Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Arms of Darkness

I had a dream, which was not all a dream.
The bright sun was extinguish'd, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air;
Morn came and went—and came, and brought no day,
And men forgot their passions in the dread
Of this their desolation; and all hearts
Were chill'd into a selfish prayer for light:
And they did live by watchfires—and the thrones,
The palaces of crowned kings—the huts,
The habitations of all things which dwell,
Were burnt for beacons; cities were consum'd,
And men were gather'd round their blazing homes
To look once more into each other's face;
Happy were those who dwelt within the eye
Of the volcanos, and their mountain-torch:
A fearful hope was all the world contain'd;
Forests were set on fire—but hour by hour
They fell and faded—and the crackling trunks
Extinguish'd with a crash—and all was black.
The brows of men by the despairing light
Wore an unearthly aspect, as by fits
The flashes fell upon them; some lay down
And hid their eyes and wept; and some did rest
Their chins upon their clenched hands, and smil'd;
And others hurried to and fro, and fed
Their funeral piles with fuel, and look'd up
With mad disquietude on the dull sky,
The pall of a past world; and then again
With curses cast them down upon the dust,
And gnash'd their teeth and howl'd: the wild birds shriek'd
And, terrified, did flutter on the ground,
And flap their useless wings; the wildest brutes
Came tame and tremulous; and vipers crawl'd
And twin'd themselves among the multitude,
Hissing, but stingless—they were slain for food.
And War, which for a moment was no more,
Did glut himself again: a meal was bought
With blood, and each sate sullenly apart
Gorging himself in gloom: no love was left;
All earth was but one thought—and that was death
Immediate and inglorious; and the pang
Of famine fed upon all entrails—men
Died, and their bones were tombless as their flesh;
The meagre by the meagre were devour'd,
Even dogs assail'd their masters, all save one,
And he was faithful to a corse, and kept
The birds and beasts and famish'd men at bay,
Till hunger clung them, or the dropping dead
Lur'd their lank jaws; himself sought out no food,
But with a piteous and perpetual moan,
And a quick desolate cry, licking the hand
Which answer'd not with a caress—he died.
The crowd was famish'd by degrees; but two
Of an enormous city did survive,
And they were enemies: they met beside
The dying embers of an altar-place
Where had been heap'd a mass of holy things
For an unholy usage; they rak'd up,
And shivering scrap'd with their cold skeleton hands
The feeble ashes, and their feeble breath
Blew for a little life, and made a flame
Which was a mockery; then they lifted up
Their eyes as it grew lighter, and beheld
Each other's aspects—saw, and shriek'd, and died—
Even of their mutual hideousness they died,
Unknowing who he was upon whose brow
Famine had written Fiend. The world was void,
The populous and the powerful was a lump,
Seasonless, herbless, treeless, manless, lifeless—
A lump of death—a chaos of hard clay.
The rivers, lakes and ocean all stood still,
And nothing stirr'd within their silent depths;
Ships sailorless lay rotting on the sea,
And their masts fell down piecemeal: as they dropp'd
They slept on the abyss without a surge—
The waves were dead; the tides were in their grave,
The moon, their mistress, had expir'd before;
The winds were wither'd in the stagnant air,
And the clouds perish'd; Darkness had no need
Of aid from them—She was the Universe.
Lord Byron, "Darkness"

Dressing for Success

It is bad verse, he tells us, that contain a popular attitude but real poetry survives "not only a change of popular opinion but the complete extinction of interest in the issues with which the poet is passionately concerned."1 The first thing about which there is no different opinion is that poetry must give pleasure, but a good poet has something to give us besides pleasure.
1) T.S. Eliot, "The Social Function of Poetry" (1943)
T.K. Titus, "Critical Study of T.S. Eliot's Work"

Sunday, December 28, 2014

On the Not So Cynical...

Critic, cynic, skeptic.
We see the same thing differently—
That's relative
not relevant.
-- September

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Transference

THE chateau into which my valet had ventured to make forcible entrance, rather than permit me, in my desperately wounded condition, to pass a night in the open air, was one of those piles of commingled gloom and grandeur which have so long frowned among the Appennines, not less in fact than in the fancy of Mrs. Radcliffe. To all appearance it had been temporarily and very lately abandoned. We established ourselves in one of the smallest and least sumptuously furnished apartments. It lay in a remote turret of the building. Its decorations were rich, yet tattered and antique. Its walls were hung with tapestry and bedecked with manifold and multiform armorial trophies, together with an unusually great number of very spirited modern paintings in frames of rich golden arabesque. In these paintings, which depended from the walls not only in their main surfaces, but in very many nooks which the bizarre architecture of the chateau rendered necessary -- in these paintings my incipient delirium, perhaps, had caused me to take deep interest; so that I bade Pedro to close the heavy shutters of the room -- since it was already night -- to light the tongues of a tall candelabrum which stood by the head of my bed -- and to throw open far and wide the fringed curtains of black velvet which enveloped the bed itself. I wished all this done that I might resign myself, if not to sleep, at least alternately to the contemplation of these pictures, and the perusal of a small volume which had been found upon the pillow, and which purported to criticise and describe them.

Long -- long I read -- and devoutly, devotedly I gazed. Rapidly and gloriously the hours flew by and the deep midnight came. The position of the candelabrum displeased me, and outreaching my hand with difficulty, rather than disturb my slumbering valet, I placed it so as to throw its rays more fully upon the book.

But the action produced an effect altogether unanticipated. The rays of the numerous candles (for there were many) now fell within a niche of the room which had hitherto been thrown into deep shade by one of the bed-posts. I thus saw in vivid light a picture all unnoticed before. It was the portrait of a young girl just ripening into womanhood. I glanced at the painting hurriedly, and then closed my eyes. Why I did this was not at first apparent even to my own perception. But while my lids remained thus shut, I ran over in my mind my reason for so shutting them. It was an impulsive movement to gain time for thought -- to make sure that my vision had not deceived me -- to calm and subdue my fancy for a more sober and more certain gaze. In a very few moments I again looked fixedly at the painting.

That I now saw aright I could not and would not doubt; for the first flashing of the candles upon that canvas had seemed to dissipate the dreamy stupor which was stealing over my senses, and to startle me at once into waking life.

The portrait, I have already said, was that of a young girl. It was a mere head and shoulders, done in what is technically termed a vignette manner; much in the style of the favorite heads of Sully. The arms, the bosom, and even the ends of the radiant hair melted imperceptibly into the vague yet deep shadow which formed the back-ground of the whole. The frame was oval, richly gilded and filigreed in Moresque. As a thing of art nothing could be more admirable than the painting itself. But it could have been neither the execution of the work, nor the immortal beauty of the countenance, which had so suddenly and so vehemently moved me. Least of all, could it have been that my fancy, shaken from its half slumber, had mistaken the head for that of a living person. I saw at once that the peculiarities of the design, of the vignetting, and of the frame, must have instantly dispelled such idea -- must have prevented even its momentary entertainment. Thinking earnestly upon these points, I remained, for an hour perhaps, half sitting, half reclining, with my vision riveted upon the portrait. At length, satisfied with the true secret of its effect, I fell back within the bed. I had found the spell of the picture in an absolute life-likeliness of expression, which, at first startling, finally confounded, subdued, and appalled me. With deep and reverent awe I replaced the candelabrum in its former position. The cause of my deep agitation being thus shut from view, I sought eagerly the volume which discussed the paintings and their histories. Turning to the number which designated the oval portrait, I there read the vague and quaint words which follow:

"She was a maiden of rarest beauty, and not more lovely than full of glee. And evil was the hour when she saw, and loved, and wedded the painter. He, passionate, studious, austere, and having already a bride in his Art; she a maiden of rarest beauty, and not more lovely than full of glee; all light and smiles, and frolicsome as the young fawn; loving and cherishing all things; hating only the Art which was her rival; dreading only the pallet and brushes and other untoward instruments which deprived her of the countenance of her lover. It was thus a terrible thing for this lady to hear the painter speak of his desire to pourtray even his young bride. But she was humble and obedient, and sat meekly for many weeks in the dark, high turret-chamber where the light dripped upon the pale canvas only from overhead. But he, the painter, took glory in his work, which went on from hour to hour, and from day to day. And he was a passionate, and wild, and moody man, who became lost in reveries; so that he would not see that the light which fell so ghastly in that lone turret withered the health and the spirits of his bride, who pined visibly to all but him. Yet she smiled on and still on, uncomplainingly, because she saw that the painter (who had high renown) took a fervid and burning pleasure in his task, and wrought day and night to depict her who so loved him, yet who grew daily more dispirited and weak. And in sooth some who beheld the portrait spoke of its resemblance in low words, as of a mighty marvel, and a proof not less of the power of the painter than of his deep love for her whom he depicted so surpassingly well. But at length, as the labor drew nearer to its conclusion, there were admitted none into the turret; for the painter had grown wild with the ardor of his work, and turned his eyes from canvas merely, even to regard the countenance of his wife. And he would not see that the tints which he spread upon the canvas were drawn from the cheeks of her who sate beside him. And when many weeks bad passed, and but little remained to do, save one brush upon the mouth and one tint upon the eye, the spirit of the lady again flickered up as the flame within the socket of the lamp. And then the brush was given, and then the tint was placed; and, for one moment, the painter stood entranced before the work which he had wrought; but in the next, while he yet gazed, he grew tremulous and very pallid, and aghast, and crying with a loud voice, 'This is indeed Life itself!' turned suddenly to regard his beloved: -- She was dead!
- E.A. Poe, "The Oval Portrait" (1850)

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Reasons

An ignorance a Sunset
Confer upon the Eye --
Of Territory -- Color --
Circumference -- Decay --

Its Amber Revelation
Exhilirate -- Debase --
Omnipotence' inspection
Of Our inferior face --

And when the solemn features
Confirm -- in Victory --
We start -- as if detected
In Immortality --
- Emily Dickinson, "An Ignorance a Sunset"

Welcome to Urbania

The cruel streets I walked made me sad
I looked not at him, nor at her
Those who passed me by, gutter grads
I felt at home among the curs
We were outcasts from hearth and home
Over the land our kind did roam.

Looking here and then searching there
As many as stars in the sky
By foot, by car, sometimes by air
We wanted to understand why
We couldn't go back where we'd been
Burned our bridges and that's a sin.

Some were poets within their hearts
A killer or two in the crowd
And some were like me; a la carte
Doing what it took to be proud
Some chased women, some ran from them
And in the melee some lost a gem.

I sit here writing words of mine
Wondering how many are left
Who write words and sell for a dime
I have escaped death's cold, cold theft
I have fought the fight and I've won
I'm old yes, but I've just begun
- Race Benoit, "Are There Any of Us Left"

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Amorphous Beauty

My life is a wave
That washes away amorphous sea foam
Is a ghost who died from shadows
And now lives in the sun
My life Is a federation of doves whose maps all lead
To the edge of the horizon
A pale secret with eyes of amber
- Laure Vitali, "Amorphous Life"

Thursday, December 11, 2014

On Beauty

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its lovliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o'er-darkn'd ways
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon,
Trees old and young, sprouting a shady boon
For simple sheep; and such are daffodils
With the green world they live in; and clear rills
That for themselves a cooling covert make
'Gainst the hot season; the mid-forest brake,
Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms:
And such too is the grandeur of the dooms
We have imagined for the mighty dead;
An endless fountain of immortal drink,
Pouring unto us from the heaven's brink.
- John Keats, "A Thing of Beauty"

Monday, December 8, 2014

Valley Songs

"Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things."
-T. S. Eliot

Sunday, December 7, 2014

On 'Class Enemy'

Beside the ungathered rice he lay,
His sickle in his hand;
His breast was bare, his matted hair
Was buried in the sand.
Again, in the mist and shadow of sleep,
He saw his Native Land.
Wide through the landscape of his dreams
The lordly Niger flowed;
Beneath the palm-trees on the plain
Once more a king he strode;
And heard the tinkling caravans
Descend the mountain-road.
He saw once more his dark-eyed queen
Among her children stand;
They clasped his neck, they kissed his cheeks,
They held him by the hand!--
A tear burst from the sleeper's lids
And fell into the sand.
And then at furious speed he rode
Along the Niger's bank;
His bridle-reins were golden chains,
And, with a martial clank,
At each leap he could feel his scabbard of steel
Smiting his stallion's flank.
Before him, like a blood-red flag,
The bright flamingoes flew;
From morn till night he followed their flight,
O'er plains where the tamarind grew,
Till he saw the roofs of Caffre huts,
And the ocean rose to view.
At night he heard the lion roar,
And the hyena scream,
And the river-horse, as he crushed the reeds
Beside some hidden stream;
And it passed, like a glorious roll of drums,
Through the triumph of his dream.
The forests, with their myriad tongues,
Shouted of liberty;
And the Blast of the Desert cried aloud,
With a voice so wild and free,
That he started in his sleep and smiled
At their tempestuous glee.
He did not feel the driver's whip,
Nor the burning heat of day;
For Death had illumined the Land of Sleep,
And his lifeless body lay
A worn-out fetter, that the soul
Had broken and thrown away!
- Longfellow, "The Slave's Dream"

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Social Responsibilities

‘Tis of my country that I would endite,
In hope to set some misconceptions right.
My country? I love it well, and those good fellows
Who, since their wit's unknown, escape the gallows.
But you stuffed coats who're neither tepid nor distinctly boreal,
Pimping, conceited, placid, editorial,
Could I but speak as 'twere in the 'Restoration'
I would articulate your perdamnation.
This year perforce I must with circumspection
For Mencken states somewhere, in this connection:
‘It is a moral nation we infest.'
Despite such reins and checks I'll do my best,
An art! You all respect the arts, from that infant tick
Who's now the editor of The Altantic,
From Comstock's self, down to the meanest resident,
Till up again, right up, we reach the president,
Who shows his taste in his ambassadors:
A novelist, a publisher, to pay old scores,
A novelist, a publisher and a preacher,
That's sent to Holland, a most particular feature,
Henry Van Dyke, who thinks to charm the Muse you pack her in
A sort of stinking deliquescent saccharine.
The constitution of our land, O Socrates,
Was made to incubate such mediocrities,
These and a state in books that's grown perennial
And antedates the Philadelphia centennial.
Still I'd respect you more if you could bury
Mabie, and Lyman Abbot and George Woodberry,
For minds so wholly founded upon quotations
Are not the best of pulse for infant nations.
Dulness herself, that abject spirit, chortles
To see your forty self-baptized immortals,
And holds her sides where swelling laughter cracks 'em
Before the 6Ars Poetica' of Hiram Maxim.
All one can say of this refining medium
Is cZut! Cinque lettres!' a banished gallic idiom,
Their doddering ignorance is waxed so notable
'Tis time that it was capped with something quotable.

Here Radway grew, the fruit of pantosocracy,
The very fairest flower of their gynocracy.
Radway ? My hero, for it will be more inspiring
If I set forth a bawdy plot like Byron
Than if I treat the nation as a whole.
Radway grew up. These forces shaped his soul;
These, and yet God, and Dr. Parkhurst's god, the N.Y. Journal
(Which pays him more per week than The Supernal).
These and another godlet of that day, your day
(You feed a hen on grease, perhaps she'll lay
The sterile egg that is still eatable:
'Prolific Noyes' with output undefeatable).
From these he (Radway) learnt, from provosts and from editors unyielding
And innocent of Stendhal, Flaubert, Maupassant and Fielding.
They set their mind (it's still in that condition)
May we repeat; the Centennial Exposition
At Philadelphia, 1876?
What it knew then, it knows, and there it sticks.
And yet another, a 'charming man', ‘sweet nature,' but was Gilder,
De mortuis verum, truly the master builder?

From these he learnt. Poe, Whitman, Whistler, men, their recognition
Was got abroad, what better luck do you wish 'em,
When writing well has not yet been forgiven
In Boston, to Henry James, the greatest whom we've seen living.
And timorous love of the innocuous
Brought from Gt. Britain and dumped down a'top of us,
Till you may take your choice: to feel the edge of satire or
Read Bennett or some other flaccid flatterer.
Despite it all, despite your Red Bloods, febrile concupiscence
Whose blubbering yowls you take for passion's essence;
Despite it all, your compound predilection
For ignorance, its growth and its protection
(Vide the tariff), I will hang simple facts
Upon a tale, to combat other tracts,
'Message to Garcia,' Mosher's propagandas
That are the nation's botts, collicks and glanders.
Or from the feats of Sumner cull it? Think,
Could Freud or Jung'unfathom such a sink?

My hero, Radway, I have named, in truth,
Some forces among those which 'formed' his youth:
These heavy weights, these dodgers and these preachers,
Crusaders, lecturers and secret lechers,
Who wrought about his 'soul' their stale infection.
These are the high-brows, and to this collection
The social itch, the almost, all but, not quite, fascinating,
Piquante, delicious, luscious, captivating:
Puffed satin, and silk stockings, where the knee
Clings to the skirt in strict (vide: 'Vogue') propriety.
Three thousand chorus girls and all unkissed,
state sans song, sans home-grown wine, sans realist!
'Tell me not in mournful wish-wash
Life's a sort of sugared dish-wash!'
Radway had read the various evening papers
And yearned to imitate the Waldorf capers
As held before him in that unsullied mirror
The daily press, and monthlies nine cents dearer.
They held the very marrow of the ideals
That fed his spirit; were his mental meals.
Also, he'd read of Christian virtues in
That canting rag called Everybody's Magazine,
And heard a clergy that tries on more wheezes
Than e'er were heard of by Our Lord Ch . . . . J
So he 'faced life' with rather mixed intentions,
He had attended country Christian Endeavour Conventions,
Where one gets more chances
Than Spanish ladies had in old romances.
(Let him rebuke who ne'er has known the pure Platonic grapple,
Or hugged two girls at once behind a chapel.)
Such practices diluted rural boredom
Though some approved of them, and some deplored 'em.
Such was he when he got his mother's letter
And would not think a thing that could upset her. . . .
Yet saw an ad.' To-night, THE HUDSON SAIL,
With forty queens, and music to regale
The select company: beauties you all would know
By name, if named.' So it was phrased, or rather somewhat so
I have mislaid the ‘ad.', but note the touch,
Note, reader, note the sentimental touch:
His mother's birthday gift. (How pitiful
That only sentimental stuff will sell!)

Yet Radway went. A circumspectious prig!
And then that woman like a guinea-pig
Accosted, that's the word, accosted him,
Thereon the amorous calor slightly frosted him.
(I burn, I freeze, I sweat, said the fair Greek,
I speak in contradictions, so to speak.)

I've told his training, he was never bashful,
And his pockets by ma's aid, that night with cash full,
The invitation had no need of fine aesthetic,
Nor did disgust prove such a strong emetic
That we, with Masefield's vein, in the next sentence
Record ‘Odd's blood! Ouch! Ouch!' a prayer, his swift repentance.
No, no, they danced. The music grew much louder
As he inhaled the 'still fumes of rice-powder.
Then there came other nights, came slow but certain
And were such nights that we should 'draw the curtain'
In writing fiction on uncertain chances
Of publication; 'Circumstances,'
As the editor of The Century says in print,
'Compel a certain silence and restraint.'
Still we will bring our 'fiction as near to fact' as
The Sunday school brings virtues into practice.

Soon our hero could manage once a week,
Not that his pay had risen, and no leak
Was found in his employer's cash. He learned the lay of cheaper places,
And then Radway began to go the paces:
A rosy path, a sort of vernal ingress,
And Truth should here be careful of her thin dress
Though males of seventy, who fear truths naked harm us,
Must think Truth looks as they do in wool pyjamas.
(My country, I've said your morals and your thoughts are stale ones,
But surely the worst of your old-women are the male ones.)

Why paint these days? An insurance inspector
For fires and odd risks, could in this sector
Furnish more data for a compilation
Than I can from this distant land and station,
Unless perhaps I should have recourse to
One of those firm-faced inspecting women, who
Find pretty Irish girls in Chinese laundries,
Up stairs, the third floor up, and have such quandaries
As to how and why and whereby they got in
And for what earthly reason they remain. . . .
Alas, eheu, one question that sorely vexes
The serious social folk is ‘just what sex is'.
Though it will, of course, pass off with social science
In which their mentors place such wide reliance . .
De Gourmont says that fifty grunts are all that will be prized.
Of langauge, by men wholly socialized,
With signs as many, that shall represent 'em
When thoroughly socialized printers want to print 'em.
‘As free of mobs as kings'? I'd have men free of that invidious,
Lurking, serpentine, amphibious and insidious
Power that compels 'em
To be so much alike that every dog that smells 'em,
Thinks one identity is
Smeared o'er the lot in equal quantities.
Still we look toward the day when man, with unction,
Will long only to be a social function,
And even Zeus' wild lightning fear to strike
Lest it should fail to treat all men alike.
And I can hear an old man saying: ‘Oh, the rub!’
I see them sitting in the Harvard Club,
'And rate 'em up at just so much per head,
'Till I have viewed straw hats and their habitual clothing
'All the same style, same cut, with perfect loathing.'

So Radway walked, quite like the other men,
Out into the crepuscular half-light, now and then;
Saw what the city offered, cast an eye
Upon Manhattan's gorgeous panoply,
The flood of limbs upon Eighth Avenue
To beat Prague, Budapesth, Vienna or Moscow,
Such animal invigorating carriage
As nothing can restrain or much disparage. . . .
Still he was not given up to brute enjoyment,
An anxious sentiment was his employment,
For memory of the first warm night still cast a haze o'er
The mind of Radway, whene'er he found a pair of purple stays or
Some other quaint reminder of the occasion
That first made him believe in immoral suasion.
A temperate man, a thin potationist, each day
A silent hunter off the Great White Way,
He read The Century and thought it nice
To be not too well known in haunts of vice
The prominent haunts, where one might recognize him,
And in his daily walks duly capsize him.
Thus he eschewed the bright red-walled cafes and
Was never one of whom one speaks as ‘brazen'd'.

Some men will live as prudes in their own village
And make the tour abroad for their wild tillage
I knew a tourist agent, one whose art is
To run such tours. He calls 'em. . . . house parties.
But Radway was a patriot whose venality
Was purer in its love of one locality,
A home-industrious worker to perfection,
A sensational jobber for protection,
Especially on books, lest knowledge break in
Upon the national brains and set 'em achin'.
'Tis an anomaly in our large land of freedom,
You can not get cheap books, even if you need 'em.)
Radway was ignorant as an editor,
And, heavenly, holy gods! I can't say more,
Though I know one, a very base detractor,
Who has the phrase ‘As ignorant as an actor,'
But turn to Radway: the first night on the river,
Running so close to ‘hell’ it sends a shiver
Down Rodyheaver's prophylactic spine,
Let me return to this bold theme of mine,
Of Radway. O clap hand ye moralists!
And meditate upon the Lord's conquests.
When last I met him, he was a pillar in
An organization for the suppression of sin. . . .
Not that he'd changed his tastes, nor yet his habits,
(Such changes don't occur in men, or rabbits).
Not that he was a saint, nor was top-loftical
In spiritual aspirations, but he found it profitable,
For as Ben Franklin said, with such urbanity:
'Nothing will pay thee, friend, like Christianity.'
And in our day thus saith the Evangelist:
'Tent preachin' is the kind that pays the best.'

'Twas as a business asset pure an’ simple
That Radway joined the Baptist Broadway Temple.

I find no moral for a peroration,
He is the prototype of half the nation.
Ezra Pound, "L'Homme Moyen Sensuel"

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Bridge Building

At the table beyond us
With her little suede slippers off,
With her white-stocking'd feet
Carefully kept from the floor by a napkin,
She converses:

'Connaissez-vous Ostende?'

The gurgling Italian lady on the other side of the
restaurant
Replies with a certain hauteur,
But I await with patience,
To see how Celestine will re-enter her slippers.
She re-enters them with a groan.
-Ezra Pound, "Black Slippers: Bellotti"

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

“Is it better for a man to have chosen evil than to have good imposed upon him?”

“Our pockets were full of deng, so there was no real need from the point of view of crasting any more pretty polly to tolchock some old veck in an alley and viddy him swim in his blood while we counted the takings and divided by four, nor to do the ultra-violent on some shivering starry grey-haired ptitsa in a shop and go smecking off with the till's guts. But, as they say, money isn’t everything.”
- Alex (Anthony Burgess), "A Clockwork Orange"

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Benefits of Peace

Now, God be thanked Who has matched us with His hour,
And caught our youth, and wakened us from sleeping,
With hand made sure, clear eye, and sharpened power,
To turn, as swimmers into cleanness leaping,
Glad from a world grown old and cold and weary,
Leave the sick hearts that honour could not move,
And half-men, and their dirty songs and dreary,
And all the little emptiness of love!

Oh! we, who have known shame, we have found release there,
Where there's no ill, no grief, but sleep has mending,
Naught broken save this body, lost but breath;
Nothing to shake the laughing heart's long peace there
But only agony, and that has ending;
And the worst friend and enemy is but Death.
Rupurt Brooke

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Remembering Shock & Awe

you know the way that things go
when what you fight for starts to fall
and in that fuzzy picture
the writing stands out on the wall
so clearly on the wall

send out the signals deep and loud

and in this place, can you reassure me
with a touch, a smile - while the cradle's burning
all the while the world is turning to noise
oh the more that it's surrounding us
the more that it destroys
turn up the signal
wipe out the noise

send out the signals deep and loud

man i'm losing sound and sight
of all those who can tell me wrong from right
when all things beautiful and bright
sink in the night
yet there's still something in my heart
that can find a way
to make a start
to turn up the signal
wipe out the noise

wipe out the noise
wipe out the noise
you know that's it
you know that's it
receive and transmit
receive and transmit
receive and transmit
you know that's it
you know that's it
receive and transmit
you know that's it
you know that's it
receive and transmit
- Peter Gabriel, "Signal to Noise"

Sunday, November 23, 2014

An Incorporation Begs for Death

The woods decay, the woods decay and fall,
The vapours weep their burthen to the ground,
Man comes and tills the field and lies beneath,
And after many a summer dies the swan.
Me only cruel immortality
Consumes: I wither slowly in thine arms,
Here at the quiet limit of the world,
A white-hair'd shadow roaming like a dream
The ever-silent spaces of the East,
Far-folded mists, and gleaming halls of morn.

Alas! for this gray shadow, once a man—
So glorious in his beauty and thy choice,
Who madest him thy chosen, that he seem'd
To his great heart none other than a God!
I ask'd thee, 'Give me immortality.'
Then didst thou grant mine asking with a smile,
Like wealthy men, who care not how they give.
But thy strong Hours indignant work'd their wills,
And beat me down and marr'd and wasted me,
And tho' they could not end me, left me maim'd
To dwell in presence of immortal youth,
Immortal age beside immortal youth,
And all I was, in ashes. Can thy love,
Thy beauty, make amends, tho' even now,
Close over us, the silver star, thy guide,
Shines in those tremulous eyes that fill with tears
To hear me? Let me go: take back thy gift:
Why should a man desire in any way
To vary from the kindly race of men
Or pass beyond the goal of ordinance
Where all should pause, as is most meet for all?

A soft air fans the cloud apart; there comes
A glimpse of that dark world where I was born.
Once more the old mysterious glimmer steals
From thy pure brows, and from thy shoulders pure,
And bosom beating with a heart renew'd.
Thy cheek begins to redden thro' the gloom,
Thy sweet eyes brighten slowly close to mine,
Ere yet they blind the stars, and the wild team
Which love thee, yearning for thy yoke, arise,
And shake the darkness from their loosen'd manes,
And beat the twilight into flakes of fire.

Lo! ever thus thou growest beautiful
In silence, then before thine answer given
Departest, and thy tears are on my cheek.

Why wilt thou ever scare me with thy tears,
And make me tremble lest a saying learnt,
In days far-off, on that dark earth, be true?
'The Gods themselves cannot recall their gifts.'

Ay me! ay me! with what another heart
In days far-off, and with what other eyes
I used to watch—if I be he that watch'd—
The lucid outline forming round thee; saw
The dim curls kindle into sunny rings;
Changed with thy mystic change, and felt my blood
Glow with the glow that slowly crimson'd all
Thy presence and thy portals, while I lay,
Mouth, forehead, eyelids, growing dewy-warm
With kisses balmier than half-opening buds
Of April, and could hear the lips that kiss'd
Whispering I knew not what of wild and sweet,
Like that strange song I heard Apollo sing,
While Ilion like a mist rose into towers.

Yet hold me not for ever in thine East:
How can my nature longer mix with thine?
Coldly thy rosy shadows bathe me, cold
Are all thy lights, and cold my wrinkled feet
Upon thy glimmering thresholds, when the steam
Floats up from those dim fields about the homes
Of happy men that have the power to die,
And grassy barrows of the happier dead.
Release me, and restore me to the ground;
Thou seëst all things, thou wilt see my grave:
Thou wilt renew thy beauty morn by morn;
I earth in earth forget these empty courts,
And thee returning on thy silver wheels.
- Alfred Lord Tennyson, "Tithonus"

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

More Interpassive Messaging

...always on the edge, never stepping off into the abyss...

Monday, November 17, 2014

Imminent Fusion

I AM young and fain to sing
In this happy tide of spring
Of love and many a gentle thing,
I wander through green meadows dight
With blossoms gold and red and white;
Rose by the thorn and lily fair,
Both one and all I do compare
With him who, worshipping my charms,
For aye would fold me in his arms
As one unto his service sworn.
Then, when I find a flower that seems
Like to the object of my dreams,
I gather it and kiss it there,
I flatter it in accents fair,
My heart outpour, my soul stoop down,
Then weave it in a fragrant crown
Among my flaxen locks to wear.
The rapture nature's floweret gay
Awakes in me doth last alway,
As if I tarried face to face
With him whose true love is my grace;
Thoughts which its fragrancy inspires
I cannot frame to my desires,
My sighs their pilgrimage do trace.
My sights are neither harsh nor sad
As other women's are, but glad
And tender; in so fond a wise
They seek my love that he replies
By coming hither, and so gives
Delight to her who in him lives
Yet almost wept: "Come, for hope dies."
- Giovanni Boccaccio, "Balleta"

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Germ of Life in the Seed of Man

"The old dreams were good dreams; they didn’t work out, but I’m glad I had them."
- Robert James Waller, "The Bridges of Madison County"
The material force of ideology makes me not see what I am effectively eating. It’s not only our reality which enslaves us. The tragedy of our predicament when we are within ideology is that when we think that we escape it into our dreams, at that point we are within ideology.

---

We should draw a line of distinction within the very field of our dreams. Between those who are the right dreams pointing towards a dimension effectively beyond our existing society and the wrong dreams: the dreams which are just an idealised consumerist reflection, mirror image of our society.

We are not simply submitted to our dreams they just come from some unfathomable depths and we can’t do anything about it. This is the basic lesson of psychoanalysis and fiction cinema.

We are responsible for our dreams. Our dreams stage our desires and our desires are not objective facts. We created them, we sustained them, we are responsible for them.

---

The first step to freedom isn’t just to change reality to fit your dreams it’s to change the way you dream and again this hurts because all satisfactions we have come from our dreams.

The great supreme commander Mao issued a world shaking… you should pay attention to state affairs and carry the great proletarian Cultural Revolution through to the end.

One of the big problems of all great revolutionary movements of the 20th century such as Russia, Cuba or China, is that they did change the social body but the egalitarian communist society was never realised.

The dreams remained the old dreams and they turned into the ultimate nightmare. Now what remains for the radical left waits for a magical event when the true revolutionary agent will finally awaken.

---

It depends on us, on our will. In revolutionary upheavals some energy or rather some utopian dreams take place, they explode, and even if the actual result of a social upheaval is just a commercialised every day life, this excess of energy, what gets lost in the result, persists not in reality but as a dream haunting us waiting to be redeemed.

In this sense, whenever we are engaged in radical emancipatory politics, we should never forget as Walter Benjamin put it almost a century ago that every revolution, if it is an authentic revolution, is not only directed towards the futures but it redeems also the past failed revolutions.
-Slavoj Zizek, "The Perverts Guide to ideology"

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Necessary Social Supports for Ego Maintenance?

Nietzsche, "Will to Power - 487" (1883-1886)
Must all philosophy not ultimately bring to light the preconditions upon which the process of reason depends?--our belief in the "ego" as a substance, as the sole reality from which we ascribe reality to things in general? The oldest "realism" at last comes to light: at the same time that the entire religious history of mankind is recognized as the history of the soul superstition. Here we come to a limit: our thinking itself involves this belief (with its distinction of substance, accident; deed, doer, etc.); to let it go means: being no longer able to think.

But that a belief, however necessary it may be for the preservation of a species, has nothing to do with truth, one knows from the fact that, e.g., we have to believe in time, space, and motion, without feeling compelled to grant them absolute reality.
Nietzsche, "Will to Power - 488" (Spring-Fall 1887)
Psychological derivation of our belief in reason.--The concept "reality", "being", is taken from our feeling of the "subject".

"The subject": interpreted from within ourselves, so that the ego counts as a substance, as the cause of all deeds, as a doer.

The logical-metaphysical postulates, the belief in substance, accident, attribute, etc., derive their convincing force from our habit of regarding all our deeds as consequences of our will--so that the ego, as substance, does not vanish in the multiplicity of change.--But there is no such thing as will.--

We have no categories at all that permit us to distinguish a "world in itself" from a "world of appearance." All our categories of reason are of sensual origin: derived from the empirical world. "The soul", "the ego"--the history of these concepts shows that here, too, the oldest distinction ("breath", "life")--

If there is nothing material, there is also nothing immaterial. The concept no longer contains anything.

No subject "atoms". The sphere of a subject constantly growing or decreasing, the center of the system constantly shifting; in cases where it cannot organize the appropriate mass, it breaks into two parts. On the other hand, it can transform a weaker subject into its functionary without destroying it, and to a certain degree form a new unity with it. No "substance", rather something that in itself strives after greater strength, and that wants to "preserve" itself only indirectly (it wants to surpass itself--).

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Getting through the Day

How pleasant to sit on the beach,
On the beach, on the sand, in the sun,
With ocean galore within reach,
And nothing at all to be done!
No letters to answer,
No bills to be burned,
No work to be shirked,
No cash to be earned,
It is pleasant to sit on the beach
With nothing at all to be done!

How pleasant to look at the ocean,
Democratic and damp; indiscriminate;
It fills me with noble emotion
To think I am able to swim in it.

To lave in the wave,
Majestic and chilly,
Tomorrow I crave;
But today it is silly.

It is pleasant to look at the ocean;
Tomorrow, perhaps, I shall swim in it.

How pleasant to gaze at the sailors
As their sailboats they manfully sail
With the vigor of vikings and whalers
In the days of the vikings and whale.

They sport on the brink
Of the shad and the shark;
If it’s windy, they sink;
If it isn’t, they park.

It is pleasant to gaze at the sailors,
To gaze without having to sail.

How pleasant the salt anesthetic
Of the air and the sand and the sun;
Leave the earth to the strong and athletic,
And the sea to adventure upon.

But the sun and the sand
No contractor can copy;
We lie in the land
Of the lotus and poppy;
We vegetate, calm and aesthetic,
On the beach, on the sand, in the sun.
- Ogden Nash, "Pretty Halcyon Days"

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Tryouts

paint on my hands
and the canvas
where i tried
to create art
- sinderella, "failed masterpiece"

Saturday, November 1, 2014

I Did it to Myself

We are a generation
Of instant gratification
Most of our lives
Confined to LCD screens
And large comfy couches
We are fearless;
Behind the username and password
Of a social network
Our words are no longer spoken
But formed by a repetitive tapping of our fingers
An act of bravery is now defined as
Sending a risky text
Our mornings and sleep patterns
Depend solely on
‘Good morning/night beautiful’
Carefully handwritten letters turned into careless emails
And break ups are just
A click of a button on Facebook
Trips to the mall became
Hot cocoa and credit card debt
We learned how to surf
With just a keyboard
And our laziness transformed the English language
Into LOL and TTYL
And how silly it is to think
We made ourselves this way.
- Nicole Fox, "Self Inflicted"

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Just Under the Canopy

Whitely, discreetly,
Very quietly

Our toes, our noses
Take hold on the loam,
Acquire the air.

Nobody sees us,
Stops us, betrays us;
The small grains make room.

Soft fists insist on
Heaving the needles,
The leafy bedding,

Even the paving.
Our hammers, our rams,
Earless and eyeless,

Perfectly voiceless,
Widen the crannies,
Shoulder through holes. We

Diet on water,
On crumbs of shadow,
Bland-mannered, asking

Little or nothing.
So many of us!
So many of us!

We are shelves, we are
Tables, we are meek,
We are edible,

Nudgers and shovers
In spite of ourselves.
Our kind multiplies:

We shall by morning
Inherit the earth.
Our foot's in the door.
- Sylvia Plath, "Mushrooms"

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The American Worker

This is the furthest I will go.
Never the same again.
The vile path calling me,
the day I ran from life again.

If I win this one time,
it will still be the end of me.
My belief that nothing ends well.
This is the end for me.

Day and night heart was uneased.
Broken will frozen smile.
Riding on, heart pumping tears.
Day and night I walk alone.

Bones rotting in the earth,
like your secrets
that you long kept from me.
But blood weighs more than silence.

Broken words, shards in your mouth,
cut deeper than any wound.
Broken vows will never be the same.
Lies like the viper's bite.
- Sólstafir, "Fjara (Beach)"

Thursday, October 23, 2014

More Songs of Innocence

Piping down the valleys wild,
Piping songs of pleasant glee,
On a cloud I saw a child,
And he laughing said to me:
"Pipe a song about a Lamb!"
So I piped with a merry chear.
"Piper, pipe that song again;"
So I piped: he wept to hear.

"Drop thy pipe, thy happy pipe;
Sing thy songs of happy chear:"
So I sung the same again,
While he wept with joy to hear.

"Piper, sit thee down and write
In a book, that all may read."
So he vanish'd from my sight,
And I pluck'd a hollow reed,

And I made a rural pen,
And I stain'd the water clear,
And I wrote my happy songs,
Every child may joy to hear.
- William Blake

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Separate Streams of Consciousness

Behold the rocky wall
That down its sloping sides
Pours the swift rain-drops, blending, as they fall,
In rushing river-tides!

Yon stream, whose sources run
Turned by a pebble's edge,
Is Athabasca, rolling toward the sun
Through the cleft mountain-ledge.

The slender rill had strayed,
But for the slanting stone,
To evening's ocean, with the tangled braid
Of foam-flecked Oregon.

So from the heights of Will
Life's parting stream descends,
And, as a moment turns its slender rill,
Each widening torrent bends, --

From the same cradle's side,
From the same mother's knee, --
One to long darkness and the frozen tide,
One to the Peaceful Sea.
- Oliver Wendell Holmes, "The Two Streams"

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Camus, Mon Dieu!

Albert Camus, "The Madness of Sincerity" (BBC 1997)

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Urban Tribalism

“People who think with their epidermis or their genitalia or their clan are the problem to begin with. One does not banish this specter by invoking it. If I would not vote against someone on the grounds of 'race' or 'gender' alone, then by the exact same token I would not cast a vote in his or her favor for the identical reason. Yet see how this obvious question makes fairly intelligent people say the most alarmingly stupid things.”
― Christopher Hitchens

Saturday, September 27, 2014

"To forget one's purpose is the commonest form of stupidity." -FN

The poet in his lone yet genial hour
Gives to his eyes a magnifying power :
Or rather he emancipates his eyes
From the black shapeless accidents of size--
In unctuous cones of kindling coal,
Or smoke upwreathing from the pipe's trim bole,
His gifted ken can see
Phantoms of sublimity.
- Samuel Taylor Coleridge, "Aplolgia Pro Vita Sua"

Thursday, September 25, 2014

On Procuring Social Capital

"This is why the key feature of contemporary capitalism is not only the hegemony, but also the (relative) autonomy of financial capital: it may seem like the banks are just engaging in speculation, shuffling numbers here and there, and nobody is exploited, since exploitation happens in "real" production. But why did we have to give billions of dollars to the banks in 2008 and 2009? Because, without a functioning banking system, the entire (capitalist) economy collapses. Banks should thus also count as privatized commons: insofar as private banks control the flow of investments and thus represent, for individual companies, the universal dimension of social capital, their profit is really a rent we pay for their role as universal mediator. This is why state or other forms of social control over banks and collective capital in general (like pension funds) are crucial in taking a first step towards the social control of commons. Apropos the reproach that such control is economically inefficient, we should recall not only those cases in which social control was very effective (this was, for example, how Malaysia avoided crisis in the late 1990s), but also the obvious fact that the 2008 financial crisis was triggered precisely by the failure of the banking system."
--Slavoj Zizek, "Less Than Nothing"

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

More Names of the Father

The Name-of-the-Father (French Nom du père) is a concept that Jacques Lacan developed from his seminar The Psychoses (1955–1956) to cover the role of the father in the Symbolic Order. Lacan plays with the similar sound of le nom du père (the name of the father), le non du père (the no of the father), and les non-dupes errent (the non-dupes err) to, in the former case, emphasize the legislative and prohibitive function of the father and, in the latter case, emphasize that "those who do not let themselves be caught in the symbolic deception/fiction and continue to believe their eyes are the ones who err most.

Lacan's concept draws on the mythical father of Freud's Totem and Taboo; and was used by him as a strategic move in his opposition to what he saw as the over-emphasis of object relations theory on the exclusive relationship of the individual and his/her mother as a dual pair. Lacan emphasised instead the importance of the third party in the Oedipus complex – what he called “the place that she [the mother] reserves for the Name-of-the Father in the promulgation of the law”. He saw this as a vital element in helping each new member of the human race to move from an exclusive, primary relation to the mother[er] to a wider engagement with the outside, cultural world – the symbolic order.

Anthony Stevens has similarly argued that “Traditionally, the father's orientation is centrifugal, i. e., towards the outside world...his is the primary responsibility for facilitating the transition from home to society'. Likewise the family therapist Robin Skynner sees the father (or fatherer) playing an essential role in the process whereby “the toddler has got to see that Mum isn't God as a first step to seeing that Dad isn't God, and that...he's part of something bigger too”. For Lacan, that bigger context could be seen as “the chain of discourse...in which an entire family, an entire coterie, an entire camp, an entire nation or half the world will be caught”. The internalisation of the Name of the Father with the passing of the Oedipus complex ensured for Lacan participation in that wider chain of discourse, and was for him an essential element of human sanity.

Psychosis for Lacanians is the exact opposite of the Name of the Father – the absence of that identification with the symbolic order which ensures our place in the shared intersubjective world of common sense. The Name-of-the-Father is thus the fundamental signifier which permits signification to proceed normally. It not only confers identity and position on the subject within the symbolic order, but also signifies the Oedipal prohibition (the "no'" of the incest taboo). If this signifier is foreclosed, in the sense of being excluded from the Symbolic Order, the result is psychosis. Psychotics have not been properly separated from their mother[er] by the fixed name-of-the-father, and hence relate to speech and language differently from neurotics
- Wikipedia

Monday, September 22, 2014

Swanzilla!

It was a divine hour for the human race.
Before, the Swan sang only at its death.
But when the Wagnerian swan began to sing,
there was a new dawning, and a new life.

The song of the Swan is heard above the storms
of the human sea; its aria never ceases;
it dominates the hammering of old Thor,
and the trumpets hailing the sward of Argentir.

Oh Swan! Oh sacred bird!
If once white Helen,
immortal princess of Beauty's realms,
emerged all grace from Leda's sky-blue egg,
so now,

beneath the white of your wings,
the new Poetry,
here in a splendor of music and light,
conceives the pure,
eternal Helen who is the Ideal.
- Ruben Dario, "The Swan"

Friday, September 19, 2014

The New Society

Down the street as I was drifting with the city's human tide,
Came a ghost, and for a moment walked in silence by my side --
Now my heart was hard and bitter, and a bitter spirit he,
So I felt no great aversion to his ghostly company.

Said the Shade: `At finer feelings let your lip in scorn be curled,
`Self and Pelf', my friend, has ever been the motto for the world.'

And he said: `If you'd be happy, you must clip your fancy's wings,
Stretch your conscience at the edges to the size of earthly things;
Never fight another's battle, for a friend can never know
When he'll gladly fly for succour to the bosom of the foe.

At the power of truth and friendship let your lip in scorn be curled --
`Self and Pelf', my friend, remember, is the motto of the world.

`Where Society is mighty, always truckle to her rule;
Never send an `i' undotted to the teacher of a school;
Only fight a wrong or falsehood when the crowd is at your back,
And, till Charity repay you, shut the purse, and let her pack;
At the fools who would do other let your lip in scorn be curled,
`Self and Pelf', my friend, remember, that's the motto of the world.

`Ne'er assail the shaky ladders Fame has from her niches hung,
Lest unfriendly heels above you grind your fingers from the rung;
Or the fools who idle under, envious of your fair renown,
Heedless of the pain you suffer, do their worst to shake you down.

At the praise of men, or censure, let your lip in scorn be curled,
`Self and Pelf', my friend, remember, is the motto of the world.

`Flowing founts of inspiration leave their sources parched and dry,
Scalding tears of indignation sear the hearts that beat too high;
Chilly waters thrown upon it drown the fire that's in the bard;
And the banter of the critic hurts his heart till it grows hard.

At the fame your muse may offer let your lip in scorn be curled,
`Self and Pelf', my friend, remember, that's the motto of the world.

`Shun the fields of love, where lightly, to a low and mocking tune,
Strong and useful lives are ruined, and the broken hearts are strewn.

Not a farthing is the value of the honest love you hold;
Call it lust, and make it serve you! Set your heart on nought but gold.

At the bliss of purer passions let your lip in scorn be curled --
`Self and Pelf', my friend, shall ever be the motto of the world.'

Then he ceased and looked intently in my face, and nearer drew;
But a sudden deep repugnance to his presence thrilled me through;
Then I saw his face was cruel, by the look that o'er it stole,
Then I felt his breath was poison, by the shuddering of my soul,
Then I guessed his purpose evil, by his lip in sneering curled,
And I knew he slandered mankind, by my knowledge of the world.

But he vanished as a purer brighter presence gained my side --
`Heed him not! there's truth and friendship
in this wondrous world,' she cried,
And of those who cleave to virtue in their climbing for renown,
Only they who faint or falter from the height are shaken down.

At a cynic's baneful teaching let your lip in scorn be curled!
`Brotherhood and Love and Honour!' is the motto for the world.
Charles Baudelaire, "The Ghost"

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The New Eristocracy

Rammstein, "Mutter"
A programmatic statement towards the end of 300 defines the Greeks’ agenda as “against the reign of mystique and tyranny, towards the bright future,” further specified as the rule of freedom and reason – which sounds like an elementary Enlightenment program, even with a Communist twist! Recall that at the start of the film, Leonidas rejects the message of the corrupt “oracles,” according to whom the gods forbid the military expedition to stop the Persians.

But what about the seeming absurdity of the idea of dignity, freedom and reason, sustained by extreme military discipline (including of the practice of discarding the weak children)? This “absurdity” is simply the price of freedom. Freedom is not something given, but is regained through a hard struggle in which one should be ready to risk everything. The ruthless military discipline of the Spartans is not simply the external opposite of Athenian “liberal democracy,” but is its inherent condition and lays the foundation for it: the free subject of reason can only emerge through a ruthless self-discipline.

True freedom is not freedom of choice made from a safe distance, like choosing between Coke or Pepsi. Rather, true freedom overlaps with necessity: one makes a truly free choice when one’s choice puts at stake one’s very existence – one does it because one simply “cannot do it otherwise.” When one’s country is under a foreign occupation and one is called by a resistance leader to join the fight against the occupiers, the reason given is not “you are free to choose,” but, “Can’t you see that this is the only thing you can do if you want to retain your dignity?”

It is no wonder that all early-modern egalitarian radicals, from Rousseau to the Jacobins, admired the Spartan and imagined the French Republic as a new Sparta: there is an emancipatory core in the Spartan spirit of military discipline which survives even when we subtract all the historical paraphernalia of Spartan class rule, ruthless exploitation of and terror over their slaves, and so on. It is also no wonder that Trotsky called Soviet Union in the difficult years of “war Communism” “proletarian Sparta.”
- Slavoj Zizek, "Against Aristocratic Pride: Shakespeare and Radical Politics"

Ralph Fiennes effectively achieved the impossible, thereby perhaps confirming T.S. Eliot’s famous claim that Coriolanus is superior to Hamlet: he broke out of this closed circle of interpretive options (which invariably introduce critical distance towards the figure of Coriolanus) and instead fully asserted Coriolanus – not as a fanatical anti-democrat, but as a figure of the radical Left.
- Slavoj Zizek, "Against Aristocratic Pride: Shakespeare and Radical Politics"

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Memory Boat Rides

River Ganga originates
from the himalayan glaciers
and flows down to earth
with a mystical, divine influence;
where immerses humans
their endless transgressions,
float around their mortal remains
to impure the heart of a holy river.
Is there a mountain on earth
or a source where one river flows
down to refurbish humans
and cleanse the stains of mind.
Is there a river on earth cursed
like Ganga to endure the burdens
of human submissions and surrender
on one credence and flow like
a silent tear dropp beneath
the moon lit sky..
-Gayatri Nambiar (2008)

Friday, September 5, 2014

Above Kabul

If my heart beats
for Kabul,
it's for the slopes of Bala Hissar,
holding my dead
in its foothills.

Though not one, not one
of those wretched hearts
ever beat for me.

If my heart grieves
for Kabul,
it's for Leyla's sighs of
‘Oh, dear God!'
and my grandmother's heart
set pounding.

It's for Golnar's eyes
scanning the paths
from dawn to dusk, spring to autumn,
staring so long
that all the roads fall apart
and in my teenage nightmares
side roads
suddenly shed their skins.

If my heart trembles
for Kabul,
it's for the slow step of summer noons,
siestas in my father's house which,
heavy with mid-day sleep,
still weighs on my ribs.

For the playful Angel of the Right Shoulder
who keeps forgetting
to ward away stray bullets.

It's for the hawker's cry
of the vegetable seller doing his rounds,
lost in my neighbours' troubled dreams,
that my heart's trembling.
Shakila Azizzada, "Kabul"

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Sundown Revelation

The summer sun is sinking low;
Only the tree-tops redden and glow:
Only the weathercock on the spire
Of the neighboring church is a flame of fire;
All is in shadow below.

O beautiful, awful summer day,
What hast thou given, what taken away?
Life and death, and love and hate,
Homes made happy or desolate,
Hearts made sad or gay!

On the road of life one mile-stone more!
In the book of life one leaf turned o'er!
Like a red seal is the setting sun
On the good and the evil men have done,--
Naught can to-day restore!
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, "Sundown"

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Dimming Light

“That's always seemed so ridiculous to me, that people want to be around someone because they're pretty. It's like picking your breakfeast cereals based on color instead of taste.”
― John Green, "Paper Towns"

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Roman/Roma - Diverse Forms of Social Capital

Socrates - "In the course of my life I have often had intimations in dreams 'that I should compose music.' The same dream came to me sometimes in one form, and sometimes in another, but always saying the same or nearly the same words: 'Cultivate and make music,' said the dream."
- Plato, "Phaedo"

Monday, August 18, 2014

World's Spinning Out of Control...as the 'System" Relentlessly Advances

On August 2, 2009, after cordoning off part of the Arab neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem, Israeli police evicted two Palestinian families (more than 50 people) from their homes, allowing Jewish settlers immediately to move into the vacated houses. Although Israeli police cited a ruling by the country’s Supreme Court, the evicted Arab families had been living there for more than 50 years. This event which, rather exceptionally, did attract the attention of the world media, is part of a much larger and mostly ignored ongoing process.

Two years later, not much has changed. On October 16, 2011, Israel announced plans to build 2,600 new homes in southern Jerusalem, despite condemnation from the UN, the EU, and Britain. If implemented, the plans would not only divide the Arab section of the city from the rest of the occupied West Bank, but also severely undermine the chances of a viable Palestinian state and hamper the everyday life of Palestinians. The conclusion is obvious: while paying lip-service to the two-state solution, Israel is busy creating a situation on the ground that will render a two-state solution practically impossible. The dream that underlies this politics is best rendered by the wall that separates a settler’s town from the Palestinian town on a nearby hill somewhere in the West Bank. The Israeli side of the wall is painted with the image of the countryside beyond the wall—but without the Palestinian town, depicting just nature, grass, trees ... Is this not ethnic cleansing at its purest, imagining the outside beyond the wall as it should be: empty, virginal, waiting to be settled?
Slavoj Zizek, "What goes on when nothing goes on?"

Friday, August 15, 2014

More "Self"-Expression

Secretly hiding beneath eyelids where no one can see,
my mind discovers and explores inner countries and
highways, giving me pictures to write from.

Exercises in spontaneous writing always fulfill my
inner spirit as I quickly find the words to describe
and explain what I see.

New ideas flow bountifully and send me into nether
worlds where only I am present.

Taking self-expression to another world, I gloriously
enjoy every moment I am alone and free to be myself.
- RoseAnn V. Shawiak

But is it really "ME" that I express? Or the contents of the gap lying between me and the demands of an-"other"?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Mantra Supporting the Quest for Knowledge

"Mantra" (Sanskrit मंत्र) means a sacred utterance, numinous sound, or a syllable, word, phonemes, or group of words believed by some to have psychological and spiritual power.[2][3] Mantra may or may not be syntactic or have literal meaning; the spiritual value of mantra comes when it is audible, visible, or present in thought.[2][4]

Earliest mantras were composed in Vedic times by Hindus in India, and those are at least 3000 years old.[5] Mantras are now found in various schools of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism.[3][6] Similar hymns, chants, compositions and concepts are found in Zoroastrianism,[7] Taoism, Christianity and elsewhere.[2]

The use, structure, function, importance and types of mantras vary according to the school and philosophy of Hinduism and of Buddhism. Mantras serve a central role in the tantric school of Hinduism.[5][8] In this school, mantras are considered equivalent to deities, a sacred formula and deeply personal ritual, and considered to be effective only after initiation. However, in other schools of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism or Sikhism, this is not so.[7][9]

Mantras come in many forms, including ṛc (verses from Rigveda for example) and sāman (musical chants from the Sāmaveda for example).[2][5] They are typically melodic, mathematically structured meters, resonant with numinous qualities. At its simplest, the word ॐ (Aum, Om) serves as a mantra. In more sophisticated forms, they are melodic phrases with spiritual interpretations such as human longing for truth, reality, light, immortality, peace, love, knowledge and action.[2][9] In other forms, they are literally meaningless, yet musically uplifting and spiritually meaningful.[5]
- from Wikipedia
Om

Monday, August 11, 2014

A Supernatural Influence

I studied evil, I can't deny,
Was a hoodoo charm called a Love Me or Die,
Some fingernail, a piece of her dress,
Apocathery, Devil's behes'
I will relate, the piteous consequence my mistake,
Fallin slave to passin desire,
Makin' the dreaded Love me or Die.
Against a Jungle primeval green,
She had the looks of a beauty queen
No bangles or chain, wearin' broken shoe
Seventy-five cent bottle perfume.
I said, "Good mornin", I tipped my hat,
All the while I was cunning like a rat,
Smilin gaily, looked her in the eye,
I felt in pocket, the Love me or Die
My past history, one to behold,
I studied magic from days of old,
Membership, secret societies,
Power and wealth in my family
But Matilda, Darling,
Why you don't take my wedding ring,
Like a demon under the floor,
I buried the hoodoo down the back door.
Lawd, word broke through the town,
That a fever strike Matilda down,
Nine thirty, the doctor arrive,
Priest come runnin, quarter to five.
Standin in the weeds early next day,
I saw the meat wagon rollin away,
I seen Matilda layin in the back,
Her old mother wearin a suit of black
Sound the trumpet, and bang the drum,
I wait for me judgement to come,
I know her spirit is down beneath,
I hear the weepin and gnashing of the teeth.
Flames of Hell licks at my feet,
In the shadow of the Jungle I feel the heat,
Matilda's waiting in Hell for me too,
All cause she died from a bad hoodoo.
- CW Stoneking

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Future Horizons

Today, the media constantly bombard us with requests to choose, addressing us as subjects supposed to know what we really want (which book, clothes, TV program, place of holiday . . .)—“press A, if you want this, press B, if you want that,” or, to quote the motto of the recent “reflective” TV publicity campaign for advertisement itself, “Advertisement—the right to choose.” However, at a more fundamental level, the new media deprive the subject radically of the knowledge of what he wants: They address a thoroughly malleable subject who has constantly to be told what he wants, i.e., the very evocation of a choice to be made performatively creates the need for the object of choice. One should bear in mind here that the main function of the Master is to tell the subject what he wants—the need for the Master arises in answer to the subject’s confusion, insofar as he does not know what he wants. What, then, happens in the situation of the decline of the Master, when the subject himself is constantly bombarded with the request to give a sign as to what he wants? The exact opposite of what one would expect: It is when there is no one here to tell you what you really want, when all the burden of the choice is on you, that the big Other dominates you completely, and the choice effectively disappears, i.e., is replaced by its mere semblance. One is tempted to paraphrase here Lacan’s well- known reversal of Dostoyevski (“If there is no God, nothing is permitted at all”): If no forced choice confines the field of free choice, the very freedom of choice disappears.

This suspension of the function of the (symbolic) Master is the crucial feature of the Real whose contours loom at the horizon of the cyberspace universe: the moment of implosion when humanity will attend the limit impossible to transgress, the moment at which the coordinates of our societal life-world will be dissolved. At this moment, distances will be suspended (I will be able to communicate instantly through teleconferences with anywhere on the globe); all information, from texts to music to video, will be instantly available on my interface. However, the obverse of this suspension of the distance which separates me from a far-away foreigner is that, due to the gradual disappearance of contact with “real” bodily others, a neighbor will no longer be a neighbor, since he or she will be progressively replaced by a screen specter; the general availability will induce unbearable claustrophobia; the excess of choice will be experienced as the impossibility to choose; the universal direct participatory community will exclude all the more forcefully those who are prevented from participating in it. The vision of cyberspace opening up a future of unending possibilities of limitless change, of new multiple sex organs, etc., etc., conceals its exact opposite: an unheard-of imposition of radical closure. This, then, is the Real awaiting us, and all endeavors to symbolize this real, from utopian (the New Age or “deconstructionist” celebrations of the liberating potentials of cyberspace), to the blackest dystopian ones (the prospect of the total control by a God-like computerized network . . .), are just this, i.e., so many attempts to avoid the true “end of history,” the paradox of an infinity far more suffocating than any actual confinement. Is therefore one of the possible reactions to the excessive filling-in of the voids in cyberspace not the informational anorexia, the desperate refusal to accept informations?

Or, to put it in a different way, virtualization cancels the distance between a neighbor and a distant foreigner, insofar as it suspends the presence of the Other in the massive weight of the Real: neighbors and foreigners, all are equal in their spectral screen-presence. That is to say, why was the Christian injunction “love thy neighbor like thyself” so problematic for Freud? The proximity of the Other which makes a neighbor a neighbor is that of jouissance: When the presence of the Other becomes unbearable, suffocating, it means that we experience his or her mode of jouissance as too intrusive. And, what is the contemporary “postmodern” racism, if not a violent reaction to this virtualization of the Other, a return of the experience of the neighbor in his or her (or their) intolerable, traumatic presence? The feature which disturbs the racist in his Other (the way they laugh, the smell of their food . . .) is thus precisely the little piece of the real which bears witness to their presence beyond the symbolic order.
- Slavoj Zizek, "What can Psychoanalyses Tell Us About Cyberspace?"

Monday, August 4, 2014

Monday Blues

Monday, Monday. Can’t trust that day.
- The Mamas and the Papas

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Ashes to Ashes

Love has gone and left me and the days are all alike;
Eat I must, and sleep I will, — and would that night were here!
But ah! — to lie awake and hear the slow hours strike!
Would that it were day again! — with twilight near!

Love has gone and left me and I don't know what to do;
This or that or what you will is all the same to me;
But all the things that I begin I leave before I'm through, —
There's little use in anything as far as I can see.

Love has gone and left me, — and the neighbors knock and borrow,
And life goes on forever like the gnawing of a mouse, —
And to-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow
There's this little street and this little house.
Edna St. Vincent Millay, "Ashes of Life"

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The American Tea Party and UK Independent Party (UKIP) - A Revolt of the Lower-Salaried Proletariate?

Hardt and Negri are here describing the process that the ideologists of today’s ‘postmodern’ capitalism celebrate as the passage from material to symbolic production, from centralist-hierarchical logic to the logic of self-organisation and multi-centred co-operation. The difference is that Hardt and Negri are faithful to Marx: they are trying to prove that he was right, that the rise of the general intellect is in the long term incompatible with capitalism. The ideologists of postmodern capitalism are making exactly the opposite claim: Marxist theory (and practice), they argue, remains within the constraints of the hierarchical logic of centralised state control and so can’t cope with the social effects of the information revolution. There are good empirical reasons for this claim: what effectively ruined the Communist regimes was their inability to accommodate to the new social logic sustained by the information revolution. They tried to steer the revolution, to make it yet another large-scale centralised state-planning project. The paradox is that what Hardt and Negri celebrate as the unique chance to overcome capitalism is celebrated by the ideologists of the information revolution as the rise of a new, ‘frictionless’ capitalism.

Hardt and Negri’s analysis has some weak points, which help us understand how capitalism has been able to survive what should have been (in classic Marxist terms) a new organisation of production that rendered it obsolete. They underestimate the extent to which today’s capitalism has successfully (in the short term at least) privatised the general intellect itself, as well as the extent to which, more than the bourgeoisie, workers themselves are becoming superfluous (with greater and greater numbers becoming not just temporarily unemployed but structurally unemployable).

If the old capitalism ideally involved an entrepreneur who invested (his own or borrowed) money into production that he organised and ran, and then reaped the profit from it, a new ideal type is emerging today: no longer the entrepreneur who owns his company, but the expert manager (or a managerial board presided over by a CEO) who runs a company owned by banks (also run by managers who don’t own the bank) or dispersed investors. In this new ideal type of capitalism, the old bourgeoisie, rendered non-functional, is refunctionalised as salaried management: the members of the new bourgeoisie get wages, and even if they own part of their company, earn stocks as part of their remuneration (‘bonuses’ for their ‘success’).

This new bourgeoisie still appropriates surplus value, but in the (mystified) form of what has been called ‘surplus wage’: they are paid rather more than the proletarian ‘minimum wage’ (an often mythic point of reference whose only real example in today’s global economy is the wage of a sweatshop worker in China or Indonesia), and it is this distinction from common proletarians which determines their status. The bourgeoisie in the classic sense thus tends to disappear: capitalists reappear as a subset of salaried workers, as managers who are qualified to earn more by virtue of their competence (which is why pseudo-scientific ‘evaluation’ is crucial: it legitimises disparities). Far from being limited to managers, the category of workers earning a surplus wage extends to all sorts of experts, administrators, public servants, doctors, lawyers, journalists, intellectuals and artists. The surplus takes two forms: more money (for managers etc), but also less work and more free time (for – some – intellectuals, but also for state administrators etc).

The evaluative procedure used to decide which workers receive a surplus wage is an arbitrary mechanism of power and ideology, with no serious link to actual competence; the surplus wage exists not for economic but for political reasons: to maintain a ‘middle class’ for the purpose of social stability.
The arbitrariness of social hierarchy is not a mistake, but the whole point, with the arbitrariness of evaluation playing an analogous role to the arbitrariness of market success. Violence threatens to explode not when there is too much contingency in the social space, but when one tries to eliminate contingency. In La Marque du sacré, Jean-Pierre Dupuy conceives hierarchy as one of four procedures (‘dispositifs symboliques’) whose function is to make the relationship of superiority non-humiliating: hierarchy itself (an externally imposed order that allows me to experience my lower social status as independent of my inherent value); demystification (the ideological procedure which demonstrates that society is not a meritocracy but the product of objective social struggles, enabling me to avoid the painful conclusion that someone else’s superiority is the result of his merit and achievements); contingency (a similar mechanism, by which we come to understand that our position on the social scale depends on a natural and social lottery; the lucky ones are those born with the right genes in rich families); and complexity (uncontrollable forces have unpredictable consequences; for instance, the invisible hand of the market may lead to my failure and my neighbour’s success, even if I work much harder and am much more intelligent). Contrary to appearances, these mechanisms don’t contest or threaten hierarchy, but make it palatable, since ‘what triggers the turmoil of envy is the idea that the other deserves his good luck and not the opposite idea – which is the only one that can be openly expressed.’ Dupuy draws from this premise the conclusion that it is a great mistake to think that a reasonably just society which also perceives itself as just will be free of resentment: on the contrary, it is in such societies that those who occupy inferior positions will find an outlet for their hurt pride in violent outbursts of resentment.

Connected to this is the impasse faced by today’s China: the ideal goal of Deng’s reforms was to introduce capitalism without a bourgeoisie (since it would form the new ruling class); now, however, China’s leaders are making the painful discovery that capitalism without the settled hierarchy enabled by the existence of a bourgeoisie generates permanent instability. So what path will China take? Former Communists generally are emerging as the most efficient managers of capitalism because their historical enmity towards the bourgeoisie as a class perfectly fits the tendency of today’s capitalism to become a managerial capitalism without a bourgeoisie – in both cases, as Stalin put it long ago, ‘cadres decide everything.’ (An interesting difference between today’s China and Russia: in Russia, university teachers are ridiculously underpaid – they are de facto already part of the proletariat – while in China they are provided with a comfortable surplus wage to guarantee their docility.)

The notion of surplus wage also throws new light on the continuing ‘anti-capitalist’ protests. In times of crisis, the obvious candidates for ‘belt-tightening’ are the lower levels of the salaried bourgeoisie: political protest is their only recourse if they are to avoid joining the proletariat. Although their protests are nominally directed against the brutal logic of the market, they are in effect protesting about the gradual erosion of their (politically) privileged economic place. Ayn Rand has a fantasy in Atlas Shrugged of striking ‘creative’ capitalists, a fantasy that finds its perverted realisation in today’s strikes, most of which are held by a ‘salaried bourgeoisie’ driven by fear of losing their surplus wage. These are not proletarian protests, but protests against the threat of being reduced to proletarians. Who dares strike today, when having a permanent job is itself a privilege? Not low-paid workers in (what remains of) the textile industry etc, but those privileged workers who have guaranteed jobs (teachers, public transport workers, police). This also accounts for the wave of student protests: their main motivation is arguably the fear that higher education will no longer guarantee them a surplus wage in later life.

At the same time it is clear that the huge revival of protest over the past year, from the Arab Spring to Western Europe, from Occupy Wall Street to China, from Spain to Greece, should not be dismissed merely as a revolt of the salaried bourgeoisie. Each case should be taken on its own merits. The student protests against university reform in the UK were clearly different from August’s riots, which were a consumerist carnival of destruction, a true outburst of the excluded. One could argue that the uprisings in Egypt began in part as a revolt of the salaried bourgeoisie (with educated young people protesting about their lack of prospects), but this was only one aspect of a larger protest against an oppressive regime. On the other hand, the protest didn’t really mobilise poor workers and peasants and the Islamists’ electoral victory makes clear the narrow social base of the original secular protest. Greece is a special case: in the last decades, a new salaried bourgeoisie (especially in the over-extended state administration) was created thanks to EU financial help, and the protests were motivated in large part by the threat of an end to this.

The proletarianisation of the lower salaried bourgeoisie is matched at the opposite extreme by the irrationally high remuneration of top managers and bankers (irrational since, as investigations have demonstrated in the US, it tends to be inversely proportional to a company’s success). Rather than submit these trends to moralising criticism, we should read them as signs that the capitalist system is no longer capable of self-regulated stability – it threatens, in other words, to run out of control.
- Slavoj Zizek, "The Revolt of the Salaried Bourgeoisie"

Friday, July 25, 2014

Moving Off the Dime

Troll sat alone on his seat of stone,
And munched and mumbled a bare old bone;
For many a year he had gnawed it near,
For meat was hard to come by.
Done by! Gum by!
In a cave in the hills he dwelt alone,
And meat was hard to come by.

Up came Tom with his big boots on.
Said he to Troll: "Pray, what is yon?
For it looks like the shin o' my nuncle Tim,
As should be a-lyin' in graveyard.
Caveyard! Paveyard!
This many a year has Tim been gone,
And I thought he were lyin' in graveyard."

"My lad," said Troll, "this bone I stole.
But what be bones that lie in a hole?
Thy nuncle was dead as a lump o' lead,
Afore I found his shinbone.
Tinbone! Thinbone!
He can spare a share for a poor old troll,
For he don't need his shinbone."

Said Tom: "I don't see why the likes o' thee
Without axin' leave should go makin' free
With the shank or the shin o' my father's kin;
So hand the old bone over!
Rover! Trover!
Though dead he be, it belongs to he;
So hand the old bone over!"

"For a couple o' pins," says Troll, and grins,
"I'll eat thee too, and gnaw thy shins.
A bit o' fresh meat will go down sweet!
I'll try my teeth on thee now.*
Hee now! See now!
I'm tired o' gnawing old bones and skins;
I've a mind to dine on thee now."

*[as read by Tolkien on the tape:]
Thee'll be a nice change from thine nuncle.
Sunkle! Drunkle!
I'm tired of gnawing old bones and skins;
Thee'll be a nice change from thine nuncle."

But just as he thought his dinner was caught,
He found his hands had hold of naught.
Before he could mind, Tom slipped behind
And gave him the boot to larn him.
Warn him! Darn him!
A bump o' the boot on the seat, Tom thought,
Would be the way to larn him.

But harder than stone is the flesh and bone
Of a troll that sits in the hills alone.
As well set your boot to the mountain's root,
For the seat of a troll don't feel it.
Peel it! Heal it!
Old Troll laughed, when he heard Tom groan,
And he knew his toes could feel it.

Tom's leg is game, since home he came,
And his bootless foot is lasting lame;
But Troll don't care, and he's still there
With the bone he boned from it's owner.
Doner! Boner!
Troll's old seat is still the same,
And the bone he boned from it's owner!
- J. R. R. Tolkien, "Song About Old Troll"