Skip to main content


Showing posts from December 9, 2007

Fingering the Rope

In Voltaire’s Philosophical Dictionary, under the entry on suicide, Voltaire writes: “I will make but very few reflections on the murder of oneself here; I will not examine if the late M. Chreech was right to write on the margin of his Lucretius: “n.b., when I have finished my book on Lucretius, I must kill myself”, and if he had done well to execute that resolution. I don’t want to pluck out the motives of my old prefect, P. Biennasses, a Jesuit, who told us farewell one evening, and the next moring, after having said mass and sealed some letters, three himself from the third story. Each has his own reasons in his conduct.” I’m intrigued by this Bartleby like M. Chreech. I occasionally used stickem notes to remind myself to perform some task, but the note to remember to commit suicide is, well, a pretty cold blooded note. Voltaire’s works themselves were the occasion of a famous suicide in Russia. In 1793, a landowner, Ivan Opochinin, decided to kill himself. On the night before he

IT's new post

I don't know Why you've gotta be so undemanding... IT has continued her series on porno. You can also see the beginning of this series here and another post here and her piece about pornographic classifications here . There’s also a sexpol piece here which I think may be the best in the whole series. Here are some comments: Since I am trying to write a review of a book that distinguishes three regimes of seeing in science, I am, perhaps, hypersensitive to issues of representation and the ‘training’ of the people who represent and the audiences they represent to. The technique of the self, as Foucault calls it. There is a pattern I’ve noticed on theory blogs of taking films or music – usually not novels, poetry or paintings – and subjecting them to theoretical glosses with an entire and easy assumption of the epistemological superiority of the theorist. It is as if the theorist’s position is not only self explanatory, but that the theorist knows better than the work of art

News from the Imbecile Republic

And soft, what light breaks through yonder moronic inferno! Although weep, children, we should weep for a kingdom that is overthrown, here, a true Caliban's paradise of private penitentiaries, a newe way and discoverie of cleaning up foul poverty by painlessly tricking poor people through the strategic placement of vicious FBI footpads until lo, they’ve gathered into their nets a quantity of em, all saying good things about Al Qabaedola, asking for shriner hats and submachine guns, and assuring their faithful contacts and secret Judases that whatever that city is that the Sears building is located in, they will be creeping in it like the biggest hardon, blowing up this and blowing up that. Oh, but I can’t fool myself. LI admits to being such a Islamofascista that I would like to see the FBI agents who contrived this fired and tried themselves, and on up until we catch some of the Scooters in the Justice department. But this is a dream for another time and another nation.

Making the rich less rich is not socialism

I’ve become a reader of Floyd Norris’ blog over at the NYT. I’ve noticed, with some amusement, that any time a vague and distant hint arises that the rich in America might be oh, oh, slightly too… rich, the comments section is reliably flooded by screeds against socialism and for the American way. It makes me long for a snappy way to point out that capitalism was not abolished in the U.S. in the fifties, nor was the Reagan tax cut on the wealthiest the second coming of Adam Smith in the eighties. What is funny about the rabid defense of the wealthy is that I imagine it often comes from the non-wealthy. It isn’t like billionaires are trolling blogs. But what they are defending is, of course, absolutely against their interests. It is the great American paradox: the almost saintly disinterestedness of the American householder in defense of systematic greed. There are a number of ways to redistribute wealth down. Imagine, for instance, that unions had been strong enough, back in the e

From My Third Life

LI has a book column to write about two books: Objectivity, by Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison, and Trying Leviathan, by D. Graham Burnett. Daston and Galison mount a pretty impressive marshalling of evidence of the way, in a number of sciences over the past two hundred years, we can see three distinct regimes of representation. The first regime, truth to nature, or the search for types and ideals, G. and D. date to the eighteenth century – the second regime, objectivity, or representation that strives to eliminate any subjective bias, emerges, in their scheme, in the nineteenth century – and the third regime, trained judgment, which organizes ‘mechanically objective’ representations in terms of trends, thus reintroducing a form of consensus subjectivity, emerges in the twentieth century. Periodization doesn’t imply that this is a history of zero sum games - the rise of one regime doesn’t entail the extinction of a formerly dominant regime. However, it does imply something more

The Path to Happiness

Well, LI, for one, was glad to see that bipartisanship returned to D.C. this weekend. Democrats and Republicans have coalesced around the torture issue – they like it. They want more of it. It is the kind of thing that Nancy Pelosi would like to have more of, except that she doesn’t remember if she was told of it at all, poor dear. Amnesia is a terrible thing. Maybe she would like to have less of it. She was for it until she was against it. Of course, at LI, we are so, so proud of our American torturers. The problem, as we see it, is lack of recognition. Why not: an American torturers medal? Rather like the Medal of Freedom, but ballsier. We’ve been reading That Inferno to get into the torturing mood. Five women who were tortured at the EMSA – the Naval Mechanics school – between 77 and 81 began to get together in the nineties to talk. Here’s a bit in the introduction that Pelosi would just swoon over. Perhaps, after the voting for the the 200 billion in Iraq that the Dems have

Reaction vs. the System, round one

Walter Benjamin begins his 1931 essay on German fascism with a quote from one of his favorite reactionary writers: “Léon Daudet, the son of Alphonse Daudet and himself an important writer, as well as a leader of France’s Royalist party, once gave a report in his Action Française on the Salon d’Automobile – a report that concluded, in perhaps somewhat different words, with the equation: L’automobile, c’est la guerre.” I’ve looked around for Daudet’s article. I haven’t found it. However, I understand why Benjamin, a collector of lines – of those moments in which thought seems to be utterly transformed into its primal element shock, as though an oracle had spoken – remembered Daudet’s report. It casts a prescient light over the system of which the automobile was as impressive a product as, say, some fossil by which a paleontologist maps, in shorthand, a geological epoch. The creature that left that fossil was at the convergence of conditions both sheerly geological and evolutionary; the