Saturday, January 16, 2010

I can't stand it

This is the time
this is the time
This is the time
because there is no time

The NYT hosted a 'debate' today about what "we" should do about Haiti, in which a bunch of Americans exchanged airy views about impossible changes that should be magically implemented in the near future, or a decade from now, etc.

In actuality, the future is fucking now, and what we should be asking is why, if we have ability, as any half assed surfer of the net has, to pinpoint hundreds of situations in Port Au Prince, and we have the equipment - why we aren't taking advantage of that. Why is there not a heavy helicopter traffic over the skies of Port au Prince? Why is it that the incredibly simple tools that are needed aren't being distributed, as the Newspaper gathers tres tres interesting opinions about Haiti's economic future?

From Le Monde:
On the corner of Capois and Cameau streets, the moder bank Unibank building is half collapsed. With naked hands, a group of twenty youths are extracting great blocks of concrete at the base of the edifice.

"There are two persons alive," cries one of them. With the aid of a long plastic tube, the improvisatory rescuers begin to exchange some words with the survivors who ask for water. At the end of two hours of effort, two men are taken out. The first, an employee of the bank, 26, is unharmed; the other can barely stand.

Au coin des rues Capois et Cameau, l'immeuble moderne de la banque Unibank est à moitié effondré. A mains nues, un groupe d'une vingtaine de jeunes dégagent de gros blocs de béton à la base de l'édifice.

" Il y a deux personnes en vie ", s'écrie l'un d'eux. A l'aide d'un long tuyau en plastique, les sauveteurs improvisés parviennent à échanger quelques mots avec les survivants qui demandent de l'eau. Au bout de deux heures d'efforts, deux hommes sont dégagés. Le premier, un employé de la banque, âgé de 26 ans, est indemne, l'autre, un agent de sécurité a du mal à se relever.

These twenty guys seem to have understood more in their lifetimes than the whole of the NYT editorial office if given the power of infinite recycling through time by the compassionate Buddha. I can't stand it.

I, a scrawny nothing in Austin, merely by scanning blogs, facebook, twitter, can find a hundred, two hundred descriptions of what is happening, and where, in Port au Prince. I know exactly who has set up a rescue station in Jacmal. So where the fuck is the U.S. rescue mission? Do they have nobody fucking doing the same thing? Boom, we have a rescue center in Jacmal already, they need tents, medical tents, fly them the fuck in. Information is pouring out into the air, and being absolutely ignored by the powers that be. USE YOUR INFORMATION!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

vertigo 2

The more I ponder it, the more I consider Veronique Nahoum-Grappe’s essay on dizziness one of the great essays – like Caillois’ essay on the praying mantis, or Ginzberrg’s on Making It Strange. It is bizarre that this 1993 essay hasn’t been translated into English. Perhaps I ought to ring up October Magazine and tell them that I’ll do it for them.

I’ve already advanced through the first section of the essay. It is remarkable that Nahoum-Grappe’s coordinates, in this and the essays that group around it – her essay on beauty, her essays on nteoxication – are so close to those in Aristotle’s Poetics, where, as I remarked, we have a fourfold space, with the vertical axis being the high and the low, and the horizontal axis described by the ugly and the beautiful.

These poles are both preserved and violated in laughter – that is, as it relates to the absolute comic. For Nahoum-Grappe, the relationship between high and low, in terms of dizziness, is the relationship between the highest moment of suspense and the plunge. The moment of suspense traverses a number of behaviors – just think, for instance, of sexual arousal. Why should it be the case that being aroused – being hard, being wet – is so often accompanied by a distinct light feeling in the stomach? Is so often enfolded in drinking? Is so often merely the breadth of a slip away from dizziness, a disorder in the thoughts – a disorder that is classically present in 18th century novels, where women, under the influence of seduction, are always described, or describe themselves, as thinking in a confused fashion. Order, here, the moral order, certainly preserves the Aristotelian grid that separates the high from the low. There is, I’d suggest, a certain coordination between the plunge that is the parameter of suspense and a certain movement between ugliness and beauty.

Nahoum-Grappe’s method is to take the phrases that are ordinarily overlooked from diverse … routines, and see that they have a functional seriousness:

“It is rare that a French attempted suicide explains himself like this: I am a more than50 year old male, a transient agricultural worker and excessive consumer of alcohol” – which we may extract from the too happy appropriations of statistical data. Insteaad, there will be phrases like – “everything seemed pointless,” “everything was going wrong”, “nothing worked”, “why live?” which risk being heard prior to the silence preceding the fatal act: phrases which have in common the vertiginous closure of time (never again, always) and space (the world is just a but of shit”). The addicted toxicomaniac who tries to give an account of his ‘relapse’, the excessive drinker who closes his eyes and accelerates his speed taking a hairpin curve in the night. Or even the lover shutting the door in an access of chagrin, ordinary heroes in the field of social suffering, will thus have recourse to these vertiginious closures. ..

This ‘nothing more is possible’ consists, on the plane of an invisible topic, to put oneself above an emptiness: a functional sociology will tend to evacuate that manner of seeing as a subjective point of view of the social actor, whereas the poet will make it a song and the psychologist will dig out its implications. But here, that attitude of ‘suspended above everything is taken as an objective segment of signification, as an effective intellectual posture, as a kind of belief making an effect on behaviors. It is rendered possible by a corporal competence: that of the vertiginous perception.”

Here, then, we come back to mimetism – vide the discussion regarding Baudelaire’s irony – not by way of Aristotelian mimesis, but by way of Caillois’ praying mantis.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


What can I say today? Today has crushed a lot of small bones. Give to the Haitian relief fund of your choice.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

signifyin comedy, or the tale of a melon

André Gill was one of the great caricaturists under Louis Napoleon. He begins his posthumous autobiography, Twenty Years in Paris, thusly: “One beautiful morning in the month of August, 1868, my best friend, he who shares all my pains and joys, and – to put it all in a word – also my underclothes, stopped, at the corner of Rue Vavin, in ecstasy before a melon.”

That Gill begins by describing himself as his ‘best friend” is perhaps a little less funny than eerie, considering that this autobiography was written, apparently, in Charenton, the madhouse where Gill had been committed – and where he died. The melon story is funny, however. Gill buys that wondrous melon, and then decides to he must draw it. Gill, by this time, had already gotten into trouble with Louis Napoleon’s censors for his drawing of Rocambole, the gentleman thief – a drawing that looked oddly and coincidinkily enough like Louis Napoleon. The censors had closed down Gill’s outlet, La Lune. But surely nobody could find a drawing of a melon subversive…

Except perhaps those who remembered a certain spate of drawings depicting pears. Under Louis Philippe, caricaturists had captured a certain pearness to Louis’ face – and, under a censorship that had eliminated Louis Philippe from the repertoire, had contented themselves with drawing the pear itself. This wondrous multiplication of pears put the censors in a ridiculous position – they faced, here, that French ‘gaiety’, or Baudelaire’s significative comic. And yet, what is a pear? A pear is the apotheosis of the banal. The reality of Louis Phillipe’s face, its soul, so to speak, was a pear.

Gill – and surely the censors – remembered the pear.

So L’Eclipse published the drawing of the melon. It was a drawing of the melon split open. The split made the melon like a puppet face, one with a big slash for a mouth. The censor originally passed it, but when the melon was published, the state, in its infinite wisdom, decided to get out from under the ridiculousness that haunted Louis Philippe’s censors by accused the paper not of a political crime, but of obscenity.

The state bureaucracy, that product of the highest rationality, is also – as Gogol knew well – always on the edge of a dream. Or rather a nightmare. And by that logic, censoring the melon as a caricature of the head of state would be worse than allowing the caricature of the head of state, since the main and important thing was not to connect Louis Napoleon’s court with a melon. As Gill said, this was pretty stiff on the part of the authorities:

‘As the scribble [croquis] didn’t represent anyone, it was easy to apply the intention to to anybody, and each for himself made the reference for his “bete noir”. “

And Gill references one of the names that were thrown out: Delesvau, the president of the sixth chamber. Famous for currying to the court by making a series of ‘wicked arrests”.

Gill had the happy thought of procuring another melon, that he took to court with him, with the intent to prove that there was nothing obscene about a melon. The judge, however, merely looked at the drawing of the melon, and looked sadly at the defendant, and dismissed the case.

Such is the power of ridiculousness in a falling regime.

Southern California Death Trip

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