Wednesday, December 31, 2014

...okay, so it's not exactly Chinese New Year...

For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.
― T.S. Eliot, "Four Quartets"

Monday, December 29, 2014

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Cynical Guys Love Cynical Girls

A parasite,

Gave me a bite,
Used my blood as food,
I wasn't happy,
Got real snappy,
Stopped that little dude...
A parasite,

Gave me a bite,
Used me as its host,
Bit my skin,
And sucked right in,
Like eating buttered toast...

A parasite,
Gave me a bite,
I went to bite it back,
Mosquito's sweet?
I never knew,
Until I ate one for a snack...
-- Mr. R.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Thursday, December 18, 2014

What's to Fear?

Catholic school, as vicious as Roman rule
I got my knuckles bruised by a lady in black
I held my tongue as she told me, "Son
Fear is the heart of love," so I never went back
-Deathcab for Cutie, "I will follow you into the dark"

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Close Friends

And a youth said, "Speak to us of Friendship."
Your friend is your needs answered.
He is your field which you sow with love and reap with thanksgiving.
And he is your board and your fireside.
For you come to him with your hunger, and you seek him for peace.
When your friend speaks his mind you fear not the "nay" in your own mind, nor do you withhold the "ay."
And when he is silent your heart ceases not to listen to his heart;
For without words, in friendship, all thoughts, all desires, all expectations are born and shared, with joy that is unacclaimed.
When you part from your friend, you grieve not;
For that which you love most in him may be clearer in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain.
And let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit.
For love that seeks aught but the disclosure of its own mystery is not love but a net cast forth: and only the unprofitable is caught.
And let your best be for your friend.
If he must know the ebb of your tide, let him know its flood also.
For what is your friend that you should seek him with hours to kill?
Seek him always with hours to live.
For it is his to fill your need, but not your emptiness.
And in the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures.
For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.
-Khalil Gibran

Monday, December 15, 2014

Still Mulling this one Over...

If we're only ever looking back
We will drive ourselves insane
As the friendship goes resentment grows
We will walk our different ways

Saturday, December 13, 2014


the light holds us aloft
like starry lights
radiant with breath
in goodness we rise
fragile wings
we are loved
every 17 seconds a prayer
gently whispered
can save…
is a lifeline
thrown deep into the
Sonya Ki Tomlinson, "Airborne"

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Still Awaiting My Turn...

Another day goes by
Waiting for the day
When I can begin to live
the life I've long desired

It didn't come today
So I'll go to bed
and Hope that it comes

Sunday, December 7, 2014

On Choosing between Lies?

Badiou develops the notion of "atonal" worlds (monde atone), [2] worlds lacking a "point," in Lacanese: the "quilting point" (point de capiton), the intervention of a Master-Signifier that imposes a principle of "ordering" onto the world, the point of a simple decision ("yes or no") in which the confused multiplicity is violently reduced to a "minimal difference." That is to say, what is a Master-Signifier? In the very last pages of his monumental Second World War, Winston Churchill ponders on the enigma of a political decision: after the specialists (economic and military analysts, psychologists, meteorologists...) propose their multiple, elaborated and refined analysis, somebody must assume the simple and for that very reason most difficult act of transposing this complex multitude, where for every reason for there are two reasons against, and vice versa, into a simple "Yes" or "No" - we shall attack, we continue to wait... None other John F. Kennedy provided a concise description of this point:
The essence of ultimate decision remains impenetrable to the observer - often, indeed, to the decider himself.
This gesture which can never be fully grounded in reasons, is that of a Master. There is thus no reason to be dismissive of the discourse of the Master, to identify it too hastily with "authoritarian repression": the Master's gesture is the founding gesture of every social link. Let us imagine a confused situation of social disintegration, in which the cohesive power of ideology loses its efficiency: in such a situation, the Master is the one who invents a new signifier, the famous "quilting point," which again stabilizes the situation and makes it readable; the university discourse which then elaborates the network of Knowledge which sustains this readability by definition presupposes and relies on the initial gesture of the Master. The Master adds no new positive content - he merely adds a signifier which all of a sudden turns disorder into order, into "new harmony," as Rimbaud would have put it. Think about anti-Semitism in Germany of the 1920s: people experienced themselves as disoriented, thrown into undeserved military defeat, economic crisis which melted away their life-savings, political inefficiency, moral degeneration... and the Nazis provided a single agent which accounted for it all - the Jew, the Jewish plot. Therein resides the magic of a Master: although there is nothing new at the level of positive content, "nothing is quite the same" after he pronounces his Word... The basic feature of our "postmodern" world is that it tries to dispense with this agency of the Master-Signifier: the "complexity" of the world should be asserted unconditionally, every Master-Signifier meant to impose some order on it should be "deconstructed," dispersed, "disseminated": "The modern apology of the "complexity" of the world /.../ is really nothing but a generalized desire of atony."(443) Badiou's excellent example of such an "atonal" world is the Politically Correct vision of sexuality, as promoted by gender studies, with its obsessive rejection of "binary logic": this world is a nuanced, ramified world of multiple sexual practices which tolerates no decision, no instance of the Two, no evaluation (in the strong Nietzschean sense). This suspension of the Master-Signifier leaves as the only agency of ideological interpellation the "unnameable" abyss of jouissance: the ultimate injunction that regulates our lives in "postmodernity" is "Enjoy!" - realize your potentials, enjoy in all its forms, from intense sexual pleasures through social success to spiritual self-fulfilment. What we have today is not so much the POLITICS of jouissance but, more precisely, the REGULATION (administration) of jouissance which is stricto sensu post-political. Jouissance is in itself limitless, the obscure excess of the unnameable, and the task is to regulate this excess. The clearest sign of the reign of biopolitics is the obsession with the topic of "stress": how to avoid stressful situations, how to "cope" with them. "Stress" is our name for the excessive dimension of life, for the "too-muchness" to be kept under control. (For this reason, today, more than ever, the gap that separates psychoanalysis from therapy imposes itself in all its brutality: if one wants therapeutic improvement, one will effectively get a much faster and efficient help from a combination of behavioral-cognitivist therapies and chemical treatment (pills).

However, far from liberating us from the guilt-pressure, such dispensing with the Master-Signifier comes at a price, the price signalled by Lacan's qualification of the superego-command: "Nothing forces anyone to enjoy except the superego. The superego is the imperative of jouissance - Enjoy!" [3] In short, the decline of the Master-Signifier exposes the subject to all the traps and double-talk of the superego: the very injunction to enjoy, i.e., the (often imperceptible) shift from the permission to enjoy to the injunction (obligation) to enjoy sabotages enjoyment, so that, paradoxically, the more one obeys the superego command, the more one is guilty. This same ambiguity affects the very base of a "permissive" and "tolerant" society: "we see from day to day how this tolerance is nothing else than a fanaticism, since it tolerates only its own vacuity."(LdM-533) And, effectively, every decision, every determinate engagement, is potentially "intolerant" towards all others... There are only a couple of qualifications to be added to this Badiou's thesis. First, insofar as world as such is sustained by a "point," is a point-less, atonal, world not a name for worldlessness? Badiou himself recently claimed that our time is devoid of world, referring to Marx's well-known passage from The Communist Manifesto about the "de-territorializing" force of capitalism which dissolves all fixed social forms
The passage where Marx speaks of the desacralisation of all sacred bonds in the icy waters of capitalism has an enthusiastic tone; it is Marx's enthusiasm for the dissolving power of Capital. The fact that Capital revealed itself to be the material power capable of disencumbering us of the "superego" figures of the One and the sacred bonds that accompany it effectively represents its positively progressive character, and it is something that continues to unfold to the present day. Having said that, the generalized atomism, the recurrent individualism and, finally, the abasement of thought into mere practices of administration, of the government of things or of technical manipulation, could never satisfy me as a philosopher. I simply think that it is in the very element of desacralisation that we must reconnect to the vocation of thinking.

This allows us also to approach in a new way Badiou's concept of "point" as the point of decision, as the moment at which the complexity of a situation is "filtered" through a binary disposition and thus reduced to a simple choice: all things considered, are we AGAINST or FOR (should we attack or retreat? support that proclamation or oppose it?) With regard to the Third moment as the subtraction from the Two of the hegemonic politics, one should always bar in mind that one of the basic operations of the hegemonic ideology is to enforce a false point, to impose on us a false choice - like, in today's "war on terror," when anyone who draws attention to the complexity and ambiguity of the situation, is sooner or later interrupted by a brutal voice telling him: "OK, enough of this muddle - we are in the middle of a difficult struggle in which the fate of our free world is at stake, so please, make it clear, where do you really stand: do you support freedom and democracy or not?" (One can also imagine a humanitarian version of such a pseudo-ethical blackmail: "OK, enough of this muddle about the neocolonialism, the responsibility of the West, and so on - do you want to do something to really help the millions suffering in Africa, or do you just want to use them to score points in your ideologico-political struggle?") The obverse of this imposition of a false choice is, of course, the blurring of the true line of division - here, Nazism is still unsurpassed with his designation of the Jewish enemy as the agent of the "plutocratic-bolshevik plot." In this designation, the mechanism is almost laid bare: the true opposition ("plutocrats" versus "Bolsheviks," i.e., capitalists versus proletariat) is literally obliterated, blurred into One, and therein resides the function of the name "Jew" - to serve as the operator of this obliteration. The first task of the emancipatory politics is therefore to distinguish between "false" and "true" points, "false" and "true" choices, i.e., to bring back the third element whose obliteration sustains the false choice - like, today, the false choice "liberal democracy or Islamofascism" is sustained by the obliteration of the radical secular emancipatory politics. So one should be clear here in rejecting the dangerous motto "the enemy of my enemy is my friend," which leads us to discover "progressive" anti-imperialist potential in fundamentalist Islamist movements. The ideological universe of movements like Hezbollah is based on the blurring of distinctions between capitalist neoimperialism and secular progressive emancipation: within the Hezbollah ideological space, women's emancipation, gay rights, etc., are NOTHING BUT the "decadent" moral aspect of Western imperialism...
- Slavoj Zizek, "On ALain Badiou and Logiques des mondes"

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Life in and out of Plato's Cave

O generation of the thoroughly smug
and thoroughly uncomfortable,
I have seen fishermen picnicking in the sun,
I have seen them with untidy families,
I have seen their smiles full of teeth
and heard ungainly laughter.
And I am happier than you are,
And they were happier than I am;
And the fish swim in the lake
and do not even own clothing.
Ezra Pound, "Salutation"

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


For the Marriage in Cana of Galilee

O woman of my dreams,
Ivory sandaled,
There is none like thee among the dancers,
None with swift feet

I have not found thee in the tents,
In the broken darkness.
I have not found thee at the well-head
Among the women with pitchers.

Thine arms are as a young sapling under the bark;
Thy face as a river with lights.

White as an almond are thy shoulders;
As new almonds stripped from the husk.

They guard thee not with eunuchs;
Not with bars of copper.
Gilt turquoise and silver are in the place of thy rest.
A brown robe, with threads of gold woven in patterns,
hast thou gathered about thee,
O Nathat-Ikanaie, “Tree-at-the-river.”

As a rillet among the sedge are thy hands upon me;
Thy fingers a frosted stream.

Thy maidens are white like pebbles;
Their music about thee!

There is none like thee among the dancers;
None with swift feet.
- Ezra Pound, "Dance Figure"

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Barred Subject and Lacanian Real

from Wikipedia
The term "bar" first appears in Lacan's work in 1957, where it is introduced in the context of a discussion of Ferdinand de Saussure's concept of the sign.[1]In this context, the bar is the line that separates the signifier from the signified (in the Saussurean algorithm), and stands for the resistance inherent in signification which is only crossed in metaphor.

The Barred Subject

Not long after the 1957 paper in which the term first appears, in the seminar of 1957-8, Lacan goes on to use the bar to strike through his algebraic symbols S and A in a manner reminiscent of Heidegger's practice of crossing out the word "being."[2]The bar is used to strike through the S to produce, StrikeS.gif, the "barred subject'." The bar here represents the division of the subject by language, the split. Thus whereas before 1957 S designates the subject (e.g. in schema L), from 1957 on S designates the signifier and StrikeS.gif designates the (divided) subject.

The Barred Other

The bar is also used to strike through the A (the big Other) to produce the algebraic notation for the "barred Other," A. However, Lacan continues to use both signs in his algebra (e.g. in the graph of desire). The barred Other is the Other insofar as it is castrated, incomplete, marked by a lack, as opposed to the complete, consistent, uncastrated Other, an un-barred A, which does not exist.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Some Gardeners Eat Their Veggies!

Gardener. Go, bind thou up yon dangling apricocks,
Which, like unruly children, make their sire
Stoop with oppression of their prodigal weight:
Give some supportance to the bending twigs.
Go thou, and like an executioner,
Cut off the heads of too fast growing sprays,
That look too lofty in our commonwealth:
All must be even in our government.
You thus employ’d, I will go root away
The noisome weeds, which without profit suck
The soil’s fertility from wholesome flowers.

Servant. Why should we in the compass of a pale
Keep law and form and due proportion,
Showing, as in a model, our firm estate,
When our sea-walled garden, the whole land,
Is full of weeds, her fairest flowers choked up,
Her fruit-trees all upturned, her hedges ruin’d,
Her knots disorder’d and her wholesome herbs
Swarming with caterpillars?

Gardener. Hold thy peace:
He that hath suffer’d this disorder’d spring
Hath now himself met with the fall of leaf:
The weeds which his broad-spreading leaves did shelter,
That seem’d in eating him to hold him up,
Are pluck’d up root and all by Bolingbroke,
I mean the Earl of Wiltshire, Bushy, Green.

Servant. What, are they dead?

Gardener. They are; and Bolingbroke
Hath seized the wasteful king. O, what pity is it
That he had not so trimm’d and dress’d his land
As we this garden! We at time of year
Do wound the bark, the skin of our fruit-trees,
Lest, being over-proud in sap and blood,
With too much riches it confound itself:
Had he done so to great and growing men,
They might have lived to bear and he to taste
Their fruits of duty: superfluous branches
We lop away, that bearing boughs may live:
Had he done so, himself had borne the crown,
Which waste of idle hours hath quite thrown down.
- William Shakespeare, "Richard II" (Act III, Sc IV)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

PoMo Happy Days

It is more onerous
than the rites of beauty
or housework, harder than love.
But you expect it of me casually,
the way you expect the sun
to come up, not in spite of rain
or clouds but because of them.

And so I smile, as if my own fidelity
to sadness were a hidden vice—
that downward tug on my mouth,
my old suspicion that health
and love are brief irrelevancies,
no more than laughter in the warm dark
strangled at dawn.

Happiness. I try to hoist it
on my narrow shoulders again—
a knapsack heavy with gold coins.
I stumble around the house,
bump into things.
Only Midas himself
would understand.
-Linda Pastan, "The Obligation to Be Happy"

Monday, November 17, 2014

Pray for the Fool

The royal feast was done; the King
Sought some new sport to banish care,
And to his jester cried: "Sir Fool,
Kneel now, and make for us a prayer!"

The jester doffed his cap and bells,
And stood the mocking court before;
They could not see the bitter smile
Behind the painted grin he wore.

He bowed his head, and bent his knee
Upon the Monarch's silken stool;
His pleading voice arose: "O Lord,
Be merciful to me, a fool!

"No pity, Lord, could change the heart
From red with wrong to white as wool;
The rod must heal the sin: but Lord,
Be merciful to me, a fool!

"'T is not by guilt the onward sweep
Of truth and right, O Lord, we stay;
'T is by our follies that so long
We hold the earth from heaven away.

"These clumsy feet, still in the mire,
Go crushing blossoms without end;
These hard, well-meaning hands we thrust
Among the heart-strings of a friend.

"The ill-timed truth we might have kept--
Who knows how sharp it pierced and stung?
The word we had not sense to say--
Who knows how grandly it had rung!

"Our faults no tenderness should ask.
The chastening stripes must cleanse them all;
But for our blunders -- oh, in shame
Before the eyes of heaven we fall.

"Earth bears no balsam for mistakes;
Men crown the knave, and scourge the tool
That did his will; but Thou, O Lord,
Be merciful to me, a fool!"

The room was hushed; in silence rose
The King, and sought his gardens cool,
And walked apart, and murmured low,
"Be merciful to me, a fool!"
- Edward Rowland Sill, "The Fool's Prayer"

Friday, November 14, 2014

Urban Organic Art

The chief function of the city is to convert power into form, energy into culture, dead matter into the living symbols of art, biological reproduction into social creativity.
- Lewis Mumford

Monday, November 3, 2014

Can Disobedience Ever be Civil?

civil disobedience...
daring acts of courage?
peaceful rebellion.

when, by choice, the freedom
of one is sacrificed for the
freedom of many.

believing that all men, and
women, are indeed equal...
in needs, rights, beliefs, and desire.

believing that no man
ever owns another man....
that dignity is not for sale.

believing that no man, or woman,
is ever free until all are free....
and all share the right to respect,

and the right to be individual,
with the need for community.
obeying the law of liberty

over the threats of the
law of the land... choosing
to stand, stay firm, and deliver.

putting feet to ideals, and
hands to the plow....
now you must choose!

civil disobedience...
a criminal act.... or
the cost of freedom!
-Eric Cockrell

Saturday, November 1, 2014


The poetry of earth is never dead:
When all the birds are faint with the hot sun,
And hide in cooling trees, a voice will run
From hedge to hedge about the new-mown mead;
That is the Grasshopper's—he takes the lead
In summer luxury,—he has never done
With his delights; for when tired out with fun
He rests at ease beneath some pleasant weed.
The poetry of earth is ceasing never:
On a lone winter evening, when the frost
Has wrought a silence, from the stove there shrills
The Cricket's song, in warmth increasing ever,
And seems to one in drowsiness half lost,
The Grasshopper's among some grassy hills.
-John Keats, December 30, 1816.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Halloween Dream

Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow —
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand —
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep — while I weep!
O God! Can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?
- Edgar Allan Poe, "A Dream Within a Dream"

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Travails of the Quarantined

In the worst hour of the worst season
of the worst year of a whole people
a man set out from the workhouse with his wife.
He was walking-they were both walking-north.

She was sick with famine fever and could not keep up.
He lifted her and put her on his back.
He walked like that west and north.
Until at nightfall under freezing stars they arrived.

In the morning they were both found dead.
Of cold. Of hunger. Of the toxins of a whole history.
But her feet were held against his breastbone.
The last heat of his flesh was his last gift to her.

Let no love poem ever come to this threshold.
There is no place here for the inexact
praise of the easy graces and sensuality of the body.
There is only time for this merciless inventory:

Their death together in the winter of 1847.
Also what they suffered. How they lived.
And what there is between a man and a woman.
And in which darkness it can best be proved.
- Eavan Boland, "Quarantine"

Thursday, October 23, 2014


How, then, does multiculturalism as fantasy function?

In such a fantasy, racism is ‘officially prohibited’. This is true. We are ‘supposed’ to be for racial equality, tolerance and diversity, and we are not ‘allowed’ to express hatred towards others, or to incite racist hatred. I would argue that this prohibition against racism is imaginary, and that it conceals everyday forms of racism, and involves a certain desire for racism. Take Big Brother and the Jade Goody story. You could argue that Big Brother’s exposure of racism functions as evidence that political correctness is hegemonic: you are not allowed to be racist towards others. But that would be a misreading. What was at stake was the desire to locate racism in the body of Jade Goody, who comes to stand for the ignorance of the white working classes, as a way of showing that ‘we’ (channel 4 and its well-meaning liberal viewers) are not racist like that. When anti-racism becomes an ego ideal you know you are in trouble.

The prohibition of racist speech should not then be taken literally: rather it is a way of imagining ‘us’ as beyond racism, as being good multicultural subjects who are not that. By saying racism is over there –‘look, there it is! in the located body of the racist’ – other forms of racism remain unnamed, what we could call civil racism. We might even say that the desire for racism is an articulation of a wider unnamed racism that accumulates force by not being named, or by operating under the sign of civility.

The best example one can imagine of this are the presidential elections in France a couple of years ago when Jean-Marie le Pen made it into the second round: reacting to this racist-chauvinist threat, the entire “democratic France” joined their ranks behind Jacques Chirac who was reelected with an overwhelming majority of 80%. No wonder everyone felt good after this display of French anti-racism, no wonder people “loved to hate” le Pen: by way of clearly locating racism in him and his party, the general “civil racism” is rendered invisible. In a homologous way, there was, in Slovenia, around a year ago, a big problem with a Roma (Gipsy) family which camped close to a small town. When a man was killed in the camp, the people in the town started to protest against the Roma, demanding that they be moved from the camp (which they occupied illegally) to another location, organizing vigilante groups, etc. As expected, all liberals condemned them as racists, locating racism into this isolated small village, while none of the liberals, living comfortably in the big cities, had any everyday contact with the Roma (except for meeting their representatives in front of the TV cameras when they supported them). When the TV interviewed the “racists” from the town, they were clearly seen to be a group of people frightened by the constant fighting and shooting in the Roma camp, by the constant theft of animals from their farms, and by other forms of small harassments from the Roma. It is all too easy to say (as the liberals did) that the Roma way of life is (also) a consequence of the centuries of their exclusion and mistreatment, that the people in the nearby town should also open themselves more to the Roma, etc. – nobody clearly answered the local “racists” what they should concretely do to solve the very real problems the Roma camp evidently was for them.

One of the most irritating liberal-tolerant strategies is to oppose Islam as a great religion of spiritual peace and compassion to its fundamentalist-terrorist abuse – whenever Bush or Netanyahu or Sharon announced a new phase in the War on Terror, they never forgot to include this mantra. (One is almost tempted to counter it by claiming that Islam is, as all religions, in itself a rather stupid inconsistent edifice, and that what makes it truly great are its possible political uses.) This is liberal-tolerant racism at its purest: this kind of “respect” for the other is the very form of appearance of its opposite, of patronizing disrespect. The very term “tolerance” is here indicative: one “tolerates” something one doesn’t approve of, but cannot abolish, either because one is not strong enough to do it or because one is benevolent enough to allow the Other to stick to its illusion – in this way, a secular liberal “tolerates” religion, a permissive parent “tolerates” his children’s excesses, etc.

Where I disagree with Ahmed is in her supposition that the underlying injunction of liberal tolerance is monocultural – “Be like us, become British!” I claim that, on the opposite, its injunction is cultural apartheid: others should not come too close to us, we should protect our “way of life.” The demand “Become like us!” is a superego demand, a demand which counts on the other’s inability to really become like us, so that we can then gleefully “deplore” their failure. (Recall how, in the apartheid South Africa, the official regime’s ideology was multiculturalist: apartheid is needed so that all the diverse black tribes will not get drowned into our civilization…) The truly unbearable fact for a multiculturalist liberal is an Other who effectively becomes like us, while retaining its specific features.

Furthermore, Ahmed passes between two forms of racism which should be distinguished. First, there is the “reflexive racism”: we use our non-racism to distinguish ourselves from the racist other and thus to castigate them in a racist way. More precisely, one should distinguish, in a kind of spectral analysis, three different modes of today’s racism. First, there is the old fashioned unabashed rejection of the (despotic, barbarian, orthodox, Muslim, corrupt, oriental…) Other on behalf of the authentic (Western, civilized, democratic, Christian…) values. Then there is the “reflexive” Politically Correct racism: the multiculturalist perception of Muslims or Balkans as the terrain of ethnic horrors and intolerance, of primitive irrational war passions, to be opposed to the post-Nation-State liberal-democratic process of solving conflicts through rational negotiations, compromises and mutual respect. Racism is here as it were elevated to the second power: it is attributed to the Other, while we occupy the convenient position of a neutral benevolent observer, righteously dismayed at the horrors going on down there. Finally, there is the reversed racism: it celebrates the exotic authenticity of the Balkan Other, as in the notion of Serbs who, in contrast to the inhibited, anemic Western Europeans, still exhibit a prodigious lust for life – this last form of racism plays a crucial role in the success of Emir Kusturica’s films in the West. – Second, racists themselves become a “threatened minority” whose free speech must be protected, i.e., they use the prohibition as evidence that racism is a minority position which has to be defended against the multicultural hegemony. Racism can then be articulated as a minority position, a refusal of orthodoxy. In this perverse logic, racism can then be embraced as a form of free speech. We have articulated a new discourse of freedom: as the freedom to be offensive, in which racism becomes an offence that restores our freedom: the story goes, we have worried too much about offending the other, we must get beyond this restriction, which sustains the fantasy that ‘that’ was the worry in the first place. Note here that the other, especially the Muslim subject who is represented as easily offended, becomes the one who causes injury, insofar as it is the Muslim other’s ‘offendability’ that is read as restricting our free speech. The offendable subject ‘gets in the way’ of our freedom. So rather than saying racism is prohibited by the liberal multicultural consensus, under the banner of respect for difference, I would argue that racism is what is protected under the banner of free speech through the appearance of being prohibited.
-Slavoj Zizek, "Multiculturalism: The Reality of an Illusion"

A Zizekian Critique of Multiculturalism

Multiculturalism means putting up the appearance of not being racist, sexist, or whatever at the same time one really was that or those things.

The word "tolerance" was embedded in the vernacular of multicultural initiatives, but no one really recognized the violence that comes with tolerance.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Daedalus' Dream

My son has birds in his head.
I know them now. I catch
the pitch of their calls, their shrill
cacophonies, their chitterlings, their coos.
They hover behind his eyes, and come to rest
on a branch, on a book, grow still,
claws curled, wings furled.
His is a bird world.
I learn the flutter of his moods,
his moments of swoop and soar.
From the ground, I feel him try the limits of the air—
sudden lift, sudden terror—
and move in time to cradle
his quivering, feather fear.
At evening, in the tower,
I see him to sleep, and see
the hooding over of eyes,
the slow folding of wings.
I wake to his morning twitterings,
To the croomb of his becoming.
He chooses his selves—wren, hawk,
swallow, or owl—to explore
the trees and rooftops of his heady wishing.
Tomtit, birdwit.
Am I to call him down to give him
a grounding, teach him gravity?
Gently, gently.
Time tells us what we weigh, and soon enough
his feet will reach the ground.
Age, like a cage, will enclose him.
So the wise men said.
My son has birds in his head.
- Alastair Reid, "Daedalus"

Friday, October 17, 2014


Wynken, Blynken, and Nod one night
Sailed off in a wooden shoe,—
Sailed on a river of crystal light
Into a sea of dew.
“Where are you going, and what do you wish?”
The old moon asked the three.
“We have come to fish for the herring-fish
That live in this beautiful sea;
Nets of silver and gold have we,"
Said Wynken,
And Nod.

The old moon laughed and sang a song,
As they rocked in the wooden shoe;
And the wind that sped them all night long
Ruffled the waves of dew;
The little stars were the herring-fish
That lived in the beautiful sea.
“Now cast your nets wherever you wish,—
Never afraid are we!”
So cried the stars to the fishermen three,
And Nod.

All night long their nets they threw
To the stars in the twinkling foam,—
Then down from the skies came the wooden shoe,
Bringing the fishermen home:
‘Twas all so pretty a sail, it seemed
As if it could not be;
And some folk thought ‘twas a dream they’d dreamed
Of sailing that beautiful sea;
But I shall name you the fishermen three:
And Nod.

Wynken and Blynken are two little eyes,
And Nod is a little head,
And the wooden shoe that sailed the skies
Is a wee one’s trundle-bed;
So shut your eyes while Mother sings
Of wonderful sights that be,
And you shall see the beautiful things
As you rock in the misty sea
Where the old shoe rocked the fishermen three:—
And Nod.
Eugene Field, "Wynken, Blynken, and Nod"

Monday, October 13, 2014

So When's the Next Festival?

The holiest of all holidays are those
Kept by ourselves in silence and apart;
The secret anniversaries of the heart,
When the full river of feeling overflows;--
The happy days unclouded to their close;
The sudden joys that out of darkness start
As flames from ashes; swift desires that dart
Like swallows singing down each wind that blows!
White as the gleam of a receding sail,
White as a cloud that floats and fades in air,
White as the whitest lily on a stream,
These tender memories are;--a fairy tale
Of some enchanted land we know not where,
But lovely as a landscape in a dream.
- Henry Wadsworth Lonfellow, "Holidays"(1878)

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Wine and Coffee

When the sweet Poison of the Treacherous Grape
Had acted on the world a general rape;
Drowning our Reason and our souls
In such deep seas of large o'erflowing bowls,

When foggy Ale, leavying up mighty trains
Of muddy vapours, had besieg'd our Brains,
Then Heaven in Pity
First sent amongst us this All-healing Berry,

Coffee arrives, that grave and wholesome Liquor,
That heals the stomach, makes the genius quicker,
Relieves the memory, revives the sad,
And cheers the Spirits, without making mad;
And soon despatcheth
Whatso'ere with Nature leavyeth Warrs;
It helps digestion, want of Appetite, And quickly sets Consumptive bodies right;
Hush then, dull Quacks, your Mountebanking cease,
COFFEE's a speedier cure for each Disease,
How great its virtues are we hence may think,
The world's third part makes it their Common Drink

In Brief, all you who Health's rich treasure prize,
And court not ruby noses, or blear'd eyes,
But own sobriety to be your drift,
And love at once good Company and Thrift;
To Wine no more make Wit and coyn a trophy,
But come each Night and Froliq'ue here in Coffee.
- a 1674 broadside

Thursday, October 2, 2014

More Ennui

Infatuation, sadism, lust, avarice
possess our souls and drain the body’s force;
we spoonfeed our adorable remorse,
like whores or beggars nourishing their lice.

Our sins are mulish, our confessions lies;
we play to the grandstand with our promises,
we pray for tears to wash our filthiness;
importantly pissing hogwash through our sties.

The devil, watching by our sickbeds, hissed
old smut and folk-songs to our soul, until
the soft and precious metal of our will
boiled off in vapor for this scientist.

Each day his flattery makes us eat a toad,
and each step forward is a step to hell,
unmoved, through previous corpses and their smell
asphyxiate our progress on this road.

Like the poor lush who cannot satisfy,
we try to force our sex with counterfeits,
die drooling on the deliquescent tits,
mouthing the rotten orange we suck dry.

Gangs of demons are boozing in our brain —
ranked, swarming, like a million warrior-ants,
they drown and choke the cistern of our wants;
each time we breathe, we tear our lungs with pain.

If poison, arson, sex, narcotics, knives
have not yet ruined us and stitched their quick,
loud patterns on the canvas of our lives,
it is because our souls are still too sick.

Among the vermin, jackals, panthers, lice,
gorillas and tarantulas that suck
and snatch and scratch and defecate and fuck
in the disorderly circus of our vice,

there’s one more ugly and abortive birth.
It makes no gestures, never beats its breast,
yet it would murder for a moment’s rest,
and willingly annihilate the earth.

It’s *BOREDOM. Tears have glued its eyes together.
You know it well, my Reader. This obscene
beast chain-smokes yawning for the guillotine —
you — hypocrite Reader — my double — my brother!
-Charles Baudelaire, “To The Reader”

*Ennui is the word which Lowell translates as BOREDOM

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Helden Erobern Rasch

Beloved, don’t fret that you gave yourself so quickly!
Believe me, I don’t think badly or wrongly of you.
The arrows of Love are various: some scratch us,
And our hearts suffer for years from their slow poison.
But others strong-feathered with freshly sharpened points
Pierce to the marrow, and quickly inflame the blood.
In the heroic ages, when gods and goddesses loved,
Desire followed a look, and joy followed desire.
Do you think the Goddess of Love was calm for long
Once Anchises attracted her in the groves of Ida?
If Luna had waited to kiss her beautiful sleeper,
Ah, then envious Dawn would have woken him swiftly.
Hero saw her Leander at a loud feast, at once
Her hot lover leapt out into the midnight flood.
Rhea Silvia the royal maiden went to the Tiber
To draw water, and the God captured her there.
So Mars conceived his sons! – And so a she-wolf
Suckled twins, so Rome became Queen of the World.
- Goethe, "Roman Elegies III"

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Imagining Public Spaces Outside of Ideology

What is the difference as Kant explains it between the public and private use of reason? Does Mendelssohn largely agree with Kant on this matter of the two uses of reason or not?

The public sphere is a place where people are free from obligation of their calling, and subjects are free to write or speak critically (Kant 59, Outram 2). The private sphere is a place where people have an actual duty to restrain the expression of wayward political judgment, in the interest of upholding the ruler’s will and lessening the likelihood of the outbreak of chaos (Kant 59, Outram 2). As Kant explains it, a clergyman is bound to lecture to his congregation according to the symbol of the church which he serves. But as a scholar, “he has the complete freedom to communicate to the public all of his carefully tested and well-intentioned thoughts on the imperfections of that symbol and his proposals for better arrangement of religious and ecclesiastical affairs” (Kant 60). In fact, Kant goes as far as to point out that it is indeed the clergyman’s calling to communicate his thoughts on the imperfections of the church. Kant divides actions/thoughts into either public or private categories. He does not see these categories as contradictions, and points out that if these uses are carefully separated then the clergyman should have “nothing to burden his conscience” (Kant 60). Kant sees the clergyman as an agent of his church and therefore requires him to teach something he does not agree with “as a consequence of his office” (60-61). Therefore, Kant views the clergyman’s use of his reason before his congregation as a private use of reason and his use of his freedom as a scholar who speaks to his own public through his writing as a public use of his reason (61).

Mendelssohn does not agree with Kant on this matter of the two uses of reason. He notes that “the destiny of man as a measure and goal of all our striving and efforts” and argues that the more status and duties in civil life correspond “throughout all the states, with their vocations…the more culture the nation possesses” (Mendelssohn 54). In other words, Mendelssohn does not segregate use of reason into two spheres and instead requires man to reconcile them into one way of being. As a result, he points out, “if the unessential destiny of man comes into conflict with the essential or nonessential destiny of the citizen, rules must be established according to which exceptions are made in cases of collisions decided” (Mendelssohn 55).
Kate Prudchenko

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A Rose by Any Other Name

'Arcturus' is his other name—
I'd rather call him 'Star.'
It's very mean of Science
To go and interfere!

I slew a worm the other day—
A 'Savant' passing by
Murmured 'Resurgam'—'Centipede'!
'Oh Lord—how frail are we'!

I pull a flower from the woods—
A monster with a glass
Computes the stamens in a breath—
And has her in a 'class'!

Whereas I took the Butterfly
Aforetime in my hat—
He sits erect in 'Cabinets'—
The Clover bells forgot.

What once was 'Heaven'
Is 'Zenith' now—
Where I proposed to go
When Time's brief masquerade was done
Is mapped and charted too.

What if the poles should frisk about
And stand upon their heads!
I hope I'm ready for 'the worst'—
Whatever prank betides!

Perhaps the 'Kingdom of Heaven's' changed—
I hope the 'Children' there Won't be 'new fashioned' when I come—
And laugh at me—and stare—

I hope the Father in the skies
Will lift his little girl—
Old fashioned—naught—everything—
Over the stile of 'Pearl.'
-Emily Elizabeth Dickinson

Monday, September 22, 2014

Intersections of the Social and Economic (Socially DIstanced) Life

In the movie, "A Beautiful Mind", John Nash's eureka moment occurs while he is with his friends in a bar. Five girls enter the establishment and Nash and his friends start contemplating who will get the blonde.

Eventually the conversation turns to Adam Smith and one of his famous quotes, "In competition, individual ambition serves the common good."

"Everyman for himself, gentlemen" says one of Nash's friends.

And another adds, "and those who strike out are stuck with their friends."

Eventually the blonde looks over at Nash, and he joins the conversation, "Adam Smith needs revision." Nash goes on to state that no one should pursue the blonde since they will all "block each other and not a single one of us will get her. Then when we strike out, none of her friends will have us because no one likes to be second choice. But what if no one goes for the blonde? We don't get in each others way and we don't insult the other girls. That's the only way we win."

But his friend quickly adds, "If this is someway for you to get the blonde you can go to #%^*!"

"Adam Smith said that the best result comes from everyone in the group doing what is best for himself, right? That's what he said. Incomplete. OK, because the best result would come from everyone in the group doing what is best for himself and the group."

Friday, September 19, 2014

My Mistake!

MUCH have I travell'd in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-brow'd Homer ruled as his demesne:
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez*, when with eagle eyes
He stared at the Pacific—and all his men
Look'd at each other with a wild surmise—
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.
- John Keats, "On first looking into Chapman's Homer"
*In point of historical fact, it was the members of Vasco Núñez de Balboa's expedition who were the first Europeans to see the east coast of the Pacific, but Keats chose to focus on Hernán Cortés; "Darien" refers to the Darién province of Panama. Keats had been reading William Robertson's History of America and apparently conflated two scenes there described: Balboa's finding of the Pacific and Cortés's first view of the Valley of Mexico. The Balboa passage: "At length the Indians assured them, that from the top of the next mountain they should discover the ocean which was the object of their wishes. When, with infinite toil, they had climbed up the greater part of the steep ascent, Balboa commanded his men to halt, and advanced alone to the summit, that he might be the first who should enjoy a spectacle which he had so long desired. As soon as he beheld the South Sea stretching in endless prospect below him, he fell on his knees, and lifting up his hands to Heaven, returned thanks to God, who had conducted him to a discovery so beneficial to his country, and so honourable to himself. His followers, observing his transports of joy, rushed forward to join in his wonder, exultation, and gratitude" (Vol. III).

John Keats simply remembered the image, rather than the actual historical facts. Charles Clarke noticed the error immediately, but Keats chose to leave it in, presumably because historical accuracy would have necessitated an unwanted extra syllable in the line.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014


Bear from hence his body;
And mourn you for him: let him be regarded
As the most noble corse that ever herald
Did follow to his urn.
- Shakespeare, "Coriolanus"

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Today is.

A dream lies dead here. May you softly go
Before this place, and turn away your eyes,
Nor seek to know the look of that which dies
Importuning Life for life. Walk not in woe,
But, for a little, let your step be slow.
And, of your mercy, be not sweetly wise
With words of hope and Spring and tenderer skies.
A dream lies dead; and this all mourners know:

Whenever one drifted petal leaves the tree-
Though white of bloom as it had been before
And proudly waitful of fecundity-
One little loveliness can be no more;
And so must Beauty bow her imperfect head
Because a dream has joined the wistful dead!
- Dorothy Parker

Tuesday, September 9, 2014


Stasis in darkness.
Then the substanceless blue
Pour of tor and distances.

God’s lioness,
How one we grow,
Pivot of heels and knees!—The furrow

Splits and passes, sister to
The brown arc
Of the neck I cannot catch,

Berries cast dark

Black sweet blood mouthfuls,
Something else

Hauls me through air—
Thighs, hair;
Flakes from my heels.

Godiva, I unpeel—
Dead hands, dead stringencies.

And now I
Foam to wheat, a glitter of seas.
The child’s cry

Melts in the wall.
And I
Am the arrow,

The dew that flies
Suicidal, at one with the drive
Into the red

Eye, the cauldron of morning.
- Sylvia Plath, "Ariel"

Saturday, September 6, 2014


William Butler Yeats, this arch-conservative, was right in is diagnosis of the XXth century, when he wrote: "...The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere / the ceremony of innocence is drowned; / the best lack all conviction, while the worst / are full of passionate intensity." (The Second Coming, 1920). The key to his diagnosis is contained in the phrase "ceremony of innocence," which is to be taken in the precise sense of Edith Wharton's "age of innocence": Newton's wife, the "innocent" the title refers to, was not a naïve believer in her husband's fidelity - she knew well of his passionate love for Countess Olenska, she just politely ignored it and staged the belief in his fidelity... In one of the Marx brothers' films, Groucho Marx, when caught in a lie, answers angrily: "Whom do you believe, your eyes or my words?"

This apparently absurd logic renders perfectly the functioning of the symbolic order, in which the symbolic mask-mandate matters more than the direct reality of the individual who wears this mask and/or assumes this mandate. This functioning involves the structure of fetishist disavowal: "I know very well that things are the way I see them /that this person is a corrupt weakling, but I nonetheless treat him respectfully, since he wears the insignia of a judge, so that when he speaks, it is the Law itself which speaks through him". So, in a way, I effectively believe his words, not my eyes, i.e. I believe in Another Space (the domain of pure symbolic authority) which matters more than the reality of its spokesmen. The cynical reduction to reality thus falls short: when a judge speaks, there is in a way more truth in his words (the words of the Institution of law) than in the direct reality of the person of judge - if one limits oneself to what one sees, one simply misses the point. This paradox is what Lacan aims at with his les non-dupes errent: those who do not let themselves be caught in the symbolic deception/fiction and continue to believe their eyes are the ones who err most.
- Slavoj Zizek, "With or Without Passion: What's Wrong with Fundamentalism"

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Delphian Oracles

THERE all the golden codgers lay,
There the silver dew,
And the great water sighed for love,
And the wind sighed too.
Man-picker Niamh leant and sighed
By Oisin on the grass;
There sighed amid his choir of love
Tall pythagoras.
plotinus came and looked about,
The salt-flakes on his breast,
And having stretched and yawned awhile
Lay sighing like the rest.
Straddling each a dolphin's back
And steadied by a fin,
Those Innocents re-live their death,
Their wounds open again.
The ecstatic waters laugh because
Their cries are sweet and strange,
Through their ancestral patterns dance,
And the brute dolphins plunge
Until, in some cliff-sheltered bay
Where wades the choir of love
Proffering its sacred laurel crowns,
They pitch their burdens off.
William Butler Yeats, "News For The Delphic Oracle"

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Tempest of Lives

...and if money only serves to create and maintain social distance?

Away a few days, we return to a deluge—
ankle deep in the basement—
window-leaked above, over-saturated beneath: the papers and maps
scattered all over the floor past salvage: we tear
up sodden carpet, peel heavy strips from concrete, try to envision
how to free it, sticky adhesive-backed, from loaded shelves, with maximum efficacy.

But first I command, Come see,
standing at the door of a little girl's closet and a deluge
of dozens and, to my limited vision,
identical pink plastic shoes, whose meaning
I can't help but mull: the tyranny
of shop, shopping, shopper—life's map

wiped and remapped
with permissible destinations, borders, sights; filling the sea
of need with things that will not satisfy but deter
motion in a deluge:
and just in case the love of flip-flops does not suffice to halt all movement
she's tethered to television,

house to car, bedroom to kitchen, breakfast to dinner, no division
on this crucial point.
I meant
to mention the summer season
at the children's theater where I work, deluge
my friends with appeals to watch a show, volunteer

to host her, if she'd like to act, tear
her away a while, but revise
my speech before it's begun, deluged
by Disney, by princesses, by product tie-ins, each mapped
to one movie or another, her life its own sequel
which, without the urtext, means

nothing. Nothing will come from nothing. Meaning
that King Lear's on stage this weekend tearing
the eyes of its characters, its audience, to make us, if not see
better, at least look at the world through another lens, caught up in the vision
of a father who orders the future on a map
that none will honor when the rains

arrive, as if his reign meant
something more than a few dashed lines on a fake treasure map, torn
and divided, written in water, then swallowed by the sea.
Wendy Vardaman, "Reason Not the Need"

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


" Deux amants rêvent de prendre la place de l'autre mais meurent à essayer "

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Instrumentally Speaking...

A poem, in my opinion, is opposed to a work of science by having, for its immediate object, pleasure, not truth; to romance, by having for its object an indefinite instead of a definite pleasure, being a poem only so far as this object is attained; romance presenting perceptible images with definite, poetry with in definite sensations, to which end music is an essential, since the comprehension of sweet sound is our most indefinite conception. Music, when combined with a pleasurable idea, is poetry; music without the idea is simply music; the idea without the music is prose from its very definitiveness.

What was meant by the invective against him who had no music in his soul?
- E.A. Poe, "Letter to Mr. B-"

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Dreaming Wide Awake

The thought of what America would be like
If the Classics had a wide circulation
Troubles my sleep,
The thought of what America,
The thought of what America,
The thought of what America would be like
If the Classics had a wide circulation
Troubles my sleep.
Nunc dimittis, now lettest thou thy servant,
Now lettest thou thy servant
Depart in peace.
The thought of what America,
The thought of what America,
The thought of what America would be like
If the Classics had a wide circulation . . .
Oh well!
It troubles my sleep.
- Ezra Pound, "Cantico del Sole"

Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Walking-Dead Man's Lament

They hail me as one living,
But don't they know
That I have died of late years,
Untombed although?

I am but a shape that stands here,
A pulseless mould,
A pale past picture, screening
Ashes gone cold.

Not at a minute's warning,
Not in a loud hour,
For me ceased Time's enchantments
In hall and bower.

There was no tragic transit,
No catch of breath,
When silent seasons inched me
On to this death ....

— A Troubadour-youth I rambled
With Life for lyre,
The beats of being raging
In me like fire.

But when I practised eyeing
The goal of men,
It iced me, and I perished
A little then.

When passed my friend, my kinsfolk,
Through the Last Door,
And left me standing bleakly,
I died yet more;

And when my Love's heart kindled
In hate of me,
Wherefore I knew not, died I
One more degree.

And if when I died fully
I cannot say,
And changed into the corpse-thing
I am to-day,

Yet is it that, though whiling
The time somehow
In walking, talking, smiling,
I live not now.
- Thomas Hardy, "The Dead Man Walking"

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Never Forget It...

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

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Old Rockers Retirement Home

Strolling around town
At prohibited time
Ignoring the church bell sounds
While I see people hurrying
Down the sidewalk
On their way to work

Think maybe I'll find
Pen and paper
And have a coffee somewhere

Or maybe not

Monday, August 18, 2014

Mythical Horizons

But without myth every culture loses the healthy natural power of its creativity: only a horizon defined by myths completes and unifies a whole cultural movement. Myth alone saves all the powers of the imagination and of the Apollinian dream from their aimless wanderings. The images of the myth have to be the unnoticed omnipresent demonic guardians, under whose care the young soul grows to maturity and whose signs help the man to interpret his life and struggles. Even the state knows no more powerful unwritten laws than the mythical foundation that guarantees its connection with religion and its growth from mythical notions.

By way of comparison let us now picture the abstract man, untutored by myth; abstract education; abstract morality; abstract law; abstract state; let us imagine the lawless roving of the artistic imagination, unchecked by any native myth; let us think of a culture that has no fixed and sacred primordial site but is doomed to exhaust all possibilities and to nourish itself wretchedly on all other cultures--there we have the present age, the result of that Socratism which is bent on the destruction of myth. And now the mythless man stands eternally hungry, surrounded by all past ages, and digs and grubs for roots, even if he has to dig for them among the remotest antiquities. The tremendous historical need of our unsatisfied modern culture, the assembling around one of countless other cultures, the consuming desire for knowledge--what does all this point to, if not to the loss of myth, the loss of the mythical home, the mythical maternal womb? Let us ask ourselves whether the feverish and uncanny excitement of this culture is anything but the greedy seizing and snatching at food of a hungry man--and who would care to contribute anything to a culture that cannot be satisfied no matter how much it devours, and at whose contact the most vigorous and wholesome nourishment is changed into "history and criticism"?
- Nietzsche, "The Birth of Tragedy"

Green Languages

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!"
He chortled in his joy.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Catching the Dreamer's Disease

Prevailing ideologies are exposed by both our dreams (speaking in a Freudian sense) and by the artwork we are attracted to (speaking in a pop cultural sense).


"The first step to freedom is not just to change reality to fit your deams - it's to change the way you dream, and again this hurts, because all satisfactions we have come from our dreams."
-Slavoj Zizek

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Cultural Symbolism

Just as all colours disappear in black, so all names and forms disappear in her"
-- Mahanirvana Tantra

Monday, August 11, 2014

Jazz it Up!

Life, he said,
is a set of chords
and looked at me sideways
along the piano,
you might even say
the solo itself.
It runs the ancient
inner stairways,
first to fifth
to fourth to first.
Many I've known .
are a popular song,
those thirty two bars
and the bridge lifting through
its cycle of fifths.
Others are given
a shorter course,
the twelve bar blues
with three chords only
or a few substitutions
to smooth out the curves.
Some shorter ones
are free form purely,
a few are fixed
in a single mode.
Life for most
is major triads,
standard sevenths -
a few have flattened
ninths and fifths.
And time, he said,
is mostly common –
4/4, 8/8.
Some are waltzes;
the smarter ones
incline at times
to the harder fractions,
that style of thing.
Choice of instruments
is crucial.
Some thirty twos
are tenor sax always,
fibrous and strident –
others I've seen
are clarinet only,
skating exactly
the same round of chords.
Certain lives
are blues throughout,
a muted trumpet
growling in corners.
Some should always
have been a flute -
then end up tuba
in Dixieland.
We're all of us solos
one way or another.
Haven't you felt it
certain mornings?
You're running up fast
to the middle eight,
the drummer goes for his
fancy fill,
your trumpet hits
the top note from
the next chord on
just to lift
the height a little.
Or weren't you once
like me, he said,
the last held chord
of a Gershwin ballad,
a glassy arpeggio
floating up slowly
and off the piano.
The number of choruses
varies a bit
but the freedom of
the notes is endless -
scales of the chords,
scales of the scales,
passing notes
you get away with,
chromatic runs,
infinite splittings
of the beat.
So many solos,
so many patterns ...
He stared at me hard
and hit an F7.
Life, he said,
is a set of chords –
and God, of course,
a jazz musician.

Geoff Page, "Parable in 4/4"

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Cavorting with Commoners

By the willow and not the shady oak
Is where you'll find honest common folk
As the chatter echoes with the trees
A memory fades with the passing breeze

A robin is doing what robin's do
Up with the wind and away he flew
The sun is hot the day is bright
An Adirondack morn, what a heavenly sight

A cigarette he lit, a coffee he drank
And I knew right then I had him to thank
Doing always what dad's do
A sense of respect from there it grew
- M Rene Riel, "Common Folk"

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Surpassing the Ego Ideal?

The logic of Batman’s (or Superman’s or Spiderman’s) mask is given a comical twist in The Mask with Jim Carrey: it is the Mask which changes the ordinary guy into a superhero. The link between the Mask and sexuality is rendered clear in the second Superman movie: sex (making love to a woman) is incompatible with the power of the Mask, i.e., the price Superman has to pay for his consummated love is to become a normal mortal human. The Mask is thus the a-sexual “partial object” which allows the subject to remain in (or regress to) the pre-Oedipal anal-oral universe where there is no death and guilt, just endless fun and fight – no wonder the Jim Carrey character in The Mask is obsessed with cartoons: the universe of cartoons is such an undead universe without sex and guilt, a universe of infinite plasticity in which every time after a person (or animal) is destroyed it magically recomposes itself and the struggle goes on…

Who, then, is Joker who wants to disclose the truth beneath the Mask, convinced that this disclosure will destroy the social order? He is not a man without mask, but, on the contrary, a man fully identified with his mask, a man who IS his mask – there is nothing, no “ordinary guy,” beneath his mask. (Recall a similar story about Lacan: those who got to know him personally, to observe him how he is in private, when he was not enacting his public image, were surprised to learn that, in private, he behaved in exactly the same way as in public, with all his ridiculously-affected mannerisms.) This is why Joker has no back-story and lacks any clear motivation: he tells different people different stories about his scars, mocking the idea that he should have some deep-rooted trauma that drives him. How, then, do Batman and Joker relate? Is Joker Batman’s own death-drive embodied? Is Batman Joker’s destructivity put in the service of society?

A further parallel is to be drawn between The Dark Knight and E. A. Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death”. In the secluded castle in which the mighty retire to survive the plague (“Red Death”) ravaging the country, Prince Prospero organizes a lavish masked ball. At midnight, Prospero notices one figure in a blood-spattered, dark robe resembling a funeral shroud, with a skull-like mask depicting a victim of the Red Death. Gravely insulted, Prospero demands to know the identity of the mysterious guest; when the figure turns to face him, the Prince falls dead at a glance. The enraged by-standers corned the stranger and remove his mask, only to find the costume empty – the figure reveals itself as the personification of the Red Death itself which goes on to destroy all life in the castle. Like Joker and all revolutionaries, the Red Death also wants the masks to fall down and the truth to be disclosed to the public – one can thus also claim that, in Russia in 1917, the Red Death penetrated the Romanov castle and caused its downfall. Does, then, the film’s extraordinary popularity not point towards the fact that it touches a nerve of our ideologico-political constellation: the undesirability of truth? In this sense, The Dark Knight is effectively a new version of the two John Ford western classics (Fort Apache and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance) which deploy how, in order to civilize the Wild West, the Lie has to be elevated into Truth – in short, how our civilization is grounded onto a Lie. The question to be raised here is: why, at our precise moment, this renewed need for a Lie to maintain the social system?
- Slavoj Zizek, "Hollywood Today: Report from an Ideological Frontline'

Friday, August 1, 2014

The Gaze Attracted

eyes meet, impulse to stare

the intent gaze intensifies
the chaotic world continues
but all of its frivolities
disappear in the fog

for a five-second span
time and place forgotten
a name, a purpose, a thought
lost in the stupor

lids stay strained
will not dare to blink
every flake of worry
vanishes in the misty haze

heads turn, moment gone.
- Jami Gilford, "Eye Contact"

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

NG in Venice - Sampling Some Surplus Jouissance...

In capitalist society health is the capability to earn, among the Greeks it was the capability to enjoy, and in the Middle Ages the capability to believe.
- Ernst Bloch, "The principle of hope"
Health is a wavering notion, if not directly in medical terms, then in social terms. Health is by no means solely a medical notion, but predominantly a societal one. Restoring to health again means in reality bringing the sick man to that kind of health which is respectively acknowledged in each respective society, and which was in fact first formed in that society itself.
- Ernst Bloch, "The principle of hope"
Metopia: 1) Refers to elite social groups and their surroundings, specifically the wealthiest urban communities that are isolated from poverty and the lower-middle income class.

2) May be used to describe the frame of mind of individuals that think that as long as they are doing well financially, the rest of the world is doing well.
- Urban Dictionary

Friday, July 25, 2014

Confronting Impossibilities

I no longer wonder
if I'll ever hold the wind
or catch a falling star

if I'll ever walk on water
or find a single raindrop
resting on the ocean floor

or if I'll ever find the words
to describe how beautiful you are

and you should no longer wonder
if I'll every stop loving you

because some things are just impossible
- Jacob Serento

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Faith's New Rebellious Defenders

There lives more faith in honest doubt, believe me, than in half the creeds.
- Alfred Lord Tennyson

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Reprogramming and Bounding Rebellion

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?
- Langston Hughes, "Harlem"
This, then, is the formula provided: "So that each thing that obeys law may have the glory and isolation of the anarchist." So that Law is the greatest transgression, the defender of the Law the greatest rebel. However, where is the limit of this dialectic? DOES IT HOLD ALSO FOR GOD HIMSELF? Is He, the embodiment of cosmic order and harmony, ALSO the ultimate rebel, or is He a benign authority observing from a peaceful Above with bemused wisdom the follies of mortal men struggling each other? Here is the reply of God when Syme turns to him and asks him: "Have you ever suffered?"

As /Syme/ gazed, the great face grew to an awful size, grew larger than the colossal mask of Memnon, which had made him scream as a child. It grew larger and larger, filling the whole sky; then everything went black. Only in the blackness before it entirely destroyed his brain he seemed to hear a distant voice saying a commonplace text that he had heard somewhere, 'Can ye drink of the cup that I drink of?'

This final revelation - that God Himself suffers even more than us, mortals, brings us to the fundamental insight of Orthodoxy, Chesterton's theological masterpiece (which belongs to the same period: he published it a year later than Thursday), not only the insight into how orthodoxy is the greatest transgression, the most rebellious and adventurous thing, but a much darker insight into the central mystery of Christianity:

When the world shook and the sun was wiped out of heaven, it was not at the crucifixion, but at the cry from the cross: the cry which confessed that God was forsaken of God. And now let the revolutionists choose a creed from all the creeds and a god from all the gods of the world, carefully weighing all the gods of inevitable recurrence and of unalterable power. They will not find another god who has himself been in revolt. Nay (the matter grows too difficult for human speech), but let the atheists themselves choose a god. They will find only one divinity who ever uttered their isolation; only one religion in which God seemed for an instant to be an atheist.
-Slavoj Zizek, "Hegel - Chesterton: German Idealism and Christianity"

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Life in a Fantasy World

The child's toys and the old man's reasons
Are the fruits of the two seasons.
- William Blake, "Auguries of Innocence"

Friday, July 18, 2014

Spectrums of Mind

Even light itself, which every thing displays,
Shone undiscovered, till his brighter mind
Untwisted all the shining robe of day;
And, from the whitening undistinguished blaze,
Collecting every ray into his kind,
To the charmed eye educed the gorgeous train
Of parent colours. First the flaming red
Sprung vivid forth; the tawny orange next;
And next delicious yellow; by whose side
Fell the kind beams of all-refreshing green.
Then the pure blue, that swells autumnal skies
Ethereal played; and then, of sadder hue,
Emerged the deepened indigo, as when
The heavy-skirted evening droops with frost;
While the last gleamings of refracted light
Died in the fainting violet away.
— James Thomson, "A Poem Sacred to the Memory of Sir Isaac Newton" (1700–1748)

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Twisting Twines

"The endless cycle of idea and action,
Endless invention, endless experiment,
Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness;
Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;
Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word.
All our knowledge brings us nearer to our ignorance,
All our ignorance brings us nearer to death,
But nearness to death no nearer to God.
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?
The cycles of Heaven in twenty centuries
Bring us farther from God and nearer to the Dust.”
― T.S. Eliot

Friday, July 11, 2014

Blasts of Creative Chaos

Á Nadar

Do you know, as I do, delicious sadness
and make others say of you: ‘Strange man!’
- I was dying. In my soul, singular illness,
desire and horror were mingled as one:
anguish and living hope, no factious bile.
The more the fatal sand ran out, the more
acute, delicious my torment: my heart entire
was tearing itself away from the world I saw.
I was like a child eager for the spectacle,
hating the curtain as one hates an obstacle…
at last the truth was chillingly revealed:
I’d died without surprise, dreadful morning
enveloped me. – Was this all there was to see?
The curtain had risen, and I was still waiting.
- Charles Baudelaire, "The Inquisitive Man’s Dream"

Sunday, July 6, 2014


...There was something more than a principle I abandoned, when I abandoned the equal distribution, it was a bodily need. But to suck the stones in the way I have described, not haphazard, but with method, was also I think a bodily need. Here then were two incompatible bodily needs, at loggerheads. Such things happen. But deep down I didn't give a tinker's curse about being off my balance, dragged to the right hand and the left, backwards and forewards. And deep down it was all the same to me whether I sucked a different stone each time or always the same stone, until the end of time. For they all tasted exactly the same. And if I had collected sixteen, it was not in order to ballast myself in such and such a way, or to suck them turn about, but simply to have a little store, so as never to be without. But deep down I didn't give a fiddler's curse about being without, when they were all gone they would be all gone, I wouldn't be any the worse off, or hardly any. And the solution to which I rallied in the end was to throw away all the stones but one, which I kept now in one pocket, now in another, and which of course I soon lost, or threw away, or gave away, or swallowed ...
- Samuel Beckett, "Malloy"
Vladmimir: Well? Shall we go?

Estragon: Yes, let's go.

[They do not move.]
- Samuel Beckett, "Waiting for Godot"

Friday, July 4, 2014

Battles with Despondency

I have gone backward in the work,
The labour has not sped,
Drowsy and dark my spirit lies,
Heavy and dull as lead.
How can I rouse my sinking soul
From such a lethargy?
How can I break these iron chains,
And set my spirit free?

There have been times when I have mourned,
In anguish o'er the past;
And raised my suppliant hands on high,
While tears fell thick and fast,

And prayed to have my sins forgiven
With such a fervent zeal,
An earnest grief --- a strong desire
That now I cannot feel!

And vowed to trample on my sins,
And called on Heaven to aid
My spirit in her firm resolves
And hear the vows I made.

And I have felt so full of love,
So strong in spirit then,
As if my heart would never cool
Or wander back again.

And yet, alas! how many times
My feet have gone astray,
How oft have I forgot my God,
How greatly fallen away!

My sins increase, my love grows cold,
And Hope within me dies,
And Faith itself is wavering now,
O how shall I arise!

I cannot weep but I can pray,
Then let me not despair;
Lord Jesus, save me lest I die,
And hear a wretch's prayer.
- Anne Brontë

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Freudian Dream Symbolism

The theme of “drawer” takes yet another turn as we are searching for psychoanalytic meanings about the subject of “drawers” or “boxes”. Throughout Freud’s works, we come across two principle meanings with which drawers tend to be associated: 1) a chest of drawers is equated to a torso of a woman, as Salvador Dali already depicted it in both painting and sculpture with The City of Drawers and The Woman with Drawers. The “empty” drawer, on the other hand is a symbol of a woman’s uterus, a space that produces life but also forebodes death. Thus by extension, the drawer/ box also acquires the meaning of the final box/ the casket in which we place the dead body. In his Interpretations of Dreams (1900), Freud writes: “that the heart will be represented by hollow boxes or baskets (p.86.); “Boxes, cases, chests, cupboards and ovens represent the uterus” (p. 354); A man had a dream of 2 his brother being in a Kasten [box]. In the course of interpretation, the Kasten was replaced by a Schrank [cupboard - also used abstractly for ‘barrier’, restriction]. The dream – thought had been to the effect that his brother ought to restrict himself [sich einschraenken] - instead of the dreamer doing so. “(407) In Freud’s famous case history of Dora, the symbolism of box/ Schachtel acquires center stage as one of her dreams reveals the close unconscious link between a box and a woman as well as the tie between a key and a man. Freud (1905) writes, “Where is the key?” seems to me to be the masculine counterpart to the question “Where is the box?. They are therefore questions referring-to-the genitals.” (p.97)

In a later, less known essay, The Theme of the Three Caskets (1913), Freud discusses The Merchant of Venice and King Lear and derives at the conclusion that when a man has to choose between three caskets as the suitors are obliged to do as they woo for Portia, the suitors are not really choosing between three caskets but between three women. “If what we were concerned with were a dream, it would occur to us at once that caskets are also women, symbols of what is essential in woman, and therefore of a woman herself - like coffers, boxes, cases, baskets and so on.” (1913, p. 292)
- Jeanne Wolff-Bernstein

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Just a Snort!

The first time I drank gin
I thought it must be hair tonic.
My brother swiped the bottle
from a guy whose father owned
a drug store that sold booze
in those ancient, honorable days
when we acknowledged the stuff
was a drug. Three of us passed
the bottle around, each tasting
with disbelief. People paid
for this? People had to have
it, the way we had to have
the women we never got near.
(Actually they were girls, but
never mind, the important fact
was their impenetrability. )
Leo, the third foolish partner,
suggested my brother should have
swiped Canadian whiskey or brandy,
but Eddie defended his choice
on the grounds of the expressions
"gin house" and "gin lane," both
of which indicated the preeminence
of gin in the world of drinking,
a world we were entering without
understanding how difficult
exit might be. Maybe the bliss
that came with drinking came
only after a certain period
of apprenticeship. Eddie likened
it to the holy man's self-flagellation
to experience the fullness of faith.
(He was very well read for a kid
of fourteen in the public schools. )
So we dug in and passed the bottle
around a second time and then a third,
in the silence each of us expecting
some transformation. "You get used
to it," Leo said. "You don't
like it but you get used to it."
I know now that brain cells
were dying for no earthly purpose,
that three boys were becoming
increasingly despiritualized
even as they took into themselves
these spirits, but I thought then
I was at last sharing the world
with the movie stars, that before
long I would be shaving because
I needed to, that hair would
sprout across the flat prairie
of my chest and plunge even
to my groin, that first girls
and then women would be drawn
to my qualities. Amazingly, later
some of this took place, but
first the bottle had to be
emptied, and then the three boys
had to empty themselves of all
they had so painfully taken in
and by means even more painful
as they bowed by turns over
the eye of the toilet bowl
to discharge their shame. Ahead
lay cigarettes, the futility
of guaranteed programs of
exercise, the elaborate lies
of conquest no one believed,
forms of sexual torture and
rejection undreamed of. Ahead
lay our fifteenth birthdays,
acne, deodorants, crabs, salves,
butch haircuts, draft registration,
the military and political victories
of Dwight Eisenhower, who brought us
Richard Nixon with wife and dog.
Any wonder we tried gin.
- Philip Levine, "Gin"