This spring, published a story about the philosopher, Alexandre Kojève, by Raymond Nart, a former officer with the DST, French Counter-intelligence. Commentaire, in the past, had published articles in praise of Kojève and even articles by Kojève. Kojève, after WWII, declared himself a “Sunday philosopher”, and had proceeded to devote most of his time to reconstructing France’s economy as an subminister in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In this post, Kojève became one of the great behind-the-scenes architects of France’s , that experiment in dirigiste capitalism under the Bretton Woods system which finally came a header in the period of rampant inflation and the Oil crisis of the seventies. Notably, he helping to lay the foundation of the Common Market. Nart’s article was entitled, ominously, Alexandre Kojevnikov dit Kojève. Scholars of the great Cold War Communist hunts will be delighted to learn that the old rhetorical maneuver of tearing away the legal name to reveal the old, Russian name spying behind it still lives. Nart has nothing new to say about Kojève’s famous Introduction to Reading Hegel, a series of lectures that he gave between 1933-1939 which were edited and published by Raymond Queneau in 1947. Nart’s attention, instead, is all on the Kojève who was giving the Soviets microfilm and
packages of documents. What was in those documents, Nart regrets, we can only guess. But they must have been of value! Nart relies for his story on other documents, files that come from now defunct Eastern European and Soviet espionage agencies. Nart has used these sources before, in the 1990s, to claim that Charles Hernu, Mitterand’s first war minister, spied for the Soviets in the fifties. Nart is of the walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, must be a duck school of thought. His conclusion is that the philosopher was a spy. To the broader mind, though, one that has a knowledge of both ducks and other creatures with bills, like platypuses, Nart’s proof is far from convincing.
See the rest here: Willett's
Saturday, March 16, 2019
God will bless the porn stars
And Blake’s chimney sweeps, equally
“all the lonely people”
Crying weep weep even creepily
If we are not loved above
Not even by a fiction
Is there any use in standing straight
Or correcting your diction?
Or should I let the blood flow down
my paddling paws
Smothered in a chimney flue
Or spastic in somebody else’s claws
Thursday, March 14, 2019
Everything in the newspapers for the last year, or decade, or two decades, has been like a course in parables for dummies. And the beat goes on. So yesterday, a rich actress gets caught in a scheme to get her daughter into USC not through the old fashioned cheating way – donating to USC massively – but through the cheap way, faking her rowing credentials and bribing rowing coaches there to the tune of 500,000 smackers. Attention turned to the daughter, who is labeled – universally – a teen influencer. She runs an Instagram account among other things where she commoditizes every stubbed toe – bandaids from @amazon! She is outspoken on her account, writing things like: “I don’t know how much of school I’m going to attend … I don’t really care about school, as you guys all know.”
A prize student like that gets the extra treatment. On the day the Feds pulled the plug on her mom, she was off vacationing on the yacht of a billionaire named Rick Caruso – who just happens to be on the USC Board of Trustees.
The parable – about what it is like in Plutocratic America – isn’t finished yet. Because the case has drawn attention to the Tanya McDowell case. Don’t wonder what show she was starring in – she wasn’t! She was homeless, she is African-American, and she had the audacity to lie about her address so her son could attend a good public school in Norwalk. All such things done by the homeless, or by people whose incomes are below the 20,000 level, are a great chance to keep our prison industrial complex going. McDowell was sentenced to five years in prison for “stealing” 15,000 dollars – from the good white people of Norwalk – and because, as a homeless woman, she sold some drugs to an undercover cop, they got her for that too. Cleaning the streets of these people. So in the great hall of justice, they decided, with a mercy that just makes me want to cry American pie, that the five years for defrauding Norwalk would run concurrently with the drug sentence. Here’s a nice tweet summing up the case. https://twitter.com/TalbertSwan/status/1105840732852629505
A parable is supposed to be wrapped around an enigma, and these newspapers ones are, too. The enigma is how did the U.S. get so mean? So meanspirited? So servile? I can’t blame the Tanya McDowells, or really anybody in the lower 80 percent, since that percentage of the population is so beaten by debt and riled up by entertainment news and so discombobulated by a social geography that keeps it on the road for hours per day that I don’t expect a revolution. But is there a moment when the meanness overflows? When it pops? Is there a moment when people remember, distantly, when monetizing your every move as a teen influencer was not something to be proud of, but rather, a shameful matter, classified under the Gospel’s “selling your soul for a piece of gold”?
We eat it and we eat it and we eat it and there won’t be any left, you know. The day is coming and it won’t be long. And this is how we live.
Wednesday, January 30, 2019
Thursday, January 24, 2019
“Your toddler is starting to have a ball – first by rolling that curious round thing you’ve handed him or her… and then by attempting to throw it – or more likely, dropping the ball and watching in delight as it moves across the floor.”
What to expect the second year: from 12 to 24 months, by Heidi Murkoff
France and the U.S. are separated not only by language, but also by ball obsessions. The football that charms the heart of the French boy is of a different species than that which makes the American highschooler’s heart go pitter pat.
However, I’ve forever been an American dissident. Between the ages of 11 and 21, the ball I followed with passion was knocked around by a tennis racket. It was fuzzy – close cropped fuzzy when new, just a little ruglike to the palm, and very fuzzy when wet and old, when it was retired from the court and used to, for instance, make a dog take off running in the back yard for a game of fetch. The cans would make a satisfying whoop sound when you took off the top and broke the vacuum seal. They were made so that they began all bouncy and went flat – unlike footballs or soccer balls, which ride on their inner air. I have since not been an attentive tennis fan, or a player of tennis – save for odd times when I can scare up a racket and an opponent. I miss it. I miss, more, the body that would, like a dog’s, haul ass on even impossible to respond to shots. I have the body of a 61 year old – which is all well and good, since I am 61 years old – and its legs, its arms, its heart, its lungs, its lights have the usual wear and tear of 21st century man – not, I should say, the way they would bear that stigmata if I were a manual laborer. I did a reasonable amount of illicit substances when I was young, and drink a reasonable amount of wine now that I am old, and eat a reasonable amount of veggies and an unreasonable amount of fats, which makes me a sort of cog when it comes time for the medical examination, an uninteresting assembly line bourgeois widget. Perhaps the tide will change and I’ll become one of those leathery tanned types on a tennis court, those dinosaurs, those hale old men, but I think you have to make other choices than the ones I have made to end up there.
There is a tremendous literature about sports in the 20th and 21st century, but really little about the ball. The ball itself. Yet the ball is fascinating. A couple of years ago I tried to get into racket ball, and one of the things that fascinated me was the compression of the racket ball balls, their hardness, which is, paradoxically, part of their sharp bounce. They seem poised to slam off a wall. That is satisfying, but somehow I couldn’t ride those balls.
When I was a teenager, I even subscribed to a tennis magazine for a while, and scanned articles that were guaranteed to make me better. Back then, the new thing was Zen. The Zen of everything. In the case of tennis, though, the Zen approach oddly fit. If I lost myself in the ball, if I had that moment, it did seem, at least, that I played better. In tennis, sometimes you have a growth spurt – you play above the level of your play, you get it in a new way, the ball is your second self, your not so secret sharer. You sign a new contract. But I could never climb to that level and stay there – that is, after a certain plateau had been reached. Not enough dedication. Even so, I knew that when I played well, it was about the ball. The racket, the beautiful racket, followed, obeyed, it was a part of you, but it wasn’t idiosyncratic, it didn’t have a free will, it wasn’t a ball.
It is odd that economists don’t consider the ball. All the activity, the immense labor, that is woven around balls. Because why? Because you want to win, and to win means doing your thing with the ball, which is the thing – the object and the symbol – between you and your opponent.
Balls have evidently been around a long time, but they don’t get the study that, say, coins do. They should, though. Take, for instance, the American football. That ball is grotesque. It is less ball than projectile. If Adorno had had a sportif bone in his flabby kritikdrenched body, he would have recognized the intimacy between the football and Hiroshima. In fact, football is a tremendously interesting game, but it is interesting the way the war in the Pacific, circa 1941-1945, is more interesting than the Thirty years war.
On the other hand, you have the baseball, which is all Renaissance, a thing of beauty that would have been recognized by Alberti or by da Vinci. The stitching and the whiteness and the generally regal bearing of that ball, the great materials it is made of, mystically color the entire game.
Yet even so – there is the ball – not the individual balls. In baseball, for instance, hitters will have favorite bats. Just as tennis players have favorite rackets. But a favorite ball – that doesn’t happen. Partly this is because balls are individuals in just the way methodological individualism imagines individuals – free, wild, and total substitutable. One doesn’t play a ball game with the individual ball in mind, although a crooked ball can interrupt play. For instance, in baseball there are cases when the ball has been subtlely and illicitly altered. There are, of course, balls that are fetishistically claimed – bowling balls, for instance. But mostly the balls are disposable in their very essence. You might try to live on the tennis ball during the game, you might try to clear your mind of everything else, but in the end, you have no affection for the ball qua that particular ball.
Children’s encyclopedia’s retail glorious myths about the invention of fire, or of the wheel, or the pully, or bronze – but they never bother to imagine the invention of the ball. The ball, in fact, seems part of nature. A pebble, a nut. Yet the ball is surely the very symbol of culture – it is the very symbol of the symbol. In itself, it is nothing. But in play, it becomes more than itself. It starts to mean. It is Victor Turner’s symbolic object, and as such, it defines spaces and limits. It creates a passage, traversing a space that is charged with meaning. But unlike those objects – human beings – who also go through passages, the ball can mean but it can’t express. This, of course, brings us back to the afore mentioned fact that balls do not earn our affection, as say a piece of furniture, a house, a car do. A ball is always being subsumed into the great collective of balls.
Having a ball. The whole ball of wax. There goes the ball game.
Enough about balls.