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Showing posts from August 10, 2008

the firefly revolution

It was obvious that the Great Fly’s foreign policy would end up as comic opera, following the laws of Marx ( Groucho, that is) . And so we’ve been treated to a week of amazing neo-con barking in the American press – although to be fair, neo-connerie is now an international language, and Le Monde feels obliged to publish Robert Kagan for his “opinion” about Russia. Georgia, a state that experienced a kleptocratic financed “revolution” which installed a mini-Bush who has squandered 70 percent of the state’s income on military spending, has faced off against Russia, a state that experienced a kleptocratic financed “revolution” a bit earlier – we all remember the good old days, when Clinton and Co. decided to make one last effort to re-elect a notorious drunk and one of the most corrupt politicians of modern times, Boris Yeltsin, don’t we? Or has that fact become officially a non-fact? The mouse that roared was thoroughly squashed, and it was just like Munich, the Hungarian Revolution, an


I know that kind of man its hard to hold the hand of anyone who's reaching for the sky just to surrender Amie, in the comments, writes that she has a question about my last two posts about the image of the limited good: “It relates to the question of time and when wishes still "worked" and the limit where they seemingly went away - for good. Did they ever, "really"? I wonder if there is not always a non-contemporarity of time, a multiple and disjointed time, in which wishes and hopes still hold sway, return and burst forth.” This is an excellent question, in as much as it makes me realize that I might have given a too hasty impression, in the last two posts, that I’ve seized a key to all history or something. My goal from the beginning has been to make it possible to ask the question: why did happiness take on the tripart form of an emotional norm, a judgment on life, and a reference that justifies political and economic arrangements? And all the themes I have b

cooking liberally

Good old Julia Childs. In my roll of liberals who softened American manners and humanized its politics, Childs is up there, along with Rachel Carson and John Kenneth Galbraith and William Whyte and C. Wright Mills and James Baldwin and Martin Luther King, the Abstract Expressionists, Rauschenberg, the Black Mountain poets... oh, all under the shadow of the missiles. So now it appears that she, like Marcuse, was in the OSS. Currently, my roll would include Amy Trubek, whose book, Taste of Place, I just reviewed. I don’t know if I expressed my true and heartfelt love for Ms. Trubek in the review – but I did my best. Here’s an interview with her. Somebody should give this woman a tv show.

In which I stick my tongue into the mouth of world history

Ah, LI felt a sort of roast beef-y satisfaction about our last post. At last, we said at the editorial staff meeting, we are getting somewhere! meeting our thesis quota! taking world history by the hand and giving it a big french kiss! Then we passed out cigars and crystal meth and had ourselves a ball and a biscuit, sugar . However, it may be that others did not have such feelings about our last post. Tedium and mal de mer might have been the more common response. Well. Here’s the deal. We have long had the intuition that the mystery of how a number of apparently interlocking phenomena – the rise of natural philosophy, and of the industrial system, and of a market centered economic system, and – most crucially – of the free labor market – came together at the same time in certain societies in Europe could not be explained by projecting back upon pre-capitalist societies categories that were developed to explain capitalist ones. In particular, we have thought that there was a fundament

where does wealth come from?

My commenter Chuckie D. is none too happy with George Foster’s phrase, “"cognitive orientation" - as he says, what does that even mean? Myself, I obviously have a different take – which is why I introduced Kant’s essay on orientation as a fundamental indication of the subject’s effect in the world – for Kant, the way human’s orient themselves can’t be explained by the Lockean/Newtonian sensualists of the time. Foster spends some time on the question of the meaning of cognitive orientation, all of which is theoretically interesting – but not too much. Foster is not important for his work in theorizing attitudes, but, rather, for his description of a particular set of attitudes that are related to peasant life. As I have been saying for the past year, it is impossible to understand the emergence of a happiness norm that governs not only one’s personal affective life, but that is, somehow, a collective social ideal and justification for political and economic arrangements wit

the malthusian afterlife

He came home from the war with a party in his head One day, in December 1704, Margaretha Schütterin, the wife of a stonemason in Schwaikheim, saw a ghost. The ghost asked her to help him and 16 other souls (who also, apparently, appeared to her) who had been walking for 240 years by finding a treasure they had deposited in Schütterin’s house, hiding it from rampaging soldiers. They were monks in life, and needed the release in the afterlife which would follow upon Schütterin uncovering the treasure and using it, in part, for charitable works. One of the monks explained that she had been chosen to do this because she had the same horoscope as Christ. Schütterin did what she could, which was to gather money from her friends and family to comply with the various tasks that would free the ghosts and lead to the treasure. This included paying for masses to be read, buying candles, and giving alms. By these means she extracted 912 Gulden out of a local baker, David Fischer. “When he doubted

Family pictures

What are finer – or more boring to strangers – than pics from a family get together? As LI was recently in Chicago with my family, and as my family obsessively photographs everything, I thought I’d post some pics. So first, here we are, or here we are excluding my sister Jenny's side of the family - hmm, we never did take a complete picture, now that I think of it - all dressed up to go to the reception. My older sister, on the left, is very proud of the shawl she purchased in Ecuador. I don’t know how I ended up in the back, looking quizzical... too bad. I purchased a very rocking suit from Goodwill for this occasion. My niece Megan lends a little color to our drab grays and blacks. Then a Lake Michigan pic, with my two brothers, Dan and Doug, and my about-to-go-to college nephew, Whit. And finally, a failed theatrical pic of me crawling on a dune. This shot was supposed to be remind us all of the classic New Yorker cartoon showing a guy crawling in the desert. I failed, however

Destructive destruction

Let others debate whether that movie about a guy in a mask and a cape is the greatest political event since October, 1918 or merely the second greatest political event. Alas, I have a feeling it will go onto the roll of films that LI will never see, which includes almost all of the Star Wars films, the Indiana Jones films, 300, Titanic, the rest of the Batman films, etc., etc. I can only fill my eyes with so much shit, and then I get so tired. As one of my avatars said, restin’ her dogs, 'I have come from Alabama: a fur piece. All the way from Alabama a-walking.” Myself, this has been my year of Sergei Parajanov. About which, here’s a sad story. Economists love the phrase creative destruction. They love it so much that they have labeled all the sick shit that ever happens in the capitalist world creative destruction. But however much we are told to rub up against the word “creative” and purr, the modifier doesn’t do much to clothe the dark goddess it consorts with. Destruction is