Saturday, September 15, 2007

a word on the recent non-event...

When the U.S. congress was considering banning acid, a senate panel took testimony from people like Timothy Leary and Allan Ginsberg. They also interviewed Arthur Kleps. Kleps, of course, was the founder of the Neo-American Boo-Hoo Church. The chief hymn in the church was Row Row Row your boat, and the chief sacrament was LSD. Anyway, in contrast to the load of malarky that we have been treated to on Iraq, and the jabbering of a Democratic leadership that has given new life to the word Dupe and Traitor (insofar as new life can arise from malfunctioning automatons), Kleps gave the Senate something worth hearing. When questioned about the scientific soundness of the claimn that LSD deepened one spiritually, he said:

Listening to the testimony before your subcommittee on Monday, I was, of course, struck by Dr. Goddard's characterization of what we call consciousness expansion as 'bunk,' and I would like to reply to the reasons he gave for making such a judgment when Senator Dodd questioned him further.

"Dr. Goddard said that consciousness expansion did not occur with LSD because the results of objective tests of intelligence and so on given during the session showed negative results; a drop in performance. His argument contains the unspoken assumption that consciousness expansion is necessarily associated with a rise of measured IQ during the psychedelic session. I do not know of any psychedelic person who would agree that that is the case.

"If I were to give you an IQ test and during the administration one of the walls of the room opened up giving you a vision of the blazing glories of the central galactic suns, and at the same time your childhood began to unreel before your inner eye like a three-dimensional color movie, you would not do well on the intelligence test.
"LSD puts you in the mind of God, and God has little interest in our IQ tests. We might say that God has no IQ. God is not a verbal being as we are to such a large extent.

"Now this assumption that consciousness is somehow equated to, or is an aggregate of, those mental faculties which are measurable by objective tests is representative of an entire approach to the subject of psychedelics which is superficially plausible and yet is fundamentally erroneous. It is the only approach which finds favor in the eyes of those administering research grants. It is based on the assumption that if you cannot measure something, it does not exist. In psychology it is rooted in a kind of professional, if not personal, atheism. It produces the horror stories we read about in the field of animal vivisection experimentation resulting from a narrow-minded fixation on trivia, an almost trancelike inability to see the forest for the trees. It results in thousands of people each year earning advanced degrees because they have proved, in effect, that when you put 13 rats in one end of a box, lo and behold, 13 rats come out of the other end of the box in some combination or other.”

Unfortunately for the Boo-Hooists, the golden age in which American high hatters could put 13 rats in one end of a box and get 13 out of the other has long gone. Instead, they squat over the box, deliver a delirious load of their shit, and then assure everybody that, in God’s good time, we will see pure gold, oil, and the winds of liberty come out the other end. The twenty five percent of the self-lobotomized cheer. The newspapers report that the zombies like it, the serious people like it, and by God it tastes good and seems like progress. The oligarchs pat themselves on the back for having spent twenty five years destroying unions and having merged all other organizations into perfect little party pods, where they come out every four years to collect money for the election of a complete suite of ghouls. It is lovely. It is called democracy, or actually cacocracy, rule by the worst.

Row row row your boat…

Friday, September 14, 2007

my disease, my lover

Alas, LI seems to have a non-Darwinian cold. I’ve been kind to my microbes – I’ve taken the aspirins and robuttuson so I could get out and about and spread them, just like a good American. I reduced my diet to soup and bread. I spend ungodly amounts of time hacking my lungs out and slumbering on my bed. Any fair observer would say I was doing my part. But my microbes seem to have some kind of jihadist philosophy. I mean, they seem to want to kill their host!

By killing me, you are killing yourselves, silly microbes, I say. And they reply by giving me another coughing fit.

This is a crying shame, since I went and checked out Mann’s essays and was all prepared to be an ambassador of sweetness and light. Damn. I have some vague plan of applying that notion of imitatio to Goethe himself – for Goethe is a unique case in world literature of a man who quite happily made himself his own monument. There is a biography of Henry Miller entitled, I believe, always happy and bright, and Miller did love to go on about his happiness, but who doesn’t see that this was guff? Not that I mind. But Goethe seemed to have decided, very young, that there was nothing better than being Goethe.

… Which is unfair. The tone of the above. LI is expressing that impression that Goethe gave, and gives. And who among us can be Goethe? I’d even grant that it is the best thing you can be. Much better than being Jesus, or Nietzsche, or even Thomas Mann, god help us. If one of LI’s eternal bitches is that the sage has been driven out of the culture, then we do have to explain Goethe.

Now, I realize my leaping about and cavorting from Lady Ray to Goethe might strike some as highly undignified, or perhaps a sign of my present feverish state. Mann, in his essay about Freud, wrote that Freud showed us how much we owe to disease – how disease is a form of knowing. Mann loved diseases, the slight fever, the restlessness, the brilliant flashes, the highly specialized eros of convalescence.

“L’humanité,” says Victor Hugo, “s’affirme par l’infirmité.” A saying which frankly and proudly admits the delicate constitution of all higher humanity and culture and their connoisseurship in the realm of disease.”

So writes Mann. Above, I wrote that Goethe was his own monument, an unoriginal and sarcastic jibe. A better image comes out of Puysegur. Puysegur was one of the disciples of Mesmer, or perhaps it is better to say that he was an independent researcher in the field of animal magic. In the book, Magic as a Science, Carl du Prel wrote:

“Since Puysegur, the student of Mesmer, it has been known that the somnambulist has the ability to perceive the inner processes of his body, i.e. to take his autodiagnosis. For the sake of briefness I will call this self-seeing (Selbstschau).”

Actually, even Caligari’s somnambulist could not do any such thing. But Goethe seemed to have that magical ability, so perhaps I should say he was his own mesmeric subject, and out of of his autodiagnosis - reading his own entrails - he became a prophet.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

imitatio Goethe

One of the most puzzling parts of my happiness thesis is that dealing with age. I’ve been fumbling around, looking for ways to express my instinctive feeling that the extinction of certain age defining roles within the economy of the Great Transformation was the result of the rise of the happiness norm. Say, there’s a crafty mouthful for ya! Last year, LI was all about the persistant coupling of the sage and the buffoon and its variants, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza traipsing across the interior landscapes of Western history, figures that figured a dialectic as surely as Peter Piper picked a peck of peppers.

So imagine my joy, yesterday, as I was hunting and pecking about, looking for stuff on Goethe, to find this:

In his 1936 essay, Freud and the Future, Thomas Mann wrote: “… the father play [Vaterspiel] and its transference to father substitutes of a higher and spiritual type – how much this form of infantalism determines, seals and educates [bildend] the individual life. I say develops: for the most genial, joyful specification of that which one names ‘education’ [Bildung] is to me, in all seriousness, this formation and marking through the admired and beloved one, though the childish identification with some one father imaged chosen out of one’s deepest sympathy. The artist, this ludic and passionately childish person, could very well sing a song of the seacret and yet public influences of such infantile imitation in his biography, in his productive life performance, which is so often nothing more than the revival of some hero’s vita under very different conditions of time and personality and with very other – we’d even say childish – means. So the imitatio Goethe starts with memories on Werther, the Meister stage and the olderphase of Faust and the Divan can still, today, lead the experience of a writer unconsciously, and determine him mythically – I mean, from his unconsious, although in the artist the unconscious of every moment tends to play over the happy object of his consciousness and his childishly profound attention.”

I love this. I love the idea of the imitatio Goethe. Imitatio of that kind is exactly how the sage (and the buffoon) ended up as a mad knight and his peasant page, or a social parasite and a philosophe. LI is busy today, but we must return to this soon. With, of course, the appropriate questions, among them: whether the father in this fatherplay doesn’t bring with him that fatal inauthenticity of all substitutes. Or whether, at the end of the imitatio, I have to look at Dad’s face in the mirror. Me, a child of the homunculus, like all the rest of us.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

lady bitch ray

Occasionally some brave soul will speak up in the theorysphere and say that not only should porno be defended, but that it should be made, and made better. For instance, the Love and Terrorism blogger has announced his own porno project. IT’s money shot post still provokes responses, such as this indirect one from Naught Thought - and I believe IT has hinted that she has the utopian hope for better

porn in the future, something that would be erotic and overthrow the old, crusty structures of the Oedipal complex. Angela Carter, in one of her best essays, Sade and the Sadeian woman, announces the same project, which flowed into what is, for me, her finest novel – The Passion of New Eve. But – perhaps due to the language barrier – the academic who has actually crossed the line is hardly known in the English world. I’m talking about Ladybitchray, aka Reyhan Şahin. She is, as ralkorama puts it, “firstly a bitch, secondly a turk, and thirdly an academic.”

Actually, schlampe here really should be ‘slut’. On her website, she has posted a rather bizarre french video of herself in which she claims to be the whore of Germany. There are also three songs on the site. Now, yours truly truly does not like aggro rap. Ladybitchray is the only German rapper we can really stand. Partly this is because her voice does not produce a harsh or hard effect, as though it were trying to close itself off and become that bullet in your ear that goes through and takes out all your brain matter – which is how Bushido sounds to us. At the same time, Deutschland siktir lan is a great example of what makes Reyhan Sahin interesting. Siktir lan is turkish for fuck you. As Ladybitchray, Sahin straddles the polysemy of fuck, the insult and the caress intertwined there, just as she loves to place herself atop other cracks – the Turkish/German one, for instance. There is a notorious anti-Turkish element among some German rappers, so this is a position that holds a real risk. And that she plays with it by playing with the whole patriotic German thing is, well, admirable. But fucking, whether in Turkish or German, is not the word she is famous for. She is famous, in Germany, for her constant use of ‘pussy’ and ‘cunt’. She was dismissed from Radio Bremen when the owners of that station discovered that she used ‘inappropriate language’ on her internet videos. Being a very good self-promoter, Şahin peddled that story, plus some T and A, to Bild, a news magazine that combines the delicate sensibilities of Maxim with the investigative reporting style of the National Enquirer. It has long been the mainstay of the reactionary media empire built by Axel Springer. Sahin correctly bet that T and A would overcome the bias against a guest worker’s daughter.

On the other hand, the bigotry she evokes flows pretty effortlessly in the German press. Here’s a typical review from Citybeat:

“The woman suffers from a penetrating exhibitionist’s need to show herself, and is obsessed about building a career no matter what the price. We are talking about “Lady Ray”, alias Reyhan Sahin, from Bremen-Gröpelingen. This underclass rapper created in the beginning of the year a private broadcast that she advertised in the Bild paper and in Boulevard Magazine, after which, out of easy to infer grounds, her collaboration with Radio Bremen was pulled. The ‘female rapper’, whose demo seems to be the underclass of the underclass, is thus just of the type who drops out of the 8th grade and tries for a career a la Bushido.”

Before she became a pornorapper, she was a student in the sociology of communications. In this Spiegel interview, Şahin proclaims that she is bringing pussy style to Germany, but her fashions are not exactly avantgarde eroticware. The camera follows her to a library table in the Rosa Luxemberg institute at the University of Bremen. And she explains her double personality by grabbing her tits – one representing Ladybitchray, one Reyhan Şahin, I suspect that she is referencing one of the famous cliches of German literature, Goethe’s ‘two persons, alas, live within this breast”.

I suspect this because she has gone from a rapper to a surrealistic talk show host, and her show is cluttered with phrases and innuendos making Germany into a magpie’s nest – here horror, here a puppet, here a strudel. For who else would feature a puppet named Dr. Mengele, a dreadlocked pianist, and a stolid looking German hausfrau cooking, on a set that centers around a bed? On which bed she invites her guests, German rappers, to lie with her. She inevitably introduces them as guys with “big cocks”, and casually talks about her pussy, her tits, and her need to fuck, which – when her guest is a real asshole – can lead to pretty hilarious results

chemical people

John Maynard Keynes famously remarked that Newton was the last of the magicians. He was referring to Newton’s fascination with alchemy and the book of Revelations. Keynes was, of course, wrong – there were certainly magicians after Newton. But he was right in the most important respect, which was that the Whiggish history of science, in which Newton figured as a hero of positivism, was founded on a fiction. And it was not an unimportant glossing over of minor Newtonian penchants – according to Dobbs in The Janus Faces of Genius: The Role of Alchemy in Newton's Thought, one of the great books in the science wars, Newton took his notion of force from the alchemists. In fact, although the positivists still seem not to recognize this, the father of positivistic physics, quite purged of alchemical crap, is Descartes. The only problem with Descartes notion of vortices is that they are, mathematically, crap, as Newton proved. In place of the vortices – which at least adhere to the old materialist image of one thing causing another by means of contact – we have the mathematically proven magic of attraction at a distance.
When Goethe started reading the alchemists in the 1770s, preparting to write Faust, alchemy was good and dead – but only in the sense that psychoanalysis is good and dead. While alchemy seemed, especially to the 19th century positivists, to have been overthrown as a rational task by scientist, in reality its concepts became part of the background of natural philosophy, aka science.

Which brings us to the homunculus. Goethe’s critics claim that Goethe first read about the artificial manniken in a dialogue written by a Dr. Johannes Praetorius, a prolific seventeenth century popularizer of wonders, against Paracelsus. Gerhild Williams, in his book on Praetorius, summarizes it as a very curious dialogue, in that Paracelsus never claimed to have made a homunculus. Like Praetorius, Paracelsus believed in the elemental spirits literally. Praetorius, however, claims he instructed his disciples in how to create chymische Menschen – literally, “chemical people”. You needed wine, yeast, sperm, blood and horse dung to do the deed. ‘When he is done, you have to watch him very diligently. Though no one will have taught him, he will be among the wisest of men; he will know all the occult arts because he has been created with the greatest of skill.”

In one way, we are the children of the homunculus. We are certainly chemical people. Our environments consist of synthetics absolutely unknown in this solar system before we began to produce them – and now, of course, they wrap about us, a giant oil-n-corn slick, and we rarely touch dirt, or unprocessed wood. If by some magic I waved a wand and wished away all the chemical products in my nearest neighborhood, the apartment complex I sit in would collapse, the cars would vanish, the plants would wither (fertilizers gone), the food in the grocery store, what was left of it, would immediately start to grow rapidly stale.

None of which were things foreseen by Goethe, Newton’s fiercest enemy, in 1769.

Sunday, September 09, 2007


At what point in time--a line always continuing in the same direction, from the past to the future--does the zero occur which denotes the boundary between the positive and the negative? – Unamuno

In Claudio Magris’ Danube, there is a discussion, early in the book, about nature and artifice. The occasion is a proposed hydro-electric plant which would require damming the Danube. The Greens were protesting against this as a crime against nature. One of Magris’ friends uses Goethe to point to the fact that nature cannot be the victim of a crime – for all things are enfolded in nature.

“But, around the table at the inn near Breg, someone is inclined to be doubtful. That second nature which surrounds us – the jungle of symbols, of intermediaries, of constructions – arouses the suspicion that there is no longer any primal nature behind it, and that artifice and various kinds of bio-engineering have counterfeited and supplanted her supposedly eternal laws. Austrian culture, in fact, born in the homespace of the Danube, has with disillusioned clarity denounced the falsity of postmodernism, discarding it as stupid nonsense while accepting it as inevitable.”

For Magris, the place to look to understand this retreat from the inevitable, this denunciation of our artificial condition upon which we are wholly dependent, is in the second part of Faust, specifically in the creation of the Humunculus.

“Indeed, even Goethe in his late, more enigmatical work, did not overlook that fear: in the Second Part of Faust he not only tells the story of the Humunculus, the man created in a laboratory, but he conjures up a vision of a total triumph of the unnatural and the defeat and disappearance of the ancient Mother, mimicked and replaced by fashion, artificial products, and false appearances.”

LI is not exactly an expert on Goethe’s Faust, Part II. This comment of Magris’ made me feel like I should check it out, however. And low and behold, when Wagner succeeds in creating a little man in a vial, here is one of the first things the Humunculus says:

Das ist die Eigenschaft der Dinge:
Natürlichem genügt das Weltall kaum,
Was künstlich ist, verlangt geschloßnen Raum.

- This is the essence of things:
Nature finds the limits of the world hard to bear
while for the artificial, closed spaces are de rigeur.

or - what is artificial requires closed space (sorry, that is a bit clumsy). It occurs to me that the humunculus might be a great symbol of the dialectic of vulnerability, which I have yammered on about here and there over the past couple of years. So I’m going to give another post to him this curious grotesque.

Southern California Death Trip

    “He was kind but he changed and I killed him,” reads the caption of the photo of a woman in an old tabloid. She was headed to ...