Monday, October 17, 2005

I want to (relatively) brief and clear about this, particularly in relation to this. Jane does not quite go so far as to lump Ange's formulation in as a form of "anti-intellectualism," but comes close enough for me to wonder if he is not misreading the rather precise "ledger" metaphor. What Ange appears to be calling for, at least there, is exactly for "life" and "theory," however their separation might be useful for some purposes (such as a hoped-for abstracting away from rank self-interest and other prejudices), to be more often accounted for as part of the same economy. Call it anedcote if you like (I think that term was only used in a version of the post Ange later cut), but one would often like to know the answers to just the sort of question Jane also asks: How does your theory impinge on your life? What does it make you do: listen to more hip-hop, break up with someone, turn down lucrative work, vote, not vote? And how does your life impinge on your theory -- how does your experience (which, note, must include the experience of intellection, of interpretation of experience [which is always already to some degree "interpreted" in the having]) bear on the theories you arrive at/accept/reject? (After all, I assume that no party to this discussion imagines that the order of theories we're talking about are to be arrived at a priori.) "Keeping double books," for all that the metaphor brings to mind the rationalization of modern accounting, is here a telling figure for one possible kind of sin/crime/error of omission. Note that one common version of this error -- the abstract espousal of feminist theories whose application in one's own love relationship is not readily apparent -- might not be irrelevant to Ange's third term: "guys."

Now, all that said, I do agree quite strongly w/ Jane that the notion of a sphere -- "life" -- that always trumps another -- "theory" -- because it's, um, well, lived is an unhappy one. If there is a general point that I take to have been made quite forcefully by, among others', the language poets'* critiques of "clarity" and "transparency" (and, ruh-roh, "affect") it's just this: don't pretend you don't have a theory [in this instance, of language, but the maxim ramifies], because you do. (Corrolary, and a large part of Joshua's polemical point -- don't go around making "theory" something that's done/possessed/applied by others, thus making your own position seem like a matter of common sense or, worse, nature.) I'm so with all that -- just so you know. [Immense complication here is, of course, the entire Kantian problematic: Where do the categories w/o which it would not be apprehensible by minds-like-ours at all end, and where do theoretical/conceptual constructions on top of those categories begin? That physical objects have positions in space is not, for example, exactly a theory.]

I wish I had a line of Borges' to hand, to the effect that "when I am reading, when I am writing, then too am I living." What person to whom the making of lines, sentences, argument is daily bread does not feel the force of that?

*I've decided to stop using "LangPo"; it's become too dismissive and reductive. And please note that I take it that the points just mentioned were and are made as forcefully or more so, and in pursuit of some (to my mind) righteous ends, by female writers associated w/ the movement/moment as by male ones.


Played 3 shows, Thurs.-Sat., in my inessential but, I hope, not entirely irrelevant role as Mountain Goats* keyboardist. John brought two Chapel Hill bands as openers, both previously unkown to me: Bellefea, a guitar-drum duo w/ a quite compelling frontwoman; and The Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers, whose name John (and apparently everyone else who knows them) is lobbying to change.

First Chi. show at an all-ages gallery space w/ iffy sound; good, but not off the hook, suprising to hear John dusting off songs from The Hound Chronicles, highlight of my part of the set was probably "Mole," which is quite malleable. Spent time (not nearly enough) w/ Liz Clayton, also Tim Adams (Ajax/3 Beads of Sweat honcho), who hasn't written since I've been here on account of White Sox Fever, and Drew Gardner, a Claremonter whom I'd forgotten lived here, if I'd ever known. Fri.: Rabid Empty Bottle crowd; ended set by bringing out Prayers and Tears + me for songs that are, at this point, not likely to misfire: "See America Right" and "Against Pollution"; encored with "Palmcorder Yajna" and, at the request of two separate parties (one an actual birthday/bachelor party) the X-Glenns piano/vocal version of "Memories." Satisfying. Hopper says she was present, but I missed her; did see Amy Philips of EMP/Voice fame, who has apparently just moved here to work full-time as a news ed. for Pitchfork. Was fairly candid about my view of said weblication; told her I hoped she would improve it.

Sat. in Kalamazoo: Really the perfect-size town for a certain level of touring band, large enough to support a crowd that makes it worth the trip, small enough that they're happy you made it. On the other hand, it's also the sort of town where the Poetry Slam team has its own van. And both band and audience are lucky to have as friendly a venue as the Kraftbrau, which sends musicians off w/ a jug of the home brew of their choice (I went w/ the root beer). (Odd notes -- Among the decorations is, inconguously, a poster of the cover of an issue of Beardsley's Yellow Book. And, billed at another microbrewery/venue we passed on the way in, something called "The Stooges Brass Band.") Too bad someone decided, during one of the opening sets, to put her foot through the ladies' room window when her boyfriend left w/ someone else. Similar set to Chi., though I learned Berman's "Pet Politics" at soundcheck, and we threw it in. I felt redundant w/ the Prayers' keyboardist [Alex, an adept player who can also discourse on current events in the DC Universe w/ small provocation] on "Against Pollution," so I switched to (pretty hack) glockenspiel, but a piano/organ backed "Palmcorder" fell nicely into "Please Crawl Out Your Window" mode. Gathered as we were leaving for our hotel room that Prayers and Tears were off to a local afterparty/crashpad. Hanging out w/ indierockers after the indierock show: I have to admit, that even were I to tour extensively at some point in the future, that sort of activity would be less likely to feature prominently.

Bree and I tried to hit an estate sale the next morning, ended up in some neighborhood that had no address matching the one in the paper; listened to an hr. or so of the weekend big-band show on Chicago public radio, the newish Stars (best chorus: "I am trying to say/what I wanted to say/without having to say/I love you."), some Amy Denio, and most of a Steppenwolf Theater reading/staging of DeLillo's Cosmopolis, which appeared to be less of a novel than a rigged excuse for heiratic utterances on the nature of cybercapital, but was diverting nonetheless.


Quite odd: Later in the evening, back at home, houseguests gone, listening to more radio while baking eggplant, heard a 1995 talk by Bobby Seale, some combination of reminiscence and broad claims about what-is-to-be-done. Spent quite a bit of time on that sturdy old Hegelian bit about a quantititative increase or decrease leading to a qualitative leap. Then, about 3 hrs. later, picked Peter Winch's The Idea of a Social Science and Its Relation to Philosophy from my landlord's shelf, and found just the same formulation invoked w/r/t the origins of language, apropos misguided (according to Winch) responses to Wittgensteinian claims about rule-following and private language: "We can imagine practices gradually growing up amonst early men none of which could count as the invention of language; and yet once these practices had reached a ceertain degree of sophistication -- it would be a misunderstanding to ask what degree precisely -- one can say of such people that they have a language." Curious, in turn, b/c I've been reading Charles Travis' The Uses of Sense on some of the same issues. (Travis, a Scottish philosopher of language, is one of the reasons I'm teaching here; he left the NU dept. on short notice, publicly citing political reasons.) David Lewis' Convention is in part an attempt to put the thought expressed in the quote above on a less impressionistic footing: So, we've gotten from the Black Panthers to one of the main topics of my dissertation in two/three moves -- via Hegel, yet. Surprising, though, then again, the UCLA phil. dept. (where Lewis was in the late '60) is the very dept. that refused to fire/"harbored" Angela Davis. [Which, though I'm damn near free-associating now, is one reason some stereotypes about the politics imagined to be associated with analytic philosophy burn me.]

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