Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I feel an obsessive desire to consume Wittgenstein

The sensation I work from a script
I say, “X!” expecting some retort
But you’ve instead said “Alpha.”
The slap those times you deviate
I don’t know the answer
And Gödel laughs at my pale attempts
Less words, your head rests on my chest
Gently tracing muscles’ lives
Until the sun’s full set
Then you leap up, tongue out, declare:
“You drive me wild.”

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Do I Not Have Eyes, to See?

We found them, once, on a ship of the damned, a barge haphazardly sailing the Rhine and Rhone and Danube, its cargo the ostracized. The structuralists and formalists and antinominalists and all their friends -- they found them in the cemeteries, the underground walkways, the peripheries.

The thing is these "they," the [insert your favorite euphemism e.g. 'forgotten,' 'subaltern,' 'peripheral,' 'outsiders'], are not on the periphery. But it's easy to overlook them when they escape the margins to which we exile; temporality, here, works with just as much strength as locality.

It's Thursday. Mid-morning sun in that unfamiliar brightness - "we" are, after all, typically ensconced in our schools and offices and secure worlds by now. It's downtown, the Main Street, that part of town that falls under the sway of the college students and bar-crawling patrons. The night is not as shadowed as once it was; the night offers no protection to the ostracized.

They're out, now. In the sun, they walk. In the shop windows, they stop and watch myriad proceedings. One makes fastball pitching motions, nothing in his hand, towards a dumpster, awaiting the metallic echo of a sound that's not yet fired.

I see two options. Either my thesis is correct - and temporality dictates the periphery, but the context changes, time enforces itself upon the shadow gestalt of centrism and all its enemies in different ways - or there's a more insidious breakdown of the system of peripheries and alienations, where those considered subaltern no longer hide, but are not equal before the law.

Take that to bear on whatever strain of current events you may like. As the unBridge quipped the other day, "You have infinite possibilities ahead of you."

I looked over at him and [mournfully? with sardonic foreknowledge of what would be the next words out of his mouth?] replied: "Because I'm white?"

He laughed. He nodded.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sounds like George Santayana, to me.

This is from a text on Weimar Germany, the republic that lasted from the end of World War I to the rise of the Third Reich. It is titled, appropriately, Weimar Germany: Promise and Tragedy (Eric Weitz [Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 2007]).
At a stormy Reichstag session following the murder, Chancellor Joseph Wirth gave one of the most forceful and moving political speeches of the Weimar era. He knew that the assassins had not acted alone, knew that they operated in an environment that had made such terror acts salonfähig, that is, acceptable in polite society. Wirth vociferously attacked the men on the right...[charging] them with creating a 'murderous atmosphere' in the country. ...And he concluded: "There stands the enemy (to the right), who drips his poison in the wounds of the people-There stands the enemy-and about that there is no doubt: the enemy stands on the right!"
It's not my style to do the flamboyant things sometimes asked, but sometimes the shocking events of the world truly do necessitate positive action. (Although far be it from me to say that there is any perfect response: cf. far-echoing and angry reactions even from players on the same side).

All I'm wondering is, in light of current events - current events, I realize, that are so often cited and commented on as to have lost all rhetoric flair -- have we not established a situation analogous to Weimar Germany? Are there not some certain elements of contemporary society that "stand to the right"?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Lord of the Flies. In a Factory.

A diamond shatters. Who's to blame?

I don't know what process diamonds actually undergo, but let's run with the following. If it makes you feel better, it's an experiment that exists totally within my mind, so it doesn't matter if it correlates to reality.

At the final checkpoint in mining, diamonds pass through a conveyor belt, at the end of which a man with a tiny little archaeologist's hammer taps them, just once, light vibrations like a ghostly presence, just outside audible reality. The diamonds, though vibrating, maintain their internal quality, and move on.

But one little diamond moves along the track, without a sense of apprehension (he is, after all, a diamond), and reaches the little man with his little hammer. The strike - a crash in the air that disrupts all of his peers' subtleties and emanations - and the diamond shatters. In the instant of the strike, he feels (because our diamonds, now, can feel) the presence of a hairline fracture deep within, a little fracture he'd never have noticed, were it not for the little man's little hammer's little blow, but a flaw, nevertheless. He disintegrates onto the tracks of the conveyor.

The diamond shatters, but the agent of its destruction can't be to blame; after all, so many other diamonds had come before, and so many would hereafter, that survived the trial of the little man's little hammer's little strike. The instrument of destruction cannot be held accountable for the destruction. The diamond was flawed.

The diamond was doomed.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

It's fun, for example, to read Camus's diaries.

I can't remember what precisely led me to it, but I decided I wanted to rewatch that clip from Ukraine's Got Talent I first saw and referenced around this time last year.

I decided I wanted to write a response to it, more than I had before. As I started drafting this blogpost, I remembered that I was thinking about World War II in Russia around this time last year, and checked; oddly enough, the entry dating precisely to this date, one year ago, is the one I recalled.

What's more, I am still wondering the same questions. From that earlier post:
Why do those things that seem to be “the best” at evoking an emotional response, those that are winning competitions (like Ukraine’s Got Talent) and are lauded as the exhibits to see around town (like this) all return to the question of war, to total war, to the undeniable presentiment that everything is going to be destroyed?

...What is keeping the threat of imminent and total destruction so present in creative Russians’ minds? Why has total war and total victimization trumped all other mode of artistic expression? Is it possible to tell a narrative without returning to that war? How can one move past it?
What's scary to me, now, what seems more important to me, now, what I can't stop thinking about, now, is not the question Why is the memory of the war so important and moving for them? Rather, it's become Why am I incapable of feeling what I would like to consider an appropriate level of empathy towards them?

First world problems.

More precisely, I'm having trouble justifying to myself those inquiries I used to find so fascinating and important. I can contemplate reading any of the same sources, pondering the same problems, but I can't bring myself to feel excited about elucidating their historical importance, their role in the grand teleological schemes of man, their role in maintaining or destroying the status quo. I only want to read them insofar as they're important to my personal thought processes, emotional evolutions.

First world problems.

There, I've said it and had done with.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

"The Beast" is more a Phenomenon than a Physical Being

I tagged along to the Apple N' Pork Festival in nearby Clinton a little bit ago. Naively, I pictured it roughly similar to all of those childhood visitations to New England apple orchards: there would be suburban families, apple donuts, apple cider, trees, a pseudo-idyllic country aesthetic.

It was not that. Or, more precisely: the very heart of the festival, at the Clinton Homestead (a relatively demure Reconstruction-era manor), was dominated by clustering tents and wooden stalls, the promised pork and apple cider and - donuts abiding. Gingerbread men were to be had - at the expense of standing in a line that would make my Soviet forebears proud.

Lest damnation fall upon thee, thou shalt not stray from the festival core. A huge field behind the mansion was dominated by a flea market; along the periphery downtown, a similar bazaar's expansion blanketed the asphalt.

At the risk of sounding like I'm turning the Great White Man's gaze upon subjects of internal colonization, I have to admit there was something about the festival - primarily on those peripheries, but imbuing the whole thing as well - that disturbed, unsettled me. There was a pinched look about everyone's eyes, a look that suggested that as much as this was a people 'on holiday,' what they were experiencing was anything but a joyous occasion. They seemed to be a people unaccustomed to anything but la tendre indifference du monde. The Apple n' Pork Festival was less celebration as it was an easing of that grind upon which they typically found themselves.

Walking back to the car, we passed a whole string of houses, on the porches of which clans, friends, acquaintances were gathering to drink various beverages out of solo cups. Their eyes watched us pass. I wondered what had drawn them to Clinton, Illinois. I wondered what kept them there. I wondered how they experienced their reality. I wondered how I could think that the ways in which I derive pleasure from my existence could seem that much more desirable than the ways in which they did.

One of my Animus's old friends, an Illinois native I'll call a Leaf on the Wind, aggressively told me once: "You might look down on these expanses of corn and soy field, and think that it's nothing but fly-over territory, but it's not. It's not just a wide expanse between the two coasts - people live here, too."

I want, so badly, to believe in rationalism.

The seat I had chosen was the only one facing the kitchen. Everyone else had assumed positions on couches, ottomans, stools, facing towards the television, towards the bedroom, away from the kitchen.

Which meant I was the only one who saw the green towel rise up, float and twist like a feather in an updraft for about five seconds, and fall to the ground.

Almost immediately the pit of my stomach dropped out, and I wanted nothing more to get out of the apartment. I excused myself, saying that I had a phone date with my Animus; I had started to say what I really saw, and everyone else said, "Shut up, shut up, you were just speaking Russian, then. Nonsense syllables, those, when you talked about the paranormal activity in the renovated funeral home."

I agreed. I laughed, I said, "Thanks for the great night." I walked out the door.