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

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

The End of Generalized Social Capital... and the Beginning of an Economic Elite Imposed PC

From Wiki:
Political correctness (adjectivally politically correct; commonly abbreviated PC) is a term used to describe language,[1][2][3] policies,[4] or measures that are intended to avoid offense or disadvantage to members of particular groups in society.[5][6][7] Since the late 1980s, the term has been used to describe a preference for inclusive language and avoidance of language or behavior that can be seen as excluding, marginalizing, or insulting to groups of people disadvantaged or discriminated against, particularly groups defined by ethnicity, sex, gender, sexual orientation, or disability. In public discourse and the media,[4][8][9] the term is generally used as a pejorative with an implication that these policies are excessive or unwarranted

Is the Price for adopting Multiculturalism (in support of Economic Globalism) ultimately paid for in a loss of all Social Capital in the Multi-Cultural States adopting it? 

...You can bet your Sweet *ss it IS!  You've been Socially CANCELLED!

Monday, January 29, 2024

Multi-Cellular Evolution in a Petri Dish...?

Lee Cronin on Assembly Theory

What Assembly Theory does it allows you to trace back all the interactions between objects that give rise to other events. Right, at least probabilistically you can say right if I've got this molecule, and I chop it up on the shortest path, and I want to take the shortest route to make this molecule with these bits, what do I do including reuse? I add this bit to this bit, I reuse it okay because I've got memory, and therefore what Assembly Theory does it says what is the minimum amount of memory I need to have in the universe to make this complex object? And if that memory exists for more time than to make one of them, I can make many copy numbers. So if that memory exists for more than making one object, the more complex the object, the more interesting that memory is, because that memory has to really exist. Whereas if the memory only exists to make one object, and then the memory is gone, then that's what you call a random ensemble. In fact, it would be the same. So what Assembly Theory allows you to do is to show how you can build things up by understanding that the causal interactions or the "contingency". So then this is kind of like a very almost Evolution essay: For this to happen, this needs to happen, this needs to happen, this needs to happen, this needs to happen... in this sequence of events. And so the fact you're able to go through those sequence of events and get your thing, you can think about how weird that thing is the more steps you've got because it could have gone off in one of a zillion different directions. And so it allows you to appreciate how unique some things are, and whereas entropy just says "Ah this is the average, this is my Ensemble.

So with and that's classified as the Assembly Index?

The Assembly Index is classified at the moment as the number the number of, um, the shortest the number of steps on the shortest path to construct the object from the basic building blocks.

Just a technical question so I understand that. Why is it the shortest path, so I understand? That that's a lower bound.

Now everyone asked me, that yes, you know it was coming, well actually, I mean this is, it's really funny when you invent a theory because like remember Assembly Theory could be complete nonsense. And so, you know, I don't think it is, but it's like I don't know, it seemed good. It's just like you know did ever, no there's actually more fundamental reason. So my reasoning would be, if you take an object, what it does, and you basically reduce it to the shortest path, first of all, that is a that is a finite quantity. That is a quantity every object has a shortest path to make it. So what that means is, if I come across that object I know the minimum number of steps I must make to make it. That doesn't say, yes only that steps, because I'm sure things are made in Long objects, like how many people do we see being really inefficient? Well we can say don't do that do that right, but what I'm saying is like, so for literally you know, for me to be able to. Maybe I'm typing, type a sentence right, for me to type a sentence, or come up the word "Abracadabra" or "banana" or something, I say right, this is the minimum thing they need to do to make that string, or that thing, and and I can count those up. And the larger that number, the more improbable it is. And so, what, by having the short by going for the the shortest route, it gives me a nice Baseline to say, Look shorter, you can't go shorter than shorter. So you and so you'd be you'll then have some confidence that something is odd, if it's over your threshold. But of course the ways that the objects get assembled here you know, it was probably an average. There's probably other things there. You can spend a lot of energy to go beyond that, but really it seems the shortest path is incredibly significant because of the statistical meaning of those objects coming together in the universe...

I think the shortest path is about, really, the minimum amount of memory the universe needs to have to make that object.

...Intelligence is the way in which selection "wants to do its' thing"!

I think it's like it's so funny, that it's like the answer to everything, "a selection". It has to be, there is no other reason. So like the selection, why do that selection? You know? But I think as a phenomena,  human beings display an incredible amount of cognition and intelligence. They're able to build machines, do mathematics, write poetry, communicate to one another, cheat one another, you know, build fantastic machines.


Chemputation - A kind of a concept where we have an abstraction, a kind of prescription ontology for chemistry, and then a practical ontology. Where we're able to basically take that prescription and then program a robot to then make that chemistry happen. So make a drug, make a series of compounds, make a formulation. And really chemputation is about taking a physical input, being chemicals or some other stuff, some code, and then producing an output that's reliable every time.

And actually I wanted to build a thing called the chemputer, which does chemputation. Or arrays of them, to like ,help crack the origin of life. So I can literally imagine like trillions of chemputers all doing slightly different experiments, with different selections. No one would fund that right? 

So I do it, basically, and said, "okay I'll make drugs and robots for drugs, and all that. What can go wrong? And chemputation, actually was the verb I gave to the word, because as one organization decided to trademark the word "chemputer". And I was like, Ugh, you know, and then so they trademarked it, and every time I used it they started telling me off. I was gonna be using it, they owned it. I was like, okay, but then I thought, okay I'll just... and then that inspired me to say what do chemputers do? Oh, they do chemputation like computers can do computation. Okay, what is that really? Let's, here's a chemputer, just a gimmick, a brand name that deserves to be nothing other than trademarked, you know, like whatever. You know, like some kind of commodity. 

And I was like, well, actually no, a chemputer is a generic chemical... it's a chemputer is a chemical engine which runs on a programming language, and chemicals, to make desired molecule outputs. And so, and then, chemputation is the process of doing that. So I thought it was quite good. 

And when I started figuring this out, they want to make a programmatical chemistry. My colleagues just told me I was kind of bananas, right? And it's never going to work, and so the more they told me it wasn't going to work, the more I just raised more money to do it. And yeah, we have a a bunch of compute.. chemputers or "chemputational systems" I should say in my laboratory. And they all run the programming language, they all have been used to do organic chemistry and organic chemistry formulation science, and what we're busy trying to do is to unify some of the code base to kind of make it easier. 

And where are we right now? Well we're able to make quite complex molecules. We're able to do Discovery. We're able to look at unknown things. We're able to look at inorganic materials and we're able to make, I don't call you know, the Holy Grail, which is like a closed loop lab where you just put code and molecules in, and really cool molecules and the code has come out and the code is consumed. But that's chemputation in the nutshell. 

The thing is, right, it's, I don't know, I think it's remarkable. I think it's kind of.. it's hard because chemistry is hard, and it's dangerous, and things fail. And I don't know, people would say, you were never going to get the, you're never going to get things working the way you want because it's just too unreliable. So we work super hard to try and create the correct process description that would do most of chemistry, and I'm glad to say we've got there. We've done hundreds and hundreds of reactions now, we can reproduce work, we can basically make complex molecules, the chemputation code is now used on the origin of Life rigs which I've built it for, I've built, build Dynamic logic in, and also, I use assembly Theory to measure. So kind of all these profound little projects are all working together, they're all trying to solve one problem we should try, and make an alien. Yeah well I mean also the drug development applications are pretty interesting, yeah? 

So I mean I started a company and the company's dream is like, it's like, the company's name is Chemify. It's like the AWS for chemistry I've kind of seen, you know, Amazon were doing all this stuff. But the thing that just grew and grew at Amazon was just all this compute and what they did with it. I mean it's fascinating. And so Chemify is doing the same thing, AWS chemistry... make the infrastructure for chemistry so everyone gives each other a code that runs in a robot, or very, very minimal robot-human being working on the bench, and you can just interchange molecules and make, discover, new drugs, make new materials, sell code I guess, and just really speed up the process of innovation at that boundary, because chemistry and Material Science takes ages. 

Sunday, January 28, 2024


par·​ei·​do·​lia ˌper-ˌī-ˈdō-lē-ə -ˈdōl-yə : the tendency to perceive a specific, often meaningful image in a random or ambiguous visual pattern. The scientific explanation for some people is pareidolia, or the human ability to see shapes or make pictures out of randomness.
Faces on Mars

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Surreal Paranoiac Critical Dreams or Schizophrenic Deleuzian Schizoid Dreams? Which would YOU Prefer?

 "On Late Capitalism" by the Beautiful Ones of John B. Calhoun's Mouse Utopia

Psychotic's guide to memes, "Paranoia as a social disease: some notes on proliferation of contemporary conspiracy theories"
Why are there so many paranoid people today? Why are conspiracy theories blossoming all around? What is the status of paranoia in today’s world from a lacanian perspective? In seminar 10 Lacan tells of an italian patient, that has the feeling of “io sono siempre visto”, “I am always watched”, a slogan taken up in this years conference of NLS. The feeling of being watched, of encountering the gaze is prevalent in psychosis. In contrast to the neurotic’s doubt, the psychotic has certainty. The Other does not exist, but in the gaze, it is as though the Other really exists (the psychotic is sure of it). One of the repeated sayings by the later Lacan is that “there is no Other of the Other”. But in paranoia there is definitely an Other, an Other that is behind the scenes, pulling the strings, persecuting the subject.

To give an example from my own life: a female friend is convinced, that the white trails, that are formed after jet planes are not byproducts of fuel combustion due to the cold air, but instead the government or some agency behind the government, that are spreading some poison, that is supposed to ‘dupe’ the populace. We are all turned to sheep. Slavoj Zizek once made the provocative remark, that conspiracy theories are “critique of ideology for the poor, or rather for the stupid”. My friend, in this sense, is stupid, in that she takes ideology critique, the critique of social systems and turn it into conscious manipulation, by a small elite. If we for example are acting against our own interest, it is because there are certain ‘signals’, that directly intervene in the body. The famous judge Paul Schreber talked of God’s nerve-language. That is a language that is more foundational, than our everyday language, that can never say what we mean and so on. Instead, it is language that directly, like a material virus enters and controls the body. SImilarly, with the white trails. It directly ‘seeps’ in the body, although you cannot see it. There is in my friend’s conspiracy theory such a primitive hermeneutics of suspicion. Most people, including myself would on some primitive level not know, in the first person, what exactly what causes the white trails after the jet planes. We however believe in the subject supposed to know it (that if a natural explanation can be given): The first hit on a google search says:
“These clouds are contrails, short for condensation trails. Water vapor is one of the byproducts of jet fuel combustion and will turn into ice crystals in the cold air at the high elevations where jet airplanes fly.” (https://azdeq.gov/contrails#:~:text=These%20clouds%20are%20contrails%2C%20short,elevations%20where%20jet%20airplanes%20fly.).
They trust however, that there is a natural scientific explanation. They trust that they can look it up on wikipedia, and even if they do not get it themselves (I also do not ‘get’ the natural scientific explanation), they believe that the authorities, like scientist accept the explanation, and if not, that they would correct it. Max Weber, the sociologist, defines modernity as the ‘disenchantment’ with the world, that we all tacitly accept a scientific explanations, like the laws of physics behind every phenomena. Even if we do not know how a car works exactly, we believe that someone knows, an expert. And that if we pursued this path sufficiently, we would also understand the natural scientific explanation. When I look on wikipedia of why there are white trails after the jet planes, I might not understand the explanation, that this is due to condensed ice crystals etc. but I believe if I studied it enough, the explanation would be based in natural-physical causality, not say ‘terrestial spirit’ or something that was not ‘rational’ (the iron cage of rationality as Weber calls it).

Even, if we do not know on some first person perspective, we believe that something else knows. And we simply trust the Other on this level. The psychotic-paranoid view of my friend is not that she knows exactly what it is that they are ‘leaking’. But she is ‘certain’ that, they are leaking something, and that it is malevolent. What my friend, as all conspiracy theorists have a problem explaining is why the government would give them this ‘sign’, that allows for the symptomatic reading. Why shouldn’t the government just make some invisible trail, so that we would not even hit upon the idea, that there is something in the air that ‘poisons’ us. That is to say, if we really had a malevolent government, totally in control of everything, it would make no sense, that they would make ‘hints’ to us here and there, so that people could find symptoms and thereby raise critical agency and possible rebellion. But let that be, that is not the most essential point. When we talk about ‘certitude’ of the paranoid psychotic it is important again to emphasize, that this does not mean a knowledge about precisely what is going on, but a certitude about that SOMETHING is going on. A neurotic would rather constantly doubt his own suspicions. He would probably say, what if the goverment is actually poisoning us from the jet-planes turning us all into sheep. My God, am I crazy to think this… is it normal?”, that is they would doubt precisely the readabality of the signs, question if they could be taken for signs to begin with, whereas my friend as paranoid never questions that part. Her boyfriend once did a kind of test on her. Some people from the muncipality were treating the park trees for a tree disease. Ok, nothing out of the ordinary, even if we normal-neurotics do not really know what this tree disease is, we simply believe that someone else knows. My friend’s boyfriend, however said to her, (this was in autumn). “have you seen the trees, they are turned yellow and shed their leaves quite suddenly after the park workers sprayed them with that stuff don’t you think… and why did they put up a temporary fence around it, as though there is something poisonous about it…? My friend of course linked the park workers treatment of the trees to some malevolent agency, that would ‘install’ something in the trees, something that would ‘watch us’, perhaps. Again, there is no certitude about what the goverment precisely wants, or precisely how it is all connected. Only that there is ‘something suspicious’. She would not simply take the explanation, that they were treating the trees and as part of a natural cycle the tree lose their leaves in autumn and that the temporary fence, was simply to protect the trees from park-visitors. We can say, that one aspect of “we are being watched” is precisely that we always include ourselves, if we psychotic-paranoid. The normal neurotic response is that the trees simply do not give a damn about me, they simply follow their natural cycle, so if they lose their leaves it has nothing to do with me. It is precisely only this disenchanted universe that can then enable poetic metaphorization or personificaiton, as in the famous address and personification of to the wind by the poet Pierce Bysche Shelley: “o wild west wind, thou breath of autumn’s being… “. The first four verse goes which is precisely about the leaves: “O wild west wind/though breath of Autumn’s being/thou from whose unseen presence the leaves dead/like from an enchanter fleeing”, or another famous example, Byron’s line, on his 36 year old birthday, where he was fighting in Greece (“my days are in their yellow leaf”). If it makes sense to us, to make a metaphor, so that “a life” is like a tree (where days are like leafs that can go yellow), this is because we on some fundamental level, what Freud calls Bejahung, have accepted the division of word and things. I remember, when I was a child and I would eat the seed of apples, I would imagine apples trees growing in my body. Now, as long as you can seperate that from ‘reality-testing’ you are not psychotic. It is precisely this fundamental alienation in language, that breaks down in psychosis. Shelley can precisely address the wind, and we recognize this as poetic device, precisely because we accept the fundamental alienation in language, that the word is not the wind, that we, the readers are really the addressees, and that the west wind, do not sit down and read the poem, that the west wind is a natural phenomena. The fellow romantic poet, of the second generation of lake poets, John Keats coined this through his notion of ‘negative capablity’. That is in fiction we are allowed to pursue explanations that go against rationality and logic, but under the condition, that we have already accepted it as “fiction”. A man on the street exclaiming o wild west wind would be taken as a mentally ill person today, unless we saw it framed, say if someone filmed it, we would take it as a ‘performance theater’, that is re-inscribe it into fiction, and thereby allow it to be ‘capable’ (the same if we met a man who said “my days are in their yellow leaf” or a if he in all earnesty asked us to look at his hands and say “look at my leafs how yellow they are..”, again we would think he belonged in the psychiatric ward.

Now, why mention all this? Because paranoia is on the rise as a general social critique. We even get it from all kinds of anti-establishment figures, even if they are themselves in power. We need only mention Donald Trump with his theory of the ‘deep state’, (even when Trump is president he is ‘opposed to those in power’, as though there is still some secret elite), or Elon Musk who presents his social networks as the ‘voice of the people’ against cancel culture from main stream media. From a lacanian point we can say, that the “normalization” of psychosis, what Miller calls “generalized foreclosure” is a result of our common social frame and belief system have been rendered more fragile. There is no longer a general oedipal frame, with the name-of-the-father, that secures that conflicts take place in the same shared system. We are not even sure, we have the ‘same system’. This is in popular language rendered as ‘echo chambers’, people are each in their own ‘echo chamber’, supported by the algorithms. You know this from facebook. If you happen to one day click on a reel, a small video of football or a pigeon attacking a man, you know the next day you log on, you are gonna get bombarded with videos with similar materials. Of course, as they say, “if it’s free, you’re the product”. That is tech-companies are mining your data, so you are working for them, simply by going on facebook. Of course this leads to social criticism, like the sociologist Shoshana Zoboff, saying that companies mine user’s behaviour to predict future behaviour. Now, from a Lacanian perspective, I think that this is not sufficient, or that while this is part of the story, it is not the full picture. First, we can interpret the very fascination with ‘surveillance capitalism’, as itself the form of a certain paranoia (you are watched all the time…they get your data). This is certaintly true. and we should of course be ruthlessly critical about how what Marx called the “general intellect” our ways of communication are being privatized. This is a new problem, that Marx could not have foreseen. Someone like Bill Gates doesn’t exploit his workers in the traditionalist marxist sense. His surplus profit is simply made not by exploiting workers, but by monopolizing the field. So, we should critique this as a privatization and profit from people’s behaviour online. But this is still ‘just data’. An algorithm is everything. The very term surveillance capitalism can give us the sense of paranoia, as though ‘capitalism’ really knows that it is doing behind the scenes. These algorithms often misfire. Maybe you know ZIzek’s humorous remark in lecture, where an interviewer asks him “what do you think about tech-companies watching you” and ZIzek says, “not a problem”. They can watch all my emails, it would be like giving Hegel’s logic of science to a cow. and he is right. Even if a tech-company can watch everything, they still need to interpret it. It only works with some items, say maybe the kind of gucci-bags you buy online, but that’s it. The very notion of “total conformism” because they can predict our behaviour itself is a fantasy. You can imagine if they hack or have access to Zizek’s emails on Hegel. What is there to ‘mine’ there? Furthermore, the very notion of “surveillance capitalism” presumes the liberal subject as sacred, that is vulnerable, threatened by the Other, a precious self, that is watched. Perhaps, as is the case with Bill Gates and Elon Musk, the problem is not that our most private interactions are mined by companies, but much more that the very space of “general intellect”, our highways of communications online are already privatized. The problem with surveillance capitalism is not that it works too perfectly, without gaps, but much more that it is itself is not surveilled, but follows an unpredicable rhythm of capital (this is why Zizek suggests what he calls ‘war communism’). In the language of the early Lacan, I think, it is it means that in the question of algorithm, we should still remember the difference between information (that precludes a subject), computational language, and the signifier proper, which involves a subject.

Now, a common motif, is that as Freud says, the madness of the psychotic, is already an attempt to heal oneself. Believing an Other for the Other is horrible of course, someone always persecuting you. But it is also a ‘relief’, a ‘cognitive mapping’ to use Fredric Jameson’s phrase on conspiracy theory. Of course you are watched all the time, but at least you are ‘something’ (since they want to watch you) and someone is in charge, consciously manipulating events. This is why paranoia is ultimately a defense, against the lack in the Other. To take a concrete example. When we had covid 19, many anti-vaxers did not believe the government, but believed it was a grand style political coup, trying to take away freedoms and turn the population into sheep they could control. Even the philosopher Giorgio Agamben went in this direction. Now, the problem is not that they were all in on it, from corporations to government, but rather the opposite. What if really those in power, were themselves in panic, not really knowing what to do. Take the question of mask: a big point from anti-vaxers were, that first we were told to wear mask and then not, and then again. They take this as though government doesn’t know what they are doing, but they cannot accept, that the government WAS really experimenting, but not in the sense of using people as guinea pigs for their scientific experiments, but because they really did not know. That it was precisely true, that we have to do the best we can. This includes therefore an exposition, of the Other doesn’t exist. Here we see unprecedented territory, and this also then entails what universalism really is, or ‘war communism’, that is a kind of social system that is not based on surplus profit, for example. But for the paranoiac, this means that the goverment is testing out different systems on us, ‘how much will we accept’ and so on. Now, it is of course, true, that you can make links between big pharma and goverments, because governments rely on big pharma to develop vaccine. It also is true, that the for example, the way big pharma try to control distribution (for example witholding the vacinne from countries in global south) points towards conscious manipulation (and not the kind of ‘war communism’ that zizek pleads for). But this precisely show that the situation is relatively open, that antagonisms between the social systems, government, the state and capitalism are obvious here, not that they seamless fit into each other as the biopolitical paradigm from especially Giorgio Agamben suggests. In this way the conspiracy theory is precisely a paranoid defense against the lack in the Other. if crisis occur it is not really due to the Other that doesn’t know (the goverment trying to solve the situation), but because someone is in control. Much more difficult than a malevolent Other in control is that there is “no one in control”.

Now, this is not everything. I recently met a phd student, that was studying paranoia and said something along the lines of “we need the paranoids to think”. Now, this was a psychoanalytically inspired theory, but this surprised me. I would say, the problem with the paranoiac or the psychotic is certainly not failure to think. They think all the time. What he meant was clearly the popular opinion about “living in their own world”. But we need perhaps not so much to ask them to think, but to make us, mainstream ‘liberals’ and so on think. What I mean by this is, what I think is a highly suggestive theory proposed by the slovenian lacanian alenka zupancic in relation to conspiracy theory. He formulates this critic in relation to the the movie “don’t look up”, which some of you may have seen. Her main point is the following: we should not make distinction between ‘us’ normal and those psychotic-paranoid, as though they are living in a world of their own. in her theory, they are precisely a manifestation of our own unconscious behaviour. A paranoid-psychotic is a manifestation of our own disavowed belief. What she means, is that the predominant mode of ideology today is ‘fetichism’. Fetichism not so much in the clinical sense, as in the sense of accepting knowledge, on the condition that we can also disawov it. Both Zizek and Zupancic often oppose a symptomatic and fetichistic use of ideology. the symptomatic one is the one that traditional critique of ideology uses. A given social system represses its own dysfunctions and this return as symptoms. Once we expose the symptom as a symptom, once we make it conscious (for example unemployment linked to capitalism) the symptom itself should disappear. now, fetichistic use of ideology is different. it openly, as in sloterdijks cynical reason confesses its own symptoms. It does not repress them, but even declares them. But at the same time, it fails to act on it. To take a common example. we know about the effects of climate change and that this is caused by humans. this is not repressed as in the beginning, where there were still discussions about the human impact. We do not discuss this anymore. Yet, we also do not really act on it. Why? here comes the fetich. as in Freud’s classical account a fetich is what allows us to sustain belief (in this case of the maternal phallus). We accept a certain knowledge. We do not repress it. But at the same time, we disawov it. The psychoanalyst Octave Mannoni, fellow-traveller of the early Lacan (often a respondent in Lacan’s early seminars) coined the phrase “je sais bien mais quand meme”. I know very well, but neverthless I act as if I don’t believe it. To take the example of climate change. We know that the climate change is happening, rapidly. Yet, we walk outside and see the birds and the trees and they seem fine. A tree in this sense can function as a fetich, that makes us both accept a knowledge AND also disavow it. Now Zupancic suggest a redoubled function of the fetich. It is not that the fetich embodies non-knowledge, but that knowledge itself functions as its own fetich. In the movie Don’t Look up, a meteor is about to hit the earth. Everyone talks about this all the time, including the “progressives”. The movie also doesn’t depict the president as a Trump-character, but rather like Hillary Clinton (she embraces Bill Clinton in an image in her office, suggesting she is rather a democract, if not simply Hillary Clinton herself). In this way, the movie refuses to locate the problem in Trump-figures, who are themselves rather like symptoms. But, a famous line in the movie is: “a meteor is hitting the earth — will there be a Super Bowl?”. This is a great line, because it illustrates how knowledge itself can function as a fetich. We acknowledge that a meteor is hitting the earth, but then go on to talk about whether or not there will be a superbowl or some similar event. Isn’t this generally how we ‘act’? We talk about climate change all the time, but it is as though, now that we have talked about it, and concluded we live in urgent times, that the clock is ticking and so on we can in a way watch superbowl with a clean conscience. We conduct seminars or conference, do campaigns, precisely so that we can declare this knowledge over and over. And this is where Zupancic sees conspiracy theories. The ‘obvious craziness’ of the conspiracist is like our formation of our unconscious, because we in our practical activity, act like a meteor, or climate change is not really happening. The logic of the unconscious of the conspiracy theorist is therefore the following: they say, that a meteor or climate change is hitting the earth, but nonetheless they go ON as though nothing is really happening, therefore nothing CAN be really happening. In other words it MUST be a scam, because if it was not, it would be really crazy. But the sad fact is that this IS really crazy. Zupancic gives the example of a meteor hitting the earth tomorrow, but that we still try to make a million dollar today:
Take the following extreme situation: suppose I can make a million dollars today on the fact that the world will end tomorrow. The common-sense question is, of course: and what am I going to do with that million dollars tomorrow, when the world ends? From the perspective of the End of the World, it makes absolutely no difference whether I make that million or not. Unless — and here’s the trick — earning that million is my way of efficiently disavowing the reality of the end (for myself). The effort to make a fortune off the end does not take place in spite of the fact that the world will end tomorrow, but rather constitutes a kind of (socio-economic) fetishistic ritual of derealization, of disavowing the reality of the end.
It would be crazy to try to make a million dollar today, when the world is tumbling down. Yet, if this activity itself, more than my conscious belief (I know very well the earth will end), that sustains my unconscious belief that the world is not really coming to an end. A conspiracy theorist is someone who sees this millionaire and says: if the world was really coming to an end, he wouldn’t try to make another million, but try to save himself. But he doesn’t — ergo it is a scham. The problem is that the conspiracy theorist, in this way actually doesn’t see how crazy we ‘normal’ people are behaving, and that he therefore in a way brings out our own craziness in broad daylight. The only thing we should add is that the millionaire is not simply trying to make a million in opposition to climate change, but probably through various ‘green’ projects. The point is not that he is oblivious to the seriousness of the act, but that his very activity can sustain his belief, can derealize its impact. Slavoj Zizek has noted this logic in contemporary capitalism and especially the fancy art-scene in a recent book:
“ in a cynical mode, the fetishist disavowal ‘I know very well, but … (I don’t really believe it)’ is raised to a higher reflexive level: fetish is not the element to which I hold so that I can act while ignoring what I know — fetish is this knowledge itself. The cynical reasoning is: ‘I know very well what I’m doing, so you cannot reproach me that I don’t know what I am doing.’ This is how, in today’s capitalism, hegemonic ideology includes (and thereby neutralizes the efficiency of) critical knowledge: critical distance towards the social order is the very medium through which this order reproduces itself. Just think about today’s explosion of art biennales (Venice, Kassel …): although they usually present themselves as a form of resistance towards global capitalism and its commodification of everything, they are in their mode of organization the ultimate form of art as a moment of capitalist self-reproduction.” (Too late to awaken, Slavoj Zizek, 257).
We see all these festivals, that precisely can go on, because they wear their criticism on their own sleeve. The logic is that of a conference, where we state with a big banner in the beginning: the world is ending, and now that we have shown that we are ‘in the know’, that we are certainly not one of those conspiracy theorist madmen, we can go on with the party or the conference as usual. I imagine that such a conference would at the same time have a big video playing in the background, where we see probably in some avant-garde lightning the ice melting in the north pole. The paradox again is that we consciously know this and we declare this all the time, but that this declaration itself functions as a mode of derealization. And as Zupancic writes, this is why the conspiracy theorist is a ‘materialization’ of our own unconscious. As she says about Mckay’s film (which I by the way do not like that much, but I think the argument she makes is itself correct:)
the important point that McKay’s film makes very palpable is that — contrary to what we like to think — disavowal does not simply take place on the side of conspiracy theorists and the “blind masses,” but perhaps primarily on the side of the “elites,” the (supposedly) “rational” mainstream, the wielders of economic and political power. Conspiracy theories are rather a symptom or, I would argue, an embodiment of the grotesque unconscious of the elites. And the elites need conspiracy theorists precisely in order to point their finger at them, to contrast the conspiracists’ craziness with their own supposed rationality, and thus make us blind to their madness. Which is why, albeit usually abhorring each other, elites and conspiracy theorists often function in a strange complicity. (https://www.e-flux.com/notes/509069/conspiracy-theory-without-theory-on-don-t-look-up).
So, to sum up. We the ‘rational’ people need the conspiracist as our ‘crazy’ otherness. But we refuse to see, how complicit we are with them (not only that we need them against our own rationality), but even more so, that they come from out own ‘madness’, or to paraphrase Lacan we are so horrified/fascinated by them, because what has been foreclosed from the symbolic returns in the real, of these crazy figures. To, go back to my friend, that said, that paranoids are a result of “sad” people that need to think, first, they are are already thinking, in fact too much, and second, they are symptom of our unconscious thinking (that no catastrophe is happening), a belief we can sustain through our practical activity. The key mistake by conspiracy theories is to think that since we act as if no catastrophe is happening, it is all a master plan to dupe us. To which we would have to say, no it’s even worse. The elites and the mainstream really do not know what we are doing. That is much worse than paranoia.
Alenka Zupancic: https://www.e-flux.com/notes/509069/conspiracy-theory-without-theory-on-don-t-look-up

Slavoj Zizek: Too Late to Awaken. 2023. Penguin Books.

Friday, January 26, 2024

1968 - The Year it All Began...

In 1968, a once separate Culture and the Marketplace were Merged.  So what before '68 was once separate from money (cultural capital) has become largely a question of money (monetized like so many YouTube videos), with pride in the dominant culture exchanged for shame.  Therefore, a Homogenized, but never Pasteurized culture where all vestiges of what was once a class-derived "social capital" are now derided as sources of "white privilege" contaminating the homogenized Multi-culture.  A  re-hierarchicalization and stratification of social capital has occurred though under the guise of  Social Justice and "Intersectionality".  Evidence that not all cultures are considered equal.  Subordinated Victim cultures, races and "genders" are now perceived to be "more equal" than the more dominant victimizer cultures corresponding to the 3 social relationship types - Dominance, Communality, and Reciprocity
"Dominance" as a practical social relationship type is being phased out and subordinated and relegated, under Reciprocity and language, as the object-subject of "shame".  It is no longer as often disguised in an indirect speech and/ or innuendo, but expressed explicitly in a social shaming or group exclusion/ ostracization via "cancelling" in a '68-esque "truth to power" exercise.

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Shield's Equation that Explains Fake News... ;)

(Melville + Nietzsche)/ (Allen X sq root of Bloom) X Zizek^2 = Bannon  
Once again, Shield's book is called "How We Got Here" and as a publisher, I interpret the designation of "here" to be "this moment when our radical subjectivity is under siege. Not accidentally as a product of the culture, but explicitly, and publicly, as a known policy of the State." Worse, it is a moment wherein our sense of subjectivity, and our recourse to public reason is slipping further and further away. To describe "this moment" as if it was a Black Mirror episode. It is a Time wherein the mechanisms of control are not only something we sign up for, and are entertained by, but further. Where our sense of self has come to rely on these instruments of control without any recourse to truth or public understanding. Without the freedom necessary to think for ourselves individually. And together, we are left with a problem of how to become the main character in our own lives. Self-authorship is the aim, rather than self-discovery, or discovery of the world.
The Alienated Worker

In The Season's first episode, Joan has an impressive looking job and a fiance, but early in the episode she tells her therapist, "I feel like I'm not the main character in my own life story." In the last couple years Tik Tok blew up with people claiming they had "main character syndrome". But here Joan is claiming the reverse. She doesn't feel she has agency. She speaks of, a sense of passivity, "I just feel like I never actively chose this, like I feel like I'm just on autopilot." Her points are likely relatable to Millennials entering middle age, yet still not feeling totally convinced they're "adulting" the right way, or making choices that are leading to the most authentic expressions of themselves. Ironically though, Joan is the main character, both of this episode, and of a show she discovers that night on Streamberry. Unfortunately for her, she's a main character being portrayed as an "anti-hero" or even a villain protagonist.

So interestingly, there's a suggestion that if we tell ourselves that we're passively pushed along with no "main character energy," we may end up unintentionally acting with villainy. Because when you're not taking responsibility for your behaviors, and when you're not actively caring about whether your choices reflect the authentic you, how likely is it that you'd be proud of what you see on a televised rehash of your day's events?
It's documented that negativity and controversy do work to drive views in media and social media. But this bland, regular negativity Joan feels in her life, which is what we're receiving from so much of today's media, is not serving her well. It's making her dissociated, and thereby contributing to why she acts awful. Interestingly, once the show confronts her with this and makes her lose everything, and she leans into awfulness going full anti-heroine, she's liberated and starts to become a real person again. Not having anything to lose galvanizes her to channel some "main character energy" to take control of the narrative she's writing.

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

There's No Reconciliation Possible through Political Correctness

What is Repressed in the Content, Returns in the Form

Slavoj Zizek, "Reconciliation, from Wagner to Rammstein"
Hegel’s pages on Beautiful Soul and the “hard heart” in his Phenomenology[1] reverberate today as an uncanny in-advance critique of Political Correctness. Just recall his claim that moral judgment is “envy which helps itself to the cloak of morality” (361). What is missing in Political Correctness is the Hegelian reconciliation, which is only achieved when the judging “hard heart” itself admits its complicity in what it condemns. But how, exactly, does this happen? 
The PC judging consciousness
“is hypocrisy because it pretends that such judgment is not only another manner of being evil but is rather itself the rightful consciousness of action. In his non-actuality and in the vanity he has in being such a faultfinder, it places himself far above the deeds it excoriates, and it wants to know that its speech, which is utterly devoid of any deeds, is to be taken as a superior actuality.” (359)
Or, as Hegel puts it concisely, the true evil is the gaze, which sees evil everywhere around itself. What is crucial here is language as the medium of truth, not just an expression of inner intention: the judging consciousness says the truth, it advocates universality, but (in Wittgenstein’s sense) it displays the opposite attitude of non-forgiveness, of elevating its singularity above others:
the hard heart does not recognize the contradiction it commits when it does not let the discarding that took place in speech be the true discarding, whereas it itself has the certainty of its spirit not in an actual action but in its innerness and has its existence in the speech in which its judgment is phrased. It is therefore just the hard heart itself which is putting obstacles in the way of the other’s return from the deed into the spiritual existence of speech and into the equality of spirit, and through its hardness of heart, it engenders the inequality which is still present.” (360) 

 And one has to go to the end here: the supreme figure of Evil is therefore God himself insofar as he stands above creation, judging us. This is why true reconciliation happens only in Christianity, which enacts the infinite judgment “god is a mortal man,” an absolute contradiction:

“Absolute spirit comes into existence only at the point where its pure knowing of itself is the opposition and flux of itself with itself. Knowing that its pure knowing is the abstract essence, it is this duty knowingly in absolute opposition to the knowing that knows itself, as the absolute singular individuality of the self, as the essence. The former is the pure continuity of the universal which knows singular individuality knowing itself as the essence as nullity in itself, as evil.” (362) 
What does this mean in actual life? Towards the end of A River Runs Through It (Robert Redford, 1992), Rev. Maclean gives a sermon about being unable to help loved ones who are destroying themselves and will not accept help: what those who truly care for such a self-destructive person can do is only give unconditional love, even without understanding why. This is the Christian stance at its purest: not the promise of salvation, but just such unconditional love whose message is: “I know you are bent on destroying yourself, I know I cannot prevent it, but without understanding why I love you unconditionally, without any constraint.” This also allows us to provide the only consistent Christian answer to the eternal critical question: Was God there in Auschwitz? How could he allow such immense suffering? Why didn’t he intervene and prevent it? The answer is neither that we should learn to withdraw from our terrestrial vicissitudes and identify with the blessed peace of God who dwells above our misfortunes, from where we become aware of the ultimate nullity of our human concerns (the standard pagan answer), nor that God knows what he is doing and will somehow repay us for our suffering, heal our wounds and punish the guilty (the standard teleological answer). The answer is found, for example, in the final scene of Shooting Dogs, a film about the Rwanda genocide, in which a group of Tutsi refugees in a Christian school know that they will be shortly slaughtered by a Hutu mob. A young British teacher in the school breaks down in despair and asks his fatherly figure, the elderly priest (played by John Hurt), where Christ is now to prevent the slaughter. The priest’s answer is: Christ is now present here more than ever; he is suffering here with us. When we curse our fate in despair, when we courageously accept that no higher force will help us, he is here with us – and this is our reconciliation at its most radical.

To elaborate this point in more detail, let’s take a well-known case of operatic reconciliation. In the third act of Wagner’s Tännhauser, the hero is on a pilgrimage in Rome where he approaches “him, through whom God speaks” (the Pope) and tells his story. However, rather than finding absolution, he is cursed and told by the Pope: “As this staff in my hand, no more shall bear fresh leaves, from the hot fires of hell, salvation never shall bloom for thee.” Desperate, Tannhäuser returns home and dies, but after his death the growing light bathes the scene as a group of younger pilgrims arrive bearing the Pope’s staff sprouting new leaves, and proclaiming a miracle: “Hail!, Hail! To this miracle of grace, Hail!” Tannhäuser is posthumously pardoned… Is this a true reconciliation? Alain Badiou was right when, against Adorno, he pointed out that there is no true peace of reconciliation at the end of Tannhäuser: the traumatic impact of Tannhäuser’s Rome narrative is far too strong to allow any peaceful resolution of its unbearable tension. (And, incidentally, the same goes for The Twilight of the Gods where the brutality of Siegfried’s death and funeral march is not really appeased by Brunhilde’s immolation.) The reconciliation that concludes the opera is purely formal, an effect of beautiful music.

To clarify this mess, one should begin by recounting how Tannhäuser explains to Venus what he misses in Venusberg, namely not spirit but peaceful nature: “Days, moons – mean nothing to me anymore, for I no longer see the sun, nor the friendly stars of heaven; I see no more the blades of grass, which, turning freshly green, bring the new summer in; the nightingale that foretells me the spring, I hear no more. Shall I never hear it, never behold it more?” In the spirit that characterizes German Romanticism, nature and spirituality go together, so the choice the hero face is not between sensual reality versus spirituality but both together against the excess of jouissance. The true opposition is thus the one between spiritualized nature and excessive jouissance, where Venus does not stand simply for this excess but is immanently split into two. When the pious Wolfram sings praises to the evening star (“Oh du mein holder Abendstern…”), we should not ignore the obvious fact that he is singing praise to Venus: Venus is the morning star and the evening star, i.e., a figure which belongs to the same series as the Sumerian goddess Inanna: “The discontinuous movements of Venus relate to both mythology as well as Inanna’s dual nature. Unlike any other deity, Inanna is able to descend into the netherworld and return to the heavens. The planet Venus appears to make a similar descent, setting in the West and then rising again in the East.” Is this not yet another argument that Venus and Elisabeth are one and the same person? That’s why the same singer should sing both. Even more, Venus and Elisabeth are not just the two sides of the same woman; they are the two projections of the hero himself onto the object of his love – the woman is here quite literally Tannhäuser’s symptom.

The big step towards the right reading of the opera was made by Romeo Castellucci’s in his path-breaking 2017 staging of Tannhäuser in the Bavarian State Opera. The first scene takes place in Venusberg, the site of carnal pleasures from which Tannhäuser wants to escape. Venusberg is presented as an ugly mound full of outgrowing and disgusting, vaguely feminine creatures, with thick fat hanging from their bodies and intermixing into a field of flab shaking like cellulite — an image of suffocating decay, boredom and satiation. Tannhäuser’s first words in the opera, resisting the calls of Venus to stay with her, are: “Zu viel! Zu viel!” (“Too much! Too much!”). But this is not all: above this disgusting sleazy movement of life, a circular ball (a fantasy frame) hangs in the air within which the idealized version of these same creatures (Venus and her companions) appears, this time as slim ethereal creatures floating in the air and gently dancing, deprived of their gross carnality.

One cannot but recall here the well-known scene from Terry Gilliam’s Brasil in which, in a high-class restaurant, a waiter recommends to his customers the best offers from the daily menu (“Today, our tournedo is really special!”, etc.), yet what the customers get upon making their choice is a dazzling colour photo of the meal on a stand above the plate, and, on the plate itself, a loathsome excremental paste-like lump. We get the split between the image of the food and the real as its formless excremental remainder, i.e., between the ghost-like substance-less appearance and the raw stuff of the realm, exactly in the same way as in Castellucci’s Tannhäuser, we get the split between the disgusting real of the flesh and the dematerialized image. We should emphasize here that there is nothing “authentic” in the experience of this split: it doesn’t render visible the disgusting reality of sex, but just bears witness to Tannhäuser’s psychotic split between the Real and the Imaginary which takes place when the third term, the Symbolic, is foreclosed. In other words, the shaking blob is not the Real of sex supplemented by the fantasy of ethereal girls dancing: fantasy is not only the ethereal vision of dancing slim girls, but also the image of the disgusting shaking blob whose function is to obfuscate the fact that sex is always-already “barred,” thwarted by a constitutive impossibility.

So, how does Elisabeth redeem Tannhäuser? Does she kill herself? But this is a mortal sin… The opera remains a mess – towards the end of his life Wagner himself remarked that he still owes his public a Tannhäuser. Jon Vickers cancelled a performance of Tannhäuser because he disagreed with its religious stance and considered it blasphemous: as a Christian, he believed that Tannhäuser’s redemption should not come about through the love of a woman but through God himself. (Incidentally, there is much more profanity in Parsifal, despite its Christian aura.) The only solution is the one offered by Istvan Szabo in his Meeting Venus, a wonderful movie about a staging of Tannhäuser in Paris immediately after the fall of the Wall. The conductor (Niels Arestrup) is from Hungary, the diva (Glenn Close) is a temperamental superstar from Sweden, the baritone is a rotund East German who thinks mostly about obtaining hard currency to use in his auto-painting business, and then there are, of course, the musicians, the members of the chorus, the stagehands and electricians and painters and property masters, all members of unions that are ferociously protective of their contracts. A union man refuses to press the button to raise the curtain just before the premiere since he would thereby violate a trade union rule, and it looks like the performance will have to be cancelled. But the diva proposes a simple solution: they should perform the entire opera in front of the closed curtain, directly addressing the public. The performance is a triumph, and while the camera shows the conductor during the last notes of the music, we see in reality a repeated miracle: the conductor’s dry wooden stick sprouting fresh green leaves… The true miracle is the spirit of community established by this performance: all their petty conflicts and sexual tensions are forgotten, and we pass from eros to agape. The supreme irony is that some idiots read the film as an anti-worker manifesto: art (spirituality) wins over class struggle (trade union defence of workers’ rights), even though the truth is rather the opposite – the spirit of Communist solidarity wins over petty trade-unionist conflicts of interests.

Two details deserve especially to be noted about the finale.

First, while everybody is in a panic at the prospect that the performance will have to be cancelled, it is the diva who proposes the solution that leads to triumph, and here a blessedly benevolent smile of satisfaction dominates the final moments when all others are caught in the enthusiasm of full triumph. Her gaze is directed at the conductor with whom she had a passionate love affair that ended in a fiasco during rehearsals – her staring at him signals deep reconciliation. Their exclusive love affair occurs at a higher level: the tumultuous eros (which has to end in failure since il n’y a pas de rapport sexuel) is transformed into the peace of agape.

Second, the miracle (the wooden stick sprouting fresh leaves) is repeated: first, just staged as a part of the story; then, as an event in reality, and it is this repetition of the miracle in reality that works as an authentic shock bringing us, the viewers, to the edge of tears… Surprisingly (or not so surprisingly), the same reconciliation through music, through the musical form, is at work in one of Rammstein’s superb songs, “Mutter.” The lyrics tell the story of a child not born from a womb, but in an experiment: thus, a child who has no true father or mother. They describe his plan to kill both the mother “who never gave birth to him” and himself. However, he fails to kill himself, ending up mutilated instead, and no better off than before. The child begs and prays for strength, but his dead mother does not answer. Here are the lyrics of the first strophe:
“The tears of a crowd of very old children
I string them on a white hair
I throw the wet chain into the air
And wish that I had a mother.”
Upon a closer look, one discovers that the situation of the child is ambiguous: Was it an experimental birth outside the womb, an abortion (meaning that he sings as already dead), or, at a more general level, a metaphor for the situation of Germans after WWII, when they found their “motherland” destroyed and their lives ruined? One should resist the temptation to decide what the song “is really about.” It is “really about” the formal constellation of a motherless child who survives his suicide. And a similar ambiguity is surprisingly at work in different musical versions of the song: there is the Rammstein hard rock “original,” but then there are versions for solo soprano accompanied by piano or a symphonic orchestra, for a male chorus, a Russian version, and even for a children’s chorus (in Russia), and they all sound so “natural” despite the extreme brutality of the event described in the lyrics.

One should definitely not interpret this last version as a display of extreme irony. No, the singing children enact the only possible reconciliation of the desperate predicament of the song’s hero, so that they are to be taken in all naivety. The point is again that what Hegel calls “reconciliation” is not a reduction of the traumatic excess to a gapless totality, but the acceptance of this excess in its meaningless brutality.


[1] Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel – The Phenomenology of Spirit (Terry Pinkard Translation).pdf (libcom.org). Numbers in brackets indicate pages in this edition.

Saturday, January 20, 2024

Media Theory Project

Another Long Listen - Zizek

Excerpt from above video:
To become free you have to be forced to be free, and this for this you need a figure of the master. But it's a paradoxical Master. It's not an oppressive master who tells you what you want. and so on. It's a master whose message to you is just, "you can do it, you are not just limited to what you are," and so on, and so on. "You can do more," and I refer here to your very naive everyday experience, this master can be a good friend, a good teacher. Isn't it that when you are in crisis, you know you should do something, you don't "not have the strength," and so on, and so on. A true Master figure, a friend, a teacher, whatever. His message to you is just a very naive one, "I know that you can do it" and he even doesn't have to know. What the point that Frank Ruda now makes here is, again, a subtle one. It's not only that if I'm left to myself in a (Plato's) cave. Even when I'm without chains, I prefer to stay there so that a master has to force me out. The situation is much more subtle. I have to... I know The Madness of this formula... I have to volunteer to be forced out, similar to psychoanalysis. 
And this is the genius of Ruda. He draws a parallel with a psychotic situation, where basically you volunteer here to abdicate your conscious ego, autonomy. But you must be a volunteer. You must volunteer to accept analyses as, of course, a very specific form of master. So here I have another quote from Frank Ruda, a question arises at precisely this point from using the reference to the master in psychoanalytic terms. Does this mean that those who need a master are always already in the position of an analysand-patient, if politically, such a master is needed to for us to become what we are, to use Nietzsche's formula, and this can be structurally linked to liberating The Prisoner from the cave. To force him out after the chains are broken and he still does not want to leave. The question arises, how to link this with the idea that the patient-analysand who demands psycho analysis treatment has to be a volunteer and not simply slave or bondsman. I mean why am I mentioning this example? So that you see I'm not involved in abstract um paradoxes this happens precisely in a psychoanalytic situation.
^^Wind River (ending)^^
What is Repressed in the Content, Returns in the Form
When you have some more fundamental anxiety (like of catching STDs), which is then sublimated into, embodied in this fear. So again, the fundamental lesson of "It Follows", the movie, it's a very nice one, is that: one and one is never two. There is always some excess, which can be "It", which can be some supplement in the sexual relationship. It can be the threat of another partner. It can be simply another's gaze. I think I already mentioned to you the last time I was here, but it's such a dirty story that I cannot resist to repeat it. You know, if you look at the most vulgar, and I don't... I was just told about it, hardcore pornography, how, I was looking for a paradigmatic scene in it, and I think I found it, it's no... I'm ashamed to draw it, but the position is this one. Woman is lying on her back with of course legs spread out, high, and the guy is screwing her. But they must put such a lot of effort into it because from the position of the camera, it's absolutely crucial, that, like you see you see the legs. You see here penetration. But between her legs, always, that's crucial, in the background you see her face... looking into the camera, Breaking All the (4th wall) Rules of a proper fiction movie, you should never look into the camera. And this tells us a lot. I don't justify pornography, I'm against pornography, prostitution, and so on. I'm just saying that the standard feminist doxa, according to which, in pornography, woman is objectified, it's not true (and this doesn't make it any better). You can be subjectified in a way which is much more humiliating than being objectified. Because, so you see it, the thing itself, blah blah, the Stupid action. But if you see just that, it would become a medical case, you know, and it wouldn't be attractive. You have to see at the same time, her face, I will not go into those gestures, but you know, for this you should raise my salary if you want to include into performance this, you know that, Fascinate. So you see how even here, what this Gaze looking at whom, at the viewer, this means that I, as a spectator, am the pure object 'a, it's me. It's one and one, the guy screwing the girl, lady, and me. my Gaze. Without that, it doesn't function. So if anything, I made this point often here, the one who is truly objectified is the guy. Usually, in most of the hardcore movies that my friends picked up for me, with this case, you don't even see the guy's face. Nobody cares about that. Usually, he approaches from behind, and just, you know, you because, of course he does his duty, you see ejaculation. No, so, okay, that's enough. We don't want your stupid face, and so on. So, but what I'm thinking is that this is a very simple example of 1 + 1 is not simply two. But it's plus a small something that is added to it.
Double Suture/ Cross-Cap Duality: Objectivity (Yin) with a touch of Subjectivity (Yang) to create "Reality" (+).    For subjectivity, you need a Klein bottle.

Friday, January 19, 2024

Happy Birthday, Edgar!

"I could not love except where Death 
Was mingling his with Beauty's breath -"
- EA Poe, "Romance" (1831)

EA Poe, "The Valley of Unrest" (vE - 1845)

Once it smiled a silent dell
Where the people did not dwell;
They had gone unto the wars,
Trusting to the mild-eyed stars,
Nightly, from their azure towers,
To keep watch above the flowers,
In the midst of which all day
The red sun-light lazily lay.

Now each visitor shall confess
The sad valley’s restlessness.

Nothing there is motionless—
Nothing save the airs that brood
Over the magic solitude.

Ah, by no wind are stirred those trees
That palpitate like the chill seas
Around the misty Hebrides!

Ah, by no wind those clouds are driven
That rustle through the unquiet Heaven
Uneasily, from morn till even,
Over the violets there that lie
In myriad types of the human eye—
Over the lilies there that wave
And weep above a nameless grave!

They wave:—from out their fragrant tops
External dews come down in drops.

They weep:—from off their delicate stems
Perennial tears descend in gems.


"My draught of passion hath been deep —
I revell'd, and I now would sleep —"

-EA Poe, "Romance" (1831)

Sincerity -> Authenticity -> Profilicity: Atavistic Politicians?

History Repeats... 1st as Tragedy... then as Farce
People viewing an Amusement Park attraction
Andrea Widburg, "Authenticity: Christopher Plummer, The Sound of Music, and Donald Trump"
A friend from Australia sent me a link to a newly released video with the original “Edelweiss” vocals by Christopher Plummer, who played Captain von Trapp in The Sound of Music. He noted that the laudatory comments all spoke of Plummer’s authenticity versus the polished singing of Bill Lee, who was dubbed in his place, and said that this might go a long way to explaining Donald Trump’s appeal. I thought his insight was interesting and accurate enough to share with you at greater length.

My friend’s note arrived at the right time. I’d been looking for an image for another post, which—as regular readers know—often means getting a screen grab from YouTube. It seemed as if every video I checked out tossed up a new commercial in which Obama and Biden stand side by side, touting Biden’s virtues:

As you can see, the ad is incredibly staged. We know that Obama doesn’t respect Biden (“Don’t underestimate Joe’s ability to f*** things up”), so Obama’s presence there is a Hail Mary for the Democrat party, not genuine support for Biden himself. As for Joe himself, he’s barely sentient. His eyes are vacant, and you get the feeling that they’re on take twenty-five to get that snippet of coherence.

The sad thing about American politics is that this passes for normal. One of the reasons the “debates” are so boring on either side of the aisles is because the candidates are just waiting to spit out their focused-group-tested soundbites. It doesn’t matter that there might be truth behind those pithy little phrases because they’re dead inside.

The politicians, who would never survive as actors in Hollywood, spit them out with wooden passion. This isn’t Churchillian wittiness; this is Disney Kids’ laugh lines—say the pre-written line, smirk, and wait for the canned laughter from the sound technician.

For a perfect example of the bad acting that characterizes American politics, just revisit Kamala Harris’s cringe-worthy performance with a bunch of child actors as she gives voice to the wonders of space travel:

And I bet you remember with a shudder of revulsion Elizabeth Warren drinking beer:

But then there’s Donald Trump, who, like him or not, is completely authentic. When Trump speaks, probably to his handlers’ horror, what he says and how he says it is unscripted. We are always seeing the real, raw Donald Trump.

That gets me to Christopher Plummer. You’re all familiar with the final movie version of Captain von Trapp singing “Edelweiss” with his family, the first sign that his rigid shell is finally crumbling.

It's a very nice, polished performance, with vocals by Bill Lee, a frequent dubber for movies in the 1960s. It’s also completely without personality. It’s generic.

However, the new Deluxe edition of The Sound of Music includes Plummer’s own voice. It’s a nice voice—a little rough, a little hesitant, and much more consistent with a tightly wound man who hasn’t sung in decades and is finally breaking free of the constraints he imposed on himself:

Aside from the pleasure of the video itself, what’s fascinating is reading the comments, all of which are thrilled by Plummer’s authenticity instead of the usual smooth studio fakery. Here’s a sampling of the most popular comments:
@Randystudio217: Something about Plummer’s version truly delivers. he plays it as written; a man unsure of himself who hasn’t sang or performed since losing his wife. A man reluctant to show the slightest vulnerability to anyone in that room who, swept up in emotions of love both old and new, plays his favorite piece. Christine’s Plummer’s rendition is superior. A true actor and performer RIP.

@faith2461: Gosh, as much as I love Bill Lee’s rendition that’s used in the film, there’s just something so lovely and sincere about Christopher’s somewhat shaky, imperfect cadence. Really makes me weep. This album is what we’ve all been waiting for, truly 😭. And Irwin Kostal was a gift.

@lauraopper2571: His rendition may not have been perfect, but it was authentic. He made the viewers feel as if he was just singing a folk song to entertain his family in an evening spent with friends. I love it...

@eleonoramaciel6273: This rendition makes his bashful shrug at the end so much more meaningful. It would be lovely to get a version of the film with his voice in streaming platforms.

@ritawetterhan5232: His singing is so real and slightly vulnerable— a fitting juxtaposition of his rigid military demeanor and his love for his children, Maria, and his country ❤️
In a time of Deep Fakes, Artificial Intelligence, endless hoaxes, and the plasticine version of people who swarm politics, media, and entertainment (it’s not a coincidence that a movie about a plastic doll was one of 2023’s most popular films), people crave someone who is obviously unstaged, unscripted, unscrubbed, and un anything else the political world does to give us a simulacrum of reality.

Looking at the dubbed and real Plummer videos, on the one hand, and American politicians versus Trump, on the other hand, I keep thinking of Alan Sherman’s classic line in the song “Jump Down, Spin Around,” about shopping at a discount retailer. In the song, he trills out, “Here’s what I’ve been praying for: A genuine copy of a fake Dior.”

We Americans have gotten used to but still hate genuine copies of fake politicians. When a real one comes along, we resonate with that authenticity and believe him when he promises to take America back to a more normal time of fiscal, racial, sexual, and national security sanity.
Image is a true AI fake. 
Jean-François Millet, "Angelus" (1857-9)
Salvador Dali, "Atavism at Twilight" (1934)

Thursday, January 18, 2024

The Alchemy of Social Media... (or explaining the Idiocy [aka: "wisdom"] of a certain overly disingenuous "Progressive" poster)

A reflexive environment is one where everybody has to talk about a certain thing. That thing is going to be very polarizing, and there are either going to be one, or two, right ways to talk about it. Usually they're going to be diametrically opposed to one another, and that means it's a dialectical weapon. 
When George Soros famously shorted the the pound sterling in like '92 or whatever, which led to him writing "The Alchemy of Finance" where he said that "Alchemy is not interested in truth like the scientific method, it's interested in operational success." The method he said that they used to do the Alchemy of Finance was reflexivity. The idea is that you start jinning up an idea and make the idea become true because everybody starts talking about it and believing it in a particular way. So "the current thing" takes place in a reflexive environment (often Social Media).
...or to generate "clicks"?
h/t - Woodsterman

The Goal of reflexivity is to create a viral emotional state for "the current thing".
When confronted with Reflective "active measures", don't argue the facts and details surrounding "the current thing"... Expose the operation, its' target and method.  Or better, counter it with witty sh*tposts:
a deliberately provocative or off-topic comment posted on social media, typically in order to upset others or distract from the main conversation.

For as George Soros said in "The Alchemy of Finance"... "Alchemy is not interested in truth like the scientific method, it's interested in operational success."