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Showing posts from January 21, 2018

kafka's famous laughter

There is a lineage that goes from Lichtenberg’s Scribble book through Lamb, Baudelaire’s Fusées, Rozanov, Pessoa, and – supremely – Kafka, whose request to Brod to burn his papers was, as it were, a request from this history itself, over and above Kafka’s personality. The principle holding this literature together was enunciated by Bartleby – I prefer not to. This is, in the universe of the clerk, equivalent to Lucifer’s non serviam – it ties together the two elements of the scribble and the institution. If we can speak of an institutional consciousness, it is always a consciousness of the system. Jack Goody, in The Domestication of the Savage Mind, notices the importance of the list in all early writing that has been found in the Mesopotamia. Goody divides lists into three types: the list that is a catalogue of names, events and offices, which he calls a ‘retrospective’ list, and which can be thought of as a representation of work-flow; the ‘shopping’ list, or the list that includes e

the super-ego in the cultural industry

Among bad signs, this is a good one: you are sitting there watching a movie and you suddenly start feeling like Teddy Adorno. Adorno, after all, was, at least as a writer, the very embodiment of melancholy. He could easily have been incorporated as some opposite to Joker in the Batman universe – call him Melancho. Melancho, the criminal mastermind who leaves a trail of tears at the crime site. Last night, I had a Melancho moment. We were watching a good film: Three Billboards outside of Ebbing, Mo. We’d been waiting to see this film. The babysitter was in place. The Bastille moviehouse boasted a screen two times the usual MK2 one. Great. And it was much as I’d read about, and admirable. Frances McDormand was unyielding, and Woody Harelson was charming. But I gradually became aware of a severe mismatch between the nightvision of the world in the film, its dark and daft humor, and the musical score. Not the country songs, which of course Hollywood has to add if there is a r

isolationism and bitcoin libertarianism

... and they just said what they always say I don’t think of Trump or Trumpism as particularly isolationist, which is the standard charge by the neo-liberal crowd. An isolationist does not increase the already horrific amount of money devoted to the American military. That isn’t just a symptom of some deeper non-isolationism – that is the whole ballgame. Rather, Trumpism exists as another twist in the long logic of power that has made it unthinkable, for the establishment, that the U.S. could for good reasons simply cease to be a superpower. That logic makes it the case that if, say, China, with its newfound wealth, does things in Africa, this is a net minus for the U.S. – because it is always a binary, always win/lose, with our “rivals”. Fundamentally, I can’t think of any political reason to countenance the seizing of excessive world power by any nation. It has always puzzled us that the right, which doesn’t trust the state to deliver mail, trusts the state with the means

Hitler - a screen memory from America

As is well known, the Hitler comparison is a standard trope among the Internet commentariat. The standard rhetorical reply is to evoke the Godwin’s law, which says that once the Hitler comparison is reached, all further argument is reduced to absurdity or repetition. Godwin’s law may be right as far as the measurement of information is concerned. However, there is more to say about the insistent use of Hitler, at least from the semi-Freudian/Marxy p.o.v.   Freud introduced the useful concept of the “screen memory” quite early in his career, in a letter to his friend Wilhelm Fleiss.  In an essay in his “Small Writings” about a childhood memory in Goethe’s autobiography, written in the midst of the horrors of World War I, 1917, he condenses the notion down to its essence: “Obviously, the important value of such childhood memories is only rarely evident. Mostly they seem indifferent, even nugatory, and it seems incomprehensible that it is just these memories that succeeded in d