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Showing posts from May 6, 2018

let's all piss on 'craft'

Back in the 1920s, the avant gardes, radicalized by the Russian revolution, explored the concept of the author as producer. This was a response to varied changes in the cultural industrial landscape, from the growth of newspapers and magazines to the coming of radio and film, in the light of a somewhat Marxist theory of economic development. Brecht, for instance, began to explore writing theater collectively. The surrealists briefly explored automatic writing. Skhlovsky and the Russian formalists became interested in skaz, or orality in the story. And then there was England, and a guy named Percy Lubbock. Who was not at all interested in writing as a product manufactured   under the framework of capitalism. He was, in a gesture that referenced the 19 th century reaction to industrialism, interested in “craft”.   The writer as the proprietor of an atelier, not as a worker in the factory of language – that is the image. Lubbock’s book, The Craft of Fiction, gifted us with th

jordan peterson and other tinpot gurus of the Trump age

Wendy Kaminer’s 1993 book, I’m dysfunctional You’re dysfunctional, pointed to the way that the “personal development” movement was inherently political. She was not just following through on the feminist slogan, the personal is the political, but she was anchoring it in a long American tradition. “(My first working subtitle was "Self-Help and the Selling of Authority.") While American mythology celebrates the common sense of Frank Capra's common man, the   American reality, reflected in the perversely named self-help industry is marked by a tendency to put our faith in experts. What sells self-help books, tapes, and workshops is the willingness to believe that there are experts who can help us achieve the good life, however it is defined at the moment; existential problems are reduced to merely technical ones, which can be solved by expert techniques.” Shrewdly, she saw how this drew people – I would guess, mainly men – to Ross Perot in 1992. The persona he crafted

Marx and the Amazon Hooligans

Everybody is writing about Marx, due to the 200thanniversary thing. All to the good! Here’s an al Jazeera article. Myself, I decided to read Marx’s lesser read journalism on the Paris commune. Although innumerable rightwing tweets have gone after Marx for Stalin, in reality, Stalin was born after Marx was dead. Marx made a very clear political record for himself. That record is a record of responses to the horrors of the 19 th century. Those are horrors that Cold War liberalism (of which conservatism is a variant) did not want to examine. Instead, the Cold Warriors approved a history in which native peoples “vanished”, and in which the pomp and panoply of the British Raj became the scene for many a BBC and PBS series – while the eleven million people who had starved to death in India, by 1911 (quoting the 10 th edition of the Encyclopedia Brittanica), were ushered off stage. Too bad! If you want to know what preceded Dachau, you should look in Mike Davis’s Victorian Holocaust. Ima

the myth of strong leadership

The ghosts of my tv watching youth drift through Youtube (downloaded by an ever nostalgic cohort of boomers) and are channeled through Adam’s video preferences. Thus, Charlie Brown tv specials have suddenly resurrected themselves in my life’s path, the catchy tune, the World War I flying ace, the security blanket, those voices – Lucy’s spectrum between cattily flirtatious to Charlie Brown’s clear as tapwater voice of reasoning and despair. In one of these things, Charlie Brown goes to summer camp. He lists his hopes for summer camp, and they include “learning leadership skills”. Ah, leadership! The ethos of my cub scout troop, the unexamined virtue we were all taught to revere: there was no merit badge for dissent, that’s for sure. Leadership skills were amply rewarded, or at least verbally praised. In today’s Le Monde there is an interview with a political philosopher, who was asked to comment about a recent speech by Sarkozy in which he remarked that democracy destroys