Wednesday, November 30, 2005

[Post updated and altered: please see below.]

I don't suppose that my and Jane's agreement to arrest our dialogue on the political violence/banlieues nexus at a certain stage was meant, on either end, to be some permanent check on posting further thoughts, forever and ever amen. And I think I'm on safe ground in assuming that Jane doesn't take himself to under some such obligation. At least, I hope he doesn't, and, in any case, "E proibido proibir," as they used to say in a couple of languages. But: the sad fact is that a couple of runs I've made over the last few days at stringing my thoughts together have been long, dull, and unoriginal -- failures even by the minimal standards of readability to which I hold my posts (at least substantial ones). My concern with being misunderstood is such that I'm wary of being coy or aphoristic; even so, what I've been able to salvage is the following bolus of links, notes, and quotes. I'm not doing this to stir the pot, but comments are, as always, welcome.

* Uppermost in my mind is this: anyone who thinks this story arc has been resolved just because fewer cars are burning, and even those are off our front pages (and mostly, our blogs) is not merely whistling in the dark, but staging a full production of Les Mis in a sensory deprivation tank.

* I gather that the curfew was lifted around the 17th, and that the main legislative move so far has been an all-too-typical tightening of visa controls. But it's not clear to me whether emergency powers are still, officially or really, in effect; nor have I seen reports of just what degree of force was used to (depending on your terms) calm the waters/repress the insurrection. If anyone cares to help an Anglophone out here, I'd be grateful. As interesting as it is to learn that the violence deemed newsworthy now revolves around the new Beaujolais, it's not quite what I was looking for.

* One story deemed fit to print recently was this (registration req'd), on the end of a brief rail-strike. The article's only mention of the riots is to note that they, like the strike, are a political headache for Chirac. The fact that there's no other connection made -- and, in a way, none to be made -- between this sort of relatively "normalized" labor dispute and other forms of civil unrest strikes me as symptomatic. Of what? One might consider this well-known letter from Marx to Sigfrid Meyer and August Vogt, April 9, 1870. In part -- "The ordinary English worker hates the Irish worker as a competitor who lowers his standard of life. In relation to the Irish worker he regards himself as a member of the ruling nation and consequently he becomes a tool of the English aristocrats and capitalists against Ireland, thus strengthening their domination over himself."

* This discussion attempts some form of sympathy for the rioters' apparent motivations from within a liberal framework (but please see update below); it interprets these, not surprisingly, as a demand for the French government to make good on its promises of e-l-&-f; and takes it that the capacity of the government to respond to that demand is a test of its real commitment to its founding egalitarian principles. From the last paragraph:

"The upper class has simply used the Republican model as a protective shield to preserve its "privileges" through hidden networks of power and influence....What is ultimately needed is for the elite to accept the necessity of abdicating a significant part of the "privileges" they have accumulated to the detriment of the public good."

What is liberal about this, of course, is the notion that the above suggestion could and would be enacted were the elites sincere about their public commitments -- and that the system ultimately exists to resolve conflicts of this sort. The anarchist view, of course, is that to expect the state to do anything beyond scattering, or redistributing, enough crumbs to make massive continued domination possible is the biggest joke since 911. And I suppose a more specifically Marxist addition to that view is the idea that the sort of hypocrisy just described is necessary to the state's real function, that of protecting an existing economic order under the guise of "justice for all."

That's just a sketch of a fairly obvious divergence of views. What might be added is that the committed liberal need not, and likely should not, close off the possibility of extra-legal revolutionary action, violent or not, when it becomes clear that existing institutions are not living up to their advertising. Whatever else one thinks of John Locke, he was at least explicit on this entailment of his version of contractarianism: the contract can be voided when it massively fails to serve its purported purposes.

If anything, the liberal ought to be more upset, because more disappointed, at (what s/he will see as) the usurpation of institutions, whose form s/he supports, by an elite (of whatever sort) than the Marxist -- who thinks that such institutions are doing just what they arose to do. Or, as the quoted article ends: "We should rediscover the spirit of 1789. If not, some may want to rediscover the letter of it, complete with bloody consequences." While that "may" understates matters -- it ought to be "will," if not "already do" -- it seems to me that any liberal who does not take him or herself to be merely "ventriloquizing for class interests" ought to take some thought along these lines quite seriously.

[Update: Jane points out, quite correctly, that the original version of this post implied support for the entirely of Pech's analysis. There is much in the piece that is indefensible. The most glaring examples are the excuses for Sarkovsky, and the notion that the curfews were unavoidable. But there are others: even in what I quoted, the suggestion that we get the society we want when existing elites "abdicate" their privileges, out of some combination of altruism and bourgeoisie oblige, is obviously inadequate. Above, I was not as concerned to make something of these points as I might have been in another context. My primary interest was in pointing out that, even from within this framework, a breaking point is more than imaginable. And I do still think this is worth pointing out, if only to poke at what sometimes seems to be an unexamined assumption: that one must be a Marxist to ever support radical change in a putatively liberal republic. I strongly suspect that whether one is willing to take the step of saying that that breaking point has been reached -- again, from within the liberal framework -- depends largely on whether a committment to egalitarianism (not only with respect to economic redistribution, but with respect to possession of institutional power) is one's Archimedean point. Pech's notion, of course, is that reform is a method for avoiding real -- to say nothing of structural -- change; for others, the conclusion that he almost reaches in the quoted paragraph should at most be a starting point. One should also ask if the "spirit of 1789" is here understood to be embodied in the last sentence of Article 6, or in Article 17.]

* Passages relevant to cruelty, and "rigor." Communard Louise Michel, speaking to a military tribunal in 1871:

"You accuse me of having taken part in the murder of the generals? To that I would reply -- yes, if I had been in Montmartre when they wished to have the people fired on. I would not have hesitated to fire myself on those who gave such orders. But I do not understand why they were shot when they were prisoners, and I look on this action as arrant cowardice....

"...More than that, I have the honor being one of the instigators of the Commune, which by the way had nothing -- nothing, as is well known -- to do with murder and arson. I who was present at all the sittings at the Town Hall, I declare that there was never any question of murder or arson."

I'm also intrigued by (and undecided about the import of) this sentence from Debord's analysis of the Watts riots, which Jane linked to some weeks ago:

"The Watts riot was not a racial conflict: the rioters left alone the whites that were in their path, attacking only the white policemen, while on the other hand black solidarity did not extend to black store-owners or even to black car-drivers. Martin Luther King himself had to admit that the revolt went beyond the limits of his specialty. Speaking in Paris last October, he said: 'This was not a race riot. It was a class riot'."

[Again, I do not have at the ready some vest-pocket argument which starts from these citations. I don't think what's going on in the Debord is that approval is being extended on the grounds of certain limits being observed; instead, what the actors do and don't do is being treated as a mode of articulation, and as evidence for claims about the events' meaning.]

I haven't found time to compare Vaneigem on the particular subject matter, though much of the 1972 (post-break-w/SI) essay "Terrorism and Revolution" is of interest: "From fear that only the death logic of terrorism has the upper hand, it is necessary to open the gate to an anonymous and consciously oriented insight against the order of things, not against its servants. Ideologies are directed against people, the subversive game against conditions."

*Louis Lazare, critic of Haussmannisation, on the emerging banlieues in 1870 (quoted in T.J. Clark, The Painting of Modern Life):

"Artisans and workers are shut up in veritable Siberias, crisscrossed with winding, unpaved paths, without lights, without shops, with no water laid on, where everthing is lacking....We have sewn rags onto the purple robe of a queen; we have built within Paris two cities, quite different and hostile: the city of luxury, surrounded, besieged by the city of misery....You have put temptation and covetousness side by side."

* [Updated Update: I had more here, but I was unhappy with both the tone and the waffling. It was exactly what I had not wanted to get into again -- not here.]

Sunday, November 27, 2005

To anyone who didn't notice: I added to last week's sole post, daily.


Something for everyone, down on the linkfarm; rough overall movement from music-related to critical to philosophical, so keep looking if the first don't grab you.

a) Thanks very much to Mark Givens for putting up our one-sheet and an ordering link for the new album. Toward the bottom, you will also find a link to the lyrics -- I don't particularly recommend that you read them if you have no interest in hearing the record, but I can't stop you. This version of an 0pb site is, excuse the expression, a placeholder -- Peter and I are working on something a little slicker, though it will still be fairly minimal, at least until I can get home to the archives.

b) Little Hits, an mp3-blog devoted (mostly) to '80s-'90s indie vinyl. Many obvious choices, and dude must have a huge server at his disposal -- trying older links at random, I've yet to find a broken one. Even the very first post is still up, from a fine 7-inch by The Some Loves -- though I think he picked the weaker side.

c) Not enough? Lost Bands of the New Wave Era (which kills its links much faster.)

d) Muso Warning: a site devoted to the so-called trucker's gear change, by which is intended "ostentatious key-changes in pop songs, especially as used in the final choruses to mask the fact that nothing else is going on." "Stand," "I Try," and the list goes on. ("Oliver's Army" isn't included -- too well-motivated by the bridge?)

e) This Croatian Luke Haines interview is mostly a snooze, except for some best albums/books/movies that he may have picked off the top of his head, and this exchange, especially if he's telling the truth:

T. Tell me something I would never guess abut you?

LH. Operating under another name I am the inventor of two best selling boardgames.

f) In related news, BBR's Sarah Nixey looks to be going solo -- w/ material produced by Auteurs cohort James Banbury. Current photos suggest creeping Beth Ortonism, but who knows? Haven't sought out the single yet. Best news is a reference to her guest appearance on Haines' allegedly upcoming soundtrack to the musical Property, which I'm beginning to gather isn't going to make it to a full staging....

g) I long ago meant to point to this 1972 xgau piece on The Eagles, both because it's interestingly different, stylistically, than the cram-it-in we're now familiar with, and for the 3rd graf, which begins: "Another thing that interests me about the Eagles is that I hate them."

h) Frank Kogan essay I've given several tries but have never reached the end of. Maybe you'll do better.

i) A strange performance art piece based on the transcript of EC's 1979 NYC conference -- I didn't manage to mention it in the book.

j) Two resources I've sometimes found helpful: This longlived database of info on TinPanEra composers and lyricists (I've found more info on a number of names than I've been able to locate anywhere else); and this extensive movie musicals site.

k) On the other hand -- unhappy to note, via Gerard, that Footlights, the OCR/cabaret/pop vocals record store in NYC, closed its doors in June or so. I was last there in March, and struck up a conversation with a fellow who could name the writers on the two industrial shows I was buying w/o breaking a sweat. The business has morphed into an online retailer, but still -- if Manhattan can't carry this sort of shop, that's saying something.

l) I've wondered if there is an energetic visual-art blogscene comparable to poetry's. I still don't know, but here's a start, courtesy of my friend, painter [and former bandmate of Steve Turner's, if that's more exciting to you] Steve LaRose.

m) Another friend I don't think I've ever linked to: Shannon "joins" Rhapsody.

n) I don't know poet Aaron McCollough's at all, but he has demos.

o) Were you aware that Brian Evenson had made a record?

p) Dense paper by Blair French on post-object art, w/ ref to the rather interesting NZ figure Wystan Curnow.

q) Nice that this site for a Brazilian Visual Poetry show I saw in Austin in '02 has remained online. One highlight -- rather elaborate virtual version of a "dinner party" installation by Caetano V.

r) Topic for possible exploration: Conceptual Art-influenced, but self-avowedly "conservative" photographer Les Krims.

s)See also this account of nikki craft's destruction of a set of prints of Krims' "The Incredible Case of the Stack O' Wheat Murders," which, in her eyes, made light of sexual violence.

t) Free weekend? Teach yourself computational semantics.

u) Or perhaps category theory.

v) Or mise-en-scene theory.

w) "Analytical Marxist" G.A. Cohen's syllabus from a few terms back. And a decent review of his Self-Ownership, Freedom, and Equality.

x) U. of Ohio, Columbus philosopher of art Lee F. Brown on "Documentation and Fabrication in Phonography" w/ ref. to Eisenberg, Gracyk, and so on.

y) Q without U; ukulele sheet music; typewiter love; some common misconceptions; trompe l'oeil receipts.

z) Patented, Paris 1845: Cane Juice Defecating Machine. Scroll down for interminable description of operation.2005: A week after "normalization," hard to get English-language news any more useful than this. Oh, there's also the treaty thieves.

And this is where you find useless texts when you're tired of writing them yourself.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

If Brian from Iowa, who was at the reading Sat., reads this, please send me your address again; I only half-recognized you (because we last met in a very dark club), and I can't find your previous email.


Hear Douglas Wolk, John Shaw (w/ fragment of his setting of the Scooter Libby correspondence), Jodi Shapiro, others in this NPR piece on National Solo Album Month, which was just starting the moment I popped a CD out in the car this afternoon. I had given some thought to participating this year, getting as far as chopping up that Romeo Void drum hook in Audacity and adding some delay and a house-y synth-bass (I might still use the results), until I realized that, so far as my present position w/r/t my line of work is concerned, Nov. is more aptly described as National Get Your Act Together So You Have Some Idea by March of Where You Might Be Working Next September Month. Acronym's not catchy, though.


T-day w/ colleague, older grad student, and respective SOs. Perfectly lovely, didn't get into anything too heavy, tho host is a political philosopher in pretty much the going Rawlsian mode, host's partner is working on a diss critical of Habermas, other guest is finishing one on Arendt and Derrida on democracy [which I didn't know when I mentioned On Revolution yesterday], and his partner is a Columbian who was living in Paris until she married an Australian, and then there's whatever I and Bree are supposed to be. Called home to family in evening.



Main worry about Friday's photog. book is w/ his acct. of where the "intentional" character of photography lies (a now traditional defense of photography's artistic status against accts like Scruton's that emphasize the causal ground of photographic representation), which is to say in the selection of what to photograph and the composition in the frame, does any better against that objection than some earlier accounts [esp. in response to Scruton], which attempt to give the photographic techniques that artists intentionally exploit (i.e. cropping, choice of length of exposure, so on) a similar role to those we normally point to w/r/t, paradigmatically, painting. Appropriately constructed twin cases [unintentionally achieved but otherwise qualitatively and causally identical photos] work against the "composition" move as well as the "technique" move. None of that shows that one can't go ahead an do an aesthetics of photography in a somewhat traditional sense [and Friday's ch. in that direction is useful], but maybe it's more like an aesthetics of nature (or the plain old perceptual experience thereof) and less like an aesthetics of artworks as traditionally conceived. Much of the expressive as well as the representational potential of the photograph is there "in" the causal result of the photog. process, irrespective of how it was achieved; and the part that isn't rests on the part that is. My own view of this is turning toward a sort of "Institutional" account, on which it's just the fact that certain photographs are selected/displayed that gives them their "arthood," which may draw attention or bear other interesting relations to their aesthetic character, in the strict sense, but doesn't actually constitute that character. I've been writing something about this over the last 2 mos. but haven't gone on about it here except in passing.

[No, I'm not as sanguine about the autonomy of the aesthetic as the above sketch suggests.]


Finished Mathys' Forge. I guess all I can really say is that I like parts of this book significantly more than others. On the plus side, the "Inventory"s, "Ailment," and particular lines all over the place -- "filching M&Ms from tire treads." On the minus side, "Ash Wednesday," the hard-hot-sex undercurrent at a few points, and the way some pieces strain for closure (I think this is just technical -- some pieces "bring it all back home" near the end just fine. I should probably have more against closure per se than I do.) Closing "Quandaries" sequence I have to count as a success, from my idiosyncractic p.o.v., in that it does something interesting w/ material (mountain climbing/carpentry) I'd normally resist, not to mention techniques (alientated avoidance of pronouns, an elaborate sort of phrase-break w/in line-break structure) that I don't quite understand.


Evanston establishments: Dreaming of Tea, Fresh Anointment Worship Center, Fashion Tomato.


Hmm, The Wire has given their blessing to cover versions ("Often seen as a sign of creative bankruptcy....") Upon setting the issue on the counter --

Clerk: "That looks interesting."
Me: "Yeah...but this magazine can be pretty annoying sometimes."
Clerk: "All music writing can be annoying."
Me: "So true."


You all still trip down Rue Hazard regularly, I trust.


Picked from my landlord's shelf The House That Race Built, a collection of essays (original, I think, not reprints) by Toni Morrison, Angela Davis, Cornel West and so on -- flipped to David Lionel Smith's "What Is Black Culture" and was immediately confronted by a discussion of Baraka's Dutchman, in particular its central character's contention that "if Bessie Smith had killed some white people she wouldn't have needed that music." (The play, you'll remember, ends with the white female interlocutor stabbing the speaker; consider also the scene in Masc/Fem inspired by the play.) Smith (who is also the poet D.L. Crockett-Smith; not seeing any links to particular poems) is not entirely taken with this position, though he's (too?) careful not to assume the character's views are precisely Baraka's: "In effect, Baraka uses the dramatic moment as a platform on which cultural criticism struts about in the guise of spontaneous emotion....The narrowness of Clay's own obsessions leads to a critical argument that is stiflingly reductive." Elsewhere, he pursues a parallel (not an identity) between Lukacs conception of the proletariat and contemporary African-Americans, insofar as their best interests are served by "a will to truth," though the essay is too short to suggest much about how that will is to be expressed.

Also working through Johnathan Friday's Aesthetics and Photography, which I was reading piecemeal for another project. More on that later, maybe.

Headed out to immense mall in Skokie to keep Bree company while she got new glasses. While waiting, briefly peered into "Krakaboom!" the contemporary version of the video arcade I grew up with -- just a bunch of desktop PCs running 1st person shooters and a bunch of, well, I guess you can supply the gender and age group of the patrons. Headed to the B&N during the hr. wait for lenses, just got depressed looking at the philosophy section of even a not-particularly-good bookstore. [I know nothing; and at the rate I read, I could probably command, say, Habermas by, oh, the 2030s.] [Something that's been disturbing me lately is the thought that even if I manage to read rought 2 books of some sort every week for the rest of my life -- say I can expect 50 lucid years -- that's only around 5,000 books, which doesn't sound like much.]

Frankfurt School anthology reminded me that I've been meaning to look up Adorno's brief "Subject and Object"; I'm obviously not the first to wonder if the question of whether one can truly dissolve that distinction in a comprehensible way might not be the epistemological issue of which many political disputes are the surface form. I'll let someone else link to "Critique of Separation."

This book -- which, curiously, I've seen in at least 3 Barnes & Noble's, and nowhere else -- fell open to the first poem/lyric on this page: "Dem charge Jim fi sus/Dem charge mi fi murdah." How does one [me] who is no stranger to Forces of Victory, or who made a small symbolic pilgrimage to Altab Ali Park also find himself finding the need to state some "ethical" position w/r/t political violence in, I don't know, the other direction? Especially given that, all parties agree, innumerable acts are performed every day [so much so that it's artificial to separate them into 'acts'] in the name of established power which, taken on their own merits, would violate any ethical standard worthy of the name. Lesson learned, perhaps: vigilance?

Of course, I'm also no stranger to "It Doesn't Make It All Right". J. Dammers, Kantian.

[I hope it's understood that the above few notes aren't a belated or hidden "rebuttal." Treat them as self-examination.]

Also paged though NYer: I'll say without hesitation that Christopher Buckley's humor piece, a satire on a college entrance essay, is small-minded, cynical in the bad sense, and about as funny as a mass email comprised of supposedly real errors in high-school compositions. Would have been a lot better off getting into the Katherine Boo piece. (Hmm, I'd been meaning at some point to be mildly contrarian about that much-disliked Ashbery profile, but I'm not sure I'll get back to it now.)


Gave last lecture of quarter; WB's "Work of Art...." Familiar ground, though I realized as I talked that a key move is an application of the Hegelian change-in-quantity/quality pt.; obvious, but I hadn't been thinking so much about that the last time I taught it. Before class, a woman came in and asked if her father, a visiting scholar (art historian) from China, could sit in. Of course I said sure, but was aware as the class proceeded that he might be thinking that this was baby-talk or worse; also couldn't help wondering if he saw my by-now-joshing relation w/ the students as odd. Thanked me on his way out, and I realized that his English was quite limited (which I guess is why his daughter came in in the first place, but I hadn't sussed).

Finished Peter Calvert's Revolution and Counter-Revolution, a quite short book in U. of Minn.'s "Concepts in Social Thought" series. (There's a useful one on "Property" by Alan Ryan.) Not bad, as a sort of consumer guide to going theories (as of 1990, anyway) that doesn't pretend to be too unbiased. I don't really have enough background to know what to think of, to take one example, Chalmers Johnson's sixfold typology of social upheaval (jacquerie; millenarian rebellion; anarchistic rebellion; Jacobin communist revolution; coups d'etat; militarized mass insurrection -- first three relatively "spontaneous," last 3 elite-led), but it seems well-articulated enough to at least test one's historical observations against. Also makes me want to read Arendt's On Revolution (I read big chunks of The Origins of Totalitarianism for AF) -- she seems to have a nuanced, cuts-both-ways view of, in a word, America.

Lamont Sanford goes "African," decorates the house w/ masks, etc. "What's all this, son?" "A man's house should reflect his culture." "You want to reflect my culture, put up pictures of Billy Eckstine."

Watching a little too much TV lately, as you can tell; need a couple of days before turning to next halfway-sizeable chunks of work: a "job talk" in-case flyouts are in the offing around Jan/Feb. (in which case I'll be more or less expected to give it at UCLA for practice)//pulling 2 course readers together for next quarter//at least two proposals for conference presentations. Also getting back to arranging the dreaded "first book of poems" MS while things aren't too heavy otherwise; there are a couple of (non-contest) nibbles...

Bree notes that many, many commercials currently feature "Danny Elfman" music.


Finished the Cornfoth, read Zizek's "Against Human Rights" in the New Left Review that I let sit around for a few weeks. Won't discuss now; mulling it over. Also Stanley Fish's piece on the use of relativist and po-mo rhetoric by Intelligent Design supporters in new Harper's.

Annoyed to see a song called "Charm Offensive" on a promo I just got -- I've been playing a song w/ that title off and on live since 2002, should have expected someone to get there (and I realize the phrase already appeared somewhere in the cover art/text to Radiohead's Amnesiac). I really do not record often enough.

Sent off batch of cover letters (to be added to my dossiers at UCLA and sent out from there); other than a couple of jobs w/ late deadlines, now I just wait. Called dad for b-day; went to Davenport's w/ Bree, played piano for her (which I usually don't); she's putting "Blue's The Only Color of The Rainbow" in the act. Me -- I sang "The Ladies Who Lunch" and "Acc-ent-u-ate the Positive." I think I was entertaining.


Dreamt that "aesthetics" was actually spelled "asthaetics," and that my cover letters for job applications went out wrong by that measure. Am told that I said "I just want to make it clear that..." in my sleep.

Read most of Maurice Cornforth's Historical Materialism. The sort of account which seems concerned to strip out any mention of "dialectic" (I think it's relegated to a previous book; this is the 2nd of a 3 v. series) taking it as blandly obvious that social science can be conducted by just the same means as physical science, except for the obvious fact that abstraction has to occur by some other process than controlled experimentation. Kinda convincing when you're reading it (v. lucid-seeming prose), up until a very thin chapter on base/superstructure. Pretty much at the exact opposite end of the scale from the Winch I was reading a few weeks ago. And despite its evident disinterest in taking criticisms into serious account, the 2nd (1962) ed. preface says "extensive changes have been made in the attempt to eradicate any kind of dogmatism." Lefebvre has a similar note.

Transposed a song for Bree and helped her rehearse, but let her go to Gentry alone; worked on dull practical tasks. Feel like day slipped past -- vague notion of going to Dusty Groove or Jazz Record Mart came to nothing.


Reading went well, respectable turnout; I replaced a certain key epiphet with "Napster" on each occurrence so I could read the "Columbus" section. Tried not to go too long. J. did himself proud, w/ a quite complex section on, mostly, how not to approach Murmur's lyrics. Picked up the current Black Clock, which is on guilty pleasures and includes Eric W.'s piece from EMP 2004. I don't know, you can keep your guilt -- give me the pleasures of accusation.

Took Bree home and tried to meet J. at Abbey Pub to see Annie Hayden. (Remember Spent? I guess when you're on Merge, you're on Merge for life.) Got there in between sets, stayed for some of The Clientele. I didn't know they were playing, and I've never followed them closely. I don't mind that they're subtle, but any of the variation between songs that I've noted and appreciated on record seemed to be absent live; leader is a bit of a muso, which made for some uneasy indiepop + jazzface moments. Didn't mind being there, didn't feel like I needed to see the whole set.


Lunchtime talk in Hist. of Science dept. by U. of C. art historian Joel Snyder, who's been working on various problems around photography for quite a while. An overview rather than brand-new research, but helpful: takes a pox-on-both-houses attitude toward "transparency" (Cavell, Walton) and wholly "social constructionist" views of photographic relations (he commented that in the '70s, his first papers started getting mentioned in footnotes: "As Joel Snyder has shown, nothing is natural), which I find congenial. Quite interesting on photographs that aren't snapshots, e.g. the moving camera that can show win/place/show in a horse race. (Complicated technology; I got it, but can't explain here.) Seems to ultimately want some sort of distinction within "photographic representation" between "photographs" proper and "visualizations" (all the way to sonograms). I think what he's looking for could be described as a difference in the way information is conveyed; in turn based on a difference in the relation to un-mediated (in the relevant sense) perceptual information. Also, great late 19th-c. quotations from an early trial about the q. of copyright in photographs; have to track this down in Snyder's pub'd work.

Afternoon philosophy workshop by Matt Hanser, concerned w/ showing, pretty much on grammatical grounds (working off of a Davidsonian analysis of action sentences) that a certain class of ethical judgments are judgments about "the quality of agency" rather than actions per se. Some interesting points about the locution "X acted well/badly/courageously in phi-ing." Was supposed to be a purely formal account w/ no substantive implications; some comments in the Q-and-A about what's up with, say, benevolence suggested that this might not be so.

Freaky episode of Good Times in which J.J. is managing a white cabaret singer; a whole section is devoted to her "Be A Clown"/"Send In The Clowns" medley. Inexplicable in terms of what that show purported to be about; presumably Norman Lear or someone was looking for an excuse to build a show around this woman. (Still not quite as odd as the What's Happening!! I saw last week that ends w/ Rerun handing Mama his outsized belt so she can punish Raj: "My God, Rerun, I want to whup him, not hang him!" Freeze, credits.)

Friday, November 18, 2005

1) I was ungracious in not thanking Joshua for the space he made, for suggesting the manner of exchange in the first place, and for his recent profession of respect, which is surprising, not in all respects warranted, and mutual. (Parties otherwise at odds seem to agree that I'm "decent." And what are you wearing?) I also respect Ange and John Shaw for engaging in a fairly fraught set of exchanges.

2) The article of Badiou's that Joshua linked to was edifying. Here are two others, one quite personal, the other (from '04, on the headscarf law) more sardonic, and a bit Derridean in tone. Of course I can't vouch for the translations.

3) "Criticism reading" doesn't have quite the thrilling ring of "poetry reading," but J. Niimi and myself will be giving one at Quimby's this Saturday, at 7 p.m..

I only brought about 6 copies of AF from Cali, and was too busy last week to remember to request more from the publisher. But I will have Taste The Flavor on hand, in case you like music.

4) I want to say this is a nadir in the annals of song-commercial placement, but it's probably a 50-way tie: EMF's "Unbelievable" reworked in an ad for Kraft Crumbles as "Crumbelievable."

5) Rockists tend to legislate as to who has taste; popists tend to legislate as to who is actually experiencing pleasure.

6) A no-longer-recent Boston/Portland Phx piece I never linked to, on Bjork and Wire one-song cover albums. (A slight coda to this summer's cover-album fest.) There's supposed to be one about Made In Sheffield and a Human League live DVD floating around somewhere by now, but heck if I can find it.

7) Fine piece by Richard Byrne on the ever-underrated Great Plains, courtesy Paul Nini. (Order their newly released live album from Old 3C.)

8) I like: "Laffy Taffy"; Voxtrot's "Long Haul"; leading Bree and family to the Joseph Cornell boxes at the Art Institute*, and noting that there's still a Tibor de Nagy tag on one; feeling homesick on encountering a Felix Gonzales-Torres candypile; the "Bank Book" section of Laura Sims' Practice, Restraint; conversing with Jacob Knabb and John Beer; Ted Mathys' semi-colons; dumplings; discussing Cavell and Danto with double philosophy/theater majors; manageable amounts of snow. I don't like: Having to miss a student production of The Threepenny Opera; leaving the house too late to get to the Minutemen documentary; the fact that I haven't seen a movie in weeks; still getting lost in town sometimes; waiting.

*Don't worry Jordan, I won't write poems to them. Would Ray Johnson be ok?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Joshua says:

Violence: I, too, dislike it.

The first thing I should do, after thanking Franklin for making this space for me, is to historicize at least a tiny bit. The recent discussions of social violence (whether it’s “political,” and if so, how, seem up for grabs) come in the wake of widespread rioting in France. But they also come at a long moment when the threat of political violence to privileged white Americans, the sort of people who might work in the World Trade Center, seems closer than ever. And, I would hope, when the knowledge that what that “we” has—cars and houses, the “rule of law” and the time to expound on pacifism—rests on a foundation of violence both historical and ongoing. These are not the meaning of this moment; they are some of the conditions out of which meanings arise.

If I historicize, it’s not to psychologize my debate partners, or to argue for anything so much as history itself. One of the great ironies of arguments that absolutely reject political violence is that they pose themselves as bulwarks against some “utopian” impulse that, we’re told, leads always to Auschwitz, the gulag, the Cultural Revolution. And yet, the absolute rejection of political violence presents a transcendental value. It’s ahistorical, totalizing, and the rest; it tells others what they may and may not do regardless of their circumstances, while denying that such thinking comes out of the particular circumstances of the speaker. It claims objectivity while enforcing its subjective interests. This is the worst bargain on offer: all the foibles of utopian thinking, without even bothering to imagine a better world.

This is not to say “peace” isn’t to be desired. It is. But the residents of the banlieues weren’t at peace a month ago, any more than Rodney King was at peace five minutes before he was pulled over; any more than the Algerians were at peace in 1953. No peace was broken in the banlieues; the violence of that scene has been ubiquitous. The thing that changed was the dynamic of violence. This can’t be stressed enough. When someone critiques the actions of the banlieusards, they aren’t refusing violence. They are refusing violence to certain people in certain conditions, while defending the right to violence of others. They are choosing sides and hoping no one willl notice, perhaps including themselves.

Like Franklin, I am uncomfortable with violence. I am uncomfortable in some of the same ways: with its masculine charge, with its capacity to harm relative innocents. Nor, honestly, do I have much desire to encounter violence personally; though I’ve never hit anybody, I’ve been beaten with a nightstick all the way to the hospital. When I discuss violence, I don’t do so as an armchair idealist. But I also don’t do so as someone who, in every minute of one’s daily life, is a subject of state violence, including the violence of laws that exist to maintain one’s subjection.

That too is historicizing: to remember who I am, and what privileges I have. And to recall, further, that my sense of comfort does not come out of transcendental ethics but from historical conditions. So, to repeat: I am uncomfortable with violence. And yet, at the same time, I understand that historical change for the dispossessed has never come in ways that appeal to the comforts of the possessed. I recognize that to deny politics to the actions of the marginalized is a cliché of the empowered, not an analysis. The sentence “make a rebellion against me that I condone” is nonsensical. The sentiment that the miserable have perhaps a right to their misery but not to relieve it unless in a way I have authorized isn’t ethics; it’s leaning all your weight against the wheel of history while pretending to stand on the streetcorner whistling “Spanish Bombs.”

I’m not calling for violence, nor calling for “peace.” I’m suggesting that particular people, in particular conditions quite extraordinarily different from mine, need not vet their tactics with me, nor with Franklin or other beneficiaries of the world-as-it-is-just-now. Neither do we get to decide whether their actions are properly tactical in the first place. If you fancy yourself truly non-violent, act historically and pragmatically. Exercise your concern first with the cops and next with the corporations; if you succeed, I rather suspect the banlieues will stop burning of their own accord.

Tonight, under the heading "Joshua says," I'm going to post without comment a statement of Joshua Clover's as a sort of punctuation to recent debates about events in France; he is doing the same for me, on his blog. We won't be reading each other's notes before posting.

The idea is for each of us to make space for the other to state their position clearly, and — if not finally or completely — without it being trapped in the cycle of he said/he said.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

1) I'm given to understand that today is the official release date of Nothing Painted Blue's Taste The Flavor (Shrimper). Frequent readers know more than enough by now about my ambivalence toward my own music, but I've kinda come around on this one, and I'm at least glad that Kyle and Peter and I got it together before we dispersed geographically. It was recorded in early 2001 (which some will find hard to believe, given a couple of lyrics), but doesn't now seem to me to have reached its sell-by -- especially in that songlessness doesn't dominate the indie landscape as it did a few years back. Too bad about the singer.

Midheaven mail-order is one reliable way to get it. (Scroll down.) Early adopters will find a direction to nothingpaintedblue.com in the liner notes (though the .com is a bit of a laugh, at this stage). There is nothing at that address. We are rectifying that.

2) How we roll: Move to Chi in Sept., get a picture in the Reader by mid-November. (Again, scroll down.) Thanks to J., Bob Mehr, and the photographer (whose name I can't read on the pdf, and who I hope pulls more glamorous assignments once in a while).

I feel that I should mention that I must have said something easily misunderstood, as I neither expect nor particularly wish to hear a response from the subject of my book. I did, on the other hand, say "bee in my bonnet," which is like -- Hey, read this book of rock criticism by your granny.

3) More self-service: Tickled to hear from the currently hibernating Anne Boyer that Armed Forces is among the readings that her non-fiction class can do papers on. "Didion, Capote, Bruno..." Yeah, I get that a lot.

4) Saturday, headed out w/ Bree, her mother and sister to Ten Chimneys, the summer estate that Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne ("Fon-TAN," not "TAINE," I have learned) built near Lunt's boyhood home, 1/2 hr out of Milwaukee. Oddly, or perhaps not, some of the conversation on the drive out concerned the frequent American plaint "What can one person do?" The presumed answer to which is "Very little"; what usually does not follow is the thought that one might engage in more effective collective effort from others -- and this is backed up by the valorization of the heroic individual, the lone rebel, in our popular culture. Not, I realize, a revelatory set of thoughts; but it was odd that, in the last room of the house-and-once-working-farm tour, our guide felt compelled to discuss Robert E. Sherwood's There Shall Be No Night, a 1938 play set in Finland but intended as agit-prop for our entering WWII, and which somehow was supposed to demonstrate that "an individual can make a difference." (The play ran 115 performances, poor for Lunt/Fontanne at that stage; Montgomery Clift and Sydney Greenstreet were in the cast.)

Tour and home otherwise charming -- elegant but not opulent, w/ a good deal of whimsical decoration done by Claggett Wilson, their customary set designer (grisailles) and Lunt himself (Swedish folk art motifs). Very tempted to sneak off and play the "Noel Coward Piano," badly photographed here). While waiting for the one place in town to eat to open (well, there were two, but Bree's mom didn't seem attracted to "In Cahoots"), stopped into an antique store, where Bree found a cup and saucer of the same pattern as those laid out in one of the rooms -- we can believe, if we like, that it came from the house. All I bought was a 1955 educational comic book distributed by General Electric: "Inside the Atom."

5) Bree's been going to one or two cabaret open mic nights at piano bars per week to work on her act (which it's not really my place to describe) and make connections; I go with her when I can. Even though both the performers -- a mix of theater student/hopefuls and persons who just have a couple of songs they love to sing -- and song selection are uneven, as you'd expect, I'm very drawn to this small and friendly scene, mostly because it's so uncool, relative to the community of "music lovers" I've tended to be in contact with -- seriously, these people make the most iconoclastic indie or jazz obscurationist look like Courtney Taylor-Taylor. High point of last night, for example, would be Michael, an operatically trained singer whose dream is to play Sportin' Life in Porgy & Bess, doing "When The Sun Comes Out," a lesser-known Harold Arlen tune (not from any show, but recorded on Barbara Streisand's second album); low point would be a three-person arrangement of "Suddenly, Seymour" from Little Shop of Horrors -- translated into Italian.

The pianist lets people accompany themselves if they like, so last night I did "Like Young," [a faux-beatnik number by Andre Previn, (slightly) popularized by Buddy Greco, and not to be confused with The Like Young] and "Only A Monster" from Tempting, which I can't really sing but which Michael (Sportin' Life, above) adored and wants to learn. I think that's the first time I've performed one of my own songs since getting here. In terms of plain fun, doing two songs fairly casually has distinct advantages over playing for 45 minutes for a bunch of people who are often mainly concerned with figuring out whether its ok to like what they're hearing.

8) Picked up a disc in the "local" bin a local shop several weeks back: The Future of White America, swayed by the crappy-cass-release/liquid-paper lettering/Debord quote ("Every concept, as it takes its place on one side or another, has no foundation apart from its transformation into its opposite: reality erupts within the spectacle, and the spectacle is real.") on the insert. (Back cover, vague reversed-value photo portrait of who-knows-who, w/ speech balloon: "breed & die you worthless fucks." A little disappointed that the music inside was 2 long tracks scrapey/pulsey guitar noise, made a little more texturally interesting by the poor recording, and 1 more on the freak-folk end, w/ about 20 secs of lyrics I couldn't make out. I was hoping for at least Comet Gain or something. I'm not unhappy that I heard it, but it's certainly not the best purchase I've made on similar grounds.

9) I've been reading poetry slowly but consistently lately, but haven't had much to say b/c I'm mostly catching up with books from the last 2 or 3 years that others have discussed well (and anyway, I'm not reading them to blog about them): The Joyous Age, Blindsight, The Cave Where You Live, Word Group. Just started Ted Mathys' Forge, need to finish Water & Power, Deborah Meadows' books, and much else.

10) Best recaptioning of fictive images of Native Americans since Entertainment! (By the way, it's strange that 2 1/2 years or so in, Jim and I have spiraled along to fairly similar formats.)

10) My mood's improved lately.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

[I wrote the following two notes this early a.m., before Jane posted this response to yesterday's post, and then -- intending to add some non-riot-related items later, per my usual practice over the last few days -- went on to other pressing work. You will have to take my word that I am presenting them without later refinement, except for grammatical corrections and the addition of two appropriate links. Some fresher, admittedly piqued, comments follow.]

c) This will sound as though I've been tutted backchannel, but no -- I just want to see if I can explain what I meant about "adolescent boys." This term wasn't meant to paste another obfuscating label (cf. "nascent Islamists," "hip-hop copycats") over the rioters, but to suggest something like the following: Lefebvre, paraphrasing Marx, writes that "History generally proceeds by its bad side." OK. Need that mean we must not only accept but be literally thrilled by the fact that it quite often proceeds by its macho side as well -- at the level of both entrenched and "insurgent" modes of maintaining/displaying/taking power? And -- would the response that to voice any such worry is already reactionary be, in part, (i) attractive or not as much according to one's temperament as anything else and (ii) a kind of expression of a Mailerish anti-"momism," according to which which it's deeply unfortunate that putatively "feminine" influences [consider the quotations from girls in that Australian piece I linked to last time] serve to r/depress more adventuresome -- and in that, more genuine and genuinely valuable -- impulses? [On Engels' view of the family, or am I mistaken, the answer is, "Yes, and correctly so." Althusser's?]

This is not to deny that the fact that this set of thoughts occurs to me in particular may have something to do with the fact that I could hardly be described as an adventurer.

d) Perhaps multiple enviscerations of David Brooks are not strictly necessary, but I nonetheless appreciate Jody Rosen's entry into the fray. First, and least, for demonstrating that an anachronist need not be a feeb; but mostly for the sharp-eyed guesswork about just where Brooks dug up his translations of French hip-hop lyrics: well-played. And convincing, given that I too found Bitter Ministry via the "Barbarians at the Gates" piece that Jody mentions (but I didn't link to it, and still won't, because it's ass), and then did a little more looking into the group. A little, not a lot; and I frankly admit that I know very little about French hip-hop, circa either '92 or '05 -- I merely pointed out there to an object for further, potentially useful inquiry. I don't mean to sound defensive, but to add to the pile-on: I did a little more work and used a little more judgment than Brooks, even though I'm not the one being paid a salary by the paper of record to produce minimally cogent arguments based on something other than a 1/2 hour of link-hitting.

[That was around 9 a.m.. Here is what I have to add: Jane, I'm sure you're right that what I mean is not limited to what I wish to mean. And yes: both/and, not either/or; the psychosocial level of explanation (let's call it) coexists and interacts with the political one. Did I say enough for you to assume that I would think otherwise? But there is also an issue concerning our differing rhetorical modes -- which is, we will both I hope agree, trivial compared to a shared (though I know you cannot believe me) hope for real change. You mistakenly read this blog as though all or even most of what I post is written from a position of utter conviction and near-certainty, comparable to your own, about the accuracy of my analyses; or in this case, my fragmentary and I suppose to that extent ill-advised promissory notes. I feel that I have been pretty damn consistent in not presenting myself or my thoughts as either authoritative or beyond reproach; I am not a pundit, and I am not uncompromised. If you wish to believe that the deepest motivation for my writing as I do is (like, perhaps, Brooks' or Ng's) to weasel out of the incontrovertible, to grasp at any straw that allows me to take an event for anything but "exactly what it is" -- and, in so doing, to relieve and absolve others of my ilk -- that is your prerogative. Even so, the notion that even the initial framing of an expression of doubt* that the analysis you advocate exhausts what is to be said merits playing the Ace of Trumps ("standard-issue counter-revolutionary liberalism, bourgeois consciousness") is not one that strikes me as dialogically helpful. Though perhaps that was not your aim; and perhaps you aren't even being critical, but merely reminding me of the facts.

*The reader might have noticed the up-front admission what I had to say was inchoate (and is only slightly less so now); and the not-very-vivid "a part of me" language, a figure often used to indicate a degree of personal and/or intellectual conflict on the part of the writer.

Lastly, I am not much taken with the idea that a concern with the injury and possible death of don't-call-them-innocents = "a promise not to hurt you." (Omitted: catalog of non-fear-based and non-self-protective behaviors with respect to where I've lived, what I do when I travel, and when I've declined to call the police, which merely read as self-serving.) Perhaps all these very minor bona fides, which I in no way owe anyone and offer with some distaste, are more than slightly irrelevant: first, because the appearance that I have books and records that I take myself to own, until I don't, much less a car to forget to lock, is only an phantasm projected against the great featureless wall of the State's coercive power; and second, because I don't have a plan worked out for what I'll do when I'm doused with flammable liquid, especially if I actually think there's a fighting chance that my martyrdom will, in the long run, lead to, say, the Sixth Republic. (I know that will sound to many like a reductio; I don't quite mean it that way, which will in turn sound crazy, perhaps, to everyone but Jane.) Even so, snide remarks equating, at a quite general level, this sort of merely ethical concern for others with bad faith and self-protective fear are, well, as weak as any pseudo-argument I've committed; and perhaps mark another element of your overarching world-view that I have not as yet found a compelling reason to accept. Even here, however, I do not say that these ethical concerns are off-limits for criticism; I object -- as you have been known to do with respect to other views -- to their reduction to psychological motivation (though I have done something similar above in making reference to temperament).

I do hope that you and other readers, if such any longer exist, will accept that it is not a live option for me not to post, in my customary provisional manner, on certain topics, or to make use of certain texts, primarily on the basis of another writer's relationship to them, which we can assume is not the illusory one of ownership. On the other hand, since what is at stake for the principal parties to this little set-to is largely symbolic as things stand, I will try not to continue it here, in the interest of not trivializing more concrete concerns.]

Friday, November 11, 2005

1) Yep -- Kael, March of '75: "Nashville isn't in its final shape yet, and all I can hope to do is suggest something of its achievement." I suppose I have to admire even the semblance of that kind of humility from a critic -- don't see that sense of serving the advocated object in, oh, Denby or Lane much. K. also compares Altman to Joyce, twice. Oh -- and on Rosenbaum, whose seriousness of purpose I admire more than his prose, this is amusing.

2) The fellow quoted here sounds like he was gene-spliced from Jane and myself: "I look forward to their expressing themselves, with appropriate respect for human life, through the media of bonfires and chaos.". Also suggests that the fact that random personal attacks did not rise in number along with the instances of property violence speaks for the "rigor" of most participants. I hope that the fact that that analysis sounds correct to me is not wishful thinking.

And still, and still -- there is just some part of me that can't get with the program. Other than the fearful, quietist part, I mean. I can't explain it well, but: adolescent boys. (Read about their sisters.)

3) I thought the No Parasan guy was just a misanthrope, but a couple more days of posts have made it clear that he's just an ass. Link removed. Here are a few more pieces I found useful -- you can all find current news and burning-car stats by yourself.:Clearest discussion I've seen of the exact connotations of "karcherise."//U. T-top pointed me to this piece by former Liberation columnist Juan Cole (I almost mistyped his name). A sober response to racist interpretations -- see also the links there, in the graf on Beur youth culture.//Gloating that "the unrest has not had any effect on the overall state of the nation's economy" seems obnoxious, even for a Finance minister.//And I'm not sure I quite catch the tone of EU Parlimentarian Daniel Cohn-Bendit's comments on some largely Turkish areas of Berlin: Kreuzberg is ""an island of happiness compared with the situation in France."

4) The other Paris: "Thank you officer, we love the police!"

5) Henri Lefebvre, Dialectical Materialism, 1939: "The present multiform alienation of man and of the community is grounded in the inhuman situation of certain social groups....excluded from the community, or else admitted to it only in appearance, verbally. Neither in its material nor in its spiritual condition does it share in the community, and whenever it takes action in order to do so its enemies say that it is destroying the community!" (Well played, but damn, it takes him long enough to get there -- this book isn't long, but it's a slog, pitching strangely between dogma and passing idiosyncracies, and so abstract (esp. in sections on Man in Nature/Nature in Man, that one cannot say that it is the piece of work that one would use to convince someone that the topic mentioned in the title is not mystified/fying. Lebfevre's first book, well before he could be described as "heterodox." (I wonder what exactly made Nathaniel Tarn republish it in 1968.)

6) Was about 15 pages into Janet Malcolm's In the Freud Archives, which I'd picked up for no particular reason at a church rummage sale a few weeks back, before I looked more closely at the jacket copy and realized that this was a series of NYer features/profiles, not a novel written quite brilliantly in the manner of same. (I know, I know, don't I know what Malcolm does? Just wasn't thinking cleaarly about it.) Either way, still an elegant, pointedly inconclusive little book, even though I have no standing interest in the topic (basically, some episodes in the tangled early history of psychoanalysis, and the eccentrics who research them). Given the paper I've been working on, I should be reading her Diana and Nikon instead.

7) Just came back [this bit was written last night] from a student-plus-a-few-professionals NU production of Was, a new Wizard of Oz-themed musical by Barry Kleinbort and Joseph Thalkennew, based on a novel by Geoffrey Ryman. You know what would have improved it? E.Y. Harburg and Harold Arlen. You would have to not only have a high tolerance not only for musical theater, but for the very odd, self-serious yet kitschy genre that is contemporary post-Sondheim musical theater to cotton to this. It's not Wicked; this show alternates the stories of the real life model for the book's Dorothy, and a contemporary (well, '80s) gay man who travels to Kansas in search of signs of her existence. Sexual abuse and AIDS are broached. Nothing seems to end very happily, yet there is a big finale about finding the magic. But you know, you take this sort of thing for what it has to offer -- a couple of good voices, a couple interestingly-structured scenes, one love song that sounded more like "Saturday In The Park" than anything else. Too much flat expository language in the lyrics, though -- that's for the book.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

1) Organizer Jacob Knabb tells me that tonight's panel (see first item) is at 33 E. Congress, not 30.

2) Sasha's not the only one screwing up. Last night, I utterly failed to locate Fulton Recital Hall for the Susan Howe/David Grubbs performance. (I'm pretty sure it wasn't behind the muffler shop I ended up in front of.) Too bad, as I enjoyed their record, and wrote a pick for their NY show. (Explaining "Melville's Marginalia" in the available space and appropriate vocabulary for Time Out New York isn't the same endeavor as explaining grills and screwtapes to NYer subscribers, but it felt like pulling teeth.)

3) After a good deal of necessarily unsystematic surfing, I find that I have little in the way of a settled understanding of the riots. To say the most banal thing possible: events await their interpretation. The "l'intafada" dog won't hunt, that's clear enough if you can read past the hot-button phrase "predominantly Muslim youths" in U.S. news reports, but I must admit -- as someone who's been slapping SI graffiti on weak-ass pop records about ruined banks and storefronts since 1993 -- that I'm as wary of Jane's version as anyone's. [Update: This post was written just before Jane's Voice piece went up. But I'm not changing it. The quotations from a seven year-old as reported by her architect/theorist aunt are beneath the author.] Again: what has "happened" depends on what happens -- if these events come to be understood and responded to as a way of demanding recognition within existing civil society, then their destabilizing energy will likely be absorbed for the time being. Is "we can't get jobs" merely to be understood as "never work" under false consciousness? On the other hand, some of the suburban violence also seems to have the end of emphasising what is already implicitly known: this is our turf. I don't imagine that the residents who organize anti-violence marches and stand guard at local buildings at night are especially ready to locate a common cuase with the rioters. (These, of course, are not "direct actions," because they're not fun enough.)

All that said, I think it's bizarre to be smug-yet-relieved about the seeming fact that tourist-life goes on. No more morally perverse, perhaps, than tourism in "normal" times -- but, I would think, more difficult to sustain without a strain. Yet this co-exists with alarmism: this strikes me as an odd headline for a story reporting car-burning down to 190 from over 1,000 in two nights. (This piece reports the number as 617; I also want to know -- who has the time to count?)

Much of what I've read, I don't care to link to -- many of the interpretations that aren't overtly racist are covertly so, especially in dismissing the violence as the stepped-up activity of already active small-time criminals. But, with the caveat that I do not necessarily endorse any link that takes you off this blog: No Parasan! seems to be one of the most frequently updated sites of relevance. Its authors' main source of energy seems to be schadenfreuede w/r/t the French govt.'s confusion, so make of it will you will. Here is the only item I've turned up that attempts to claim the "border-jumping" could extend to America, specifically Los Angeles. I think the author is, if I can put it this way, too optimistic: the most relevant question that emerges is why more didn't happen after the Devin Brown and Tony Mohammad incidents, which are, if anything, more clear-cut particular incidents of police racism than the one that was match to the flame in France. Preemptive Karma sounds more conflicted, and offers a good deal to chew on, inc. thoughts on what this means for Le Pen, and further connections to U.S. events.

From a more academic angle, this book looks as though it might be interesting, though I obviously can't vouch for that on the basis of the review. The author's view is that France's socio-economic problems are a result of a the welfare state's inegalitarianism, with entrenched (white) public sector workers benefiting unequally, as against immigrant and immigrant-descended communities. "Considering that France's bloated, grossly inefficient, and absurdly highly paid public sector also has the worst strike record in Europe does not inspire confidence that it will give up its privileges easily. In 2000, for instance, the nationalised SNCF rail workers, who constituted one per cent of French workers, accounted for forty per cent of all the nation's strike days." If that is so, it colors my view of Kristin Ross' attempts to see latter-day strikes in France as '68 (slight return).

Someone whose French is better than mine will also want to get on translating the songs of Ministre Amer, who appear in the soundtrack of La Haine. (See also members Stomy Bugsy and Passi.)

And -- do I need to say this? -- manifestations involving lighting bus passengers on fire or striking passersby with dumbbells from 15th story windows (somewhere further down on No Parasan!, w/ heavy-handed sarcastic commentary) are not to be condoned or celebrated, either as festival or rhetoric. Things are things, and their destruction may even unmask their illusory claim on us; persons are not. Call me sentimental. I hope that whatever further direction these events take, it is not this one.

I may continue to post relevant material as I encounter it, but I believe I will leave interpretation and position-taking to my betters.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

I'd have been there if I'd been there: Many thanks to Harlequin Knights for his detailed coverage of the n/OULIPO conference at Redcat (the official site doesn't seem to be working this sec); I'm particularly surprised to learn of the tenor of Johanna Drucker's remarks. And don't skip Joseph's link to Catherine Daly's imagined response to Spahr and Young's presentation/performance.

Btw -- Alexus Meinong, mentioned at the start of Joseph's final post, is also the fellow whose views on the reality of non-existent objects were famously critiqued by Bertrand Russell. I think Peli has to chug.

1) Some people say that the internet makes dangerous information too widely available. That's ridiculous.

2) de Villepin's book of literary criticism: In Praise of Those Who Stole The Fire.

3) Whistling in the dark: "You have to go looking trouble to find it."

4) John Beer writes in, quite reasonably, re the "science of history":

I find myself a little torn, as on the one hand, I sympathize entirely with your reluctance to grant an easy acceptance of a science of history (the sort of rejection of Marx's scientism, for instance, that the Frankfurt School takes as a starting point), and at the same time, I don't have a huge problem with Joshua's rejoinder to the Slate journalist in the terms that he makes it. I suppose primarily because while Joshua's citation of aeronautics might on the surface imply a kind of scientistic reduction of the social to the physical, I think he's more charitably read as tweaking the elision from the undeniable greater unknowability of the social to a kind of mysterian rejection of generalizations (& particularly generalizations regarding power) in the social realm. Just because there isn't the kind of knowledge available through the physical sciences doesn't mean that! there aren't productive and useful theoretical generalizations to be made socially. & (this is where I'd want to say that Marxialist thoughts about false consciousness might render principles of charity intepretively inert when reading Slate journalists) the Slate remark is meant to paper over the possibility of such thinking, & that papering over is usefully exposed through the engineering analogy.

[I'll only add -- yeah, the line I was running does have to explain why any useful (strategic?) generalization can be made about the social. This is obviously not unrelated from the topics above -- esp. if the "historical law" exemplified can be expressed any more precisely than "Don't push me 'cos I'm close to the edge."]

5) What can the scientist feel at the confirmation of theory by experi(m)ent(i)al results but glee?

6) A knight's morve away from a link of Jordan's, a link to downloads of 2 non-CD Hold Steady tunes -- from a sold-out seven-inch, of all things. Only one of the files worked for me, but it's been a busy morning and I didn't have time to fuss.

7) "Time goes by so slowly": Who's Madge trying to convince?

Monday, November 07, 2005

1) Weekend of missed connections. Annoying.

2) Hey, Sasha: Loud and clear. Cardinal never happened for me, but I know many for whom they did, and (irrelevantly) Bob Fay is a prince. By the by -- Suzanne Valadon was also the woman with whom Toulouse-Lautrec had the closest thing in his life to a sustained romantic relationship. Which was not very close, in that she, with her mother's help, feigned a suicide attempt in order to elicit a marriage proposal; their motive was economic. T-L was one of the few painters she modeled for and/or slept with who was respectful of her own artisitc ambitions (though that Wikipedia article says Degas encouraged her as well). Her work is, as you say, more than interesting -- I was tempted by a catalog in the Orsay this summer, back when I was cosmopolitan and Paris was merely the archive of tumult.

3) Which obliquely reminds me -- clipped this unsigned review of Tout le fer de la tour Eiffel, a novel by Michele Mari, from a bilingual in-flight magazine in August:

"The main character of Mari's book resembles the real-life Walter Benjamin down to the last detail. In the novel he has decided to compile a collection of emblematic artistic and literary artifacts: Kafka's cockroach, Proust's madeline, a soft watch out of a Dali painting, etc. But it so happens that a German philologist and Nazi sympathizer also covets the same treasures. Benjamin engages his rival in a battle of wits whiole simultaneously thwarting the schemes of a gang of a malevolent dwarves. And what about the Eiffel Tower? Perhaps you didn't know, but the iron it is made of has magical powers."

Sounds awfully trivializing -- no idea whether it will be translated.

4) Disappointed but not shocked to see which party dominates the L. Gore/K. Hanna interview that appears in the new Ms..

4) BenjyWatch, pt. 2., in which our man is "gaga" over Anna May Wong. [I also should have read Hoberman's review of Masc/Fem before seeing it again recently -- the parodied film" is Bergman's The Silence.]

5) Bullseye.

6) Re Hit It or Quit It: An earlier version of this post went off at some length about the presence of an interview question concerning my resemblance to a BBC Detective. The gist of being expressible as "wtf?," we can forgo the rest. As to what it's like to be my friend: Try it!

Friday, November 04, 2005

Mostly grouchy misc.:

1) I'll be on a panel called "What Is Pop?" which has something to do with a critical writing class, but is open to the public, at Columbia College, on Nov. 9 at 4 p.m.. Their site is hard to navigate, so, here's a bit more detail: Room 421 of the 30 E. Congress Building (located @ the intersection of Congress & Wabash). Take the elevator to the 4th floor, turn right upon exiting and make your way to #421. (Actually, I think this might have been the same room as the Wheeler reading -- did I mention that I was completely surprised when the host/introducer turned out to be David Trinidad?) Other panelists include my man J., Mike Flaherty of U. of Chicago radio, a writer that I don't know named Emerson Dameron, and Jack Hoyle, an actual musician. Difficult not to remark on whiteness, maleness (though this was only the confirmed participation as of a few days ago). I'm certainly going to talk about this, especially if it doesn't look like it's going to come up otherwise -- but, man, things have really devolved if this task falls to supposed arch-formalist me.

2) Even though I realize it's only shorthand, every time Jordan makes with the baseball stats, I am made aware that what I have been seeking for my entire life so far, is some endeavor in which the point was not to score. Outside of some personal relationships, I have not found one. Hence my air of disappointment. (But, then, one also sees that Jordan has related issues.)

3) To paraphrase Jim: "There's as much poetry if not more in [popular cultural reference author in the author's purview] than in [popular culture references not in the author's purview, esp. for generational reasons]. Pull up a library chair if you want. That'll never be my thing." First: Sure, "as much," but not "more." More why? Because now? And anyway, second, if two of your examples of now are Calvin and Hobbes and Public Enemy, I think that boat has sailed and can I borrow my Tama Janowitz books back? Third, and maybe I can put this in terms members of our generation (I think Jim and I are about the same age) can grasp: "The library is cool....Ayyyy!."

4) Sometimes Sasha is so terse that I honestly can't tell if he's linking to something because he thinks it's good, or lame. I was going to use this remark as an excuse to go on to complain about Eric Matthews, but now I can't find the press release for the upcoming Elliot Smith tribute on which his contribution is a mix of a song (I think it was "Big Nothing") to which Matthews has added instrumentation that Smith explicitly rejected for the album version. This just in: That's not a tribute.

5) Just while I'm knee deep in fixing up the 12" mix of my Peggy Lee piece for publication,here comes the call for papers/final exam prompt for EMP 2006, which Matos has posted for our convenience. We are warned that "Proposals are judged by liveliness of prose as much as pertinence of topic." Whaddya think, gang, will we be able to come up with 250 words as lively as "To what extent do these issues reveal hierarchies of taste, transformed subjectivities, the effect of politics on culture, or other lines of contestation permeating popular music?" by January?

6) I sort of thought a sonneteer was a crypto-Oulipian. (Someone went completely pseudo-analytic nutters in your comments cabinet, btw.)

7) props to Hops; does this mean that there will now be less snuff-radio about the Cash family?

8) I only said "mostly grouchy": I've been meaning to say something about Monie Love's Down To Earth. If you knew more than one of the following facts, you knew more than me: (a) She's English -- from Battersea (but wasn't the video NYC double-dutch?); 1990 is fairly early for UK hip-hop of any import, or am I wrong? (b) "Monie in the Middle," the chorus of which I've carried around for, what, 15 years now, was produced by Andy Cox and David Steele of E. Beat/F.Y. Cannibals (which also explains her presence on a remix of "She Drives Me Crazy"); (c) The rest of the album is tuffer than you'd think, w/ production by Bambatta and cohort; (d) it doesn't have a hell of a lot to do with the Daisy Underground-manque suggested by the cover art and big-floppy-hat-and-shorts look; (e) there may be a Muslim thing going on; though no explicit reference is made, I don't know how else one explains the anti-pork screed "Swiney Swiney." I have not yet found the time to track down her 1993 follow-up In a Word or 2, or to figure out what she's been up to since (though I gather she's been a New York radio personality at some time).

9) I also commend to you Triptych Myth's The Beautiful, esp. if you like unusually-stuctured but not totally out piano trios (see Shipp, Mengelberg) as much as I do: Cooper-Moore is a monster.

10) I screwed up the link last time for Make Now Press. Thanks, Bill. And Joseph.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


(a) Pleased to find Steve not only giving props to Shadow of a Doubt, but to the "indelible Santa Rosa bad girl" played by the curiously obscure Janet Shaw. Please consult A Cat May Look at a Queen, AbKosh 2003, track 3, which samples her big line ("'I'd just die for a ring like that. Yes sir, for a ring like that, I'd just about die."); the cover is part of a beauty contest still of Shaw that I found in, as the song says, a "Downtown Pomona antique mall."

(b) Jody Rosen, of White Christmas fame, has a new blog: Anachronist, devoted to the sorts of pre-rock pop on which blues 'n' folk lovin' crit-types have heaped...well, silence, mostly. Check out his opening post for a manifesto; whether you agree or not, plenty to download in the days after (excellent links, too).

(c) While I'm in word-spreading mode, glad to be able to mention that L.A.-based Make Now Press has scored the rights to put Mathews' and Brotchie's Oulipo Compendium back into print. (Go past the flash page and click "Upcoming Publications.")

(d) Recently noted that among the pairs of "Iconoclasts" to be featured on an upcoming Sundance Channel series is this one: Michael Stipe + Mario Batali. Fine, whatever, make some bruschetta. But what I want to know is: is the general idea that, once you get famous enough, you just do any damn thing that comes into your head?

(e) The division of labor in the sexual act. The fetishism of small differences. The diagonal of personal ecstasy.

(f) Heard Susan Wheeler and Jean Marie Beaumont read at Columbia College, down in the Loop, about two weeks back. Was unfamiliar w/ Beaumont; what she read was accessible in its strategies, but by no means inane. Particularly liked a poem in the "voice" of a rock, and another comprised simply of all of the thrice-repeated phrases in Ariel: "marry it, marry it, marry it." Susan read "Benny the Beaver" (which, I should have noticed before, is about being a poet) and a few other lightish things from Source Codes, the "Money and God" section from Ledger, and more of the poems using her mother's diction which I first half-heard backstage at MillionPoemsLand earlier this year. I quite enjoy her reading style, sort of tough, hardly poet-y at all. Hope to get to her novel Record Palace over Xmas; at a glance, my first thought was, "I had no idea she knew this much about jazz." Then turned around and picked up Bree for a screening of Michael Liesen's Sturges-penned Easy Living -- you can see why Sturges ended up directing his own work, Leisen pushes good jokes/holds reaction shots too long. In any case, the commodities-gone-mad of the classic Automat scene was nice punctuation to Ledger. Then I went to Cass McCombs' show at the Hideout, more on that later. All this was before I noticed that I had some work to do.

(g) Mention of Sturges reminds me that I recently saw for sale the issue of Film Comment that was the original venue for both Farber's "White Elephant Art vs. Termite Art" and Sarris' "Notes on the Auteur Theory in 1962." And some pre-New Yorker Kael piece. It cost $40; not bad, as the same bookstore was selling a visiting card signed by Charles Dodgson for $3K. I stuck with a ten-buck copy of Tom Clark's Stones w/ the Brainard cover (Swiss cheese).

(h) Also saw The Awful Truth, more comfort food, I'm afraid. You know something, though -- it's not one of Cary Grant's best performances; Ralph Bellamy, as a demonstration of what you end up with if you try to deny your love for someone more "difficult," runs away with the middle third of the movie.

(h) Will have to go back to that Tropicalia show at Chicago MOCA, as there are several fairly long loops of performances and other film-clips on view: Were you aware that Os Mutantes had done a series of Brazilian TV ads for Shell Oil? Kinda kills it, no?

(i) Oh yes: about a week ago, I shook the hand of a very polite Welsh woman: Jon Langford's mother.

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