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Showing posts from August 26, 2007

drift and panic, under new management and recently deceased translators

Note for a post: somehow, the whole issue of hyperbolic discounting passed by yours truly. But as I've been doing some desultory research, resting here on my laurels, I've run smack into it. Hyperbolic discounting describes an ordering of future preferences which reflects a non-linear and sudden shift in behavior, rather than an incremental and rationally spaced out one. Thus, for instance, the smoker may resolve, today, to quit smoking in the future, knowing that the effect of smoking is killing him, yet not, in fact, quit smoking in the near future, nor show signs of making plans to quit. Hyperbolic discounting is a nice phrase for drift and panic. Which seems to be the m.o. in the U.S., lately, about a lot of bad habits. I just thought I'd mark the phrase for some future post. PS – Correspondents have suggested I mention the deaths of two translators. Michael Hamburger, who translated Celan, Hölderlin, and other extremely dense German poets. Friend of Sebald, poet h

a plea for a natural history of traffic jams

WE had now reached the summit of the loftiest crag. For some minutes the old man seemed too much exhausted to speak. "Not long ago," said he at length, "and I could have guided you on this route as well as the youngest of my sons; but, about three years past, there happened to me an event such as never happened before to mortal man --or at least such as no man ever survived to tell of --and the six hours of deadly terror which I then endured have broken me up body and soul. You suppose me a very old man --but I am not. It took less than a single day to change these hairs from a jetty black to white, to weaken my limbs, and to unstring my nerves, so that I tremble at the least exertion, and am frightened at a shadow.” – Edgar A. Poe, Descent into the Maelstrom Every five years or so, I like to drive a car into a traffic jam. Surely being in a traffic jam has become the American way to touch the mythic hero inside, a la Joseph Campbell. In simpler times, it was the big f

more chatter

LI, on vacation, doesn’t do that thing called thinking. Vacations are inherently anti-Cartesian. Into the vacuum enters, embarrassingly enough, poetry. And though I am rapidly making my way to the grave, I still haven’t given up such childish joys as masturbation and making one line follow another, and even searching for rhymes. But don’t worry, I am not about to throw a pile of poetry into the face of the public. This is just an observation of the automat within me. If I were thinking, I’d look at the papers, I’d look at the current state of play on Iraq, the pre-September follies, the incredible demonstration that distance is the equivalent of the worst vileness – civilization and the moral imperative probably have a precise ending point, say at 2020.9 miles from one’s home - and I’d slit my wrists, metaphorically speaking, or try to shed this human skin and become inanimate. But those, too, are childish fantasies – if you live in the monster, you are the monster. That’s that. Ins