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Showing posts from March 26, 2023

Therapeutic nihilism and us

  In these days of evil on the telly – and on the computer screen and in the climate shift, etc. etc. – my mind has been drifting towards the topic of therapeutic nihilism. In a sense, when peeps say we can imagine the end of the world more than we can imagine the end of capitalism, they are positing some natural power in capitalist arrangements that is powerfully reminiscent of the state of medical science in 1844, when the Viennese doctor, Josef Dietl, published his manifesto in the Zeitschrift der K.K. Gesellschaft der Aerzte zu Wien that proclaimed the proper scientific limits of medicine. “Why don’t we demand of our Astronomers to turn the days into nights, of our physicians that they turn winter cold into summer heat, our chemists that they turn water into wine? Because it is impossible, that is, because it is not grounded in the principles of their sciences, and because astronomers, physicians and chemists are upright enough to confess that they couldn’t do it. But then, why d

Saving the heritage: France's system of retraite

  Lucie Mazauric was a museologist of the rarest sort – a Radical Socialist (along with her husband, Andre Chamson), a resistor, and a key member of the “circus” – mi-clochard, mi-aristo, as she puts it – who hid France’s museum treasures, its Da Vincis and Delacroixes, from the Nazis. In Ma Vie en Chateaux, she gives an account of this adventure: the finding of places of safety, the gathering of equipment to guard the treasures, especially fire-fighting equipment, the getting trucks together to convey it, on short notice, from one place to the other. “But this happy specialisation, even as it filled us with pride, didn’t prevent our trucks from becoming ever more dirty at every new displacement, and our personnel ever more tired. We trailed after us a miserable baggage that gave us the air of travelling, not too prosperous, jugglers. In the end, the cases were worn out, the nails were lost, the gas was hard to find, the wrapping had lost their initial freshness. However, we buckled th

the great American sarcastics

  Although listings of the top 100 novels or authors or movies or albums or whatnot are often contrived and set at large in the world as the most shameless kind of clickbait, we rarely have listings of the one hundred greatest sentences, or lines. I think that one of the greatest and most influential sentences of the twentieth century is the one at the beginning of England Your England: “As I write, highly civilized human beings are flying overhead, trying to kill me.” Orwell’s sentence had, I think, a tremendous influence on the whole WWII generation of American writers. In a literal sense, this situation, turned around, is the whole songline of Catch 22. Yossarian very correctly thinks someone is trying to kill him – precisely because he is one of the highly civilized human beings trying to kill other human beings, from civilized to not yet toilet trained, in the cities he is dropping bombs on. Kurt Vonnegut’s entire style was based on seeing in this alienated way – that is, alie