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Showing posts from January 1, 2023

popsicle sticks

  I have been falling asleep, the last week or two, thinking about popsicle sticks. The last week or two is an exaggeration, okay, the last two weeks it pops into my head, one night or another, that I should think about popsicle sticks. About how many popsicle sticks in the course of my life I have discarded, after the popsicle, or the ice cream, has melted in my mouth, been licked off by my tongue. After my hands have been stickied. Stickied. A complicated thing for me. Is my discomfort with sticky hands somehow related to some old tabu about masturbation? The Freudian in me has always made that association, and, as is the nature of things Freudian, once the association is made, how could it not be true? However, it is also true that stickiness and the vaguely repulsive, the vaguely dirty feeling of stickiness – from the sugar ice dripping down the popsicle stick, or the honey that creeps up the spoon handle, or the glaze that comes off the glazed cinnamon roll – makes me want, neur

the romance of hatred

  The romance of hatred is a real thing. But though we all recognize it, few take it to be a “romance” – a narrative of repulsion that is also about the attraction of the repulsed. To draw it out in dance diagram form, there are three positions, here, roughly: hating – being hated – being hated for hating. To be hateful is, in a sense, to be embarked upon a mission of destruction whose ultimate victim is the self. To rescue the self from its own hatred – that is the moral duty of politics, I think. Hatred is used, fliply, by the journalist and pundit: back in the 00s, Americans were always learning that they were “hated” for their freedoms, and thus could hate back with their weapons. Weapons that by happy chance liberated their enemies – like the wound that heals, enemies would be turned into friends by seeing their loved ones killed by air bombardment.   Richard Bessel, in his artlcle:   Hatred after War: Emotion and the Postwar history of East Germany, theorized that in the afte

abolishing jaywalking

  On December 1, 1915, the New York Sun published a rousing letter from a Mr. Clarence John Davis, which ended like this: I think it is time for pedestrians to assert themselves and to prevent the issuing of ukases from certain czars who are appointed to represent and protect and not tyrannize over those who by their votes were foolist enough to aid in appointing them to office. I will “jaywalk” the same as before, and I defy the Police Commissioner or any other civil officer to prevent me.” The quote marks over “jaywalk” were proof of its uncertain distinction as a dictionary recognized word. The sentiment marks the decade in which city streets first became car streets. The mixed use of streets, between pedestrian and horse, was ceding to the automobile. Pedestrian rights were being sacrificed on the altar of civic safety. Although there was a struggle. Even the president of the United States – at least, the President Calvin Coolidge – was a jaywalker, according to journalist Harr

the individual, the solitary, the stone

  I n Tocqueville’s Ancien Regime and the Revolution, which he published in 1856), there is this paragraph about individualism: “Our fathers did not have the word individualism, which we have forged for our use, because, in their times, there was not, in fact, an individual who did not belong to a group and who could consider himself absolutely alone; but each of the thousand little groups that composed French society only thought of themselves. Thus it was, if I may so express myself, a sort of collective individualism, which prepared souls for the true individualism which which we are acquainted. And what is the most strange is that all of these men who hold themselves so apart one from another became so similar to each other that it was enough to make them change places to no longer recognize them.” Tocqueville is no random witness to individualism, since he was perhaps the first to use the term in a sociologically sophisticated way in Democracy in America. The United States e

Achilles in Mississippi

I wonder if classical scholars crosspollinate their reading with scholarship about American ballads from Dixie? There’s a wonderful little essay by Eric McHenry on the origins of Mississippi John Hurt’s murder ballad that goes through fragments and traditions to get to the story of Louis Collins, subject of Hurt’s ballad with the refrain: “angels laid him away.” It is a songline where poetry, fact and misprision intermingle, and isn't this how how the Trojan war became a subject of the two enduring Greek epics? And American epics seem drawn to the Mississippi? I think the Cohn brothers, with their knowledge of folk song, saw this: which is why O Brother where art thou is far more successful than any peplum flick at getting the Homeric impulse down. Same counts of course for James Joyce, who understood something about how to graft the Irish crooner lyric onto the Odyssey. What is an epic, after all, than a murder ballad writ large? The McHenry essay, The Bully in the Ballad, is her

Never too vile

The Andrew Tate – Greta Thurnberg exchange was all the richer for me in that I had never heard of Andrew Tate, and got to read all about his clammy influencer gig. That hundreds of rightwing dickheads came out in support of Tate made me think that the NYT, though I make fun of it, may not be totally incorrect that Trump marked a new moment on the right. Trump, after all, had cameo roles in a softcore Playboy movie of the type that the conservatives were once all about banning. No longer, of course. The media, sunk in the type of sexism that would require a barrel of dynamite to blast them out of, never headlined or even noticed Trump’s cameo role in Playboy Video Centerfold 2000, although I’d be my bottom dollar that if Hilary Clinton had a cameo role in Playboy Video Centerfold 2000, we woulda, um, read all about it. Now, I am all for sex workers. But that is an opinion that used to make the evangelical right and rightthinking righties stand on their hind legs and howl. But that is