Thursday, January 31, 2013

Geritol for Gerontion

And when we go,
when the fields are full of snow,
and the sky is so grey.
When a new year has begun,
When two replaces one,


When the engine's cooling down,
will we reach the speed of sound,
explosion so loud.
In this year that's just begun,
will the new replace the young?

And the little flakes of snow,
are just building up you know,
there's an ice storm coming will you believe a love succumbing?
And the shadows grow I know,
but I think it's time we go,
under moonlight singing Gerontion is the beginning.



Did you tell me too soon,
that these wars made you lose,
your faith in this world?
I'll just watch the rising sun,
when the spring has begun,

And the little flakes of snow,
are just building up you know,
there's an ice storm coming will you believe a love succumbing?
And the shadows grow I know,
but I think it's time we go,
under moonlight singing Gerontion is the beginning.




Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Rake, Unrepentant

Conscience is instinct bred in the house,
Feeling and Thinking propagate the sin
By an unnatural breeding in and in.
I say, Turn it out doors,
Into the moors.
I love a life whose plot is simple,
And does not thicken with every pimple,
A soul so sound no sickly conscience binds it,
That makes the universe no worse than 't finds it.

I love an earnest soul,
Whose mighty joy and sorrow
Are not drowned in a bowl,
And brought to life to-morrow;
That lives one tragedy,
And not seventy;
A conscience worth keeping;
Laughing not weeping;
A conscience wise and steady,
And forever ready;
Not changing with events,
Dealing in compliments;
A conscience exercised about
Large things, where one may doubt.

I love a soul not all of wood,
Predestinated to be good,
But true to the backbone
Unto itself alone,
And false to none;
Born to its own affairs,
Its own joys and own cares;
By whom the work which God begun
Is finished, and not undone;
Taken up where he left off,
Whether to worship or to scoff;
If not good, why then evil,
If not good god, good devil.

Goodness! you hypocrite, come out of that,
Live your life, do your work, then take your hat.
I have no patience towards
Such conscientious cowards.
Give me simple laboring folk,
Who love their work,
Whose virtue is song
To cheer God along.

- Henry David Thoreau

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Playing by Marquis of Queensbury Rules

Drug use, within entire teams continues unabated. It is planned and deliberate cheating, with complex methods, sophisticated substances and techniques, and the active complicity of doctors, scientists, team officials and riders. There is nothing accidental about it.
- Richard Pound

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Quelqu'un D'Autre

Someone else
But often
I thought it was
I could change roles
As often
I changed parts, desires or states

Rebirth, knowing
Anything else
Tomorrow, if everything explodes
We would all be

Someone else
Just once in life
That everything is so different
Someone else
But is it enough that
To forget the moments

Someone else
Someone else
Change skin, scenery
Someone else
Someone else

Is how
I see things
In the heads of other
It can sometimes be more fun
We can see in front
His old bones
And after a while

We dream
One dies

There are so many, so
So envy
Should never go without
We would all be

Someone else
Just once in his life
That everything is so different
Someone else
But is it enough that
To forget the moments

Someone else
Someone else
Change skin, scenery
Someone else
Someone else

And feel otherwise!

Another outfit, another voice
Other customs, make other choices
Waking up in another skin
And see life from a new heaven

The sky someone else
Someone else
Just once in life
Someone else
Someone else

We would all be
Someone else

Just once in life
That everything is so different
Someone else
Someone else

To forget the moments
Someone else
Someone else

We would all be
Someone else
Someone else

We would all be
Someone else ...

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Full Fathom Five Corporate Feudalism

Part of the Ship, Part of the Crew
Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell:
Hark! now I hear them,--ding-dong, bell.

- William Shakespeare, "The Tempest"

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Liberalism 5.0 - Death by Water

Phlebas the Phoenician, a fortnight dead,
Forgot the cry of gulls, and the deep sea swell
And the profit and loss.
A current under sea
Picked his bones in whispers. As he rose and fell
He passes the stages of his age and youth
Entering the whirlpool.
Gentile or Jew
O you who turn the wheel and look windward,
Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you.


'On Margate Sands.
I can connect
Nothing with nothing.
The broken fingernails of dirty hands.
My people humble people who expect
la la
To Carthage then I came
Burning burning burning burning
O Lord Thou pluckest me out
O Lord Thou pluckest
- T.S. Eliot, "The Wasteland"

Sunday, January 20, 2013

On Thought Perverting Powers...

I love my work with a frenetic and perverse love, as an ascetic loves the hair shirt which scratches his belly.
- Gustave Flaubert

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Vide Cor Meum

Chorus: And thinking of her
Sweet sleep overcame me

I am your master
See your heart
And of this burning heart
Your heart
(Chorus: She trembling)
Obediently eats.
Weeping, I saw him then depart from me.

Joy is converted
To bitterest tears

I am in peace
My heart
I am in peace
See my heart

Friday, January 18, 2013

In the Name of the Father...

...a response to FreeThinke

So what then is superego, what is this superego injunction which is replacing more and more the old symbolic law of prohibition? Superego is the reversal of the permissive "You May!" into the prescriptive "You Must!", the point in which permitted enjoyment turns into ordained enjoyment. We all know the formula of Kant s unconditional imperative: "Du canst, denn du sollst". You can do your duty, because you must do it. Superego turns this around into "You must, because you can." Nowhere is this clearer than in the case of Viagra, the potency pill that promises to restore the capacity of male erection in a purely biochemical way, bypassing all problems of psychological inhibitions and so on. Now Viagra takes care of the erection, there is no excuse, you can enjoy sex so you should enjoy it, otherwise you are guilty. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the New Age wisdom of recovering the spontaneity of your true self seems to offer a way out of this superego predicament. However, what do we get effectively? Is this attitude not secretly sustained by the superego imperative? You must do your duty of achieving full self–realization and self–fulfillment because you can. This is the reason why we feel, at least I do, a kind of terrorist pressure beneath the compliant tolerance of New Age preachers. They seem to preach peace and letting go and so on but there is an implicit terrorist dimension in it. So what is superego? The external opposition between pleasure and duty is precisely overcome in the superego. It can be overcome in two opposite ways. On one hand, we have the paradox of the extremely oppressive, so–called totalitarian post–traditional power which goes further than the traditional authoritarian power. It does not only tell you "Do your duty, I don’t care if you like it or not." It tells you not only "You must obey my orders and do your duty" but "You must do it with pleasure. You must enjoy it." It is not enough for the subjects to obey their leader, they must actively love him. This passage from traditional authoritarian power to modern totalitarianism can be precisely rendered through superego in an old joke of mine. Let’s say that you are a small child and one Sunday afternoon you have to do the boring duty of visiting your old senile grandmother. If you have a good old–fashioned authoritarian father, what will he tell you? "I don’t care how you feel, just go there and behave properly. Do your duty." A modern permissive totalitarian father will tell you something else: "You know how much your grandmother would love to see you. But do go and visit her only if you really want to." Now every idiot knows the catch. Beneath the appearance of this free choice there is an even more oppressive order. You seem to have a choice, but there is no choice, because the order is not only you must visit your grandmother, you must even enjoy it. If you don’t believe me, just try to say "I have a choice, I will not do it." I promise your father will say "What did your grandmother ever do to you? Don’t you know how she loves you? How could you do this to her?" That’s superego. On the other hand, we have the opposite paradox of the pleasure itself whose pursuit turns into duty. In a permissive society, subjects experience the need to have a good time, to really enjoy themselves, as a kind of duty, and consequently feel guilty for failing to be happy. The concept of the superego designates precisely this mysterious overlapping in which the command to enjoy overlaps with the duty to enjoy yourself. Maybe we can in this way distinguish the totalitarian from the liberal–permissive superego. In both cases, the message is "You may enjoy, but because you may, you must". In both cases you pay a price for this permission. In permissive liberalism, the "you may" of freely inventing yourself is paid for when you get caught in the cobweb of prohibitions concerning the well’being of yourself and your neighbors. We can do whatever we want today, hedonism and so on, but the result is that we have at the daily level so many prohibitions so as not to prevent others from enjoying. You are constantly told what to eat and drink, no fat, no smoking, safe sex, prohibition to enjoy the other, prohibition of sexual harassment, and so on, life is totally regulated. In an exactly symmetrical way, in totalitarianism the official message is "You should obey." Neo–fundamentalists like to present themselves as "In today’s world there are no firm values, and we offer you safe haven, roots in firm values." This explains the so-called neo–fundamentalist appeal: As sociologists say, in postmodernity, in a reflexive society, there are no firm values, no nature or tradition, people who are used to a firm set of values get lost, long for safe haven… The other aspect of it is the exact opposite. It’s the postmodern subject of total permissiveness who gets caught up in so many prohibitions that precisely in order to be happy, the secret message between the lines of the totalitarian appeal to follow the master is, "If you follow me, you may." You may with impunity rape, sexually harass, kill, etc. I know this from personally talking to some years ago members of the old regime in Belgrade. There message was, "Before we were living this regulated life. Now at the point of us becoming Serb ethnic fundamentalists is that we may." Even before Adorno and Horkheimer, Brecht was attentive to this falsely liberating aspect of fundamentalism. Totalitarianism is not only "safe haven, firm values, we give you a sense of stability", it’s also a kind of false liberation. Which is why in an article from a year ago I offered as a metaphor for totalitarianism, the German fat free salami, whose slogan is Du Darfst. If you obey me, Du Darfst, you can have your salami without fat. Let’s go on. What happens in this superego universe of weak paternal authority? I think the references to two films are of some interest here. On one hand, Roberto Benigni’s "Life is Beautiful", in which the father in the concentration camp constructs a web of fantasies to protect his son from the trauma of the camp. On the other hand, Thomas Vinterberg’s "Celebration", in which the father is not only not the protector against the trauma but the source of the trauma, the rapist father. In one case we have a father assuming an almost maternal protective role and who relies on pure symbolic appearance, creating a protective web for his son, a father who is a kind of ersatz placebo. On the other hand, a father whose core we arrive at through the dismantling of all protective fictions — at the end the father is unmasked and confesses to be the brutal rapist, having sexual exploited his children, a kind of true revival of the Freudian Ur–Father from "Totem and Taboo". It’s my old thesis that Freud was right, he just got it in the wrong temporal succession. I claim that in this obsession with false memory syndrome, imagining some brutal raping father, it is not that, as Freud thought, the we have first in some mystical past the rapist father who possessed all the women of the tribe and then through the murder of the father, the father returns as symbolic authority. It’s rather the opposite. The symbolic authority disintegrates and what fills in its void is this brutal Ur–Father. It’s the modern totalitarian masters who are much closer to this Ur–Father figure. So what about these two father figures? It is crucial to avoid the trap of conceiving these two fathers along the axis of appearance vs. reality. It’s not that Benigni’s good father is a pure appearance of the protective maternal father and then that when we scratch the surface we get the violent real father. "Celebration" tells us a lot about how today, in the false memory syndrome of remembering being molested by one’s parents, Freud’s Ur–Father is resuscitated. "Celebration" tells us this precisely through its artificial character. The ultimate paradox of the film is that it’s the ultimate nostalgia. This horror of the rapist father, instead of shocking us, it articulates a kind of nostalgic longing for the good old times when we had fathers who really had force, and when it was really possible to experience such traumas.
- Salvoj Zizek, "The SuperEgo and the Act"

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Meet the New Boss...

A Sinpthome for the Post-Modern Condition
L'envers de la psychanalyse, Seminar XVII (1969-1970) on the four discourses, is Lacan's response to the events of 1968 - its premise is best captured as his reversal of the well-known anti-structuralist graffiti from the Paris walls of 1968 "Structures do not walk on the streets!" - if anything, this Seminar endeavors to demonstrate how structures DO walk on the streets, i.e. how structural shifts CAN account for the social outbursts like that of the 1968. Instead of the one symbolic Order with its set of a priori rules which guarantee social cohesion, we get the matrix of the passages from one to another discourse: Lacan's interest is focused on the passage from the discourse of the Master to the discourse of University as the hegemonic discourse in contemporary society. No wonder that the revolt was located at the universities: as such, it merely signaled the shift to the new forms of domination in which the scientific discourse serves legitimizes the relations of domination. Lacan's underlying premise is sceptic-conservative - Lacan's diagnosis is best captured by his famous retort to the student revolutionaries: "As hysterics, you demand a new master. You will get it!" This passage can also be conceived in more general terms, as the passage from the pre-revolutionary ancien regime to the post-revolutionary new Master who does not want to admit that he is one, but proposes himself as a mere "servant" of the People — in Nietzsche's terms, it is simply the passage from Master's ethics to slave morality, and this fact, perhaps, enables us a new approach to Nietzsche: when Nietzsche scornfully dismisses "slave morality," he is not attacking lower classes as such, but, rather, the new masters who are no longer ready to assume the title of the Master - "slave" is Nietzsche's term for a fake master. — How, then, more closely, are we to read the university discourse?
More here

The university discourse is enunciated from the position of "neutral" Knowledge; it addresses the remainder of the real (say, in the case of pedagogical knowledge, the "raw, uncultivated child"), turning it into the subject ($). The "truth" of the university discourse, hidden beneath the bar, of course, is power, i.e. the Master-Signifier: the constitutive lie of the university discourse is that it disavows its performative dimension, presenting what effectively amounts to a political decision based on power as a simple insight into the factual state of things. What one should avoid here is the Foucauldian misreading: the produced subject is not simply the subjectivity which arises as the result of the disciplinary application of knowledge-power, but its remainder, that which eludes the grasp of knowledge-power. "Production" (the fourth term in the matrix of discourses) does not stand simply for the result of the discursive operation, but rather for its "indivisible remainder," for the excess which resists being included in the discursive network, i.e. for what the discourse itself produces as the foreign body in its very heart. Perhaps the exemplary case of the Master's position which underlies the university discourse is the way in which medical discourse functions in our everyday lives: at the surface level, we are dealing with pure objective knowledge which desubjectivizes the subject-patient, reducing him to an object of research, of diagnosis and treatment; however, beneath it, one can easily discern a worried hystericized subject, obsessed with anxiety, addressing the doctor as his Master and asking for reassurance from him. At a more common level, suffice it to recall the market expert who advocates strong budgetary measures (cutting welfare expenses, etc.) as a necessity imposed by his neutral expertise devoid of any ideological biases: what he conceals is the series of power-relations (from the active role of state apparatuses to ideological beliefs) which sustain the "neutral" functioning of the market mechanism.

In the University discourse, is not the upper level ($ — a) that of biopolitics (in the sense deployed from Foucault to Agamben)? Of the expert knowledge dealing with its object which is a - not subjects, but individuals reduced to bare life? And does the lower not designate what Eric Santner called the "crisis of investiture," i.e., the impossibility of the subject to relate to S1, to identify with a Master-Signifier, to assume the imposed symbolic mandate?1 The key point is here that the expert rule of "biopolitics" is grounded in and conditioned by the crisis of investiture; this crisis generated the "post-metaphysical" survivalist stance of the Last Men, which ends up in an anemic spectacle of life dragging on as its own shadow. It is within this horizon that one should appreciate today's growing rejection of death penalty: what one should be able to discern is the hidden "biopolitics" which sustains this rejection. Those who assert the "sacredness of life," defending it against the threat of transcendent powers which parasitize on it, end up in a world in which, on behalf of its very official goal — long pleasurable life — all effective pleasures are prohibited or strictly controlled (smoking, drugs, food…). Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan is the latest example of this survivalist attitude towards dying, with its "demystifying" presentation of war as a meaningless slaughter which nothing can really justify - as such, it provides the best possible justification for the Colin Powell's "no-casualties-on-our-side" military doctrine.

On today's market, we find a whole series of products deprived of their malignant property: coffee without caffeine, cream without fat, beer without alcohol... And the list goes on: what about virtual sex as sex without sex, the Colin Powell doctrine of warfare with no casualties (on our side, of course) as warfare without warfare, the contemporary redefinition of politics as the art of expert administration as politics without politics, up to today's tolerant liberal multiculturalism as an experience of Other deprived of its Otherness (the idealized Other who dances fascinating dances and has an ecologically sound holistic approach to reality, while features like wife beating remain out of sight…)? Virtual Reality simply generalizes this procedure of offering a product deprived of its substance: it provides reality itself deprived of its substance, of the resisting hard kernel of the Real - in the same way decaffeinated coffee smells and tastes like the real coffee without being the real one, Virtual Reality is experienced as reality without being one.

Is this not the attitude of the hedonistic Last Man? Everything is permitted, you can enjoy everything, BUT deprived of its substance which makes it dangerous. (This is also Last Man's revolution — "revolution without revolution.") Is this not one of the two versions of Lacan's anti-Dostoyevski motto "If God doesn't exist, everything is prohibited"? (1) God is dead, we live in a permissive universe, you should strive for pleasures and happiness — but, in order to have a life full of happiness and pleasures, you should avoid dangerous excesses, so everything is prohibited if it is not deprived of its substance; (2) If God is dead, superego enjoins you to enjoy, but every determinate enjoyment is already a betrayal of the unconditional one, so it should be prohibited. The nutritive version of this is to enjoy directly the Thing Itself: why bother with coffee? Inject caffeine directly into your blood! Why bother with sensual perceptions and excitations by external reality? Take drugs which directly affect your brain! - And if there is God, then everything is permitted — to those who claim to act directly on behalf of God, as the instruments of His will; clearly, a direct link to God justifies our violation of any "merely human" constraints and considerations (as in Stalinism, where the reference to the big Other of historical Necessity justifies absolute ruthlessness).

Today's hedonism combines pleasure with constraint — it is no longer the old notion of the "right measure" between pleasure and constraint, but a kind of pseudo-Hegelian immediate coincidence of the opposites: action and reaction should coincide, the very thing which causes damage should already be the medicine. The ultimate example of it is arguably a chocolate laxative, available in the US, with the paradoxical injunction "Do you have constipation? Eat more of this chocolate!", i.e., of the very thing which causes constipation. Do we not find here a weird version of Wagner's famous "Only the spear which caused the wound can heal it" from Parsifal? And is not a negative proof of the hegemony of this stance the fact that true unconstrained consumption (in all its main forms: drugs, free sex, smoking…) is emerging as the main danger? The fight against these dangers is one of the main investments of today's "biopolitics." Solutions are here desperately sought which would reproduce the paradox of the chocolate laxative. The main contender is "safe sex" — a term which makes one appreciative of the truth of the old saying "Is having sex with a condom not like taking a shower with a raincoat on?". The ultimate goal would be here, along the lines of decaf coffee, to invent "opium without opium": no wonder marijuana is so popular among liberals who want to legalize it — it already IS a kind of "opium without opium."

The structure of the "chocolate laxative," of a product containing the agent of its own containment, can be discerned throughout today's ideological landscape. There are two topics which determine today's liberal tolerant attitude towards Others: the respect of Otherness, openness towards it, AND the obsessive fear of harassment — in short, the Other is OK insofar as its presence is not intrusive, insofar as the Other is not really Other… A similar structure is clearly present in how we relate to capitalist profiteering: it is OK IF it is counteracted with charitable activities — first you amass billions, then you return (part of) them to the needy… And the same goes for war, for the emergent logic of humanitarian or pacifist militarism: war is OK insofar as it really serves to bring about peace, democracy, or to create conditions for distributing humanitarian help. And does the same not hold more and more even for democracy: it is OK if it is "rethought" to include torture and a permanent emergency state, if it is cleansed of its populist "excesses," and if the people are "mature" enough to live by it…

However, what we were describing what cannot but appear as two opposite ideological spaces: that of the reduction of humans to bare life, to homo sacer as the dispensable object of the expert caretaking knowledge; and that of the respect for the vulnerable Other brought to extreme, of the attitude of narcissistic subjectivity which experiences itself as vulnerable, constantly exposed to a multitude of potential "harassments." Is there a stronger contrast than the one between the respect for the Other's vulnerability and the reduction of the Other to "mere life" regulated by the administrative knowledge?

But what if these two stances nonetheless rely on the same root, what if they are the two aspects of one and the same underlying attitude, what if they coincide in what one is tempted to designate as the contemporary case of the Hegelian "infinite judgement" which asserts the identity of opposites? What the two poles share is precisely the underlying refusal of any higher Causes, the notion that the ultimate goal of our lives is life itself. Nowhere is the complicity of these two levels clearer as in the case of the opposition to death penalty — no wonder, since (violently putting another human being to) death is, quite logically, the ultimate traumatic point of biopolitics, the politics of the administration of life. To put it in Foucauldian terms, is the abolition of death penalty not part of a certain "biopolitics" which considers crime as the result of social, psychological, ideological, etc., circumstances: the notion of the morally/legally responsible subject is an ideological fiction whose function is to cover up the network of power relations, individuals are not responsible for the crimes they commit, so they should not be punished? Is, however, the obverse of this thesis not that those who control the circumstances control the people? No wonder the two strongest industrial complexes are today the military and the medical, that of destroying and that of prolonging life.

Superego is thus not directly S2; it is rather the S1 of the S2 itself, the dimension of an unconditional injunction that is inherent to knowledge itself. Recall the informations about health we are bombarded with all the time: "Smoking is dangerous! To much fat may cause a heart attack! Regular exercise leads to a longer life!" etc.etc. — it is impossible not to hear beneath it the unconditional injunction "You should enjoy a long and healthy life!"… What this means is that the discourse of the University is thoroughly mystifying, concealing its true foundation, obfuscating the unfreedom on which it relies.
-Slavoj Zizek, "Homo Sacer as the Object of the Discourse of the University" (9/25/03)

Monday, January 14, 2013

Another Thought Narrowly Escapes the Labyrinth

"Be wise, Ariadne, you have small ears, you have my ears: let a shrewd word slip into them: Must one first not hate oneself, if one is to love oneself? I am your labyrinth…."
- Friedrich Nietzsche

Triumph of the Eternal Feminine

...after the Death of the Author and Philosophy

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Poète Maudit

Alain Campello, "Le Maudit"

When, on a certain day, into this harassed world
The Poet, by decree of the high powers, was born,
His mother, overwhelmed by shame and fury, hurled
These blasphemies at God, clenching her fists in scorn:

'Would I had whelped a knot of vipers — at the worst
'Twere better than this runt that whines and snivels there!
Oh, cursèd be that night of pleasure, thrice accurst
My womb, that has conceived and nourished my despair!

'Since, of all mortal women, it would seem my fate
To be my saddened husband's horror and disgust;
And since I may not toss this monster in the grate —
Like any crumpled letter, reeking of stale lust —

'Upon his helpless form, whereby Thou humblest me,
I shall divert Thy hatred in one raging flood;
And I shall twist so well this miserable tree
That it shall not put forth one pestilential bud!'

Thus did she foam with anger, railing, swallowing froth;
And, unaware of what the mighty powers had willed,
She set about to draw Gehenna on them both,
Eyeing the fire, considering how he might be killed.

Meantime, above the child an unseen angel beats
His wings, and the poor waif runs laughing in the sun;
And everything he drinks and everything he eats
Are nectar and ambrosia to this hapless one.

Companioned by the wind, conversing with the cloud,
Along the highway to the Cross his song is heard;
And the bright Spirit, following him, weeps aloud
To see him hop so gaily, like a little bird.

Those whom he longs to love observe him with constraint
And fear, as he grows up; or, seeing how calm he is,
Grow bold, and seek to draw from him some sharp complaint,
Wreaking on him all day their dull ferocities.

Cinders are in his bread, are gritty in his teeth;
Spittle is in his wine. Where his footprints are seen
They hesitate to set their shoes, mincing beneath
Hypocrisy; all things he touched, they call unclean.

His wife in public places cries, 'Since after all
He loves me so, that he's the laughingstock of men,
I'll make a business of it, be an idol, call
For gold, to have myself regilded now and then!

'And some day, when I'm drunk with frankincense, rich food,
Flattery, genuflexions, spikenard, beady wine,
I'll get from him (while laughing in his face, I could!)
That homage he has kept, so far, for things divine.

'And, when my pleasure in these impious farces fails,
My dainty, terrible hands shall tear his breast apart,
And these long nails of mine, so like to harpies' nails,
Shall dig till they have dug a tunnel to his heart.

'Then, like a young bird, caught and fluttering to be freed,
('Twill make a tasty morsel for my favorite hound)
I'll wrench his heart out, warm and bleeding — let it bleed! —
And drop it, with contempt and loathing, to the ground.'

Meanwhile toward Heaven, the goal of his mature desire,
The Poet, oblivious, lifts up his arms in prayer;
His lucid essence flames with lightnings — veiled by fire
Is all the furious world, all the lewd conflict there.

'Be praised, Almighty God, that givest to faulty me
This suffering, to purge my spirit of its sin,
To fortify my puny strength, to bid me see
Pure Faith, and what voluptuous blisses dwell therein.

'I know that in those ranks on ranks of happy blest
The Poet shall have some place among Thy Seraphim;
And that Thou wilt at length to the eternal feast
Of Virtues, Thrones and Dominations, summon him.

'I know, Pain is the one nobility we have
Which not the hungry ground nor hell shall ever gnaw;
I know that space and time, beyond the temporal grave,
Weave me a mystic crown, free from all earthly flaw.

'Not emeralds, not all the pearls of the deep sea,
All the rare metals, every lost and buried gem
Antique Palmyra hides, could ever seem to me
So beautiful as that clear glittering diadem.

'Of Light, of Light alone, it will be fashioned, Light
Drawn from the holy fount, rays primitive and pure,
Whereof the eyes of mortal men, so starry bright,
Are but the mirrors, mirrors cloudy and obscure.'

— Original poem by Charles Baudelaire (Translated by Edna St. Vincent Millay)

Saturday, January 12, 2013

I am the Author of my Fate

Language is not a neutral medium that passes freely and easily into the private property of the speaker's intentions; it is populated –overpopulated– with the intentions of others. Expropriating I, forcing it to submit to one's own intentions and accents, is a difficult and complicated process... As a living, socio-ideological concrete thing, as heteroglot opinion, language, for the individual consciousness, lies on the borderline between oneself and the other... The word in language is half someone else's. It becomes one’s "own" only when the speaker populates it with his own intentions, his own accent, when he appropriates the word, adapting it to his own semantic and expressive intention. Prior to this moment of appropriation, the word does not exist in a neutral and impersonal language... but rather it exists in other people's mouths, in other people's contexts, serving other people's intentions; it is from there that one must take the word, and make it one's own
- Mikhail Bakhtin, "The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays"

Friday, January 11, 2013

A Song of Roland...

In his story Sarrasine, Balzac, speaking of a castrato disguised as a woman, writes this sentence: “It was Woman, with her sudden fears, her irrational whims, her instinctive fears, her unprovoked bravado, her daring and her delicious delicacy of feeling” Who is speaking in this way? Is it the story’s hero, concerned to ignore the castrato concealed beneath the woman? Is it the man Balzac, endowed by his personal experience with a philosophy of Woman? Is it the author Balzac, professing certain “literary” ideas of femininity? Is it universal wisdom? or romantic psychology? It will always be impossible to know, for the good reason that all writing is itself this special voice, consisting of several indiscernible voices, and that literature is precisely the invention of this voice, to which we cannot assign a specific origin: literature is that neuter, that composite, that oblique into which every subject escapes, the trap where all identity is lost, beginning with the very identity of the body that writes.
-Roland Barthes, "The Death of the Author"

Garbage In...

Alice couldn't help smiling as she took out her memorandum book, and worked the sum for him:


Humpty Dumpty took the book and looked at it carefully. 'That seems to be done right —' he began.

'You're holding it upside down!' Alice interrupted.

'To be sure I was!' Humpty Dumpty said gaily as she turned it round for him. 'I thought it looked a little queer. As I was saying, that seems to be done right — though I haven't time to look it over thoroughly just now — and that shows that there are three hundred and sixty-four days when you might get un-birthday presents —'

'Certainly,' said Alice.

'And only one for birthday presents, you know. There's glory for you!'

'I don't know what you mean by "glory",' Alice said.

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. 'Of course you don't — till I tell you. I meant "there's a nice knock-down argument for you!"'

'But "glory" doesn't mean "a nice knock-down argument",' Alice objected.

'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.'

'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.'

'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master — that's all.'
-Lewis Carroll, "Through the Looking Glass"

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Form Follows Function? Not Really.

"Figure is the only thing which always follows colour....colour is an effluence of form, commensurate with sight, and palpable to sense."
- Plato, "Meno"
Click to Enlarge

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Science Calling Religion...

"Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind."
- Albert Einstein, "Science, Philosophy and Religion: a Symposium" (1941)

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Bee-util-ful Language of Dance

"It would be extremely interesting to write the history of laughter"
- M. Bakhtin

Friday, January 4, 2013

Something to Help Keep Your Wig Warm

“...Truth is not born nor is it to be found inside the head of an individual person, it is born between people collectively searching for truth, in the process of their dialogic interaction.”

“In rhetoric there are the unconditionally right and the unconditionally guilty; there is total victory and the annihilation of the opponent. In dialogue, annihilation of the opponent also annihilates the very dialogic sphere in which discourse lives... This sphere is very fragile and is easily destroyed...”
- M. Bakhtin

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Birthing Semiotics

Everyone, left to his own devices, forms an idea about what goes on in language which is very far from the truth.
- Ferdinand de Saussure