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Showing posts from January 23, 2022


  Commentaire, the French magazine (a thick journal, to use the Russian phrase), was founded on the idea that communism in France, and more generally Marxism, required gravediggers. The last phrase of the Cold War was, intellectually, a mop up operation, destroying the utopias of the postwar years in the “West” – as the loose coalition of nation states, from Germany to Australia, were called by the Cold Warriors. The name and concept was wrested out of a conservative historiography that had left its sad mark in Germany. The “West” of course called for an “East” – and in due time a South and a North. I’ve been reading its back pages, and came upon Jacques Revel’s introduction to a rather obscure French philosophe of the early 19 th century, Theodor Jouffroy (1796-1842), whose essay, How Dogmas Finish, had a little cult following of rather disparate figures since it was published in The Globe on May 24, 1825:   Sainte-Breuve, Louis Aragon, and a communist clique that included Andre T

The Clock Repairman's gesture

  In his essay, A kaddish for Austria: On Joseph Roth , W.G. Sebald zeroes in on a bit of personal trivia (one of those bits that operate as signatures of some nameless process) that he gets from Roth’s biographer: “Bronsen reported that Roth collected clocks randomly; and that fooling with clocks in his final years grew into a mania. What fascinated Roth with clocks was condensed into his last piece of published prose in the first weekend of April, 1939   in the Pariser Tageszeitung. ” The essay – one of those feuilleton of which Roth was one of the great masters – was entitled “At the clock repairs shop.” Sebald takes the piece as revelatory of something essential in Roth’s conception of the artist – or storyteller: „Thus he sat, like the clock repairman, with a magnifying glass stuck in place before his eye, and looed into the broken wonderwork of wheels and gears, “as if he gazed through a blackframed hole into a distant past”. The clock repairman’s hope, like that of the writer, i

Deep (trance) state

My latest cold war story. The whole thing is at Medium, here.  I fear this story might be too long and too disconnected to all but CIA mooks. But I had to write it as it jazzed outta me. I'm a victim of my muse.   - You begin by drawing circles around names. You draw lines connecting these circles. You make t h e lines into arrows. In this way, you build up a profile, a diagram, a secret history. Everyone is interested in a secret history. Secret, put it in the subtitle, market the fuck out of it. That history is like the aether in physics, it fills up the space of history, it mediates between events, mysteries, cases, disappearances, suicides, cries in the asylums, the low watt shadows in solitary. You sit in Langley, to which you have moved from the old hq in D.C., and you are James Angleton, piecing together the great conspiracies over time and place, putting your finger on Nosenko, the false defector, the one you have always expected. Or you are Mark Lane, in a London Hotel, f

The prisoner of cool

    I’ve always believed that you will only see a culture in its totality, see it thoroughly, sees its wonders and damage, when you go through the cracks.   I don’t know where this belief comes from. Perhaps it is a vestige of the New Testament I was taught in Sunday School. It severely underestimates the effects of going through the cracks – this I know from experience. Most often, instead of trying to understand the culture you spend that experience counting your pennies and looking for cheap intoxicants, Going through the cracks is terrifying, and terror is not conducive to collecting the forces of your spirit and understanding the mechanics of the great wheel of fortune that is crushing your bones. Splinter and crack, splinter and crack.   Nevertheless, the theory is not wholly flawed. A culture’s vision of itself is manufactured by those paid to manufacture such visions – follow the money and you will soon find that the mass of our images and understandings attach to t

a poem by Weldon Kees

  A poem by Weldon Kees, which is pertinent to our present situation, with all the warmalarky being drummed out by the media vis a vis Russia, China, etc. When of course we should be stripping the Pentagon of the vast majority of its funding and using that funding to solve the problem of climate change, no less. The Aztecs used to keep up their social order by staging battles, the Spanish reported. These "flower wars" were arranged so that the proper blood sacrifices would bring fertility to the earth. Georges Bataille was fascinated by this ethnological tidbit. "The priests killed their victims on top of the pyramids. They would stretch them over a stone altar and strike them in the chest with an obsidian knife. They would tear out the stillbeating heart and raise it thus to the sun. Most of the victims were prisoners of war, which justified the idea of wars as necessary to the life of the sun: Wars meant consumption, not conquest, and the Mexicans thought that if they