Saturday, November 10, 2018


Apollinaire died from the Spanish flu on November 8, 1918. I've been meaning to do a series on Apollinaire's Paris. In the meantime, a translation of Tree from Calligrammes.

to Frederic Boutet
You sing with the others while the gramophone plays
Where are the blind men where have the blind men gone
I plucked a single leaf It turned into a deck of mirages
Don’t leave me here alone among the women in the marketplace
Isfahan exudes a blue tile sky
And I hitchhike with you to the outskirts of Lyon

I’m not going to forget the coco man ringing his little bell
I can already hear the future vocal fry of his voice
From the dude who roadtrips with you in Europe
While never leaving America

A child
A skinned calf hanging from a hook
A child
And this sandy suburb around this central Asian ville
A border guard stands like an angel
At the gates of this miserable paradise
And the epileptic traveler in the first class waiting area foams.

Finger-licking Badger
Ariane the Hooker
For more, go here. 

Thursday, November 08, 2018

a geneology of "the worse, the better"

The famous phrase, “the worse the better”, is often attributed to Lenin. Supposedly, this is Lenin’s addition to the black book of political strategy, and no doubt in Hell he is discussing it over chess with Old Nick Machiavelli himself.

As far as I can tell, however, the phrase appears in Lenin’s works as a quotation from Plekhanov. In Three Crises, writing in 1917, Lenin sets himself the task of analyzing the revolution thus far – after the fall of the Czar. He remarks that so far, the demonstration, as a political form, has accrued a peculiar importance. And he backs away from the situation to analyze it:
The last, and perhaps the most instructive, conclusion to be drawn from considering the events in their interconnection is that all three crises manifested some form of demonstration that is new in the history of our revolution, a demonstration of a more complicated type in which the movement proceeds in waves, a sudden drop following a rapid rise, revolution and counter-revolution becoming more acute, and the middle elements being eliminated for a more or less extensive period.
In all three crises, the movement took the form of a demonstration. An anti-government demonstration — that would be the most exact, formal description of events. But the fact of the matter is that it was not an ordinary demonstration; it was something considerably more than a demonstration, but less than a revolution. It was an outburst of revolution and counter-revolution together, a sharp, sometimes almost sudden elimination of the middle elements, while the proletarian and bourgeois elements made a stormy appearance.

As an aside: I think this is a very wonderful passage, which surely earned Nick Machiavelli’s other-world applause. It projects a light upon a feature that occurs consistently in our contemporary history, even if the various forms of demonstration are tied to class in more complex, that is, mediated ways than could be admitted by Lenin, that great simplifier. I am thinking of the #metoo movement, for instance. Here, again, what rose up traversed the class scale, mixing up an issue of gender with one of the workspace. I would call it an abuse of emotional labor, which is itself an exploitation founded on the body of the worker. The connecting links from the coerced smile to rape are both gendered and based in an economy of exploitation. But to return to the form of Lenin’s analysis… See the rest at Willett's

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Oana Mateescu: The Romanian family referendum: Or, how I became a sexo-Marxist

This is my day not to read the news, since all the forces in play in the election in the U.S. are now immovably set, and there is nothing I can do but stress. I learned my lesson in 2016, when I kept assuring A. that there was no way Donald Trump was winning, since at the last minute vote counts would adjust to what everybody knew. That was a year after, I believe, I grandly predicted that Brexit was a flash in the pan, no way the UK was going to break away from the EU. So my predictor of what the masses - at least the masses of voters - will decide is somewhat out of synch with what they, after being sorted out by racist laws and administrators who go the extra mile to preserve Jim Crow, decide. And as to the Jim Crow, the lack of urgency on this issue by the Democratic party is an astonishment that -- I won't go on about.
Rather, today I am going to read analyses of the Romanian referendum on marriage. I was unaware that rightwing groups - the usual drooling orthodox churches, the evangelicals, the fascists - had worked long and hard, in conjunction with the ruling party, to put the anti-gay legislation to a vote. I was heartened that they lost, since less than 30 percent voted. I was also heartened that the new denigratory term in Romania is Sexo-Marxism - that is, any questioning of the "natural" Christian order. This long reort by Oana Mateescu is definitely worth a read. Lately, I've been reading Jeff Love's book about Alexandre Kojeve, The Black Circle, and thinking about Kojeve's crazy view of History as a sort of real force, which closes on itself at some point (after Jena? After Stalin?) and leaves us all outside of history - in post-history. I'm going to review that book for Willett's. Though I don't agree with it, the Viconian idea of historical cycles has always fascinated me. If we are in a cycle now, it is hard not to think that it is a vast cycle of imbecility, in which we - that is, a goodly number of human beings - have deliberately turned against what we know, or have learned, in every field, from the humanities to the hardcore sciences. This hypothesis depends, however, on a silly assumption - that to know is a listing function, so that x becomes the object known, in no relation to y, another object known, and so on. Epistemic listing is a misleading way of accounting for that always philosophical modal verb, to know. Still, to remain with this pov for a second, one of the great beliefs of the liberal era was that once we know something, we can't go on denying it. The crime against the intellect is a crime against the very self, which is bound to knowledge the way Odysseus was bound by ropes to the mast of his ship so he could withstand the song of the sirens. The liberal era could countenance every perversity, it could even countenance sacrifice - that ultimate act against self-interest - but not the deliberate choosing of ignorance. And then, here we are...
Read Oana Mateescu's article. Here:

Oana Mateescu: The Romanian family referendum: Or, how I became a sexo-Marxist: “By the way, Russia had the first sexual revolution. Lenin was a big homosexual; as for Karl and Marx, I think they were together. But they realized on their own it was going nowhere.” — 3 milioane1 On 6 and 7 October 2018, in what has become known as the family referendum, some Romanians voted on changing the definition of…

olivier blanchard and the free lunch: a comedy of errors

  The neolib economist Oliver Blanchard tweeted a very funny comedy bit, in which he played the part of “social democrat”. And he wrote: “As...