March 02, 2015
Wislawa Szymborska: Some like poetry
translated by Adam Czerniawski
but what is poetry.
There have already been
several shaky answers
to this question.
But I don't know and I don't know and I hold on to this
like a saving hand-rail.
A Vindication of Hypnosis
Translated by George Henson
Suddenly, during a pause in his monologue, Federico Pérez cautioned me not to become too lost in circumlocution. I should lay everything on the line, he said. I replied that I had already done that the very day I made the appointment by phone. I was trusting that his treatment by hypnosis, about which I had heard great things, would help me give up smoking. If I had gone into too many details at the beginning of my explanation, it was to clarify what my relationship with tobacco was and had been. I do not remember his exact words, but he did allude to the evasiveness and circumlocutions in my speech. He added that he thought it was a manifestation of insecurity, a defense mechanism behind which I was hiding. I do not know if the doctor’s intervention, his interruption and description of the structure of the story, which unbeknownst to me had become unnecessarily and painfully labyrinthine, was part of the treatment, an attempt to stimulate a particular reaction, the beginning of subjugation. I defended myself with literary arguments. I took refuge in the fact that my writing was fundamentally built on those devices.
by Lauren Berlant
I met Claudia Rankine in a parking lot after a reading, where I said crazy fan things like, “I think we see the same thing.” She read a book of mine and wrote me, “Reading it was like weirdly hearing myself think.” This exchange is different from a celebration of intersubjectivity: neither of us believes in that . Too much noise of racism, misogyny, impatience, and fantasy to weed out. Too much unshared lifeworld—not just from the difference that racial experience makes but also in our relations to queerness, to family, to sickness and to health, to poverty and wealth—while all along wondering in sympathetic ways about the impact of citizenship’s embodiment. Plus, it takes forever to get to know someone and, even then, we are often surprised—by ourselves, by each other. Claudia and I have built a friendship through consultation about whether our tones are crazy, wrong, off, or right; about whether or not our observations show something, and what. And, through frankness: a form of being reliable that we can trust, hard-edged as it can be, loving as it can be (and sometimes the former is easier to take than the latter). We are both interested in how writing can allow us to amplify overwhelming scenes of ordinary violence while interrupting the sense of a fated stuckness. This interview, conducted via email, walks around how we think with and against the convenience of conventionally immiserated forms of life and art.
BOMB — Artists in Conversation
Claudia Rankine: Tone is an everyday kind of maneuver. It disrupts and communicates aggression, disgust, dis- respect, and humor, among a myriad of possibilities, thereby allowing language to morph into a blanket or a gun. It helps me know how to read the spaces between things. One has an ear out for it always. It’s a thing to be translated. Yours is a good question because it presupposes certain expectations for tone in public encounters, places where equality and sharing are legislated to happen, places where one has expectations for justice, for evenhandedness, and for “we are all just people here” indifference. I don’t exactly expect disdain when paying for my bagel. Not at 9 AM in a café, anyway!
(1 March 1900 – 17 April 1985)
from Odes: 15 ["Nothing"]
substance utters or time
stills and restrains
joins design and
supple measure deftly
as thought’s intricate polyphonic
score dovetails with the tread
keep in our consciousness.
Celebrate man’s craft
and the word spoken in shapeless night, the
sharp tool paring away
waste and the forms
cut out of mystery!
When taut string’s note
passes ears’ reach or red rays or violet
fade, strong over unseen
forces the word
ranks and enumerates...
mimes clouds condensed
and hewn hills and bristling forests,
steadfast corn in its season
and the seasons
in their due array,
life of man’s own body
The sound thins into melody,
discourse narrowing, craft
Ears heavy to breeze of speech and
thud of the ictus.
Basil Bunting at EPC
and the Poetry Foundation
W. Elmer Scholfied
1867 - 1944
Against property (and sumak kawsay)
No Borders Metaphysics
A beautiful theme that emerges from Noys book on accelerationism (Malign Velocities, Winchester: Zero Press, 2013) is the appeal to innovative, even glamourous ideas to counter the seemingly daring gestures of accelerationism (and one-track left reasoning in general). Noys stresses the importance of rethinking work. (See my post on Noys'book.) To reconceive work in order to make it less precarious and also less dull requires rethinking property. The left is nowadays very vague or very modest in its critique of property in general, as a political and ontological outrage. It is vague because Marxists insist on the various processes of proletarisation (of dispossessed peasants, of illegal migrants, of those rendered redundant by technological advances) and make clear that a work force has to own nothing but their labour, in contrast to those who own means of production. But it rarely proposes policies and strategies to weaken property. It is modest because people like the Pirate Party are clearly against intellectual property but rarely make clear that the problem is more general and lies in property in general. I think the left ought to make clear that property is something that would better go.
Is there a library-sized hole in the internet?
David Weinberger interviewed
Library knowledge – the content; the metadata; what librarians and the community know about items held – is being lost to the web. This represents an immense amount of culture. The most basic components of the web are links, but if you want to talk about a book, what do you link to? There is no clear answer. They might turn to Wikipedia, but only around 70,000 books actually have a page on Wikipedia, so people rely on commercial sites like Amazon. We aren’t even meeting the most basic requirement, linking, much less having a way to refer to the history of the work, how it’s affected people and culture.
Facebook holds huge volumes of information about its users and their lives, but we have no equivalent for what libraries know. That is a huge hole in the internet, and it has at least two negative consequences. Firstly, as library information becomes harder to find, it becomes less relevant. Secondly, libraries themselves become marginalised. The culture that libraries represent becomes invisible on the internet, and the perceived value of libraries diminishes. This is a very real problem. Libraries can address it, but it will take a lot of effort.
February 27, 2015
d. February 26, 1966
The passion that Shaviro seeks to explore here is not the oceanic feeling of interconnectedness at the heart of the Romantic sublime, but rather the Whiteheadian concrescence of “satisfaction,” summoned forth when an entity fully constitutes itself into “determinate matter of fact.”
Kurt Newman reviews Steven Shaviro's The Universe of Things: On Speculative Realism
To help us navigate this landscape of latency and lossiness, Shaviro engages critically with some texts from the new philosophical movements called Object-Oriented Ontology and Speculative Realism (following philosopher Paul Ennis’s lead, we can combine the various movements under the banner of “Continental Realism”). At their best, Continental Realists show that “all the entities of the world are deeply interrelated and mutually dependent even in their separation from one another, and how nonhuman agents, no less than human ones, perform actions and express needs and values.” Against modern philosophy’s claim that phenomena depend upon the mind to exist, Continental Realism affirms the reality of the object in itself. Continental Realism does not let us dismiss the experiences of our robot co-workers’ experiences as any less valid than our own. Continental Realism reminds us that we are objects for the “beach-ball of death” as much as it is an object for us, and that Pango’s withdrawal from my world is no less real than my withdrawal from hers.
... Is there a route from personalistic miracles of noumenal access to a more solidaristic re-imagining of object relations?
One model might be located in particularly moving rendition of the “uncanny mountain” from the dissident Marxist tradition. I am thinking here of the short and beautiful text that appears on the copyright page of the texts published by the radical dockworker Stan Weir’s Singlejack Books:
The term singlejack originated with the hard-rock miners of the American West. The drilling of holes for the insertion of dynamite was a tough and dangerous job. The miners worked in pairs, with one kneeling to hold erect the steel drill, which he would turn slowly as his partner drove it into the rock with blows from a sledge (or singlejack) hammer. They would switch tasks now and then, and because the job demanded as much mutual trust as skill, many lasting friendships were formed. Around the turn of the century, on-the-job organizers for the Western Federation of Miners and the Industrial Workers of the World brought additional meaning to singlejack. They used it to describe that method of organizing where dedicated advocates are developed one at a time on a highly personalized basis—as between partners.
Stan Weir’s description of the singlejack’s “uncanny mountain” overlaps substantially with Continental Realism’s “flat ontology”: the razing of bulbous reality to a single plane upon which each entity has exactly as much reality as every other entity. Weir’s world of Wobbly intimacies even takes the mountain seriously as a lively actor, attending to the specific resistances and attractions, the precarious toeholds, the smashing and blasting, the resistances and pressures of human-object interaction.
Shaviro asks: is it possible that from such sources we might plot a path towards a “democracy of objects” that is also a “democracy of fellow creatures”—a polity or rabble that encompasses the rockface as well as the miner, the Nintendo anteater as well as the philosophy professor? If these entanglements of objects already form the texture of our everyday experience, surely we should find a way to orient ourselves within them? We probably need to find a way to say yes to this question. The Universe of Things prepares us for this act of affirmation.
Silent Salute of Poetry
Translated by Koichiro Yamauchi and Steve Redford
What grave face did the station put on to greet our lives? What gentle look did it give us when it guaranteed our departures and returns? What solemn expression did it have when it saw off the beginning and met the ending of each day? The station’s name was Shinchi Station.
Running like the wind across the springtime countryside and mountain fields. Because the plants, the flowers are sprouting, budding, the thin tips of twigs are inviting the season. Feeling the breathing of storm, light, and clouds. Beethoven’s 9th Symphony is resounding. I’m a speeding conductor.
What’s a silent salute? What’s a silent salute of poetry? Whizzing over the mountain fields, over the countryside, across the bottom of the blue sky, my mind turns furiously. What’s the meaning of a silent salute? What does it mean for poetry to salute silently? The storm, the light and the clouds. A break in the clouds. A deer’s cry.
What does the bridge try to connect from this shore to that shore? What does the bridge try to convey from this shore to that shore? What does the bridge try to bring from that shore to this shore? Crossing a bridge, crossing a bridge…
Chasing the light. Chasing the wolf-shaped light. Chasing the wind-shaped light. Chasing the road-shaped light. Chasing the light shaped like you. The light shaped like the heart is dazzling. Chasing the light shaped like paddies and fields. Chasing the world-shaped light. Embracing (in my arms) the prayer-shaped light. The spring blue sky.
Nobody’s here, an attendant-less platform. A nobody’s-here, attendant-less platform. Shinchi Station, a nobody’s-here, attendant-less platform.
The Performative Economy of the Racial Speculative
This paper focuses on the conjunctures between contemporary financial speculation, national security and border control systems for what these can illustrate about changing practices of race and racism. Pivotal to these systems are procedures that emphasise potential and unspecified threats that may occur in the future alongside an understanding of uncertainty as the condition of economic value. This paper emphasises the interlocking character of racialised panic and economic value that sets about transforming the present in the guise of an imagined future.
What postracialism has in common with contemporary financial systems, national security doctrine and mandatory detention is a shared emphasis on a potential future in excess of any predictable pattern based on knowledge of the past.
What I find curious about postracialism is the extent to which it is resistant to arguments about the persistence of racial divisions or discrimination, the statistics which can easily illustrate the ongoing salience of racism, the materialities of race, and so forth. Postracialism articulates a unverifiable faith in a future unencumbered by the material constraints of the past. It is a form of idealism in the philosophical sense, disavowing its own materialities and determinations, elevating ideas as both causative and cut adrift from history at the same time. Its speculative dimension accounts I think for some of its appeal. But it also mistranslates arguments about the social construction of race into a voluntaristic claim about the insignificance of material differences, and more starkly, into a denial of the ways in which the taxonomic processes of the racial speculative—of which I think it is a part—give rise to, or materialise, race in the present, and therefore in the future.
February 26, 2015
Translated from the French by Andrew Zawacki
With the binoculars on the crown we adjust to few
things and other imaginings of the spirit (the wrong lens
braises an image) the clearest of time in the white of what eyes
emerges from who knows whose head-focus pocus?
but it’s slow: serendipity is our only method known
and from afar the beast is washed out in a flash dissolved
inside the powdery snow one never really walks
except in his steps–but it’s for you to see.
3: A Protothought
With a hair of luck gone out of his gourd
Rupicapra rupicapra whose last name derives like
so from the first a rainstorm sometimes reverses the snow
inside the globe shaved lobe to lobe if one idea founds
the other always pushes farther the quest of the two
vanilla beans that rummage at the moment the ground
in search of the least protothought that falls
on one will pose: for posterity’s sake it’s up to you to see.
Finding Their Way
b. February 26, 1915
My Saga, Part 1
Travels Through North America
By Karl Ove Knausgaard
In front of me lay a world so beautiful and so cruel that it numbed my senses. The vast expanse of the ice, the dark blue ocean beyond, beneath the pale blue sky, the islands in the distance, sheer cliffs rearing up from the water, and then the strip of land that could be glimpsed to the north, which had to be Labrador.
It was completely silent.
I stood there without moving for a long time, looking out to sea. The silence did something with the landscape. Usually, something is making a sound. The wind sweeping across the land, whistling past every ridge or rise it encounters. Birds squawking or chirping. And the sea, the constant soughing, night and day, that sometimes in a storm turns into roaring and hissing.
But here everything was still.
All sounds belong to the moment, they are part of the present, the world of change, while the soundless belongs to the unchanging. In silence lies age.
Ralph Eugene Meatyard
Between the Museum and the Zoo: Sébastien Smirou
translated by Andrew Zawacki
1: The Pepper Grains
When you can’t take nothing on the nose but a beak
whose nature we wonder may have particular aims
some purpose her sights are set on when she invents
what we don’t see all that much farther than bipeds
spying at night amid the pepper plants absorbs them more
into black grains of pepper than humble predators
of whom anyhow you hadn’t before had the feeling
the twisted idea they’d pull the wool over your eyes.
4: The Corner Bookseller
Atrophy of the propellers is just a stroke premeditated
to make small talk of pigeons to the book guy on the corner
of the eye of the familiar specter struck with his o’ertaking wings
who sank like lead like so into the paradoxical poet
we’ve known worse—our own pygmy wings clipped
our knack for flying was stymied: we flap to try
to overcome a weight we never bore penguins
we flail at a sky that lay dead like a load on my weary eye.
A Windmill, Snow Effect
b. February 26, 1821,
Copyright and the Tragedy of the Common
AbstractThe Tragedy of the Commons
In his 1968 article, The Tragedy of the Commons, biologist Garret Hardin first described his theory on the ecological unsustainability of collective human behavior, claiming that commonly held real property interests would not ultimately be supportable due to the competing individual interests of all who use the property. In the legal field, Hardin’s article is frequently cited to support various theories related to real property and environmental law issues such as ownership, redistribution of wealth, pollution, over population, and global warming. Most scholars claim that a tragedy of the commons does not exist in intellectual property-related goods due to the fact that such goods are non-rivalrous, i.e., they have the ability to be simultaneously enjoyed by unlimited agents without diminishment. In this article, however, I will describe my related tragedy of the “common” theory in the context of copyright law doctrine, in which I will illustrate a broader moral and philosophical tragedy related to the manner in which contemporary copyright scholars are discouraging and outright debasing traditional creative works of authorship while inspiring an alternate doctrinal approach which they define by using subtle and elusive terms such as “collective ownership” and “collaborative cultural production.” In this article, which examines copyright theory in a unique historical, literary, and philosophical context and contributes to the often contentious contemporary debate on the nature of creativity, I will show that viewing the process of copyright authorship and ownership of its resultant works with a collectivist or collaborative lens—or with what Søren Kierkegaard labels a “crowd mentality”—instead of continuing to reward individual authors for their creative works will invariably lead to the demoralization of the spirit of man and a culture in which common and regurgitated works will be produced rather than works of genius and individual originality, thus resulting in a decline of progress in contravention with Article I of the U.S. Constitution.
February 24, 2015
1878 - 1964
Cerae: An Australasian Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies
Vol 1 (2014)
Emotions In History
The Melancholy Of Henry More
This article treats Henry More’s philosophical approach to melancholy and his personal experience of the disease. Koen Vermeir argues that, in approaching the imagination philosophically, More was performing a 'balancing act' between addressing the subject as a medium between soul and body, and regarding it as a non-corporeal vehicle of reason and the spirit. 'In his life', Vermeir adds, 'More was also performing a balancing act': both an opponent of and subject to enthusiasm. In this article, I give closer scrutiny to that balancing act, charting the points of distinction and overlap between More’s philosophy of and encounters with melancholy. In the search for relief for his symptoms, I argue, More deployed two significant (and related) techniques: practicing philosophy and engaging in epistolary correspondence.
via the BookForum's Omnivore
Taking Care of Digital Dementia
There is no conclusive empirical evidence that the Internet and other media technologies undermine cognitive skills such as memory and attention. And yet, arguments based on anecdotal evidence and technological determinism continue to persuade readers, many of whom, such as best-selling author Nicholas Carr, have a vague sense that they are not thinking like they used to think, and that technology is to blame. From the surveys of mysterious market research group Embrain to Carr's Pulitzer Prize nominated book The Shallows to Bernard Stiegler's anxieties about tertiary memory in the Technics and Time trilogy, there is a growing body of literature about digital media and cognitive disorders. One of the most recent manifestations of what might be called speculative cognitive science is the coining of the term "digital dementia." Like other types of dementia, a diagnosis of this new disease is based primarily on anecdotal evidence in the form of self-reporting. While for some, this questionable cognitive condition may be cause for skepticism and dismissal, I would argue that, at the very least, this new disease should be embraced as a thought experiment, one that requires a practice of care and attention in the face of a situation that might best be approached speculatively._______________________
We might want to take care of digital dementia then, not as a form of cognitive impairment--after all, cognition must be considered within specific historical and cultural contexts, and what's more we cannot predict how the brain will adapt to the increasing cognitive demands emerging from new media--but as a potential political impairment, one that occurs when we lose control over the psychic, biological, and technical aspects of specific cognitive tasks. Digital dementia may not be a disease, but the symptoms it identifies may well be the result of a war on cognition that is being waged by some of the most powerful corporations in history. ... The concept of digital dementia, brought to life by news media and propagated as an Internet meme, may well be science fiction, but this toxic concept might be used to generate a more careful discussion about the politics of cognition in an age of rampant hypomnesis. At the very least, such a discussion might inspire, for example, scholars to forego reading from a page at conferences, and turn instead to active dialogue, or perhaps to experimental performances that adopt digital media as a first-aid kit in confronting the issue of cognition and technology.
So what do you say to a five-year-old
who’s realised that everything will die?
You fight it, but no matter how you try
you still repeat the lies that you were told.
It was last year in summer, the fields were gold,
etc. Had there been cotton, it would’ve been high.
His frame is retching with the question why.
But soon the old words work and he’s consoled.
And as the clever lies dispelled his fit,
arrived here with great speed, now at his back,
a towering black wave was about to hit.
I held his eye and the wave froze in the air.
He wandered off to play. The watery stack
remained for anyone who had a care.
More poems by Justin Quinn1 2 3 4
Virno and History
McKenzie Wark on Paolo Virno's Déjà Vu and the End of History
The formal anachronism allows one to glimpse the virtual in the actual, the reserves of language and labor as pure form: “language is never realized by the sum of words spoken… labor-power cannot be equated to the sum of completed labors…” Thus, the end of history is not the result of an excess of memory, but rather by its obfuscation. It is not a Nietzschian active forgetting that is called for, other than in the sense of putting aside the details of particular pasts to grasp the generative world of the past in general. If anything, the formal anachronism is an active remembering of the virtual. Hence “Learning to experience the memory of the present means to attain the possibility of a fully historical existence.”
Of Nietzsche’s three kinds of historical thought: the critical and monumental might idolize or moralize the past, but these are not real dangers. The antiquarian mode is what is damaging, as it reduces the past to an inventory of things to be preserved and venerated. As such it is usually the actual present smuggled back into the past, a form of disabling nostalgia.
Virno also diagnoses a complimentary historical pathology, what he calls modernariat. This is a doubling of the present in an illusory always-been. It is characterized by a mania to collect the specific residues of a past that seems to confirm this present. It is quite different to Walter Benjamin’s collector, who brings lost and marginal pasts back to life. Modernariat insists that those now victorious were always so.
As such, it is the characteristic aesthetic mode of the spectacle. ...
To Collapse Or Not To Collapse
pushing for economic ruin or building a great transition
At one end of the spectrum, some environmentalists are fueled by a strong belief that speeding up an implosion of the global financial system is the only thing that can prevent catastrophic climate change – they emphasise a need to focus all efforts on building our resilience to survive in low resource-dependent and localised economies. Counter to this position are others who remain firmly dedicated to building a mass global movement to achieve a full-scale emergency, wartime-like transition of our economy – they anticipate the restoration of safe climate conditions by rapidly eliminating greenhouse gas pollution and actively cooling the planet through conversion of the current system. It seems that urgent times create radical responses – we have run out of time for half measures – what will it take to rescue the climate?
Sustainable Living Festival
Justin Quinn - A Prague-based poet, professor and translator
I carry America into these young heads,
at least some parts that haven’t yet got there—
Hawthorne’s Salem, Ellison’s blacks and reds,
Bishop’s lovely lines of late summer air.
The students take quick notes. They pause or dive
for dictionaries and laptops, or turn to ask
a friend as new words constantly arrive.
The more they do, the more complex the task.
They smoothly move from serious to blasé
and back again. I love the way they sit
and use their bodies to nuance what they say.
I lean forward to catch the drift of it.
When it’s ended, they’ll switch back to Czech,
put on their coats and bags, shift wood and chrome,
and ready themselves for their daily trek
across a continent and ocean home.
Justin Quinn interviewed by Sarah Borufka