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Showing posts from January 16, 2022

On my conscience: being Yankee Doodle Dandy

  Auguste Dupin once traced the course of his companion’s thoughts by a series of inductions that attached to the dumbshow of his companion’s expressions - the microworld of steps, frowns, glances, and furrows that, in the nineteenth century, was being explored with absurd confidence by German physiognomists -- until, interrupting that silent monologue, he made some magically relevant comment. The nineteenth century motif: detective as magician, consciousness as a rather easily demystified magic trick - we love it, we love it! The twentieth century, Freud’s, and even ours, with its faith in the murky business of the neural net, has only a broken faith in the coherence and topical unity of the consciousness – after all, if that unity is a fiction, what are we to say of the unity of the consciousness of the scientists themselves? But the unity is, at best, a horizon, a kind of cognitive optimism.  Dupin’s observant tactic is worth applying even to oneself, occasionally. Although hark at

The Denial style in American politics, from Richard Hofstadter to Cass Sunstein

  Richard Hofstadter published a famous essay, The Paranoid Style in American Politics , in the Harpers Monthlyof November, 1964. A year before, John F. Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas. The Republican Party, in 1964, nominated Barry Goldwater for President. For the establishment liberal, the court intellectuals of Kennedy’s Camelot, Goldwater was a Southwestern, ruddy-cheeked repeat of Joe McCarthy (Camelot ignored Bobby Kennedy’s own admiration of Joe McCarthy). Although Goldwater brandished no list of Communists in the State Department at the convention, he did bite out a line that became famous: Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice; moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” Karl Hess, Goldwater’s speechwriter, came up with that magnificent sentence. Johnson, of course, won overwhelmingly; his campaigned aired tv ads linking Goldwater to nuclear war, implying Goldwater was for it. Karl Hess had an interesting career post-Goldwater. In an interview once, h

She sings on her own blue guitar - Karen Chamisso

  She sings her own song on the blue guitar Out of the world of money and pest control I, the heavenly one, rose up and spoke the truth Vermin are hidden in Nineveh’s every wall, And poison works best on the youth I have learned to bear the mourning of others And see the termites as unmourning beasts They have no concept of their mothers And they make no saddening maddening bleats. My Daddy told me that my boyfriend Jack Who technically worked for Dad’s company – and mine – Was just my way of getting back At mom and him, and was not at all divine, just an operator who had the good luck to stick his hand up the skirt of the boss’s daughter. I was seventeen - he was my first fuck. We lay coupled on a bed of insect slaughter And smoked a spliff, and made our plan But like any boss’s daughter I soon had my fill. I’ve since married an acceptable man And divorced and married another still And Jack is no doubt with Jill in their house Somewhere in the metro Hotlanta burbs. We are all divine –

whose posterity is it?

 An essay from the late and not so great Willett's Magazine.   There’s a popular literary game, which consists of predicting which writers will “endure”. Whenever the waters of clickbait grow still and old, some webzine site will stir it up by playing this old game, asking what names among today’s writers will be counted in a hundred years. Heated arguments will break out: the question of whether the works of Stephan King will be recognized one hundred years from now as the greatest American fiction of our time will elicit heated comments, and there will surely be much knocking of the elites. Nobody seems to predict that a writer that they don’t like will be recognized in one hundred years. Nor does anybody ask about the institutions that preserve for posterity the reputation of a writer. Instead, these predictions rely on a sort of amorphous popular will, with powers beyond any dreamt up by Rousseau. The general will will judge the quick and the dead. That’s the sense. The