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Showing posts from May 3, 2009

and the document was sweet in my mouth

figaro. Je le sais tellement que si monsieur le Comte en se mariant n'eût pas aboli ce droit honteux, jamais je ne t'eusse épousée dans ses domaines. suzanne. Hé bien! s'il l'a détruit, il s'en repent; et c'est de ta fiancée qu'il veut le racheter en secret aujourd'hui. A nobleman renounces certain of his rights. Then he reasserts them, according to ancient documents which, he claims, gives him the right to the first night with the bride of his servants. A man goes up a smoky mountain. He comes down with two stone tablets, upon which YHWH has, himself, written a pact – a covenant. The covenant, like the nobleman’s, makes requirements of YHWH’s servants that reach into the very depth of their private lives. The man is angered to see that the the people he left at the foot of the mountain are now dancing around an idol. This violates the first rule of the pact YHWH has made with his people - although since the people have not even seen the pact, one

the crusoe complex

Let’s begin with a news item far from Vienna, or the 17th century. This was the beginning of Justus Wolpers post on freakonomics today: I was reading John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row last night, and I was really struck by how the following passage speaks to the forces behind our current economic predicament: “It has always seemed strange to me,” said Doc. “The things we admire in men — kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding, and feeling — are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest — sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism, and self-interest — are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first, they love the produce of the second.” The usual cheap shot after citing a literary figure would be to argue that modern economics can’t possibly grapple with such issues. But it can. The incentives that Steinbeck describes are the incentives described in standard economic models. Agency theory is almost entirely

Bely's scream

Orientation A poem, first. Blok’s The gray sky is still beautiful And cold lights in the gray sky Clothed the tsar’s Winter Palace And the armored warrior in black won’t answer Until dawn overtakes him Then, reddening above the watery abyss Let him lower his sword more gloomily, To lie dead in a useless struggle With the savage mob for an ancient fairy tale. And a story. I found this in Mochulsky’s biography of Andrei Bely, which is, unfortunately, the only one in English. In 1921, after Blok had died, and Bely was trying to get out of Russia, Bely gave a lecture that was supposed to be on Blok’s poetry. Maria Tsvetaeva was there. She wrote that in the middle of the lecture, Bely lost control and began to scream: “From starvation! From Starvation! Gout from starvation, instead of overeating!” and then he went on to his no doubt astonished audience: ‘ I have no room! I am the writer of the Russian land, and I don’t even have a stone on which to lay my head… I wrote Petersburg! I f

To fall into the hands of the lord is a fearful thing

The word comes, and like a misbegotten fetus, it tangles itself in its own feeding tubes and dies. The word comes, and it takes up its place in the midst of meaning that that primitive, the monkey handed mind, would so like to put down, make materialize, bring out of nothingness into somethingness – and yet those other words aren’t there, and the word lacks the mind’s private conversation. I wrote this post yesterday evening, and I re-wrote it this morning. And I’m re-writing it again, against the curse on all violations of the law, first thought, best thought. The curse is one of a certain gloominess of aspect, a certain loss of freshness, a lack of the look of spontaneity. My quotes from the little known Justus Moser have to be more connected to the trails we have danced or sneaked down. In particular, to the persistence, in these notes, of the theme of the closed economy. The peasant economy summarized by George Foster like this: “In fact, it seems accurate to say that the avera