“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Friday, August 24, 2007


When LI goes out hiking with our brothers, the scene partly resembles the chapter in which Leopold Bloom and Stephen Daedelus slope towards home. Questions are raised - notably, the question of how it could possibly be the case that the intervals between the hour when the shadow points due east, the hour when it points due north, and the hour it points due west could be uneven. This involved much diagramming with sticks, calculations about preserving the percentage of the average day between sunrise and sunset as a circle with a greater or lesser diameter, representing the variation of the day over the year, and a few counterfactuals, one involving a world made entirely of glass, which sorta went over my head. Then there is the traditional argument about the pre-Columbian population of North and South America, which is always, for some reason, heated. The scene also resembles tradition redneck fiestas - for instance, back at camp, we all sing along to Freebird when its turn comes on the itunes playlist. Then there is the traditional beer, whiskey, rum and ... stuff. There is the straining to see a bird that just flew off from a bush, the shadow of a fish in a pool, and the hope of seeing a bear someday, at a suitable distance. There are the dirty jokes, which segue into politics, which veer into descriptions of crime scenes one has been a part of. There's the princess and the pea, or rather the princess and the fucking rocky gravel, effect to deal with in the confines of a tent upon which absolute forest dark has closed down; there's the amazingly delicious morning coffee, no longer cowboy style; there's the swimming in the pools under the waterfall.

To prove my distaste for shorts (excepting the right occasion): here's LI on a bridge in the mountains, wearing waterproof, non-commodifiable, thoroughly theory vetted trousers:

My brother, D., decided that LI was being silly. He opted for Lacanian lounging in a thoroughly American pair of shorts.

My other brother, D2, was also determined to trample the trails exposing his knees. To. Poison. Ivy. Having avoided the annual scourge so far this year, I was not about to dare that pernicious native american creeper:

Finally, we styled in the wilderness with this ultraneat camo budweiser tent for pooches. Featured is a model pooch, Cody:

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Atlanta. LI successfully made it past the e-ticket, the woman who tells you to get into the big line that wends around just like it used to pre e-ticket, the man telling his wife that he thinks they should go home and call up American airlines and get their money back, the harried smiles from the multiple service monster snorting up information and baggage, the doffed shoes, the metal detector and involved search of the old Mexican guy in the wheelchair including his stretched out socks, the niceness of tvs not hanging everywhere unlike Dallas, the airport where tvs are as thick as passenger pigeons used to be in the autumn skies of Ohio, the tracking of hurricane Dean through holiday resorts, the Delta plane with barely any passengers within which one could settle back and enjoy the two count em two packets of peanuts to make this trip an enjoyable one since the pilot and the Delta organization he represents know (regretfully) that we have a choice when buying tickets showing that old institutional memories of 1910 when we didn’t have a choice die hard, and then my brother, with a bit more gray to him and me and both of us casting those surreptitious measuring glances of siblings who haven’t seen each other in a while and getting our footing and we are off…

So there is going to be less from LI. I planned to do a little more concentrated research while here for my happiness essay. Gonna mostly try to hike. Eat. Drink. Be merry.

In the meantime … do look at the whole festschrift of inanity pouring out of Gideon Rose’s defense of the foreign policy clerisy. Glenn Greenwald is on quite a roll, dismantling the various pretences. Oddly, over at Lawyers Guns and Money one of the bloggers is defending the idea that invading Iraq was at least a defensible idea back in the day. LI begs to differ. There were two parameters that the promoters of the war had to deal with: cost and manpower. Cost was figured by Glenn Hubbard at 100-200 billion dollars. Manpower was figured by Shinseki at 400,000 men or over. Both figures referred to the whole process, for the invasion and the occupation were one process. I discount any argument that compartmentalized those things. I only count those arguments for the war which absorbed the fact that it would take the resources projected by Shinseki and Hubbard. And any supporter who did that – I can’t think of one – would have, honestly, not been able to support the invasion. The testimony of Wolfowitz and of the Rumsfeld Defense department in the months leading up to the war undercut any serious case for the war. In the same way that advocating building a dam across a river conscientiously means advocating using the resources it takes to build a dam across a river. A bad engineer will build an insufficiently supported bridge and cause a catastrophe. A bad foreign policy analyst will build a case detached from the project realities of resourcing it and create a guerilla war, a falling state, four million refugees and some not small change in deaths – we’ve reached five hundred thousand or so last year in Iraq. In both cases, the irresponsibility is shameful. And that’s that.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

wasting time

Damn. LI is going to Atlanta today. So we don't have time to post a long translation from Stendhal's 1826 preface to On Love. As we've been saying and saying, the 19th century experienced a change in emotional customs, following behind a change in the positional structure that derived from the emergence - or imposition - of the market society. What makes Stendhal such a great witness is that his early life was dedicated to the proposition that happiness in Europe was born out of the the French Revolution. This was what Napoleon's soldiers brought with them. If you remember the great opening chapters of The Charterhouse of Parma, he describes there the irresistibly joyous result of the contact of modernity - Napoleon's soldiers - with the petrified order of the ancien regime in Italy. Although the irresistibility was, in fact, resisted and rolled back in the 1820s. This was the decade in which Standhal saw political oppression in Italy first hand, in the career of the woman he was in love with, Mathilde Dembowski, a Milanese woman who was spied on by the Austrians for her work with the Italian revolutionaries. It was in the wake of Stendhal's affair with Metilde that he wrote On Love.

A.O. Hirschman, in "The Passions and the Interests: Political Arguments for Capitalism Before Its Triumph", has given an account of the way the relation between passion and interest was reconfigured in the post-Smith era. Hirschman begins with a tres Stendhalian question: how did glory get subordinated to wealth in the West?

“No matter how much approval was bestowed on commerce and other forms of money-making, they certainly stood lower in the scale of medieval values than a number of other activities, in particular the striving for glory. It is indeed through a brief sketch of the idea of glory in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance that I shall now attempt to renew the sense of wonder about the genesis of the “spirit of capitalism.”

Indeed, all his life Stendhal strove to reconcile an intellectual preference for the strictly logical and cold - philosophy expressed in the style of the Civic Code, as he put it - with his notion of the 'happy few'. The meaning Stendhal gave to happiness is inseparable from glory. The glory that ran through the Napoleonic period had, for Stendhal, departed from Europe, atomizing into private ventures - such as Julien Sorel's. Stendhal's biting comments about businessmen and the wealthy comne out of this sense that they are essentially inglorious. The striving for self interest actually blinds the reader of On Love to its meaning: it is literally incomprehensible to them:

"In spite of taking pains to be clear and lucid, I can’t perform miracles; I can neither give ears to the deaf nor eyes to the blind. Thus money men, men whose pleasures are unselective [a grosse joie] who have earned a hundred thousand france in the year preceding the moment they open this book ought to quickly shut it, in particular if they are bankers, manufacturers, respectable industrialists, that is to say people with eminently positive ideas. This book may be less unintelligible to those who have gained a lot of money in the market or the lottery. Such profit can coexist with the habit of passing hours entirely devoted to revery, and to enjoying the emotions that come out of a painging of Prud’hon or a musical phrase of Mozart’s, or, finally, of a certain singular look darted by the woman one is preoccupied with. This is, of course, nothing but wasting one’s time for men who pay two thousand workers at the end of each week. Their minds are always pointed towards the useful and the positive."

Well, I will return to this when I can.