Tuesday, December 30, 2003
Hide meaning behind
Narrative stanzas perfected
Frozen in a moment of
Indebted to ideas
Unthought, more than
She was cleaning her toe-nails again.
Diderik Humble jr. detested the sickly sweet smell of butyl acetat (it boils at 125 degrees C, he though). Sinsemilla was leaning forward to aplly the nail polish remover. Then she would wipe her nails clean with a cotton pad, which she would the proceed to throw behind the front seats, adding to the pile of pads with a pink stint that separated the front of the car from the back.
Another BMW passed them on the highway from Bagdad. Diderik Humble humped along in his Trabant on the highway's shoulder, windows wide open, relishing each breath of fresh air provided by the passing vehicles.
"Look, there's another BM," Sinsemilla shrieked. "That makes three today."
Diderik Humble glanced over at her, still crouched over her nails, her hair flowing in the wind from the passing car. She looked content, he thought.
"No, we can't afford a BM," she said, her voice sounding grave, but was there a hint of a mocking smile at the corner of her lips?
Sinsemilla reached over to change the dial on the car radio. Out of the chaotic sparks of the ether, she managed to extract a song by The Humperdinkies, and sang along happily.
Diderik Humble straightened up in the driver's seat. They wouldn't arrive at the border post until midnight, and he had no idea if they might encounter problems at the crossing. He had expected a larger stream of cars heading for Uqbar since it was announced on the radio last night that the borders were now opened.
Bagdad hadn't been the refuge he had hoped for. He wanted to be somewhere far away from his countrymen, where he could live in splendid isolation with Sinsemilla, and she in splendid isolation with him. But the city was already seething with faces he recognized from the home office. It was as if they had come here to escape the thronged poverty of their central administration, hoping for a fresh start in the Newly Purchased Subsidiaries.
Perhaps it was a law of existence, Humble thought, that all corporations must spill over themselves, as if there was a constant tendency in all business life to expand beyond the what could be managed, like the Megaceros hibernicus, mutating until its antlers were four meters along the curvature, intimidating rivals and impressing potential mates, until one day its antlers had grown so large and heavy that it could no longer lift its head to see where it was going, falling off cliffs and stuck as prey for hungry, lonely wolfs.
In a state of imbecility, Diderik, for amusement, turned his attention to political economy. He had poured the pages of proto- luddite Ricardo's "Dialogues of the Three Templas," a very capable disputation of the notion that there is an "inexorable" tendency for profits to decline.
Diderik had said, before he had finished the first chapter, "Thou art the man!" Wonder and curiosity were emotions that had long been dead in him. Yet he wondered once more: He wondered at himself that he could once again be stimulated to the effort of reading: and much more he wondered at the book.
Lost in his though, Diderik had forgotten to pay attention to the gas gauge, and, noting that it indicated it was time to fill more gas, he announced, "It's time to fill more gas, Sinsemilla."
"Ok," she said, staring out the window at the odd olive tree floating by the car. He could see by the reflection of her face that she had put on some of her glossy lipstick and purple shades on her eyelids. She scratched her bare foot. Diderik navigated the car into the gas station.
It's strange, though Diderik as he had handled the pump, that such an establishment would be referred to as a petrol station, a gas station, or a garage, depending on its linguistic location. From the corner of his eye he saw Sinsemilla strolling across the tar. He turned his head and saw a red Alfa Romeo round-tailed Spider parked at the far end of the station area. A Dean Corso-type character had his head out the window.
As he exited the station building, Diderik observed that Sinsemilla was already seated in their car. He got inside the car and got it back on the highway. Sinsemilla didn't say a word. Two can play that game, he though, and said, perhaps a little too loud, "Two can play that game."
"What game? What are you talking about?"
"Silence. We can drive in silence."
Sinsemilla looked at him for a moment, tilting her head forward in what Diderik had decided was feigned disbelief.
"Whatever," she said.
Diderik tapped his fingers on the wheel.
"Not a word," he continued.
Friday, December 19, 2003
Georg Johannesen, Norway's sole professor of rhetoric and the man behind
DARK TIMES -- a conversation (after Brecht)
In dark times / only the wise speak / They say: Here only a few / can be saved
In dark times / only fools sing / They sing: It's good / that the grass is green
I do not sing / I do not speak / Wise men are silent in / dark times
In dark times / I am not wise / I sing and speak / of the dark times
PROPOSITION FOR AN EXPERIMENT
When you who opens my heart with a prayer / Find nothing but answers, it is due to me
When you who opens my heart with a knife / Find nothing but blood, it is due to the knife
...is out with a new book, News about Ibsen, and has let hisself be interviewed by Dagbladet, Norway's Guardian-like daily. Reporter is Fredrik Wandrup (himself author of a biography on Jens Bjørneboe). Some highlights:
"I'm always bitter, but never angry," GJ reassures us.
When reporters ask if I'm a socially engaged poet, I answer that they're on the wrong track. It is those who write commentaries and opinions on the second and third pages of the dailies that are socially engaged poets. A newspaper is a collection of poems until the opposite is proven. VG [local Torygraph] is modern poetry on free verse in news print and in tabloid format. Dagbladet is henceforth and from tomorrow morning a daily poetry collection without metre or rhythm.
And where does Ibsen enter into the picture?
I don't want to say bad things about Henrik Ibsen. NRK [local BBC] and the Parliament compete to be considered Norway's two premier national theatres, far ahead of Henrik Ibsen and lagging somewhat behind Ludvig Holberg.
[We will cut here, and move on to GJ's estimation of specific plays by Ibsen.]
What about Emperor and Galilean [Kejser og Galilæer, one of Ibsen's early, spectacular plays, traditionally considered in somewhat bad taste]?
A magnificent piece, in a total of ten acts. Hollywood's most expensive biblical tales are preceded by the stage directions of this play. They are written as world historical news bulletins in German- Gothic ruins. Emperor Julian is a Dionysian heathen. The Empress plainly and physically detests her husband. She gets to say it before she dies from poisoning, but pregnant, with the emperor's more virile brother. She is a heathen whore. She has enough sex. The Emperor is a Holbergian cuckold.
Ibsen's later fame was due to his supposed critique of society?
His contemporary dramas aren't that interesting anymore. They have too much puritan sex. They are ladies' novels to be read aloud. Ibsen's women are horny ladies who are disregarded by their impotent husbands. Social scientists with no sense of history are pulled to the theatre by their wives to attend these plays. There they get to see how little men understand of women. [...] The play is marital pornography of uncertain use in psychiatry, but of certain use to Northern German noble ladies until 1917.
After the diaphragm and the pill the lady was privatized to her inner market. Nora shoots Helmer. Hilde shoots Master Builder Solness. Hedda Gabler has an abortion and becomes Minister of Children. Rita Allmers sells dildos to herself. Sigrid Undset claimed there were thirteen to the dozen of Hedda Gablers. She said Ibsen had prejudices against women, but that they were lovable prejudices. One would have to be old-fashioned like Ibsen to take these characters seriously. The main characters of Ibsen's contemporary dramas are often dumb. Several of them tries to be insane without really succeeding, or have turned insane without anyone noticing. The Master Builder should be performed as a farce.
When you call your book News about Ibsen, it's obviously ironic. What's new?
Everything is new, all the time. Greek philosopher Heraclitus said that you can't swim in the same river twice. Anyone who reads Ibsen again, do it anew. Everybody is an intellectual. Everybody can think. Everybody can talk. A person is a philosopher and artist interpreting the world.
The Media as well?
NRK is Norway's premier vocalist, and they broadcast The Religion of Norway, which consists of moralizing foreign policy. When I watch the 9 o'clock news I see it as a kind of witty sermon. The anchors bring out the comedian in me.
In the essay on Ibsen you ask if Jesus should have been taken off the cross and sent by air ambulance, financed from Norway, to attend family counselling in Jerusalem?
According to The Religion of Norway that could have been the correct approach. There Jesus would meet 500 poorly educated, but generously remunerated, crisis therapists who could have cured him from his self- delusion that he was a god who should save the world. Because that would have been accomplished already by Norway.
Donna Haraway says: "the cyborg is a creature in a post-gender world; it has no truck with bisexuality, pre-oedipal symbiosis, unalienated labour, or other seductions to organic wholeness through a final appropriation of all the powers of the parts into a higher unity. In a sense, the cyborg has no origin story in the Western sense."
Thursday, December 18, 2003
May I point out that the Buddhist position would appear to be that self-deception is possible because there is no self to deceive (and, of course, because there is no self to do the deceiving).
Funny you should mention that, as I just observed the following passage in Zizek:
When we denounce as idological the very attempt to draw a clear line of demarcation between ideology and actual reality, this inevitably seems to impose the conclusion that the only non-ideological position is to renounce the bery notion of extra-ideological reality and accept that all we are dealing with are symbolic fictions, the plurality of discursive universes, never 'reality,' we must none the less maintain the tension that keeps the CRITIQUE of ideology alive. [...] Ideology is not all; it is possible to assume a place that enables us to maintain a distance from it, but this place from which one can denounce ideology must remain empty, it cannot be occupied by any positively determined reality -- the moment we yield to this temptation we are back in ideology. (Slavoj Zizek, “The Spectre of Ideology”, The Zizek Reader, p70)
Ideology would appear to imply fixity, or sutured signification in Zizek, while it's critique may only be employed from a position of non-fixity. This is of relevance to studies of nationalism, since it would entail that it's critique can not successfully be launched from the position of foreigner, which is precisely nationalism's meaning- giving other, the point of fixity against which the nation is stabilized. It also means that a non-ideological position can never be finally arrived at, however it must [for ethical reasons?] remain a posibility as a condition for ideological critique.
It should be added that in the approach of Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe it is not required to supply ethical arguments in order to enable signification's non-fixity. In their view, any articulation is constituted as any practice (linguistic and extra-linguistic) that establishes a relation among elements so as to modify their identity, or as attempt to fix floating elements as discursive moments. Since there can be no suture to this kind of social practice, there will always remain endless posibilities for different articulations of the same elements.
As Volosinov points out, the word is split.
Sunday, December 14, 2003
With Cardinal Mistos stored away in a prison cell in some Carribean Island, or, even better, spectacularly Hung On The Town Square, Sotsim's Enemy Numero Uno with be history. The last pockets of resistance from within the Newly Acquired Companies would wither away, and Managing Director Sotsim could introduce his final solution to the EyeRak Problem.
The Human Resources Division of TRU had estimated that it would be necessary to develop a policy on Lower-Level Employee Disposal, if TRU were to avoid future social disruptions in productivity. The Very Poorly Incomed to Extremely Poorly and Non Incomed ratio was diminishing, and, Human Resources estimated, would be in a 1:1 relation within a short time, unless the Corporation made an effort to take charge of the Problem.
Most of the suggestions offered by Human Resources entailed a significant expense on TRU's part, and Sotsim had spent many a sleepless night pondering how to design a plan that would make the Lower-Level Employees put up the cost of Solving the Problem. But this very morning he had woken up with a clear idea crystallized before his eyes. All he needed was Cardinal Mistos out of the way, and no resistance would be non-defeasible.
Managing Director Stimos called for an urgent meeting with the Members of the Marketing Division.
"The arrest of Cardinal Mistos removes the shadow hanging over our plans for the final solution the our Problem. Now we must make it clear to those people that the cause of their Low Level of Life lies with those who are Even Lower. If it hadn't been so many Really Poor People poaching on their resources, it would be more to share between fewer. Isn't that obvious to everyone?" Stimos asked rethorically.
The Members of the Marketing Division nodded their heads.
"So, to make a long story short, the problem is that there's too many Really Poor People. And the solution is To Make Less. Here's what I want you to do: Make a campaign that emphasises the problem of Reproduction among the Really Poor. Some disease or something. Get some of the Low Levels to support the campaign, and we have a winner!"
The Members of the Marketing Division nodded their heads.
Monday, December 08, 2003
Re-flecting on Bourdieu's notion of the failed gift-exchange in Outline of a Theory of Practice. I'm not sure, but would it be off the mark to read Bourdieu's intervention there as an attempt to understand mis-interpellation as a matter of academese?
To try to be specific, observe page 5. Contra the notion that an objective truth of gifts is to be found in the model (and not the observer) of gift exchange, Bourdieu rites:
Any really [the trick word] objective [oops, another one] analysis [dang, a third one] of the exchange of gifts, words, challenges, or even women must allow for the fact that each of these inaugural acts may misfire, and that it receives its meaning, in any case, from the response it triggers off, even if the response is a failure to reply that retrospectively removes its intended meaning.
What must be introduced to the problematic, if I read B correctly, is a sense of time, the meaning of temporal displacements of gift and counter-gift.
Ahem... Probably not very helpful, but it made itself written.
The lobby of Hotel Rio Grande do Sul was as she expected, its old-world charm intact. Inta was chaperoned to her room on the second floor, with a view to the pool, by a hotel clerk who had the name "Felix" inscribed between the hotel's logo and the slogan "These are the MOST significant of all times" on his badge. As he put her suitcase down, she turned from the window, where she had contemplated the view.
"Felix," Inta said.
"Could you do me a favor and bring me a cup of the local brew."
"Tea, I mean. The local tea."
"Certainly, Madam. Right away, Madam," Felix said and slunk out the door.
Inta had come to attend the Intra-Paracelcist biannual convention at the hotel. This year the proceeding would be devoted to the premise of "Deference, or a time not marked by prefiguration and fulfillment." She sat down by the small desk vis-a-vis the window, and leafed through the papers that had been left for idle guests. Between TRU Times, a short guide to local sites published by the Transverse Society, and the leaflet Night life in Uqbar, she found a sheet of paper, with the imprint "hlör u fang axaxaxas mlö." Underneath someone had written "Upward, behind the onstreaming it mooned. XS."
Felix arrived with the tea, and she paid him handsomely, watching his small buttocks are they wrestled beneath his white pants and made their way for the door. She turned to face the window, surprised that the moon was already up, shining almost as brightly as the sun had done a few minutes ago. Inta hadn't noticed the change, but now she realized that the moon gave a dark yellow gloss to the things it illuminated: the terrace and the swimming pool, the window frame and the curtains, the bed and her dress.
In the elevator, Inta was tapping her right index finger lightly on her purse, only to recognize the background music as one of the odes of "Crane Jackson's Fountain Street Theater," a copy of which she had acquired at a street sale in Toronto a few years previously. She decided not to allow it to collect dust. And, refreshed by the ambiguous muzak, she dived into the party of Paracelcists at Hotel Rio Grande do Sul in Uqbar.
The night was about to surrender to the inevitable day, and most of the conventioners had left the hotel bar for their respective lodgings, when Inta discovered a book that someone had left on a table in the far end of the room. Or, rather, a fragment of a book. Its cover lost, the pagination indicated that she had stumbled upon some ten pages of a larger volume. The first page of the fragment bore the title "Gift, time" and at the bottom of the page it was indicated that it was removed from a Volume X of A First Encyclopædia. It's author had subtitled the entry "Time of the Gift in Tlön," and was arguing against the notion of gift exchange propounded by the followers of one Diodorus, who had claimed that if it is true to say of a thing that it will be, then it must one day be true to say that it is, or, "Today is tomorrow, because yesterday tomorrow was today."
The author of the fragment claimed that the followers of Diodorus must be mistaken, since cycles of reciprocity are "not the irresistible gearing of obligatory practices." Gifts may suffer multiple faiths, and, because of it, can have no objective prediction. Rather, gifts receive their meanings from the responses they trigger. These responses may be deferred or instantaneous, legato or staccato, marked by delay or rush, but in either case, those who participate in the cycle must pretend that they do not possess full knowledge of the meanings of their exchange.
The first rule about counter-gifts, the author claimed, was that they should be deferred and different, or they could be taken as an insult. It mustn't be a return of the same kind of gift, that would be a refusal, or return, of the gift, and it must be preceded by an interval. The author quotes La Rochefoucauld in this regard: "Overmuch eagerness to discharge one's obligation is a form of ingratitude." It is a question of style, but in each case, and particularly with regard to their use of time, the participants must try to hide the truth of what they are doing from themselves and the others.
Inta shook her head with an astonished sense of dizziness. She took the pages from the table, and decided to bring them up to her room to study them further. She could tell the receptionist in the morning that she'd brought some papers to her room inadvertently, and that she'd like them to trace their owner. In the lobby she filled a glass with water from a bronze jar. It tasted peculiarly sweet.
Monday, December 01, 2003
After the victory of the Purified Nationalist Party in the 1948 elections, the South African state embarked on a program of hardened social boundaries along "racial" or "ethnic" lines.*1 Passport laws were hardened, control of influx to the cities were strengthened, the Immorality Act banned interracial marriages etc. In the 1950s Sophiatown was dismantled. Afrikaans gained recognition as an official language on par with English. On short, the attempt to suture the social by erecting non-permeable boundaries between whites and non-whites was pursued to the full extent of its logic. Cities were to be white, while non-whites were moved into townships and homelands.
This policy wasn't implemented without protest. The demonstration that in some ways inaugurated the modern resistance to apartheid was a peaceful protest by women burning their passports with the slogans "with passports we are slaves" and "women don't want passports." The period also saw the establishment of the PAC, the ANC Youth League, and the Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the ANC, led by Nelson Mandela, who was later convicted for treason in the Rivonia trials. By 1976 the protests were widespread and organized, to some extent, around popular imagery, such as the widely circulated picture of Nelson Mandela behind pridon bars. When the state, then, introduced Afrikaans as a compulsory language in schools, riots broke out in the South-Western Townships of Johannesburg (Soweto) and other areas. Schoolchildren refused instruction in what was perceived as the oppressor's language, and took to the streets, marching and singing songs of protest. The state responded with bullets. (See, e.g., Sarafina (starring Whoopi Goldberg) for a Brechtian rendition.) The international community responded with sanctions against the apartheid state.
2. The Total Strategy
By the time PW Botha took power, then, it was beyond doubt that the regime was in a serious crisis. It was threatened both from within and without, and the state articulated the juncture as a conspiracy of communists set to wreck havoc.*2 Botha's remedy, termed the total strategy, was two-pronged. Domestically, the state would attempt to manufacture and coopt a "black middle class" (this concept is still prominent in contemporary discourses on South African society), while, as a matter of promotion, it would reformulate a number of oppressive mechanisms to make them appear as more contemporary.
Hence, the homelands were now increasingly referred to as nations, with a degree of political autonomy. Passports controls were eased, while other forms of influx control was intensified. The powers and resources of the secred police grew immensely. Various programs of more "scientific" population control was investigated, such as the infamous project by Dr "Death" Besson to devise a chemical agent that would only kill people with a dark complexion. Foreign operations were intensified. (There is still suspicion that the South African Secret Service may have been behind the murder of Socialist prime minister Olof Palme, perhaps because of his vehement, principled and articulate opposition to the South African regime.)
In short, the total strategy consisted of intensified surveillance, increased powers of detention and detainment, and an attempt to appropriate modern discourses of democratic nationalism and free, individual choice as means to sustain the order. It was, however, not successful.
3. The aftermath: Articulating a chain of signification
The 1980s saw an increasing fragmentation within the hegemonic bloc. Business leaders got concessions on the National Party traditionally anti-capitalist line, signalling a shift from state intervention in the political economy to an increasing focus on maintaining an orderly social climate for business. The Wiehan report in 1979 recommended easing the long-standing ban on African trade unions in order to prevent wild strikes, and the Riekert Commision advised dismantling white job reservation while maintaining a rigorous control on influx to the cities. Complusory primary eduction was also introduced, though multiracial schools could only be run privately. Public amenities, such as hotels, restaurants and theatres, were no longer compulsorily segregated. In line with the 'total strategy', these measures were introduced to "intensify class differentials while reducing racial ones" (Hyslop 1988, Worden 1994), or, in a word, to make it possible to preserve entrenched social division within a global discourse of 'fair capitalism'.
With the failure of the tricameral constitution and intensified sanctions from the international community, FW de Klerk was may have been put in power with the task of dismantling the apartheid state as quietly and gracefully as possible. Hence, by the time the multiracial Mass Democratic Movement launched their civil disobedience campaign (the first sign of a major movement against the regime that included large numbers of those who had benefitted from it), the National Party was already busy repealing some of its most unpopular measures, such as the banning of ANC and PAC, the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela and the colonization of Namibia. In 1991 the Group Areas, Land and Population Registration Acts were repealed, and the CODESA negotiations instituted. After South Africa's first democratic elections in 1994, Nelson Mandela and the ANC took over as custodians of the South African state.
Let's fast forward a bit, to Thursday August 16, 2001. We are at a racism conference in the Western Cape province, an event held in conjunction with global UN conference on racism to be held in Durban, South Africa, later in the month. In Durban, leaders of states, international organizations and NGO will give well-meaning speeches on their fight on the scourge on racism. Tonight, however, we are about to witness Wanda Stoffberg taking the stage. She has been running the butchery Vleis Paleis in George, on the South African garden route, in face of increasing protests from neighbouring small- holders. As she serves a predominantly black clientele, her neighbours have successfully petitioned the local zoning authorities, controlled by the Democratic Alliance, to have her butchery closed. Stoffberg, in return, contacted the local branch of the ANC to recruit their support, and announced as much in the local newspaper. Tonight she will tell of the reaction from her local community.
At the gate of her smallholding, two men attacked her from behind, hitting, kicking and throttling her. Then one of them, who she saw from his hand was a white man, carved a "K" into her left breast.
"He said: This is a message from our boss. Those were his exact words. And kaffirboeties like me can't stay in George." The men said the "K" was "because I'm a kaffir-lover".
While goodwill prevails among ordinary people, she says, white supremacist attitudes had been forced on whites during the apartheid reign.
> As a child growing up in Beaufort West racism was "force-fed" to her every
> day of her life and at one stage she was even scared of black people.
> "One day you wake up and realise you have been part of something so bad
> and so wrong, for so long."
> People felt guilty when they realised this. Some ignored the guilt but
> others chose to deal with it.
> She said she had reservations about coming to speak at the conference,
> "but I decided to stand up for the truth for once in my life, a truth
> which many of us are still in denial of.
> "We should not tolerate any form of discrimination or racism in our
> country. The perpetrators should be punished. This is the humble message I
> want to bring to you," she said.
> "I want something positive to come from this. We are a nation in the
> process of healing... and I learned and believed today there are enough
> people in this country with goodwill to heal this country."
> Stoffberg, sitting on the stage after delivering her testimony, later
> broke down as another victim of a racist attack, Zola Plaatjie, wept as he
> was describing how he was assaulted by whites in Milnerton, Cape Town.
I am not suggesting here to view 1994, the year of South Africa's first parliamentary elections under general suffrage, as a moment of democratic redemption, of sorts, in the history of the country. Confining the practices with which apartheid is associated to the past enables the type of "current amazement that the things we are experiencing are 'still' possible [which] is not philosophical," as Benjamin demonstrates. By allowing the present to be defined as a state of emergency, it performs as the rule of which fascism becomes a normal expression. "One reason why Fascism has a chance is that in the name of progress its opponents treat it as a historical norm," Benjamin notes in his "Theses on the Philosophy of History" (249). With Benjamin, it might be necessary to work in tandem with two different notions of time. The dominant notion of time, the "homogeneous, empty" version, would perceive fascism as an aberrant form of politics, and, consequently, confirm the normality of the hegemonic formation.
Against this temporal conception, Benjamin holds the thought-image [Denkbild, in Weigel 162] of the "angel of history," a figure, who, while facing the past, is propelled backwards by "a storm blowing from Paradise" into the future, "while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress" (Benjamin, 249).
*1 The categories that became dominant towards the end of the apartheid epoch was "white/European," "coloured," "Indian" and "African." These categories were of course highly problematic, both in their implementations and conceptualizations.
*2 By this time, the theological justifications for white rule was of less importance. Dominantly, the situation was articulated as one of an embattled agent of order against a sea of disorder and chaos.
Tuesday, November 25, 2003
Only last week Humble had to ask his sickly mother, stored away, as she was, in a barn somewhere in the Middle Kingdom, to extend him a small grant, “for a new coat,” as he put it. It was dire times for Humble, even though he had succumbed to the call to join the new corporation. For one, he had been unable to have his interjection on the debate on Solyaris. I was bending paper clips, rolling cigarettes ferociously, trying to know something about the movie, all the while Diderik repeated the same phrases, “Allow me to interject,” and “Not to be presumptious or facetious in any way, but,” and so on. I asked him to write his ideas down, if he could find the time in between composing his Compleat Theory of the World and Everything Else (Vol. I). Last night I received this note in my post box:
Curious the way Tristero placed those two post horns on the wall in Tarkovsky’s Solyaris. Wonder if those horns are there in the new American version?
I had already passed my remarks on the movie to the TRU Times, and, not having seen “the new American version,” saw no reason to post an addendum. Instead, I sent him an text message, inviting him out for a cup of tea at The Spectre of Kabool.
It was a seedy joint, crammed with the usual racket of hypocrites, do-gooders and other bleeding heart liberals. We found a table in the darkest corner of the bar, where only the occasional prostitute would pop by, thinking we might just be some potential paying customers. When she saw us, she would invariably turn on her heels, displaying a somewhat repulséd look.
When Diderik finally arrived, he was not alone. Sinsemilla, his estanged wife, came stumbling through the door, holding on to the sleeve of his jacket, behind his ghostly apparition, like some shadow of a metaphor.
“Stop it now, Sinsemilla. I said you could come with,” Diderik started.
“What is she doing here,” I said, staring directly at Diderik.
“She wouldn’t be left alone.”
“I thought you said you’d killed her. Killed her good.”
“I thought I had. But I hadn’t. Or so it seems.”
Sinsemilla needed to use the restroom, and Diderik had to come along. He couldn’t leave her alone. He’d brought a thick brown envelope to the bar, and left in on the table while he was escorting Sinsemilla. I looked at it thoroughly, considering whether it could be some primordial version of the manuscript he’d been working on. I glanced around furtively, and quickly slid the envelope into my lap.
Diderik Humble jr.'s thesis
Laertes in his «Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers» notes that «When somebody asked Heraclit to decree some rules, she showed no interest because the government of the city was already bad. Instead, she went to the temple and played dices with children. Finally she withdrew from the world , and lived in the mountains feeding on grasses and plants. However, having fallen in this way into dropsy she came down to town and asked the doctors in a riddle if they could make a drought out of rainy weather. When they did not understand she buried herself in a cow-stall, expecting that the dropsy would be evaporated by the heat of the manure; but even so she failed to effect anything, and ended her life at the age of sixty».
I managed to slip the manuscript back into the envelope and slide it back onto the table just in time for Diderik not to notice. I think. He pushed his body over the floor, dragging his ghost behind him like some metaphoric shadow.
“Stop it now, Sinsemilla. I said you could come with,” Diderik said.
Monday, November 24, 2003
I fought the law but the law one,
I fought the law I fought for fun
I fought the law but the law won.
I fought the law but the
Why is the walrus such a bore?
I fought the law but the law one,
I fought the law I fought for fun
I fought the law but the law won.
I fought the law but the
What am I but a metaphor?
I fought the law but the law one,
I fought the law I fought for fun
I fought the law but the law won.
I fought the law but the
(and therefore iterable)
On Solyaris (dir. Andrei Tarkovsky, 1972, based on the novel by Stanislaw Lem).
Kris is a psychologist charged with considering the possible conclusion of the Solaris space project. Before departing he meets Berton, who was ejected from the mission after reporting on all sorts of queer visions while on a mission to rescue a fellow cosmonaut who had been lost on the planet. Berton has some insight, hardly communicable to someone with "the mind of an accountant," as he claims Kris has. He urges Kris not to recommend bombarding the Solaris -- it would not be a moral thing to do, Berton claims.
Here are two summaries from http://www.imdb.com/:
Summary by Dan Ellis:
> The Solaris mission has established a base on a planet that appears to
> host some kind of intelligence, but the details are hazy and very secret.
> After the mysterious demise of one of the three scientists on the base,
> the main character is sent out to replace him. He finds the station
> run-down and the two remaining scientists cold and secretive. When he also
> encounters his wife who has been dead for seven years, he begins to
> appreciate the baffling nature of the alien intelligence.
Summary by Philip Brubaker:
> This film probes man's thoughts and conscience, as it follows a
> psychologist who is sent to a space station situated over the mysterious
> Solaris Ocean. The two other scientists there tell the psychologist of
> strange occurrences in the station, and the Ocean's eerie ability to
> materialize their thoughts. After being in the station for a while, the
> psychologist finds himself becoming very attached to it's alternate
After a short while at the station, Kris meets an apparition of his late wife, who had committed suicide after he left her. She is very much flesh and blood. They watch a film from his childhood that he had brought with from earth. In the film, there are images of Kris' mother in a fur coat.
In KRIS' cabin: KHARI watching herself in a mirror.
I don't even know my own self. Who am I? As soon as I close my eyes I can't recall what my face looks like. Can you?
Do you know who you are?
Yes, all humans do.
Ah... (pause) That woman in the fur coat, she hated me.
That's your imagination. That woman died long ago, before we even met.
I remember her very clearly. What makes you deny it? I tell you I do remember. I came over for tea, and she told me to leave the house. So I left at once, I remember it very well. And what happened after that?
After that I went away and that was the last time we ever saw each other.
Where did you go?
To another city.
I was transferred.
But why didn't you take me with you?
It was you who refused to come.
Ah... Yes, now I remember.
The issue of "Khari"'s true identity is further complicated as the head scientist of the station, Dr. Sartorius, demonstrate that she does not have blood in her veins, and that can not be killed. He is propagating bombarding the planet, as that must be the source of the cosmonauts' delusions. Kris, who originally championed the same solution to the problem of Solaris, now has second thoughts. Nothing Sartorius says can alter the fact the he loves his wife.
Dr. Snaut, the third cosmonaut on the station, has invited his colleague to his birthday party, to be held in the library, the only space in the station without windows. It is decorated with all sorts of contraptions of European High Culture. Kris brings Khari to the festivities, which Dr. Sartorius does not approve of. Dr. Snaut recommends Kris not to worry about the bookkeeping of science, but rather to delve in texts that will provide understanding, such as Don Quixote. He opens the book in front of Kris and Khari, and quotes from Sancos Pancha's Ode to Sleep:
Senor, I know only one thing, and this is when I... (pause) and that is when I sleep I know no sadness, no fear, no hope, no blessing, no work. Praise be the gentle sleep's creator. That currency [...] has only one defect for it lacks too much of death.
Dr. Sartorius reminds Kris that he is a scientist, and that that entails certain obligatory relations to objects of observation:
In the library.
At least I know why I'm here. I am here to work. Nature created man so that he might gain knowledge. (Slams his hand holding his glasses in the table so the glasses fall out of their frame. Continues calmly.) In his ceaseless march to truth man is condemned to knowledge. The rest is of no consequence. (pause) If you will permit me to inquire about a colleague, exactly what are you doing on Solaris?
What a question.
It can't be your work that brought you here. Except for your trust with your ex-spouse absolutely nothing here seems to interest you. Your time is spent in bed discussing scientific ideals. And I'm supposed to appreciate the great job you're doing. I fear you've lost contact with reality. If you ask me you're plain lazy.
Oh, stop it.
This scene is followed by a confrontation between Dr. Sartorius and Khari and the exchange of some harsh words:
I'm not finished. I'm a woman! Treat me with consideration.
Woman? How can you say that? You're not even a human being. Try to understand that, if in some way you are capable of understanding. KHARI is dead. She doesn't exist. As for you, you're only a reproduction, a mechanical repetition of the form, a copy from a matrix.
Yes. Perhaps, yes. But I... I have become a human being. I can feel just as deeply as any of you, and I feel pain.
- How we imagine the future is structured by the genre of future (cf. software companies' etc. scenarios of "the future", Sid Meyer's Civilization prominently; the dependecy of Luc Besson's Fifth Element on Ridley Scott's Blade Runner etc.).
- We know what we're coming from by not where we're going. (Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans.)
- On teaching Aristotle's Ars Poetica: In some elementary textbooks it is the claimed that we can imagine all sorts of odd curves in a drama (i.e., that the drama doesn't have to be structured as exposition, increasing tension, crisis, decreasing tension, climax/catastrophe, but that the order may be different or some other such change). In other words, these books are inventing Aristotle. But what's the purpose of the curve? It is as if these textbooks assume (with Boileu) that it was a prescriptive tool?
Tuesday, November 18, 2003
(All these observations must be meticulously noted in the Journal, so that future biographers won’t miss (out on) all the clever theoretical observations I was actually undertaking while playing, say, Civilization or Age of Emires. The latter of which being, of course, a Microsoft game. Let it also be said now and henceforth that I am, also and as a matter of fact, aware that one shouldn’t start a paragraph with a parenthetical remark, I mean, that’s just not on. But let US stick to the moot point, which are that Bill Gates, while being a nasty sort of guy, being up to all sorts of wickedness, I am sure, is not the cause of his blame. Or to blame for his cause, for that matter. Mr Bill, as we call him here in the Colonies, should not be killed (terrible movie, by the way, not even boring, fell asleep after an hour, good sleep though, wish he’d turn down the volume a bit on Vol II, but -- maybe he won’t --), but seen as what he is -- a lackey in a white shirt. He’s got his little Mansion on the Hill, now, with all kinds of nice gadgets running around greeting him, “Hi, Bill,” when he gets home at night, usually late, ‘cause he’s got to work Long Hours at the Office, sincerly, and these robots are perfect replicas of the dolls in Ridley Scott’s house. (Note to Big Other: Please make a Cultured Reference note.)
All articulation is directed to a future self, the self of the Other, a becoming self, never there in-it(’s)-self. (Derrida scholars, et so on.)
But, yeah, I was talking about Mr Bill. A moot sort of wickedness. Thing is that he’s extremely successful at what he claims to be doing, he would be considered the cream of the puff to the dudes in his kind of social field. (Bourdieu-scholars, take note.) He’s the cherry on the icing, the cream of the doughnut, the paste of the cut of the [relatively new, at least in it’s ideological formation] managerial class. The logic of accumulation goes: I want more money. Simple, really. Thing is that it’s exponential (yes, Paul Stone, you can calculate it’s “growth”), and, hence, and because of it, if the capitalist want 10 Norwegian Kroner return on his “loan” today, you can be sure he’ll demand 100 Kroner tomorrow, and you’d better deliver, or he’ll bump you down to the previous level. (Very few participants stay on ‘till the end in this game, as you may appreciate.) Here is the major difference between a neo-liberal logic of The Economy and the socialists ditto [and it is to be noted that neo-liberal economic ideology has now become part of the (neo-)conservative stock, and, hence, and because of it, a conservative virtue, and, because of it, indicating both the need to rearticulate the ideological juncture of this kind of logic, it’s ideological home, so to speak, and to reassess the strategies outlined in the work of Pierre Bourdieu, founded, as it is, on the linkage of stragegies of the “neo-liberal” at his moment (downsizing, privatisation, globalisation, etc.), which are now associated with conservative political movements]:
* We are eating a cake, but each of us wants more to eat every day (in an exponential fashion). This is not a problem, dude, because the cake keeps growing, courtesy of our magical system, called (fan fare) Capitalism (in it’s neo-liberal/conservative ideological articulation).
* Or: We are sharing a cake in such a way that a few (and they are decreasing in numbers) get to eat more and more of the cake (in an exponential manner) and, even if it was the case that the cake is growing, the growth of their increasing demands are outstripping any possible growth of the cake, and, as a consequence, the vast majority of eaters have to eat LESS every day. If, however, the majority of cake eaters would realize their common situation, they would grab their forks in a stabbing motion (and, yes, that is a brutal metaphor -- there is another version, the one I tend to favour, in which the greedy cake monsters -- they’re kind of like Mr Kreosot of Monty Python fame -- take up arms to force the majority of cake eaters to eat less, and the majority must take up arms to DEFEND their selves (hence the prevalence of the term Defence force as signifying the armed wing of the state, as if it was never used against state’s OWN POPULATION)).
Structuralist Marxists would say that the state under capitalism serves as the armed wing of the Kreosots of thishere world. It is myths (in it’s collective form also referred to as Ideology, dominantly in the singular) that masks this Reality. If people (the vast majority of increasingly starving cake eaters) would only see past the veil, turn their faces from the back wall of their cave and turn to See The Light, they would be transposed from the realm of the fake to the realm of the real, the realm of darkness to the realm of light. It is, however, and according to Zizek, not that easy.
It is, actually, impossible to imagine a state in which reality could ever be unmediated. [Anarchists would say that that is because we need to Abolish State.] Because, if notions like Meaning and Reality are to have any Social Implications, they must by constructed as matters of iterativity. If I want Meaning to signify ‘Terrorists are really Wicked People’, I may do so, and it may be meaningful to me in a system(at)ic manner, but not if my systems are screwed up, see what I mean. Meaning can’t mean whatever I want it to mean, if I want it to mean anything to anyone but me. But that doesn’t mean that the word meaning can’t have more than one meaning. So, hence and in other words, it is not possible to imagine a social meaning without some sort of structure, or mediation, or iterativity.
* Iterativity implies structure.
But, says the post-structuralists, the fact that there must be structure for us to communicate, doesn’t mean that it can only be One Structure, now, does it? I could coomunicate with Tom at this moment, but not with Dick and Tracy, and with, say, Dick at the next moment, but not with Tom nor Tracy, so as to imply that there could be different ways of communicating with Tim, Dick and Tracy (or Jerry, or whatever). But oh, squeek the structuralists with their grumpy old-men’s voices, “but at the Deep Level, young man, and this is something you will realize when you Grow Up (and See the Light etc.), all structures are really One, the One Deep Structure. And if you try to take that Faith away from us, vee veel Cut Off Your Chonson.” Anyway, this is still an ongoing debate in Certain Circles.
Which is a long way of saying that “You don’t have to be deep to be structured.”
Wednesday, November 12, 2003
We were seated in the Spectre of Kabool, drinking green leaf tea and chewing chiabattas.
“Burp,” said I. “I’ll get another pot. You want one?”
When I returned, Diderik was still staring into space, in exactly the same posture as I’d left him. I put the cup of tea in front of him.
“So, what else have you been up to lately,” I asked.
“Well, it’s uncomfortable to work for TRU. I mean, I was used to the restrictions in the tried and tested EyeRak system, but there’s a whole different set of pre and pro scriptions now. I can’t go into them. I mean, they’re classified for one,” Diderik said.
“No, I meant what have you been up to after Sinsemilla left.”
“Oh, that,” Diderik said, but I know he merely pretended not to be bothered. It was a secret, albeit public, scandal that Diderik’s compulsive wife, 20 years his junior, had left him for a bouncer at the TRU Executive’s Club. She passed me in the rush the other day, driving a red BMW convertible. Diderik was still driving his hammered old Trabant. It was parked across the street from the bar we were patronizing, with a coating of white tape around the left side mirror, probably put there to keep it from falling apart, standing out from the grime and rust of the battered vehicle.
“No, listen, I mean that
‘I’m not comfortable in this corporation,
but this corporation has made itself comfortable in me!’”
“Stop quoting Ekelöf and get to the point, I said, waving my hand vigorously, as if to scare away some fishy flies from his discourse.
“No, I mean that Suy Kui offers no resistance to the imaginary. She’s the terrifying spectral image of phallic desire.”
“As in Natural?” I said. “Nonsense. What do you know about Hardcore?”
“Well, I know it was a boook written by Linda Williams, in which she discourses upon the porn genre.”
In the book, Diderik said, Williams elaborates the concept of visual spectacle, using at is a vehicle to explain the prevalence of the cumshot as an ocular gimmick. The cumshot constitutes the high point of a hand-job sequel, usually around 15-20 minutes in duration. The sequel typically opens with some narrative pretension: a lightly clad sorority girl gets a visit from the post-man, or horny house-person is having one’s cable fixed, and so on. Then her step-sister or room-mate emerges from the shower or bed-room, preferable in the nude, and the action begins. This sequence is tightly scripted, and, finally, ending in the infamous, and already-mentioned, cumshot. What Suy Kui had managed in her work, Diderik said, was no less than the most perfected embodiment of the phallic imagining to date.
“It’s brutal. You never know if you’re watching a machine or a person.”
“A personal machine, perhaps,” I said, in an, admittedly failed, attempt to be witty.
“Or a mechanical person,” Diderik explicated, while fishing out another cigarette from his packet with his hand-implants. He’d stopped wearing the skin cover, and the metal screws holding his hands together were on display in their cruel and senseless honesty.
Tuesday, November 11, 2003
Primarily, though, it was expected that TRU was interested in the rights to important mineral assets under the ownership of EyeRak Inc. It was a matter of a number of gold and diamond mines in the Accessories Division of the corporation, and the Spring of Muses, an ancient site of pilgrimate for poets on the TRU payroll, who would now have free or a significantly reduced price on access to the shrine, which would enable TRU to cut costs and put more money in the Future Fund, a large vault of money only accessible to the Inner Trust, a cabal of Managing Directors of the Clan Chosen by Mammon.
It was a strange time, indeed, for employees of EyeRak Inc. With the spectre of mass firings looming, they had adopted a number of strategies to better their own chances in the new corporation, however it might be shaped. Some had started writing long, elaborate letters to the new management team, laying out how their husbands were out of work, their daughters lacking the most essential of winter clothing, and how desperately they needed to keep their job. Others would take extreme measures to find out when a manager might stop by their particular part of the corporation, and would then put on their best clothes, and bring a parcel of tea-leaves from their own garden to present the manager as a token of appreciation of and confidence in their leadership. Yet others would make complex plots to undermine the chances of fellow employees in the competition for work in the new corporation. Project papers would accidentaly dissapear in the shredder, memos from junior managers prompting urgent action would get lost, compromising the position of employees considered rejectable by a certain push of fate.
Thursday, October 30, 2003
It is opined that the invention (method) will be of significance not only to preserve marriage, but also to promote international understanding.
On behalf on the South Minnesota Ignoramus Society
(the Reception Committee)
Darwin P. Johnson
Tuesday, October 28, 2003
> English/Iraqi Iraqi/English
> Phrase Book
> by J. M. Geary with the
> collaboration of J. L. -- and authentic native Iraqi's
> Baghdad and Memphis: The Buckley School of Languages,
> with the auspices of the Seattle School of Scholasticism, Paperback, iii
> + 112 pp, with illustrations throughout.
> Editorial description.
> "They don't speak our language", Professor Geary -- a native of
> Seattle but actually born in Memphis -- complained on his last tour to
> Baghdad, where he is promoting with co-author J. L. -- "Buckley or the
> Aftermath of Kabul" --. On co-author J. L.'s suggestion that they
> engaged Phatic to translate the work, Geary, invoked statistics and
> expenses that showed that it would be "more profitable -- to everyone
> conceerned --" to issue a paperback phrasebook instead. They write in
> the preface to the Iraqi section: "English is not an impossible
> language to learn -- and Iraki either, we guess -- but we leave that for
> the preface to the English Section'. With the aide of some friendly
> (nah, talkative) native speakers they found the task -- especially
> 'lexicon retrieving' as Geary calls it -- 'easy nuff'.
> Geary and JL soon found out that Iraqi is not really an Indo-European
> language, which discouraged the original idea of providing a comparative
> grammar. "There ain't really nothing to compare, ednit", Geary said,
> expanding: "I mean, no subject-copula-predicate stuff and stuff". That
> gave them the idea of providing instead what is basically a phonetic, or
> as Geary prefers to say, fonetik, manual ("You can always learn the
> API", said JL -- referring to the Paris-based Association Phonetique
> Internationale). The main intended readership, the authors hope, will be
> the task forces, mainly American, but Brits and Aussies, too. "This has
> been noted before," Geary said, "way back in Vietnam." "And don't let's
> forget Japan," JL added, with a nodd to the anthropological research of
> McCreery, "but the matter," Geary continued, "has now become pretty
> urgent. There must be a way -- at least fonetic -- by which American
> troops can reciprocate a simple heart-felt 'welcome' or 'nice cuppa
> tea?'."Right. There must be more to lingo than gesture and
> paralanguage", JL concluded. The authors will be signing copies at the
> Buckley Hotel, by the city river.
Meanwhile, Phatic was lounging in Mingus Court, plotting his revenge for not being included in the release of "Buckley or the Aftermath of Kabul."
"So JL thinks I'm cheap, ey," he thought to himself, pushing aside one of the nude breasts that obstructed his view of the Bagdad Hotel across the street. The groupies had become a pain in the eye -- he could hardly get a moment to himself to think of the events that had led him here and his plans to reclaim his rightful place in the annals of things Buckley.
It all started when he was heading to Memphis International Airport one fateful morning in the early Naughties. The night had been spent in utter debauchery, celebrating the collaborative completion of "Buckley" (the novel). MG had recited Yeats, JL played the organ and EH had performed one of her acclaimed exotic dances on webcam from Queebec (where she gave a Canadian Fraction Party with PL and PS). All in all it had been a wonderful night. But when Phatic, on his way to the airport in a rented TransAm, saw an announcement for a public lecture by one Darwin P. Johnson of the South Minnesota Ignoramus Society at International Airport Trampoline Hall 49, and, calculating that he had some time to waste before his plane left for Paris, where he would stop over on his way to Bagdad, he though why not? Why not indeed? So he slid the car between the only two other vehicles that were parked on the immensely oversized lot outside Hall 49, a brown Bentley and a red Renault, and found a seat in the back row of the auditorium. He had just taken out a pen and notebook from his light green trenchcoat when the lights went down. Darwin P. Johnson emerged on the podium: A smallish man with a gray beard and a curved pipe. This is the lecture he gave:
> Today I shall speak on the egg. Historically, the first (and largest)
> egg was allegedly laid by a Russian, thousands of years before Christ.
> It was the so-called ur-egg. In Europe, the egg has been known for only
> a few hundred years. In august/september 1492 Kristopher Columbus laid
> the first European egg, whereupon he went out to discover America. Some
> say that he first discovered America and then went home to lay the egg,
> while others claim that he laid the egg in America and then hurried home
> to Spain with it. Be that as it may, two things remain: 1. Columbi egg
> wasn't laid in a day. 2. Columbus laid only this one egg and died in
> 1506 as a disheartened man.
> As I mentioned in my lecture yesterday, it is mainly the hen that lays
> eggs nowadays. Some birds, such as the DODO, have stopped laying eggs
> altogether. The dodo was extinguished at the end of the seventeenth
> century as A DISHEARTENED BIRD.
> The egg consists of:
> 1. The white.
> 2. The yoke.
> Earlier it was a commonly held belief that the yoke enjoyed its stay in
> the egg. Later research shows this to be wrong. IT HAS A HORRIBLE TIME!
> Attempts on the egg's side to teach the hen how to lay eggs have not
> been successful. On the contrary.
> By the way, an end must be put to this nonsense that it is the ROOSTER
> that teaches the egg what the egg will teach the hen. IT IS NOT THE
> ROOSTER!!! (I don't know who it is, but at least it's not the rooster.)
> Perhaps it's no-one? Perhaps the egg has REVELATIONS?
> What do I know?
> Thanks for your attention.
"Of course!" Phatic thought, slapping his forehead in epiphany, "it is not the rooster!"
Meanwhile, over at the Proverbial Righteousness and Ideology Conference, K-division (P.R.I.C.K.), JL and MK were already busy scheming a separatist publication of "Buckley" (the novel). The conference was funded through an annual grant from one of Buckley's charitable foundations, another part of his grand money-laundering operation.
"'Tis against my principles," MG is rumored to have objected.
"Principles, scminciples," JL replied as he signed the contract granting all future publishing rights to P.R.I.C.K. "Now, stop cowering. Pretty please with sugar on top, sign the blasted paper."
Possibly convinced by the insurmountable logic of JL's argument, MG put his name on the dotted line.
It was only later, after Phatic, disguised as a Burundian refugee, had issued a barrage of fake spam mails offering penis extensions, free Viagra (TM) and cheap sex with horny house-persons that the mood in the separatist camp changed. JL was struck by a sense of conscience after a visitation from Virgin Mary, in whom he didn't believe, in a dream. MG, on the other hand, noted that while the Viagra (TM) was free, the sex was 'cheap' and hence a for-pay service. Little did he know that Phatic's LP "Buckley -- the collected Folk Songs" had been an instant popular success upon its release in Eyerak earlier that year, affording Phatic with sex in any imaginable gender, case and number. MG, unaware, as he were, of Phatic's act of deception, wanted money to "feed the monkey", as he put. So when JL, in a soft moment, suggested they'd allow Phatik, as he said it, in a Germanic sort of accent, to translate Buckley to Eyeraki, MG balked.
"That's beyond our means, JL. We're gonna milk this baby dry," MG said, sporting a devilish grin on his exiled South State face.
Meanwhile, Phatic had been busy organizing a band of agitators, the Post-Pragmaticist Stress Order, to persuade the Eyerakis that JL and MG really were lackeys of the imperialist Buckley's scheme to colonize the translation business. He had attended hisself some of the tea-parties organized by the Order. Tea was key to the heart of the Eyeraki. Phatic knew that after reading up on the scholarly literature on Eyeraki culture, and always offered free Lipton Service tea at his public recitals. In an interview with The Daily Veil, Phatic offered this explanation:
"It started spontaneously, but it has now become a stock moment of these events that the crowd, upon my arrival on stage, will lift their Coca-Cola cardboard cups filled with tea, stomp their feet, and exclaim, in a rhythmical fashion, 'Phatic, you are welcome.' The tea always does the trick in Eyerak, doesn't it?"
Meanwhile, Phatic had been colluding with EH to win her over to his side. She was in trouble with her employer, a think-tank in Quebec, after having delivered an oversized, zero-paged paper as her report on "Reading Readers Reading: 'Moma is a Psycho and other tales of liberation'."
Meanwhile, the Post-Pragmaticist Stress Order had tried to convince the Eyerakis to stay away from Bagdad Hotel this particular morning. Plans had been made, alliances struck and young maidens, shameful of their fate as unmarrieds -- as was their wont in Eyeraki culture --, had arrived in hordes at Phatic's backstage door to volunteer as missionaries in Phatic's crooked course for Ontological Eyeraki Autonomy NOW!
As he reached for another grape, held ready for him by one of the maidens, Phatic had a snug sense of self-satisfaction. The counter- strike was planned in its minutest detail. A maiden, disguised as a beret-clad blind man in a wheelchair, would roll into the lobby of Bagdad Hotel at precisely 10:01, signally to the hotel clerk, a member of the order, that she should set off the trigger mechanism, a fall-trap under the podium where JL and MG would be seated boasting their separatist release. They would then be flushed around an intricate system of tunnels, dug specifically for that purpose, under the streets of Bagdad, to end up in the dungeons of Mingus Court, where they would be forced to listen to recitations of spam mail offering penis extensions, free Viagra (TM) and cheap sex with horny house-people in accented English to all eternity.
"And then," Phatic thought to hisself, "I shall be free. At last."
... to be continued
Wednesday, October 22, 2003
I'd like to thank JL for our exchange on the meaning of the verb 'exist' and ints noun form 'existence'. To sum up, JL had argued that Borges' Anglo-American Cyclopaedia in a sense can't have existed, since it couldn't be verified, despite numerous attempts. I replied something to the effect that, if the Cyclopaedia existed to Borges, it did indeed exist, possible with the qualification 'to Borges'.
I've been thinking further about this problematic: a conceptual approach to 'existence' qua noun. Existence as a scientific value to statements, objects and other discursive moments is indeed, in some dominant sectors of the scientific world contingent on a pre- established practice of falsification. Existence (does gravity exist? is this a true statement? does this object-in-discourse exist?) must pass the test of falsification. Falsification is an astonishingly simple practice. First, articulate the object as in some specific relationship to some 'pre-discursive' world (nature, the real world, reality, aka. existence). Second, produce the articulation in such a way that it is testable in the same pre-discursive world as it is articulated through a pre-established set of parameters. (Say, a machine produces the color green iff the color produced is green. The method through which statements of the second order is articulated is arrived upon, is considered given, or natural. "Everybody knows what color green is, if they have eyes to see with." The color green is self-evident, transparent in a conceptual sense.) Finally, test the articulated object against an articulation of the pre-determined reality. If the two articulations don't correspond, scrap the theory and keep the already-established reality.
The practice of falsification rests on the assumption that knowledge is an [ac]cumulative process, that the amount of knowledge in a subject, or the social body in toto, is in a process of growth, it moves forward and upward -- nothing grows downward, now, does it? Except maybe onions, but they don't have anything to do with the Existence of Man, now, does it?
There's just a couple of problems with this assumption. For one, it can be falsified (!), that is, beaten on its own home ground. After a brain damage of some sort, or as a result of some disease, a person may loose knowledge in a commonly accepted sense of the word -- memorized 'facts' (set statements) about the 'objective world'. You may answer that knowledge in our sense doesn't reside in a singular mind, but in some abstracted social body. If one person should forget the year of the American Declaration of Independence, lots of people still remember. It remains societally remembered. Besides, it is written down, and hence accessible as long as a written document of its memorial exists (and can be interpreted). Sure, I'd say, but if some moment of discourse doesn't exist to any member of a group, does it then exist to the group? Isn't existence precisely contingent upon at least some member acknowledging it? And this is where we come to the more serious problem with 'falsification theory' as a theory of knowledge. Existence can't, in a linguistic sense, be reduced to (a certain conception of) scientific existence.
To backtrack: In (hard) science, it would be meaningless to say that Newtonian gravity exists but is wrong. The Newtonian notion of gravity has been falsified. And yet it exists! I've just referred to it a number of times, scientists spend years of their lives proving and convincing others that it doesn't exist, and so on.
Anyway, must dash.
Thursday, October 16, 2003
- Posting Tor Ulven – Release reworked (including an excerpt in translation)
- South Africa in the movies – some impressions.
- Staged: phatic sings the blues (and more!). Download phatic music now.
It's not easy to translate Ulven. In fact, if you've ever tried it, you'll know the meaning of the Norwegian term "gjendikte": to make parallel poem in a different language, to repoetize. So as a noun it would signify the parallel poem, the re-poem. One reason it's particularly difficult to translate Ulven is his avid use of all sort of Germanizisms: The passive voice, the indefinite pronoun, the endless run-on of clauses, the inventive use of presentation, and so on and on.
The first issue to takle, though, is the novel's title. The Norwegian "Avløsning" is the noun form of the verb "å avløse", to take over for something else. It is used in military terminology to signify a change-of-guards: The guards were released. Hence it has connotations to relief, letting-go, as when a Queen may finally let go of her duties, hand them over to her successor and rest confidently on her laurels. On the far end of the connotative scale is "utløsning", the Germanic prefixes constituting their minimal pairedness. An "utløsning" is an ejection or ejaculation, or a release of energy more generally. So while it was tempting, then, to translate the title to "Relief", I chose Release, since I wanted to maintain some kind of link with the sphere of formal succession.
As I was working on the piece, and, even though I'm a great fan of late Ulven's work, I was struck by the plasticity of his metaphorism, at one point bordering on sentimentality, for instance when one of the narrators wonders if he'd "ever hear the sound of the chimney sweep again." And then I started contemplating what the heck the chimney sweep is supposed to symbolize, anyway. And, finally, what's the machine that "you" will construct meant to symbolize? Puzzling.
Tor Ulven's fate was both sad and sudden. I remember working the night shift in the daily newspaper Dagbladet in 1995 when there was some hushed whispering in the corner of "suspicious death" that had been reported on the police radio. "Suspicious death" is police-code for criminal investigation: A body has been found dead with no apparently "natural" cause. A team from the newspaper was sent out to follow the investigation. If it turned out to be a case of murder, it would be top priority. Murder-stories always collected a large readership, and thus much money for the paper.
When our team came back, though, it was more hushed whispering in the corners. Having worked in the paper for more than a year, I thought I might get an answer if I asked what had happened. As it turns out, it was not a matter of murder. The police had closed the case as no crime had been commited. In other words, it was a case of suicide.
"It was Tor Ulven," the reporter told me. I reacted with shock. Ulven was one of my favorite authors. I'd followed his writing meticulously since I began serious studies of literature many years earlier. He was a central member of the writers around the critically important Vagant literary magazine, and he'd introduced French surrealists and critical theory to the Norwegian language-area. Ulven had just been awarded an important literary prize. He'd pointed a gun to his head and pulled the trigger.
Ulven had handed in the manuscript for Mixtum Compositum to his publishers before his death. When it was published the same year, it came with the following excerpt on the dust-jacket:
"Monumentet er et monument over sin egen glemsel. Og får mening først når det ikke finnes noen som kan gi det mening. Det er steinen du holder i hånden. Som du aldri når inn til. Bare speilet viser alltid riktig tid. Når steinen speiler seg, er det ikke av forfengelighet. Speilet røper alt, steinen ingenting. Som stein og speil er det du helst vil vite."
"The monument is a monument of its own forgetting. And is given meaning only when nobody is there to give it meaning. It is the rock you're holding in your hand. That you can never reach in to. It is only the mirror that always displays the correct time. When the rock mirrors itself, it is not out of vanity. The mirror reveals everything, the rock nothing. As rock and mirror is that which you most yearn to know."
Release, published on Gyldendal in 1993, has been noted for its narrative creativity. In an interview with Vagant's Alf van der Hagen, the only interview he ever gave, Ulven is asked to comment on a critic's statement about the novel.
van der Hagen: - The Danish critic and author Christina Hesselholdt writes that she has counted fifteen persons or conciousnesses in the novel?
Ulven: The number is correct.
Later in the interview Ulven stresses that he composes his novel in as simple a manner as possible. Read an excerpt from Release below.
The ongoing festival "Films from the South" is showing two South African movies. I went to see them. While Malunde was cinematographically a very conventional movie -- down to the continuity editing, God is African was quite a different, and far more interesting experience, both in terms of the narrative style and the content. This movie, while also about integration, as more an attempt to establish Pan-Africanism on the ground of the foreigner present in South Africa. Set in the mid-90s, Femi, who carries a Nigerian passport, is trying to establish support for a protest against the Nigerian government's planned execution of the writer and activist Ken Saro-Wiwa. The main body of the movie consists of dialogues between the variously located characters -- fellow Nigerians, South African of various "races" and classes, students and journalists -- and Femi. Filmed with a hand-held videocamera and then transferred to the big screen, the cinematography is slightly reminiscent of Lars von Trier and the Dogme-school, and it manages to capture our interest even during some of the rather lengthy dialogues.
It was a dark and dangy night when I glanced trough the stage curtain to see throngs of fans stomping their feet, shouting for "phatic". I know, I know, these stories should be written by someone else, but, as I've always said, if you want something done properly, you've gotta do it yerself.
So, anyway, while I was basking in the shouts of "What's his name?", and the response "PHATIC", I was preparing the evenings program. The stage was being covered in smoke, strobes piercing through the fog in rythmic intervals. It would have to be "I would like" that would open the show. Its techno-like beat seemed to get crowds going, and if it was one thing I wanted it was a wild crowd. "I would like" was a recitation of a poem by Samuel Beckett on a bed of techno, as simples as that. Then, I thought, I would do "Think", with a beat somewhere up the same alley, but with my own words this time. And with a dramatic end. All lights on stage goes down. Phatic changes shirt, to return with an acoustic guitar. Seated on a stool at the front of the stage I would do "universe-solitude", Beckett's translation of Paul Eluard's "L'Univers-Solitude." But a show can't end on a mellow note, as show-bizzers all know, so it would have to end with my Euro-Rap "am", climaxing in a masturbatory solo on my metallic green Fender Strat. Oh yeah.
Now it was just a matter of doing it.
Download the tracks from the Vitaminic stage.
* * *
by Tor Ulven(*)
An uneasiness, a small nervous twitch of light (or dark), one could
call it, an airing touching the curtain folds, admitting the pale
summer night shimmer, it occasionally breathes like this, a small
stream gaping and disappearing in a few seconds, then temporary
darkness, then a new breath and a new darkness; it happens every time the
draught (since he has purposefully, due to the strong heat, opened two
windows) opens a crack between the curtains, they flutter and bulge (as a
stage curtain when the actors or stage workers rush past behind it) before
they again hang relatively still in their skirt-like folds. A skirt with a
long split and the entire world hidden behind it. It is, in principle,
only a matter of opening the door and starting to walk, to find
everything, absolutely everything.
It's dark. He's lying in darkness, almost immovable, immovable on his way
to rest and sleep. He's become used to it, friends with it, a friend of
darkness, the short time of darkness after the curtains are drawn but
before he lights his reading lamp. If everything stands at its usual place
he can transport himself, as he has just done, with a certain confidence,
across the floor from the window to the bed. It is, however, not a full
night's darkness, merely half-obscure dusk; it still shines bright and the
sun reflected from the upper windows of the high-rise buildings burns,
while darkness, or semi-darkness, or the shadow, thickens below, and rises
(he knows) slowly up the floors, from one row of windows to the other, as
if on a measuring rod: almost full. Tonight he entered the smell of the
house like a guest, and again he senses the soothing, metallic vapour of
gun oil; it is within reach of the bed, loaded, as always. He is prepared.
The only matter of uncertainty is that the shells are about half his own
age, in other words over forty years old. Perhaps he should afford new
ones. But if they're never fired, he will have no joy from them, and the
money will be wasted.
Night inside is as warm as day outside. It could have been the ocean. Does
he have regrets? He doesn't know. At arrival he could have bought a pack
of jam biscuits (he must just soften them in his mouth first) and a bottle
of soda in the kiosk, before embarking upon the laborious trek to the
beach, where he could sit in the grass, with his jacket and crutches
beside him, and shirt-sleeves rolled up, could have eaten his biscuits and
drank the soda, slowly, relishing, while observing the waves rolling in,
feeling the wind in his hair, or, more precisely, on his skull, the smell
of salt, iodine and rotting seaweed. He remembers the last time he was by
the ocean, it must have been about ten years ago, when he saw something
(since it is as if his missing throat is compensated for by good
eyesight), something that first resembled a message-in-a-bottle, then a
cigar case, drifting towards the beach with the wind, but finally changing
into a wooden block, quite simply, a watery wooden block which finally
ended up pushing towards the rocks in sync with the waves, without any
message what-so-ever, smooth, not even with marks from the saw that had
cut it. He remembers the disappointment of sitting there and observing the
insignificant object bobbing towards the beach, the feeling that if one
only waits long enough, something will float, something void of meaning or
significance, perhaps, but something, something will float, drift, loiter,
a block, it's only a matter of waiting, he thinks, it is him, he is a
wooden block pecking at the beach rocks a summer day ten years ago. No,
he's not. He's alive. He's sitting there watching the wooden block in the
No. He sat and watched the wooden block in the water ten years ago.
Or seventy-three years ago. On the beach. A hand travelling up her
thighs, under her dress, and so on, no, not that, he thinks, but he
could see the bright dots of a sailboat moving through the branches
and leaves, disappear for a second and appear again, painfully slow, and
feel the sour smell of sausages burnt black at the beechtop bonfire (by
that time reduced to a red-orange pile of glows, where scattered wooden
remains shot out, spreading a powder of whirling sparks), and he is
content that that time has passed.
No, he's not. The core of an apple, for instance, or any fruit or
vegetable, rotting, getting wrinkled, twisted, and shrinking, as the human
body is getting wrinkled and twisted and shrinks and shrinks as the age
increases, as if the common denominator for fruits (or vegetables) and
humans only appears in decay, he thinks. He's sweating, particularly on
his back, a rancid, sticky sweat as syrup to the skin. Something he once
read concerning an artist who had hung a long string of bananas painted
white on some sort of rack by a wall, all of the same form and appearance
and equally artificial, except one, and, as the artist's exhibit
progressed, one of the bananas started rotting, the real, of course, thus
having revealed itself, while the others, the artificial ones, of course,
maintained their whiteness and splendor. No, not the ocean today. How long
had it been? About four months. That is, it was about four months since he
last was out of the house. Each time was an act of courage. But it was
worth it. Never in winter, that's too dangerous. But a grand experience
after having had the same view for four months or half a year. Basically
of no consequence what he sees, as long as it's something else.
Alright, not through the binoculars: a gyroscopically movable
aluminum tube, mounted on a solid rod, a platform to stand on, and a slit
for the coin (he knows nothing can be seen before he's paid; the coin,
rattling into the box, brings about a sudden epiphany of new and unthought
things, and allows them to appear clearly, magnified, indiscreetly close,
for a charge; he imagines a blind man with tin box rattling on his belly
who incessantly must put coins in the box for a few minutes of vision,
always more coins, and every time he runs out of change, he's completely
blind, until he again can produce another coin; observation isn't free, it
accumulates as debt, and he laughs quietly to himself in darkness at the
thought, fortunately none is there to hear the whooping, gasping hiss of a
throatless laughter). No, not the binoculars. Firstly, he wouldn't have
been safe enough on the small platform (close to a footboard), and,
secondly, he would probably be too slumped and stoop-shouldered to reach
the ocular, and, to top it all, he presumably would have had to let go of
both crutches, or at least one of them, to insert money.
Thus the naked eye. But he could support his elbows on a table at the
terrace, one of those outdoor café tables of white enameled metal booming
as one hits it, and he could sit on one of those folding chairs with a
high back, a collapsible iron skeleton with wooden crossbars. He could sit
there, harshly and uncomfortably, as it were, in the shade of a plastic
umbrella adorned with fringes and with a printed advertisement for some
brand of soda, while he had coffee and ate waffles with butter and
strawberry jam (even if he had to repeat each part of the order to the
young girl behind the counter three times, and the third time watch how
she thoughtlessly shaped the words with her own mouth, as if she were a
ventriloquist and he the ventriloquist's doll, and he noticed how
horrified and embarrassed she was by the amphibious, toad-like burping and
quacking he made). A barred fan at the counter, it cooled comfortably,
turning from side to side, while, in the empty room, he heard the
clattering of trolleys with cutlery and plates from the kitchen. The first
thing that happened as he re-emerged was that the paper that had covered
the sugar cubes blew away before he got to crumple it.
The bedside rug didn't slide tonight either. He could sit down in
safety and unbutton his shirt, slowly - each button being a project
of its own - under his stiff and shivering fingers. The tiny, smooth disc
that keeps slipping away, but he finally managed, today as well, even with
the sweat, and without seeing much, in the darkness, or semi-darkness;
it's a liberation each time he feels the release of a button's obstinate
friction against a button hole, and the button lets go, with a slight
push, a victory each time, increasingly splitting the shirt's chest. Now
he's lying here, in bed, in darkness, next to the firewall. First a few
strong, mellow thumps to the inside of the chimney, then a quick and
jerking whistling, it's all repeated, then the clamping as he re-enters
the attic stairs; the chimney sweep usually arrives early in the morning,
and the sounds are due to the tools he's bringing: an iron ball hanging on
a chain, and a tuft of elastic metal ribs fastened to the chain, it must
be so that the ball makes the broom sink to the bottom of the chimney,
while the tuft sweeps away the soot while the entirety: ball, chain, tuft,
is hauled up again, while the more or less pulverized layer of soot
sprinkles down to the basement, where it, subsequently, must be shoveled
out through a hatch made for that purpose. But not now. It is in spring he
arrives, spring and fall, twice a year. We become more unassuming when it
comes to entertainment as we grow older. He wonders whether he will hear
the sounds of the sweeping tool again.
It's always better to sweat than to be cold, he thinks, but it's not
good to sweat either. He could almost see it in its entirety from
where he sat, under the umbrella at the terrace of the café,
cartographically, in bird's perspective, and it didn't appear to have
grown from the seaside and up, as it clearly had done through the
centuries, but as if it had flown down the valley and dried on the plain
before the ocean in the form of a slow, pale mass of glass, where he could
discern through the haze of heat a number of small, white and apparently
immovable sails between the green-black landmasses of the bay; only if he
stared insistently at one of them could he register how the distance
between the boat and, say, one of the islands diminished, until the sail
disappeared behind it.
Now it's dark, and yet not entirely so, for some light still slips
past the curtain, both through the small crack in the middle (only an inch
or so, and, on each side of the glowing column, the folds are drawn as
thick, dark lines that taper here and there where the fabric is twisted
inwards or outwards) and through the textile itself, where the real
pattern (stylized clowns, sea lions, circus horses and elephants in a
regular repetition) has become almost invisible, as if it was completely
washed out. In stead you now see something that usually doesn't come out
that well, particularly not when it's light in the room and dark outside
(while it is now dark in the room and light outside): a suggestion of the
weave itself, all the crossing threads that in sum make up the curtain,
approximately as when someone pulls a shirt over your head and in your
resistance you see the light through the fabric of the clothing, but not
what is outside, and your breath makes an imprint. When your head is
finally pulled (forcefully) through the neck, you feel it as a wet spot on
your chest. It is soon forgotten, and by the time you remember it, it's
It's not a total darkness, but it turned into a sort of darkness
after her thumb, with a long, red nail, flicked the switch (which
resembles a short, round nose -- it somehow extends when the lamp is
switched off), after she closed the book and leaned over you so that her
while pearl necklace fell into the arch of your neck. It was cold and
tickled, and she had to hold it up with her other hand while putting her
cheek next to yours, and you sensed the smell of perfume and a faint scent
of today's dinner (mutton in cabbage, with the nauseating, sludgy,
grey-white substance, the tough, soda-like meat splinters and the hard
pepper corns that seem to explode in your mouth like firecrackers to your
taste buds when you bite them; you can't help it, even though you're
always told to spit them out and put them on the side of your plate);
stench of mutton in cabbage, that is, from her hair and clothes. If she
had accepted leaving the door ajar, some light would have entered from the
living room, but she won't accept it, she says you must get used to being
alone in darkness, or you'll never get used to it, you who have gone to
school for two years, and there's nothing dangerous in darkness; thus
there is no light from the living room, only some from the window.
You will construct the machine.
(*) Translation of the first paragraphs of Tor Ulven's Avløsning (Oslo: Gyldendal, 1993) by Torgeir Fjeld.