And by a prudent flight and cunning save A life which valour could not, from the grave. A better buckler I can soon regain, But who can get another life again? Archilochus

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Reminder from the Age of Ancient Heroes

It is true that this great tradition has been lost, and that the new one is not yet established. But what was this great tradition, if not a habitual everyday idealization of ancient life — a robust and material form of life, a state of readiness on the part of each individual…? Before trying to distinguish the epic side of modern life, and before bringing examples to prove that our age is no less fertile in sublime themes than past ages, we may assert that since all centuries and all peoples have had their own form of beauty, so inevitably we have ours. That is the order of things… But to return to our principle and essential problem, which is to discover whether we possess a specific beauty, intrinsic to our new emotions… The pageant of fashionable life and the thousands of floating existences —- criminals and kept women — which drift about in the underworld of the great city; the Gazette des Tribunaux and the Moniteur all prove to us that we have only to open our eyes to recognize our heroism. For the heroes of the Iliad are but pigmies compared to you —- who dared not publically declaim your sorrows in the funeral and tortured frock coat which we all wear today! — you the most heroic, the most extraordinary, the most romantic and the most poetic of all the characters that you have produced from your womb!
- Baudelaire, “The Salon of 1846: On the Heroism of Modern Life”
"In this regards, my friend, you're like the public, to whom one should never offer a delicate perfume. It exasperates them. Give them only carefully selected garbage."
- Charles Pierre Baudelaire

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Hyakinthia Time?

“You gave me hyacinths first a year ago;
They called me the hyacinth girl.”
—Yet when we came back, late, from the Hyacinth garden,
Your arms full, and your hair wet, I could not
Speak, and my eyes failed, I was neither
Living nor dead, and I knew nothing,
Looking into the heart of light, the silence.
Öd’ und leer das Meer.
-T.S. Eliot, "The Wasteland" (1922)

Monday, February 25, 2013

Quando fiam uti chelidon?

Out, alas!
You'd be so lean, that blasts of January
Would blow you through and through.
Now, my fair'st friend,
I would I had some flowers o' the spring that might
Become your time of day; and yours, and yours,
That wear upon your virgin branches yet
Your maidenheads growing: O Proserpina,
For the flowers now, that frighted thou let'st fall
From Dis's waggon! daffodils,
That come before the swallow dares, and take
The winds of March with beauty; violets dim,
But sweeter than the lids of Juno's eyes
Or Cytherea's breath; pale primroses
That die unmarried, ere they can behold
Bight Phoebus in his strength--a malady
Most incident to maids; bold oxlips and
The crown imperial; lilies of all kinds,
The flower-de-luce being one! O, these I lack,
To make you garlands of, and my sweet friend,
To strew him o'er and o'er!
(Perdita) Shakespeare, "A Winter's Tale"

Friday, February 22, 2013

Upstairs, Downstairs...

The intention of psychoanalysis, Freud explained, is "to strengthen the ego, to make it more independent of the super-ego, to widen its field of perception and enlarge its organization, so that it can appropriate fresh portions of the id.... It is a work of culture," he added in the closing words of the lecture, "not unlike the draining of the Zuider Zee."
- Freud, "New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, vol. 22" (lecture 31, "The Dissection of the Psychical Personality"), Complete Works, Standard Edition, eds. James Strachey and Anna Freud (1964).

Thursday, February 21, 2013


Assiduus usus uni rei deditus et ingenium et artem saepe vincit

- M.Tullius Cicero, "For Cornelius Balbus"

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Sub Rosa

"One fine afternoon a child god named Harpocrates stumbled upon the goddess Venus while she was engaged in one of her many illicit rendezvous. Venus's son Cupid, quick-wittedly saved his mother's reputation by offering Harpocrates a beautiful rose in return for his vow of silence. Harpocrates kept his mouth shut, and the rose thereafter became the symbol of silence. "

There lies a bitter truth beneath the rose
Which one is not always able to see
As their eyes cannot see past, the beauty of the face
hiding the stinging truth that lies beneath

The deepest passion radiates from eyes that glow and shine
Into those of quickly pursuing souls
Warming their hearts but not warning their minds
Of the piercing thorns that lie beneath the rose

Their hands so swiftly reach to touch the loveliness they see
their eyes are blinded to the thorns that lie beneath
She has captured many, holding wisdom great and true
Yet only thorns into their hearts did she bequeath

Take caution when you reach for the sweetest rose
With petals as soft as the morning dew
This loveliness you see, deceptively hides what is beneath
The sharpest thorns, may lie in wait there, just for you

- Neva Flores

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

On Domestic Abjection - The Enormous Radio

Abjection Ab*jec"tion, n. [F. abjection, L. abjectio.] 1. The act of bringing down or humbling. ``The abjection of the king and his realm.' --Joe. 2. The state of being rejected or cast out. [R.] An adjection from the beatific regions where God, and his angels and saints, dwell forever. --Jer. Taylor. 3. A low or downcast state; meanness of spirit; abasement; degradation. That this should be termed baseness, abjection of mind, or servility, is it credible? --Hooker.

Favete linguis

On Breaking a Long Held SIlence

from an interview with Slavoj Zizek about his thoughts "Don't Worry, the Catastrophe Will Arrive"

One of the strategies of “totalitarian” regimes is to have legal regulations (criminal laws) so severe that, if taken literally, EVEREYONE is guilty of something, and then to withdraw from their full enforcement. In this way, the regime can appear merciful (“You see, if we wanted, we could have all of you arrested and condemned, but do not be afraid, we are lenient…”), and at the same time wield a permanent threat to discipline its subjects (“Do not play too much with us, remember that at any moment we can…”). In ex-Yugoslavia, there was the infamous Article 133 of the penal code which could always be invoked to prosecute writers and journalists – it made into a crime any text that presents falsely the achievements of the socialist revolution or that may arouse the tension and discontent among the public for the way it deals with political, social, or other topics… this last category is obviously not only infinitely plastic, but also conveniently self-relating: does the very fact that you are accused by those in power not in itself equal the fact that you “aroused the tension and discontent among the public”? In those years, I remember asking a Slovene politician how does he justify this article; he just smiled and, with a wink, told me: “Well, we have to have some tool to discipline at our will those who annoy us…” This overlapping of potential total culpabilization (whatever you are doing MAY be a crime) and mercy (the fact that you are allowed to lead your life in peace is not a proof or consequence of your innocence, but a proof of the mercy and benevolence, of the “understanding of the realities of life,” of those in power) – “totalitarian” regimes are by definition regimes of mercy, of tolerating violations of the law, since, the way they frame social life, violating the law (bribing, cheating…) is a condition of survival.

The problem during the chaotic post-Soviet years of the Yeltsin rule in Russia could be located at this level: although the legal rules were known (and largely the same as under the Soviet Union), what disintegrated was the complex network of implicit unwritten rules which sustained the entire social edifice. Say, if, in the Soviet Union, you wanted to get a better hospital treatment, a new apartment, if you had a complain against authorities, if you were summoned to a court, if you wanted your child to be accepted in a top school, if a factory manager needed raw materials not delivered on time by the state-contractors, etc.etc., everyone knew what you really had to do, whom to address, whom to bribe, what you can do and what you cannot do. After the collapse of the Soviet power, one of the most frustrating aspects of the daily existence of ordinary people was that these unwritten rules largely got blurred: people simply did not know what to do, how to react, how are you to relate to explicit legal regulations, what can you ignore, where does bribery work, etc. (One of the functions of the organized crime was to provide a kind of ersatz-legality: if you owned a small business and a customer owed you money, you turned to your mafia-protector who dealt with the problem, since the state legal system was inefficient.) The stabilization under the Putin reign mostly amounts to the newly-established transparency of these unwritten rules: now, again, people mostly know how to act in react in the complex cobweb of social interactions.

This is also how one should answer the popular and seemingly convincing reply to all those who worry about torturing prisoners suspected of terror acts: “What’s all the fuss about? The US are now only (half)openly admitting what not only they were doing all the time, but all other states are and were doing all the time – if anything, we have less hypocrisy now…” To this, one should retort with a simple counter-question: “If the high representatives of the US mean only this, why, then, are they telling us this? Why don’t they just silently go on doing it, as they did it till now?”

What is proper to human speech is the irreducible gap between the enunciated content and its act of enunciation: “You say this, but why are you telling me it openly now?” Let us imagine a wife and husband who co-exist with a tacit agreement that they can lead discreet extra-marital affairs; if, all of a sudden, the husband openly tells his wife about an ongoing affair, she will have good reasons to be in panic: “If it is just an affair, why are you telling me this? It must be something more!” The act of publicly reporting on something is never neutral, it affects the reported content itself. Or, a more standard case: we all know that a polite way to say that we found our colleague’s intervention or talk stupid and boring is to say “It was interesting.”; so, if, instead, we tell our colleague openly “It was boring and stupid’”, he would be fully justified to be surprised and to ask: “But if you found it boring and stupid, why did you not simply say that it was interesting?” The unfortunate colleague was right to take the more direct statement as involving something more, not only a comment about the quality of his paper but an attack on his very person.

Peccatum tacituritatis

Monday, February 18, 2013

Silent Indifference?

if we do not write about rape issues
sensitive issues volatile issues explosive issues
if we do not voice our condemnation outrage

we then by default support these evils
with the silence of our indifference
with the silence of our fear cowardice

with our refusal to fight against injustice
with our refusal to fight prejudice inequality
with our refusal to fight for dignity for all humanity
- Terence George Craddock

Verba docent exempla trahunt

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Ever Seeking Le Autre

It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there.
-William Carlos Williams

Friday, February 15, 2013

In Praise of Indifference

I said,—for Love was laggard, O, Love was slow to come,—
"I'll hear his step and know his step when I am warm in bed;
But I'll never leave my pillow, though there be some
As would let him in—and take him in with tears!" I said.
I lay,—for Love was laggard, O, he came not until dawn,—
I lay and listened for his step and could not get to sleep;
And he found me at my window with my big cloak on,
All sorry with the tears some folks might weep!
- Edna St. Vincent Millay, "Indifference" (1917)

Sine sole sileo

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Love, Everlasting...

A Valentine

For her this rhyme is penned, whose luminous eyes,
Brightly expressive as the twins of Leda,
Shall find her own sweet name, that nestling lies
Upon the page, enwrapped from every reader.
Search narrowly the lines!- they hold a treasure
Divine- a talisman- an amulet
That must be worn at heart. Search well the measure-
The words- the syllables! Do not forget
The trivialest point, or you may lose your labor
And yet there is in this no Gordian knot
Which one might not undo without a sabre,
If one could merely comprehend the plot.
Enwritten upon the leaf where now are peering
Eyes scintillating soul, there lie perdus
Three eloquent words oft uttered in the hearing
Of poets, by poets- as the name is a poet's, too,
Its letters, although naturally lying
Like the knight Pinto- Mendez Ferdinando-
Still form a synonym for Truth- Cease trying!
You will not read the riddle, though you do the best you can do.

-Edgar Allan Poe

The name "Pinto Mendez Ferdinando" (which appears in various versions in various sources) occurs in Edgar Allan Poe's poem "A Valentine" which was written for >Frances Sargent Osgood and which has her name concealed in the poem. The knight is the Portugese traveller Fernao Mendes Pinto (1509-1583) who has earned a reputation as an exaggerator of his travel tales, or, to put it more bluntly, as a liar. The reputation may well be undeserved as Pinto proved a rather astute observor of detail and is today considered rather reliable. In any case, this knight is referred to in Poe's poem with reference to the way Frances Osgood's name "lies" in the poem -- naturally -- that is, in its natural order; it is not scrambled or jumbled. (If you are familiar with the poem you will realize that the name is spaced into each of the twenty lines, beginning with the first letter of the first line, second letter of second line, third letter of third line and so on in natural order.)

The line from Poe's poem is "Its letters, although naturally lying/ Like the knight Pinto- Mendez Ferdinando-/ Still form a synonym for Truth" has a double sense. There is that play on words, the pun on "lying" which marks the name of Pinto but which proves opposite the reputation, Poe insists, of poet Frances Osgood. But there is also that sense of the three word name lying naturally in that its letters are not jumbled.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Jouissance Discovered

Under the thick dome where the white jasmine
With the roses entwined together
On the river bank covered with flowers laughing in the morning
Let us descend together!

Gently floating on its charming risings,
On the river’s current
On the shining waves,
One hand reaches,
Reaches for the bank,
Where the spring sleeps,
And the bird, the bird sings.

Under the thick dome where the white jasmine
Ah! calling us

Under the thick dome where white jasmine
With the roses entwined together
On the river bank covered with flowers laughing in the morning
Let us descend together!

Gently floating on its charming risings,
On the river’s current
On the shining waves,
One hand reaches,
Reaches for the bank,
Where the spring sleeps,
And the bird, the bird sings.

Under the thick dome where the white jasmine
Ah! calling us

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Ever Seeking Jouissance

Jouissance is an enjoyment that is enjoyable only insofar as it doesn't get what it's allegedly after.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Choice

The intellect of man is forced to choose
perfection of the life, or of the work,
And if it take the second must refuse
A heavenly mansion, raging in the dark.
When all that story's finished, what's the news?
In luck or out the toil has left its mark:
That old perplexity an empty purse,
Or the day's vanity, the night's remorse.

- William Butler Yeats

Saturday, February 2, 2013

A Mourning Ritual

And the trees about me,
Let them be dry and leafless; let the rocks
Groan with continual surges; and behind me,
Make all a desolation. Look, look, wenches!

PAINT me a cavernous waste shore
Cast in the unstilled Cyclades,
Paint me the bold anfractuous rocks
Faced by the snarled and yelping seas.

Display me Aeolus above
Reviewing the insurgent gales
Which tangle Ariadne’s hair
And swell with haste the perjured sails.

Morning stirs the feet and hands
(Nausicaa and Polypheme),
Gesture of orang-outang
Rises from the sheets in steam.

This withered root of knots of hair
Slitted below and gashed with eyes,
This oval O cropped out with teeth:
The sickle motion from the thighs

Jackknifes upward at the knees
Then straightens out from heel to hip
Pushing the framework of the bed
And clawing at the pillow slip.

Sweeney addressed full length to shave
Broadbottomed, pink from nape to base,
Knows the female temperament
And wipes the suds around his face.

(The lengthened shadow of a man
Is history, said Emerson
Who had not seen the silhouette
Of Sweeney straddled in the sun).

Tests the razor on his leg

Waiting until the shriek subsides.
The epileptic on the bed
Curves backward, clutching at her sides.

The ladies of the corridor
Find themselves involved, disgraced,
Call witness to their principles
And deprecate the lack of taste

Observing that hysteria
Might easily be misunderstood;
Mrs. Turner intimates
It does the house no sort of good.

But Doris, towelled from the bath,
Enters padding on broad feet,
Bringing sal volatile
And a glass of brandy neat.
- T.S. Eliot, "Sweeney Erect"

Friday, February 1, 2013

Symbolic Reduction to... Curriculum Vitae?

Castrating the Real and Entering its' Remains into the Realms of the Symbolic, and the Imaginary

...For of all the children that were born of Gaia and Ouranos, these were the most terrible, and they were hated by their own father from the first. And he used to hide them all away in a secret place of Gaia (Earth) so soon as each was born, and would not suffer them to come up into the light: and Ouranos rejoiced in his evil doing.

But vast Gaia groaned within, being straitened, and she made the element of grey flint and shaped a great sickle, and told her plan to her dear sons. And she spoke, cheering them, while she was vexed in her dear heart : `My children, gotten of a sinful father, if you will obey me, we should punish the vile outrage of your father; for he first thought of doing shameful things.' So she said; but fear seized them all, and none of them uttered a word. But great Kronos the wily took courage and answered his dear mother : `Mother, I will undertake to do this deed, for I reverence not our father of evil name, for he first thought of doing shameful things.' So he said : and vast Gaia rejoiced greatly in spirit, and set and hid him in an ambush, and put in his hands a jagged sickle, and revealed to him the whole plot. And Ouranos came, bringing on night and longing for love, and he lay about Gaia spreading himself full upon her. Then the son from his ambush stretched forth his left hand and in his right took the great long sickle with jagged teeth, and swiftly lopped off his own father's members and cast them away to fall behind him.
- Hesiod, "Theogony"

Where is the Life we have lost in living? Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
- T. S. Eliot