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.