through Butler: "where does catachresis take place--what form does it take, what space(s) does it occupy?-- if in some crucial way it depends on the subject who speaks it? Where are "the margins within" located and what are the ways in which we come to know who occupies them ?

Butler on Hegel and the law:

"Hegel has clearly identified the law for which Antigone speaks as the unwritten law of the ancient gods, one that appears only by way of an active trace.... A law for which no origin can be found, a law whose trace can take no form, whose authority is not directly communicable through written language. If it is communicable, this law would emerge through speech, but a speech that cannot be spoken from script and, so, certainly not the script of a play.... Thus the figure of this other law calls into question the literalism of the play, Antigone: no words in this play will give us this law, no words in this play will recite the strictures of this law.

"Does [Antigone], as Lacan suggests, 'push to the limit the realization of something that might be called the pure and simple desire of death as such'? And is her desire merely to persist in criminality to the point of death? Is Lacan right that 'Antigone chooses to be purely and simply the guardian of the being of the criminal as such' or does this criminality assert an unconscious right, marking a legality prior to codification on which the symbolic in its hasty foreclosures must founder, establishing the question of whether there might be new grounds for communicability and for life?" {55 Butler}.

And, further on: "The encrypted word that carries an irrecoverable history, a history that, by virtue of its irrecoverability and its enigmatic afterlife in words, bears a force whose origin and end cannot fully be determined."

Notice that the "encrypted word" and Antigone's encryption or living burial are conflated here in order to suggest that Antigone's future, the future of the play entitled Antigone-- and her "enigmatic afterlife" as a subject-- is uncertain.

And, finally, i want to remember how figuration is so crucial to all this. What do we mean exactly, by a subject that "figures" and "figurative language"? Is figuration an act?

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Ilya Prigogine

Science, time, art, culture, determinism, chance, hope.

from Pound's Canto LXXXI

But to have done instead of not doing
This is not vanity
To have, with decency, knocked
That a Blunt should open
To have gathered from the air a live tradition
or from a fine old eye the unconquered flame
this is not vanity.
Here error is all in the not done,
all in the diffidence that faltered . . .

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Steve Reich on WCW's "The Desert Music"

From Perfect Sound Forever. The influence of Williams on Reich is new info to me. I'm intrigued.

"PSF: Did you also have the idea that you wanted to explore the semantics of what was being said?

In those days, I was very interested in American poetry. My interest in William Carlos Williams which surfaced in "Desert Music" was something that goes back to when I was 16. Reading Williams led to reading a lot of younger American poets like Robert Creely and Charles Olson who were very influenced by Williams. Williams himself was influenced by American speech rhythms. The difficulty that I had as a student setting Williams was that I felt that I had set him like you would set an insect in amber. You'd set it alright but he's dead as a doornail. After I discovered all the constantly changing meters in "Tehillim" I thought 'hey, here's a way of dealing with the flexible rhythms in Williams' poetry in "The Desert Music."'

But the tape pieces, it seemed to me, were a way of taking Dr. Williams' advice. Here's American speech rhythm, particularly in the case of the black Pentacostal preacher and later in the black kid who was arrested for murder, then presenting it just as it is and letting the actual rhythm and cadence of the voice form the music.

PSF: So you were also studying the musical tone of their speech?

Yes, absolutely. If you listen to a black preacher, sometimes it's hard to say whether they're singing or speaking. They're exactly in the cusp between speech and song. It's a very mannered kind of speaking. It's almost chanting. So it was perfect for this kind of tape manipulation. Later, when I did "Come Out," to get that one little phrase 'come to out to show them,' I went through ten hours of tapes- boys, police, mothers, everyone you could imagine. This one phrase seemed emblematic. The speech-melody is everything. It then generates all kinds of variations upon itself melodically and on the meaning of the words."

Read the whole thing here

AMM... MEV...OHM...Ah...

Cool music-y things:

The electronic improvisational ensemble MEV's blog.

Alvins Curran's (of MEV) website with interesting interviews, essays scores, etc. All the writings are of special interest not just for their musical knowledge or historical contexts, but because of the ways in which they show a musician's interaction with language. In other words, Curran is an interesting writer. For example Curran's short "Biography of Fredric Rzewski":

"Socrates buttonholed Rzewski in the Harvard yard and bluntly asked "Rzewski, why are you so contemporary?" Cage, appearing indignantly from behind a resonant mushroom, objected, "but Socrates, that's my line from the Norton Lecture IV." And Socrates, removing his dark glasses and thoughtfully putting his alto sax on a marble bench, returned: "dear sir, chance operations are only part of this existential mesostic, besides Rzewski's my main man." Then Rzewski, convulsed but elated by this cabal of "Pesci d'Aprile" and with a digital segue faster than MTV, pulled his right hand from under his left armpit and with it the crumpled score of his new opera Das Kapital and flung it - as if Discobolus whirling a frisbee - into the Charles River. When Zeus and Thoreau, both witnesses to this act, swooped down like a pair of mating osprey to grab the sopping score, they braked and split, when they saw the fisherman Martin Buber calmly humming a talmudic air as he reeled in this now fully baptized catch, thinking he'd caught a big carp. Whether this led to his famous book "Oy or Thou" we will never know but the wet opera and some years later the entire archive of the legendary roman legion MEV was tossed down the incinerator shoot in Rzewski's Washington Heights apartment building. A radical proceedure for drying damp music but nonetheless one which quickly reduced the entropy factor by 100% compared to having to perform or listen it. Some have described Rzewski's life as a kind of last month's Time magazine in a hospital emergency room, and others as a page from Plato's Parmenide - both equally incomprehensible and both equally promising a comprehensive understanding of all things. The origins are obscure (Rzewski himself having spent much of his life wondering where he came from) but Slavic scholars claim the word Rzewski refers to a protomusical form of improvisation practiced by pregnant women in regions of the Carpathian Mountains while the Ukranian school found that Rzewski is the Kabbalistic spelling for a secret group of Medieval anarchists who invented the Yiddish language. In any case all agree the the word means peace and trouble, often at the same time. Now to the facts. In l969 Steve ben-Israel was leaving on a special Living Theater mission for Cuba to encourage the Cigar industry there to return to rolling their own; before he left he gave Rzewski a piece of plate glass in the shape of a piano which Frederic (as he was known to his friends) applied a contact mike to and immediately taught himself to play. It was here, that Rzewski heard "music" for the first time, because he was making it as if for the first time and in those unifed times that meant for both him and everyone else. Hence, MUSIC was born in a dank, smelly cavernous old foundery in Transtiberium (now known as the Trastevere quartier of old Rome). This was exactly 31 years after Rzewski himself was born in Westfield Mass. slightly to the southeast of his father's Pharmacy. His childhood was aided by normal polish-american food, the radio and a desire to remake the world from scratch, to do this he helped his father fly to work gathered mushrooms, with his brothers and sisters and sat at the family piano thinking what a strange and mysterious sound was that of the word Chopin (Show Pan) - to be sure, just another polish-american composer like himself, like he would become."

From the music site Furious or Perfect Sound Forever an overview of the compilation "OHM- The Early Gurus of Electronic Music," which has treasure trove of extra writings and interviews not included in the original 3cd set.

And... holy crap! the image above is the album cover for the ensemble --Gruppo di Improvvozasione Nuova Consonanza's album "Nuova Consonanza," which included Ennio Morricone and Fredric Rzewski, among others.