Saturday, May 26, 2007

Michael Gordon, war pig* reporter for the Times - another day, another lie

Michael Gordon, the man who tried to float clueless propaganda from the Bush administration about Iranian supplied weapons in Iraq, is back again with another clueless propaganda story from the Bush administration – this one is about the ardent desire of the Iraqis for the Americans to occupy their country.

It is a necessary piece. As he notes in like the 17th graf, the Iraqi parliament recently voted for the U.S. to set a timetable for leaving. This is unfortunate, as Gordon only seems to find Iraqi politicians who want the U.S. to stay, or do the bloodbath is coming shuffle. Apparently, instead of the 100 bodies a day, the Baghdad norm, it will really get serious!

Michael Gordon will always be remembered for the brilliant reporting on the Aluminum tubes. Here is the beginning of that story:

“WASHINGTON, Sept. 7, 2002 -- More than a decade after Saddam Hussein agreed to give up weapons of mass destruction, Iraq has stepped up its quest for nuclear weapons and has embarked on a worldwide hunt for materials to make an atomic bomb, Bush administration officials said today.
In the last 14 months, Iraq has sought to buy thousands of specially designed aluminum tubes, which American officials believe were intended as components of centrifuges to enrich uranium. American officials said several efforts to arrange the shipment of the aluminum tubes were blocked or intercepted but declined to say, citing the sensitivity of the intelligence, where they came from or how they were stopped.
The diameter, thickness and other technical specifications of the aluminum tubes had persuaded American intelligence experts that they were meant for Iraq's nuclear program, officials said, and that the latest attempt to ship the material had taken place in recent months.
The attempted purchases are not the only signs of a renewed Iraqi interest in acquiring nuclear arms. President Hussein has met repeatedly in recent months with Iraq's top nuclear scientists and, according to American intelligence, praised their efforts as part of his campaign against the West.

Iraqi defectors who once worked for the nuclear weapons establishment have told American officials that acquiring nuclear arms is again a top Iraqi priority. American intelligence agencies are also monitoring construction at nuclear sites.”

Over the years, Gordon has shown himself to be a seasoned professional you can trust. If he says it is raining, the sun is shining. If he says nice day, you know it is hurricane weather outside. Being a complete patsy, a war pig, a liar, an accomplice in the murder of thousands, a joke of a reporter, a man who wouldn’t know a fact if it bit him in the ass, a man with his head so far up Cheney’s ass that doctor’s worry about the first case of prostate to nose infection – he is the type of Timesman of whom we can only say, let the buyer beware.

*apologies to IT for the porcism.

dance dance dance listen to the radio

Heroism running on empty - Kurt Tucholsky

The Leipzig trial for high treason has unveiled the mental situation of the German military for those who did not know it.

We don’t take the trial very seriously. The official court has long disappointed the trust of all observers with its political judgments – what is inscribed in its judgments is resentment and politics, which are served up as a form of justicery.

That communists would never be treated like these three officers doesn’t surprise us. “I have”, said one of the government attornies, “not wanted to offend the accused, and I would regret it if they had been offended (gekraenkt habe). Well, that’s all righty then….

The important and implication heavy thing is not the attitudes of the court, but instead, the the pattern of military thought, which is less known.

It is grim.

That voluntary soldiers are voluntary opponents of pacifism ought not to astonish us, and is understandable. That has always been the case. Although it is rarely thought about - as it would be if the fire department, for example, struggled against those who wanted to put out flames… but these soldiers have never felt like firemen, who are called in the moment of danger, but have always seen themselves as their own end.
Although I won’t speak to those majors and lieutenants, who can’t be persuaded because they can’t read, and if they could read, could not understand, and if they could understand what they read, would apply it falsely – I will speak to people who wish to battle un-intelligence with intelligence.

Every man creates in his mind a world, in which he stands in the center, according to his abilities. Few confess this. Let’s begin with ourselves.

Pacifists who are good horsemen are exceptions. In every pacifistic tendency is – next to the best ethical intentions – the rejection of a world in which the preaching pacifist does not play a leading role. It is already much, if he could stand with respect in this warrior’s world. This dainty aunt-y feature is unmistakable in pacifism; where it works itself out sentimentally, is where it is hardest to defend. For that is not the sense and content of pacifism. The military opponent fights with us: with slanders, as for example in this trial; with insults, that are uninteresting, and … with a trace of justice. They struggle mostly, however, against the worst and lowest level of pacifism, against its caricature, against the cry baby in it.
Otherwise such a fight is a question of intellectual force, and really not only of the brachial type, as it is thoroughly impressed upon us today. The peaceloving person, who doesn’t want to squander his best forces on the battle field, builds himself a world, in which he has some value. He is easily inclined to place this world ethically higher than all the others.
It is weakness and lies to close one’s eyes to the fact that these elements have to be cleanly expelled. I hold it for wholly just and natural.
The pacifist is correct, even so, in his fight against war, because he is denying it the power to manage the lives of other people. I have no vegetarian feelings in any way: there may be situations, in which spilling blood is no injustice. But one must hold upright, as a fundamental demand, that nobody have the right, to rule over the life of his fellow men in order to elevate himself. But that’s exactly what soldier’s do.
“Yesterday morning, police recruits sank their shovels into a shallow grave alongside a highway and turned up the bodies of 29 unidentified men, bound, blindfolded and recently shot.
Hours later, the bodies of 15 more men, their faces splattered with mud, their necks cut with wire, were found piled in the back of a pickup truck.
On Monday, it was the same. More than 40 bodies were picked up from the streets of Baghdad, many having a single bullet wound in the head.
No one seems to know how, for example, a pickup truck full of dead men could turn up at a busy intersection in Baghdad, where there is a strict curfew at night and ceaseless checkpoints during the day. – NYT, March 15, 2006

The establishment of expressed opinions in the Leipzig trial was more than miserable. One doesn’t have to cite any documents. Ours indeed smells of where the opinions come from. Their views stem completely out of this feeling. It isn’t that they need to be bad because of this. But they are empty and disgusting. For:

If one taps hard enough on the young lieutenant and the suspiciously older officers, one will always find that they think of Germany, their fellow citizens and the collected world as a place for military exercises, for maneuvers, and look at it all as a future battlefield, on which they can unfold what they call their best talents. There we can say ecce homo – there and only there. It is for significant for this heroism, that by many is doubtless believed to be authentic and masculine, that it never asks after the goal of the soldier’s work. The fight is fought; if it is once begun, it must be gone through – but to what end the whole goes, for what reason, for who, to whose use: this is something they don’t question. In Heinz Pols novel Either-or, there is a marvelous passage: “ He wanted to see just once what he was struggling against.” That’s it. The struggle is primary – only afterward is it rationalized.
This leads easily to wanting to fight in general, and thus: to evoke hostilities and to make enemies, with whom man can be a soldier. The soldier needs an enemy. Otherwise he would be nothing.
Thus, if these officers win influence on the politics of the country – and they have achieved more than is commonly assumed – than we are near the point that they, for the sake of activating their handwork, will provoke fighting even where one could avoid it.
What the young men have said before the tribunal does not deserve any contradiction: where there is sheer nothingness, the polemicist loses his rights. It was the typical resentment of the soldier’s attitude, a casino speech, that anybody who has been through a war could repeat in his sleep. It was and is the rejection of the intellectual world, the world of peace in general, because it is too boring for men of this mold to live in. One can’t ask an actor to approve of a social order in which the theater is banned and expelled. The actor wants to act. The soldier wants to make war.

Now, the military man didn’t fall from heaven. He is nothing than a kind of person found throughout the human race, who is in germany, through history and tradition, simply overbred, because a certain type of German is wired to go beserk.

In the soldier is – observing this with complete value neutrality – force; youth, a spirit that wants to be applied; a surplus energy, that wants to spill out; a desire for riot; joy in obedience and joy in being obeyed; joy in working in the fresh air; joy in colors and in equipment – all of this and more. All of which is scrambled up, in modern soldiers, with the type of office-capable organisor, men who want to command and let others work. And with technicians, who just enjoy modern machinery, which he commands with his type of orders… for these people, it is unimportant if, in striking England, Germany is right, that doesn’t move them at all. What moves them is commanding a division and using a tank. Sports.

In this activity there is a lot of what is good and legitimate. But instead of exploiting such forces, they are regressing the modern social order. In the capitalistic office-industry, young men who are so constituted cannot begin to make anything of themselves and their particular strengths, and now they are making themselves what they need.

For the military with all its trimmings is not only a need of the society in general, but it is primarily a need of a particular part of society.
Thus, like the half-intellectual, who “not knowing, what he should do”, enters in the administrative world or in industry and builds a “niche for himself’ that didn’t exist before, one, which needs the man who holds it in order to exist at all: similarly , the soldier creates in every country: a, the necessary spiritual preconditions for his existence in the form of enemies, dangers, and a nationalism intensified to an insane level, and b., a mechanism, in which he reigns supreme, and works, and unfolds his special powers – in which he can, in other words, simply be. These institutions congealed out of powerful men inclined towards violence are the armies; these instruments are used, misused and needed by whatever reigning order is current: for the suppression of the class enemy, thus the worker, for the diversion of the society to external threats and so on. The soldier doesn’t see this for the most part. He just is.

This heroism runs on empty. It is heroism in and for itself – and so it isn’t heroism at all. The vague concept of the ‘fatherland’ is a mythical formula; there is nothing that these men defend against as much as a conceptual analysis of their pseudo-religious formulas, and they know well why. It would be the end. The blank nullity of it would be revealed to the light of day.
It is not that the fundamental forces in play here are reducible to: joy in destruction; the joy of little men parading before little women; that is not the fact to be negated. Negation is aimed fully at the way these powers, running forever on their own emptiness, are put in place and misused.
We must fundamentally distinguish this military pattern of thought from that that the young nationalists preach. They are busily lending to a previous basic feeling a new and spiritual form – but not out of respect for the spirit, of which they mostly have not a breath, but in order to erect their main man on this ground. How much uncertainty is therein! What Ernst Junger did, while becoming in the meantime a clever war reporter, assiduously, obsessively and hop hop, is spiritually thin, undernourished and much more from yesterday than it is from tomorrow, as it pretends to be. Always it is significantly more lyrical than the cold fundamental perspective of the eternal officer class, who are nothing but that. Jünger aims for a mysticism whose clouds can be dispelled by a wave of the hand; behind them grins the blank nothingness, the stubborn view that fighting is something affirmable in itself. Young people in today’s so called “Bunde” associations are not much different. One must be suspicious – against the right and the left – every someone meets the attack on a given view with the cry, ‘blasphemy’! Because it means something is rotten within.
On both levels, in the military as in the nationalist associations, rules the same running on empty heroism. They are distinct from one another and even divided; possibly, one day they will join together – but by this junction they will mutually keep an eye on each other and never let a moment pass in which one can betray the other … the young nationalists being, for the military, much too literary, for as is known to all the world, he who reads a book is a bookworm…

But in these circumstances the eternal military man will create what he needs. An ‘air defense’, a ‘water defense’, a ‘train defense’, and whatever a man needs when he doesn’t know how to do anything intelligent. These and their like are aids to the unfolding of his nature.

But it is a little much to ask all society to pay for the excitation of the internal secretions of a small group of men. Certainly, on all sides the payer is being bombarded with demands for: maneuvers, war reports of all types, uniforms, music, photo ops with cannons … somewhat overbilled, it seems to me.

But it is all empty, completely empty. And it steps up with the complete aplomb of the muscleman, who is, on first impression, always at an advantage over the brainy man. His opponent doesn’t have much time. And as for your average householder… great god. They are touched by the like of General von Seeckt because he has the cleverness not to open his mouth – there are not only inscrutable geniuses, there are other kinds, too. And a book of some reputation seeking general is a curiosity: if the man were not a staff officer, nobody would care about his views and his empty essays.

Mars is blind and has no head. He just has a helmet.

And you are reflected in this helmet. How, after all, did 1914 go so far? How was that possible? It was made possible by refined and pointed preliminary labor: through a day by day drum fussilade of war preparation, through the market cries of running on empty heroism.

Ignaz Wrobel
Die Weltbühne, 04.11.1930, Nr. 45, S. 684.

Friday, May 25, 2007

"war suits me like a dip in a medicinal bath"

In pursuit of our futile anti-war shrieking and babbling, LI is going to translate a famous article of Tucholsky’s entitled the “Der Leerlauf eines Heroismus” – “One Heroism’s hollow trajectory” – but before we do it in the next post, a little background is necessary. Luckily, Time Magazine put up an article, “Handsome Adolf”, all about the treason trial in Leipzig that ‘uncovered the mental situation of the military for those who didn’t know it,” as Tucholsky puts it.

Here’s the salient first grafs, displaying Time’s truly annoying journalistic style – this is the kind of writing that Robert Coover parodied in The Public Burning:

“Not in Berlin, not even in Prussia, but in Saxony, in Leipzig sits the German Supreme Court: das Reichsgericht. Justice is done beneath a mighty dome topped by a big bronze statue of Truth. Through tall casement windows Saxon sunbeams glint upon carved oak. In such a setting presiding Judge Baumgarten (except when fiddling with one of his ears) is a sight awesome as Olympian Jove. Boldly to face the justice down, to use the Supreme Court dome as a demagog's thumping tub, to hurl from dem Reichsgericht a defy which reverberated throughout Europe, such was the feat last week of Adolf Hitler, No. I Brown Shirt Fascist (TIME, Aug. 25).
Ostensibly the proceedings were a trial for High Treason. Three young German army officers (Lieutenants Richard Scheringer, Hans Ludin, Friedrich Wendt) were charged with inciting their men to join a Fascist putsch should it be proclaimed. Without quite admitting their guilt the young officers waxed hotly truculent. "I would obey an order to shoot down Communists," shouted Lieutenant Scheringer, "but I would disobey a command to fire on men of my own persuasion!"
Exactly what was this "persuasion"? Evading damaging admissions, the Lieutenants said in effect that their views are those of Brown Shirt Hitler, leader of the National Socialist [Fascist] party whose sensational gains in the last election make it second strongest in Germany (TIME, Sept. 22). If such views be treason, argued the defense, then make the most of it!
Smart, the defense determined to do exactly this, subpenaed Herr Hitler as a witness, got ready to offer him the opportunity to use the witness stand as a soapbox.
Housewives & Blue Eyes. "Hitler Kommt!" cried 2,000 excited Saxons massed inside and outside the supreme courthouse. Many were women—for thrifty German housewives particularly dislike paying reparations, have swallowed eagerly the brash Fascist promises to repudiate the Young Plan. As Herr Hitler's motorcar swirled up the women pelted him with flowers. As this medium sized man with a small blond mustache but hard, blue, twinkling eyes stepped out, soprano voices cried "Ach, der schöne Adolf!" (Ah, handsome Adolf!). But so vast, dim, labyrinthine is the supreme courthouse that Witness Hitler, studiously quiet at first, stepped into the chamber and was actually on the stand before the courtroom galleries saw him.

"Heads Shall Roll!" Asked if he were planning revolution, Herr Hitler answered composedly:

"Nein, we are merely preparing an intellectual eruption of the German people by peaceful means."

When this drew from the gallery a roar of "Germany Awake!" (Fascist slogan), Judge Baumgarten glared at the assemblage, rumbled, "Silence, this is not a theatre!" but soon Herr Hitler in smashing demagog style was carrying all before him.”

Oh, and always being ready to oblige the pro-war side's masturbatory fantasies, we are putting up a photo from Karl Friederich’s Krieg dem Kriege, which Tucholsky helped to distribute. It is full of fun photographs. War, what is it good for – making prosperous white males hard. This one is accompanied by a saying of Hindenberg's: War suits me like a dip in a medicinal bath.

My kisses to the Dem leadership. XOX, motherfuckers.

captain sword

One of the first explicit antiwar poems – by which I mean it was subtitled an antiwar poem – is Leigh Hunt’s Captain Sword and Captain Pen.

Here’s a bit from the battle:

Down go bodies, snap burst eyes;
Trod on the ground are tender cries:
Brains are dash’d against plashing ears;
Hah! no time has battle for tears;
Cursing helps better – crusing, that goes
Slipping through friends’ blood, athirst for foes’.
What have soldiers with tears to do?
We, who this mad-house must now go through,
This twenty-fold Bedlam, let loose with knives –
To murder, and stab, and grow liquid with lives –
Gasping, staring, treading red mud,
Till the drunkenness’ self makes us stead of blood
[ O! shrink not thou, reader! Thy part’s in it, too;
Has not thye praise made the thing they go through,
Shocking to read of, but noble to do?]”

It is a long poem. In the remarks on war in prose that prefaced it, Hunt puts this sensible judgment, against which there is no appeal, in his first paragraph:

“The object of this poem is to show the horrors of war, the false ideas of power produced in the minds of its leaders, and, by inference, the unfitness of those leaders for the government of the world.”

Hunt's preface goes on to speak of hte "ladies handkerchief' that is put over the horrors of war, decently veiling it from civilian eyes. He is against it. So is LI. This is what the Congress voted to fund.

Take a deep breath, people, and remember though: this is part of the Democratic party's overall strategy. As Michael Tomasky, a hero to so many of us for his insight into framing the issues, put it in his article about seemingly giving President Bush what he wanted in the funding bill: Cave-in, or smart politics?

That's the only question that counts. We won. We secretly kept Bush from calling us weak. And is he ever pissed! We are amazing, really. A big pat on the back. Now, on to electing Hillary in 2008.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Dear Baal: please take this framer back to hell's workshop and bring us a new one. This one is broken.

Because LI has the sickness unto death this morning, we have been looking around the liberal blogs, trying to find some outrage about the Democratic Party’s embrace of the surge. Or trying to find some bland spinning, something tasty - oh, you know the taste - old jism and pesticide - that consultant's breath perfume, that body odor that's built right into the suit, the hardened partisan hireling suit with the matching enviro-boots - good for climbing up to the confabs to really really really think about America's problems with some of Hilary's closest friends! O, you know the type of text I'm talking about, all down from the mountain and shit. Looking for a niche. Looking for a steal. Since, like the Underground Man, we think nothing is more refreshing than a tooth ache, we scoured the net. Really! Because we wanted to quality produce. But we never expected to hit fool’s gold like this piece by a Jeffrey Feldman – a … wait for it… expert on… o wait for it … “framing”. Framin’ dem dere issues, my masters. Too make us feel all rich souled in these here prosperous states. Although sick unto death, the terrorist RAF star seemingly emerging where our own little throbbing LI heart used to be, we are generous enough to link here, for our UFOB squirrel hunting friends – for if this ain’t target practice, I don’t know what concentric rings around a bullseye are for! Bring out the dart gun, boys! and a wooden stake, garlic, and a bible.

Oh please, Baal, take back your prophets and give us less disgusting ones!

PS- being in the gift giving mood - thinking of what to send your favorite Democratic congressman? How about this nice music video? xox, motherfuckers.

No to Funding Bush's war - No in thunder, No in lightning, No in the hurricano

LI has taken a wait and see attitude towards Pelosi and the Dems. The first couple of months looked promising. Pelosi seemed pretty unbothered by the storm about going to Syria, and though she did nothing there but convey the usual pap, symbols are important. We loved the emphasis on decriminalizing union activity. But the last few weeks, and now this – surrendering to a president who has nothing, who is down to his few last pet peeves– makes me wonder if we are in some eternal return of the Pit and the Pendulum. Did they really not know, do they really not know, how to rally this country? Legislators, it is true, are constitutionally more prone to inside deals and endless process than to the kind of ceremonial politik necessary to stand in the face of the Crowned Garbage Fly and his unutterably Lovecraftian sidekick, Dick Cheney, and spit – but the time had come to spit. A big gob, with tobacco juice mixed in with the snot, right between the eyes of that mass murderer. Unfortunately it was not to be – although the misfortune isn’t really mine. I’m merely going to go crazy, I’m going to suffer from the American bulimia, the desire to gorge on this country, its gross stupidities, its failing infrastructure, its insane masses, so I can upchuck on it all the better. All of which is meaningless. No, the sorrow and the pity is for the people over there in Mesopotamia who we are robbing, beating, killing, turning one against the other. What is meaningful is that the Dems have given Bush his mercenary license. They didn’t even challenge him to make this part of the real budget, for Christ sake.

But the habits of D.C. are grooved into the politicos that move and have their being there – and after all, the place is flourishing. The war has been so good, there seems to be endless sweetmeats to pass around, and what will the consultants say? What will the motherfucking consultants say?

This was among the easiest plays in history. Did the Dems really pass the timelimits budget without a sense of what to do next? Has the palsied shadow of Pentagon planning a la Wolfowitz fallen upon their councils? Are they that fucked up? Apparently. Apparently they really thought that a Republican saviour would emerge – in a party that has narrowcast itself into a home place for anti-brown pinheads and peckerhead weekend and weakheaded warriors who consider Iraq an elaborate game of paintball, with good news every day, insofar as the killed on the killing field are mostly of the ever lynchable type they, their lynchhappy, Jimcrowing ancestors and the yahoo murderers of Indian nations before them, have always delighted in making bleed, cry, and die – that from this pustulous mass of zombies there was going to shake lose some bipartisan posse of Good GOP and Moderate Dem (the good housekeeping seal from Fox on his ass) that would rescue American ‘honor’. Sorry fuckers – Jacob Javits is dead, and you can roll over and tell Henry Kissinger the news. You are dealing with the dumbest of the Dixie dumb, the senators from Plains states where the growth industry is all in home produced meth – and even these fearsome freaks, these bible thumpers and child abusers on the far edges of barbarism know deep in their burger filled, gurgling guts that Iraq is lost. The Dems are still suffering the aftereffects of having imbibing stern Washington Post editorials week after week preaching the Truman Democrat, lets cut up and eat girlscouts to show we are tough line. Poor things, scared that they will be ‘soft’ on National security – instead of softheaded. Softheaded, however, is not going to be their option for long.

Well, the tension is exacerbating between the disgust of the majority and the greed and powerlust of the elite. In this contest, all the wise money is on the elite. But I’m betting on some outside rider, some storm within the mass. LI sometimes gets caught up in the politics of party and side, but mostly we do try to avoid that, because it is pointless. These are empty vessels, and if they are driven by demons at the moment, the way to change them is to patiently curse them, every day, curse, malign, laugh at, mock, wave your peepee at, stick your tongue out at, piss on, shit on, elbow, disdain, satirize, analyze, and delight in the utter downfall of when it comes, as it will come. Reality is a hard taskmaster.


Genossen, hört auf, euch hinter den
Massen zu verschanzen! Hört auf, die
Frage des Widerstandes auf die Massen
abzuwälzen! Hört auf, eure Angst vor der
maßlosen Gewalttätigkeit des Systems als
Vermittlungsproblem zu rationalisieren!
Hört auf, eure Ratlosigkeit als Belesenheit
auszugeben, eure Hilflosigkeit als
den großen Durchblick! – RAF Communique, May 31, 1972

Ulrike, je pense a vous

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

viagra: don't leave home without it

They’ve finally found a purpose for viagra. So far, viagra seems to have been devised solely to coddle the American male watercooler belief that 50 is really just a breath away from 15 – for proof, look at the GOP presidential lineup. Eventually, they will be embalming us with boners intact. This is definitely no country for old men...

But it turns out viagra is really about helping ... jetsetting rodents! I knew it!

“It's a safe bet that most people who take sildenafil — better known under its
commercial name, Viagra — aren't looking for a good night's rest. But it turns out that the 'little blue pill' commonly used to treat erectile dysfunction is also good for relieving some forms of jetlag. Well, at least in hamsters.

Diego Golombek and his colleagues at the National University of Quilmes in Buenos Aires, Argentina, injected hamsters with sildenafil and then pushed the animals' light/dark schedule ahead by six hours, roughly the equivalent of putting them on a plane from New York to Paris. Hamsters who'd had a dose of sildenafil adjusted their busy wheel-running schedules to the new light regime 50% faster, the team reports in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.”

The upshot is - does this effect also work with human jetsetters?
The thought of all those trans-Atlantic passengers gulping their viagra before they embark leads to... scary thoughts, to say the least.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Happiness vs. sagacity: 1

In the seventeenth century, the rehabilitation of Epicurus became a kind of code behind which was assembled the program of the enlightenment – which, as I have remarked in a post last week, can be looked at, using Fred Hirsch’s terms, as the accompaniment to the loosening of the positional economy as old feudal ties and customs waned. Interestingly, one of the loosened ties had to do with the role of women. Mostly this loosening was about women in the periphery around either the court or the aristocratic salons.

For LI, Epicurus marks an important moment in that covert struggle, that dialectic, between the pursuit of happiness and the pursuit of sagacity. Here seemed to be a counter-sage to the ascetic Socrates, just as Socrates seemed to counter Jesus for the humanists. The game is to find an emblem to trump an emblem.

Gassendi was the major sponsor of the new Epicurus in the 17th century. He was also the godfather of the line that challenged the Cartesians from what I suppose you could call the philosophical left. But one shouldn’t be too programmatic about these things – while the neo-Epicurians were devising materialist explanations of the world, they were also in sharp disagreement with, for instance, Descartes notion of the anima-machine. Antoinette Deshoulieres, as John Conley points out in his chapter on her in The Suspicion of Virtue: Women philosophers in Neo-classical France, was celebrated for her affection for animals, derived from Lucretius. Bayle, in his dictionary, ‘lauded her naturalist subordination of the human species to nonrational animals: “One of the most lucid and of the most brilliant minds of the seventeenth century preferred the condition of sheep to that of humans.”

In my next post, I want to say some biographical things about Deshoulieres and maybe translate her imitation of Lucretius (it isn’t long – she called it a galimatias).

and another thing we won't get to...

LI is on a grueling editing schedule this week, so we can’t unroll the usual red carpet of delusional associations and retarded insights we do so like to give our readers. We are going to try to write a couple of posts about the sage and the divide between the pursuit of happiness and the pursuit of sagacity, zeroing in on the seventeen century libertines, the rehabilitation of Epicurus, and that woman lost to French poetry and philosophy, Madame Deshoulieres, a seventeenth century French poet who translated Lucretius, ran a salon for neo-Epicurians, and fell back into the arms of the church as she was dying of breast cancer. And have you heard of Deshoulieres, reader of mine? I hadn’t until a couple of days ago, researching these posts. The lady was buried, and I suspect she was buried because she was a lady. She was still known to the 18th century philosophes, however. In her day, she was aggrieved by being ignored, and wrote this poem “To M. Bouhours on his book entitled The art of expert thinking (de bien penser): on works of the mind”:

“Dans une liste triomphante
De célèbres auteurs que votre livre chante
Je ne vois point mon nom placé.
A moi, n’est-il pas vrai? vous n’avez point pensé.
Mais aussi dans le même role
Vous avez oublié Pascal,
Qui pourtant ne pensoit pas mal.
Un tel compagnon me console.”

Such a poem, I hope, is consoling to the Werepoet.

In other news, we have received two emails regarding The Savage Detectives. Our friend K. told us that she actually kept people away because she just wanted time to read it. And from our far flung correspondent, Mr. T., who met the enchanting translator herself, Natasha Wimmer at our never to be forgotten LI party, has been reading it with equal delight, and told us this:

“So, last night S. and his lovely girlfriend R. came over for dinner. At a point, I asked S. to join me on a smoking excursion and as we descended the stairs I mentioned over my shoulder that I also wanted to tell him about a book. He asked: "Is this about The Savage Detectives?" Holy shit, said me, yes it is I said.

There is something in the air, in this time, I am there and I glad to be so.”

Sunday, May 20, 2007

the sage enters, wearing a scholar's mask...

“I knew in my time one of many arts, a Grecian, a Latinist, a mathematician, a philosopher, a physician, a man master of them all, and sixty years of age, who, laying by all the rest, perplexed and tormented himself for above twenty years in the study of grammar, fully reckoning himself a prince if he might but live so long till he could certainly determine how the eight parts of speech were to be distinguished, which none of the Greeks or Latins had yet fully
cleared: as if it were a matter to be decided by the sword if a man made an adverb of a conjunction.” – Erasmus, In praise of folly.

LI has always wanted to be that man – a man who took the smallest matters of wordplay as a duelist takes a challenge to his honor. Literature at swordpoint. Not that LI can really manipulate a sword, but we do have a ready steady tongue.

At the same time, we realize that the grammarian who throws himself into the vast matter of the eight parts of speech, the man who searches for the key to the mythologies, the woman who uncovers the false analogies strewn among the no longer read economists of the 19th century, the whole bag and baggage of the scholarly mindset seems pretty absurd. Folly speaks in Erasmus from a point of view that is very close to common sense. The commonest sense, in fact.

David Nuttall, the literary scholar who died this January, wrote a book, Dead from the Waist Down, about the emblematic transformation of the scholar, from the humanistic heretic of the seventeenth century to the dry as dust pedant of the nineteenth century. He uses Isaac Casaubon as a touchstone – first, the real Casaubon from the seventeenth century, then the fictional Casaubon, the scholar as a Fisher King who lacks even a knack for minnow catching in Middlemarch, then Casaubon’s biographer, a nineteenth century scholar named Pattison who George Eliot might have known, whose wife (o those suffering wives of the Victorian sages! married in perpetuity to a toothache!) certainly saw herself reflected in Dorothea.

All of which is of interest to me in my multiply interrupted, omni-directional quest to understand the gradual fading of the sage as a possible mask, to use Yeats’ term. More later.

olivier blanchard and the free lunch: a comedy of errors

  The neolib economist Oliver Blanchard tweeted a very funny comedy bit, in which he played the part of “social democrat”. And he wrote: “As...