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Showing posts from June 1, 2008

Don Juan, Newton's secret sharer

Despite its adherence to the rather old fashioned notion that the history of ideas is concerned solely with the development of philosophical arguments, Schlomo Biderman’s project in Crossing Horizons, to contrast “Indian” thought and “Western” thought, is suggestive. One of the things it suggests it does not examine: how is it that idealism arrived so late in Europe? As a coherent, consistent doctrine, that is, not as a mystical hint? In the three stories post, I meant to set up a rough edged answer to that problem. It is an answer that involves ‘adventure’. In the pre-capitalist, post-conquest society of the seventeenth century – in which a fully functioning global economic and political system exists, but lacking an industrial base – adventure is a symbol of social mobility. It is under the sign of adventure that social mobility happens. The adventure narrative and the adventurer penetrate inwards, as it were, from the margins. Print culture, at the same time, is the necessary condit

a reckoning

Bubble bubble toil and trouble. Let’s do a small reckoning, shall we? Let's reckon up outlay in one column, and cosmic stupidity in the other column. In the one column, we have a government outlay of 164 billion dollars. Was this money spent on a crash industrial program to develop better, fuel efficient or fuel alternative technologies? Did we decide to use the power of research represented by the public financing of education, the vast array of state universities, to create and then license said technology? Or did we decide that the credit card companies needed some bloodsugar? Ah, what are the markers of cosmic stupidity? We need a lot of them to put in the other column. So many! All festooning our low, dirty, dishonest and lobotomized time. Then, we have the Fed making loans to the financial sector for some as yet indefinite amount – perhaps as much as 400 billion. With the financial sector awash in cash, of course, money went zipping over to where return on non-investmen

When you're alone like he was alone...

I’ve got the abattoir blues... Three stories. Story 1: In Book 2, Chapter 4 of Don Quixote, the knight is being chatted up by a local wit, a student named Samson. Samson wants to have some fun at Don Quixote’s expense, and thus we know that we can put him under the category of an insiders. The bystanders, in Don Quixote, are either insiders or outsiders, with the insiders being in on the joke of the knight's madness, which often prompts them to some practical joke, while the outsiders react, often with some indignation, to his words and acts as though they spoken and enacted on the same plane of reality as anybody else's words and acts. It isn’t entirely clear what stance we, as readers, are to take to the insiders. They represent us, as readers, and yet their mockery doesn’t quite match our own mixed feelings. And, indeed, are they really in on the joke, especially in Book 2? Aren't they themselves the prey of a certain ontological trap? Samson has been telling Don Q

Everything has been done

Dead disco, dead punk, dead rock n roll Code Poetix tagged us to list seven songs we are listening to for the spring. Well, usually LI just don’t do the meme thingy, for the same reason that, in the first grade, we had such trouble learning the hokey pokey – an exaggerated sense of our own ridiculousness in certain social situations. But this seems like fun. And a good link excuse! 1. Ysa Ferrer’s To bi or not to bi Throughout her career, Ysa has shown a strong desire to dress in sexy costumes and be physically lofted by lithe but muscular men. Well, don’t we all? In the plus column, too, there is her often expressed desire to literally become a Manga character. I am pretty confident that to bi or not to bi will be in the clubs this summer, although perhaps more the clubs in Moscow than NYC. 2. Britney Spears Piece of Me. The news that Britney Spears is “not fit” to take over her estate – which, of course, I read via my handy Google Britney Spears news alert – makes me wonder w

Death of a Lady's man

“I always served women and I did it without compromise until the end, with respect and love.” - Yves St. Laurent. LI – who has advised our readers, last week, to spend their hard earned dough on Isabel Marant fall ensembles - was contemplating writing an obit post about Saint Laurent yesterday. Well, we didn’t. Instead, we watched Louis Malle’s Feu Follet (rather bizarrely translated as The Fire Inside), which by coincidence was about the cultural mix of the era in which Saint Laurent first rose to prominence at Dior. Malle directed four films that, between them, constitute a physiognomy of the French right – Au revoir les enfant, Souffle au Coeur, Lacombe, Lucien and Feu Follet. World war ii, Indochina, Algeria – betrayal, incest, suicide. Politics, here, is a sickness arising from the very heart of the bourgeoisie’s Lebensordnung. The sixties was the moment that changed – affluence significantly eroded the old triangle of Country, Work, Home, and a significant portion of the ch

the sadian fucker as the civilized savage

This is the story of listomachia. Two lists. Two programs. One program, the canonical program of imperial rationality, lists universals. But these universals turn out to be, on examination, universals-to-be. If the universals don’t seem to be universal, it is because the inhabitants of the border, the limit – the barbarian, the savage, the atavist, the criminal –have not yet disappeared. Disappearance and civilization are a couple. As civilization comes into contact with the savage, the savage must, to the resigned regret of the humanist, disappear. Patrick Brantlinger's Dark Vanishings: Discourse on the Extinction of Primitive Races, 1800-1930 contains loads of quotes about the disappearance, or vanishing, of the savage: In his multivolumen Races of Mankind (1873), another popularizer, Robert Brown, indicates that disease and infertility are the causes of the ‘decay of wild races,” but he also makes it plain that violence from whites is an equally important cause. Brown quotes Geo

the crowned mask

“A preserved index counts some forty masks for comedy alone. And if one picks out the better masks in painting, ivory or terracotta preserved or actor statuettes and takes into account the exaggeration inherent to comedy, it will seem that the recognition that not seldom moved the performance of the mask maker to keep step with the writer is justified. Accordingly one understands that the greatest scholars of Greece and Rome, Aristophanes of Byzantium and Varro, held the masks to be worthy objects for their writing, and yet more, since the masks were completely essential to the success of a theatrical performance, that the greatest tragedian in Rome, Aesop, never put on the mask, without having studied its fine points industriously, and that another celebrated comedian, Ofilius Hilarus, by the meal after one of his most applauded representation, crowned the mask.” (The Physiognomik der Griechen, Richard Foerster, 14) LI has criticized the methodological confusions of Paul Ekman, but