Saturday, May 23, 2020
We all have experienced déjà-vu. But what writer has not experienced, as well, déjà-ecrit - the feeling that the thing one is writing has been written before, must have been written before. It is the feeling that reading what you have writen precedes what you have written - and if you have read it, it must have been written by someone somewhere. Going for the gusto, here, I'd guess that the best things - or many of the best things - are written with this eerie feeling. It is a wobble in the author’s authority, for neither the writer nor anyone that the writer knows wrote the sentence, exactly. mene, tekel, upharsin, baby.
Friday, May 22, 2020
One of the odder things about American politics this year is the missed opportunity: Trump could be cruising to an easy re-election if he had operated early and not acted crazy. I mean, this is not really an ideological issue. When Richard Nixon upset conservatives by, say, going to China, or installing price controls, he did so because he knew he could steamroller the right and extend his power. Trump resembles Nixon in his attitudes, but he is a very limited man, basically a stupid man, and so doesn't have Nixon's artfulness.
If you look at how the governor's have dealt with the plague, the striking thing is that certain Democratic governors, like Cuomo, were criminally late to do anything, whereas certain Republican governors, like the one in Maryland and whatshisname in Ohio, were on the spot, as much as they could be. In other words, the choice of shutting everything down everything early, masking, social distancing, etc. could easily have been taken by Trump without contradicting anything in his politics. But, like other Western leaders - Macron, Gonzalez, [Oops - kind reader in comments corrects me - Sanchez. Gonzalez was prime minister ages ago!] Johnson, etc., - he did nothing because for him, Asia is way over there and how about that there swine flu scare in the seventies? Rightwing governments like Hungary and Slovakia did the lockdown and tailored it into their racist ideologies - but having made his initial, disastrous mistake, Trump did not know how to tack. He did not see that his Dem opponents, having been mostly as ignorant and arrogant, gave him a great opening. So he went down the chute, from pointless hectoring press conferences to lies about chlorox and hydroxychloroquine.
Now, 96,000 deaths and counting later, he has waded too thick in blood to turn back.
Wednesday, May 20, 2020
In shock discovery, the NYT has peeped behind its daily explainer about the stock market (it is going up because of, uh, reported vaccines! it is going up because oil prices are sorta going up or maybe not!) and gingerly touched on the fact that the Government has basically become the market maker of first resort. Astonishing. Who would think that a plutocracy would evolve so that the state became a guarantor for the wealthiest 10 percent! I'm just flummoxed.
"While the Fed says it does not seek to keep stock prices up, the market has rebounded some 30 percent since the institution began its giant program to pump trillions of dollars into financial markets. It has bought billions of dollars’ worth of U.S. Treasury bonds and government-insured mortgage bonds, keeping the prices of those bonds up and pushing yields, which move in the opposite direction, down.
The Fed also announced recently that it would start to buy exchange-traded funds that hold a diversified portfolio representing large parts of the more than $9 trillion corporate bond market and would move on to buying corporate bonds directly “in the near future.” Since such bonds serve as the basis for new borrowings, this lowers the cost of raising money for corporations tapping the bond markets."
I had a lotta skin in the game of skin.
Being all bone I sat alone.
The night wanted to wrap itself around me tight
maybe choke me like an illmet date, late.
I drew the skin of my teeth too
From the deck full of Ensor grins.
What are we playing for I asked skin at the door.
Cruelty, adultery, usual stakes
Sez Skin, hurry and draw it will soon be dawn.
- Karen Chamisso
Tuesday, May 19, 2020
In the Futurist Manifesto, A slap in the face of public taste, Khlebnikov, Mayakovsky, Burlyuk and Kruchenykh defended these theses concerning the rights of poets:
1 - To enlarge the scope of the poet’s vocabulary with arbitrary and derivative words.
2- To feel insuperable hatred for the language that existed before them.
3. To tear with horror from our proud foreheads the wreath of cheap fame which you have made from bathhouse switches.
4. To stand on the rock of the word “we” amid the sea of catcalls and outrage.
I at first glance, I am not sure about one, believe strongly that 2 is insane, agree with three, and certainly understand and sympathize with 4. Celebrity now is woven of other materials and immaterials – a Youtube channel, an invite to the Miami Basel Plutocrats of Art fair, etc. And alas, the “we” of a movement of any kind, determined to undo the long bondage of poetry to banality, has disappeared into a blurbish train of watered CVs and the insuperable tones of the NPR poetry reader- a voice that is like a bullet directed at the heart of poetry itself. I’d like to think the bullet won’t work, and that poetry has the vampirish quality of coming alive in every coffin it is buried in when the moon is right. You can put it down, but it will be back, swinging an axe and breaking in your door.
One, though: I like the spirit of it. I wonder if this is how Twitter, Tik Tok, blogs and the infinite cesspool of comments on Internet is all, somehow, quicksilver to me. The slang, the acronyms, the rapid erasures of jargon and slogan, I am in love with them beyond any ideological position. I’m pretty sure there are no arbitrary words – I’m too Freudian for that. But there are emergents all the time. I often find myself banging out words that do not exist in a dictionary, but should.
So: I’m no retro-futurist, but I am a useful idiot. That counts for something.
Monday, May 18, 2020
In one of his apocalyptic essays, “Une anthropologie du presentiment”, Paul Virilio (a writer whose lightning stroke provocations are bodyguarded by a certain dark mumbo-jumbo, a logic of the worst case scenario, like a man who had been up all night reading, alternatively, Michel Foucault and St. John of Patmos) quotes a line of Octavio Paz:
“the instant is an uninhabitable as the future”.
For Virilio, we have been forced to inhabit that inhabitability – this is the crazy-making effect of the acceleration and massive accumulative power of our system of telecommunications:
“In fact, can we still speak of a contemporary world? Shouldn’t we, rather, speak of the anthropology of a world that is not “intemporal”, but in-temporary, intemporal, if this is even possible? Is an anthropology of the instance conceivable, and can it be llogical without denying, in the same gesture, its fully historical dimension?”
If there ever was a time that a certain apocalyptic strain in French philosophy seems to have found the object it was looking for, it is this plague pause, this breaking apart of the con-temporary, this pandemic that came to us on the wings of globalization. Acceleration, the rat race, the routine of tasks that must be done, has suddenly come to a screeching halt, or perhaps a non-screeching one, as the great metropoles suddenly went quiet. And now, just as suddenly, the halt is lifting. What have we seen in this desert of the real, o Lord? A reed shaken in the wind?
Myself, I am fortunately a family man. Inhabiting an apartment in the Marais, of all places (such is the vagary of my never very consistent life, a three Stooge’s adventure), and looking out at a world of close calls without any one of those calls landing too close – though my hypochondria is always on low in the background – I have an odd sense that, for all the irreality that has rushed in on every front, this pandemic is somehow normal, somehow expected.
I ventured out on un-lockdown weekend a couple of times, and took a gander at the neighborhood streets. I stood outside in line (so called – the French still, charmingly, object to the American submission to the “line” as a linear thing, preferring to cluster about) outside a bagel shop. I walked the boundaries. I saw many masked people, but this was no Mardi Gras – there were many, many unmasked, as pretty as you please, standing or sitting less than a good sneeze’s distance one from the other. Were these people crazy? Or was I?
A little of both, perhaps. I will get real here: it warmed my heart to see Paris limping back to life. I miss the cafes, the uber-expensive dress shops, the galleries, the life, by God, that flows over the streets every day. Yet I am all informed, too, about second waves, about the way the Spanish Influenza’s second coming, when it got serious, killed ten times more people than its rehearsal wave.
What is time? What is our time? What is personal time? Questions that have lept out of philosophy class and into our laps, be we working class or bougie, this Corona-period. Let’s end on the gothic observation of Virilio, who might be right:
“Duration (durée), all true duration, may have become by the fact of the acceleration of realism an everyday illusion, an absence of duration or more exactly, the duration of the absence which no longer allows us to grasp what is there, no those things that are still there to the advantage of the intempestive characer of what happens ex abrupto, of the Accident that from now on out replaces all events.”
Virilio wrote this at the beginning of the great economic crack-up of 2008. Seems less heated now – seems like pretty much a standard description of the impression we all have of our “time”. Put the 666 on my forehead and test and trace: I'm in!
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