Random neuron firing, lame philosophy, literary pontificating, movies, sex, clothes & other femme stuff

Sunday, August 31, 2003

Drew Gardner makes a lovely point about the place of nuclear weapons in our constitutional democracy:

If the idea of the right to bear arms is based on the idea that the population should be able to remove an oppressive government by force, and if the government now has nuclear weapons, then shouldn't every citizen now own tactical nuclear weapons? Perhaps give them out instead of a tax rebate? Wouldn't this ensure a patriotic attitude in the population (concern for what the country is doing) if people knew they could just nuke Washington if the politicians attempt to wage profiteering wars of foreign occupation for the enrichment of Haliburton?

I always wished I had thought of that myself! A series of talks Elaine Scarry was peddling around many years ago first brought the question to my attention--doesn''t the pro-gun-lobby's logic entail the view that Congress may not constitutionally infinge on citizens' right to keep and bear nuclear arms?

Hearing her talk, I thought she was making (among other things) a kind of reductio thrust against 2nd-amendment absolutism. If such absolutism logically entails the citizen's right to keep a nuclear arsenal, and the idea of such a right's being Constitutionally fundamental and absolute is patently absurd, then it follows that 2nd-amendment absolutism cannot stand. I often repeated some version of this as "Scarry's argument."

Many years later I read the law review article--Elaine Scarry, "War and the Social Contract: The Right to Bear Arms," 139 University of Pennsylvania Law Review, 1257 (1991)--and confirmed my long-held opinion. Not about Scarry's argument. I mean my opinion about what a complete idiot I am. Scarry actually makes a much subtler and more wide-ranging argument.

I'd love to write more about it (& about Garry Wills on the 2nd Amdmt as well) but I have to go and pick up Max & Anneliese. We have an assignation with the Hound of the Baskervilles.
Is it just me, or do your words, Monsieur B.K., seem to bear a hidden meaning? Could you have been giving your abductor (in the Peirce / Eco sense) muscles some exercise? Leading astray is what they do. . . .

I personally wouldn't call blogging a fetish, exactly. I'd call it a compulsion. I'm a bit obsessional about how some of these terms are employed. "Fetish" seems better employed to denote physical objects or body parts occupying a central role in a person's obsessional thoughts or compulsive behavior. I've been thinking a lot about OCD and personality disorders this summer. A close friend, whose identity for understandable reasons I want to keep anonymous, spent altogether too much of her summer interrupted by stays in (as well as by commuting for outpatient treatment to) McLean Hospital. She keeps revolving through various intense D's--BPD, GAD, OCD, MDD, DPD, ED--the weblike interconnections among which I was surprised to witness--and receiving various T's--CBT, DBT--along with a pharmacopeia of psychopharmaceuticals. Anyway, helping her has made me think a great deal about O/C behavior--how it's responsible for nearly all that's great and all that's horrible about human culture. Many people (Freud most obviously) have made versions of this argument, but I'm still struck by how most religions are both deeply informed by, and designed to ameliorate, O/C behavior.

I'm tired all the way through my eyes into the middle of my brain and down my spine. Have much more to say about fetishes, compulsions, web identitites, and the semiotics of embodiment. Must await return of cogency.

Friday, August 29, 2003

Authors alligator-clamp readers' tender bibliophilic fantasies

Hey, Blue Roo! Thanks for clearing up my confusion about The Colour Out of Space! Yes, the retraction of turquoise was a shame. But there's something pretty delicious about scientists—top scientists, likely—discovering the universe is . . . beige. Thanks, too, for the link to the very cool Necronomicon site. There's a certain kind of Pavlovian salivating invevitably evoked in the reader by—an exquisite sadistic teasing on the part of the author in—such tantalizingly detailed representations of non-existent texts. The more important to you books are, the more of a total sap you can be for those evanescent creations granted a flicker or two just to wind a plot or character around. Such embedded texts transcend classification as merely a part of the surrounding narrative's "reality effect," even transcend being part of the story's setting, and step forward as robust characters inhaling the cool night breeze on their own. What immediately came to mind just then were the books in Roderick Usher's library (certainly an influence on H.P.'s lovingly crafted bibliophile fantasies), esp. The Mad Trist of Sir Launcelot Canning; the monographs of Sherlock Holmes (On the Variability of the Human Ear, On the Ash of 140 Different Kinds of Tobacco, A Practical Guide to Beekeeping), the blisteringly hilarious bibliography of Pierre Menard (sorry I can't find it in English), and the endless festival of invented texts without which no self-respecting Nabokov novel could manage to get out the front door.

But then, thinking about some of James's tales of literary life—"The Figure in the Carpet," "The Aspern Papers," "The Death of the Lion"—I wondered if maybe he could give Nabokov a run for his money in the sadistic-inculcation-in-the-reader-of-an-intense-desire-to-consume-a-nonexistent-text department.

And then I thought about A. S. Byatt. . . . Bibliophilic fantasy (or fantastic bibliophilia) writ huge. . . .
Not scholarly porn but scholarship porn.

Went to the airport this evening to get our friend Toots and felt like a gerbil negotiating one of those postmodern pompidou-fun-house gerbil dwellings, except made of enough poured concrete to encase the moon.

Thursday, August 28, 2003

My heart, the blue kangaroo dives on you in fire
I feel bad to have disappointed(see his Tuesday, August 26, 2003) the really very kind Jean Gier (i hope that's right), apparently by alluding to H. P. Lovecraft and then not paying off. My exiguous defense: if you were flipping through the pages of your brain for a literarily allusive heading to a passage about scientists pronouncing the color of the universe, would you really have proceeded farther? I did read the Lovecraft story, admittedly many years ago, during a Lovecraft period, when a long-lost friend and I burned through as many as we could find (& the midget's fistful of assorted critical & biographical material available then). I can still produce, wherever in god's name it is you produce such ghostliness in your brain, Greg's voice saying "Charles Dexter Ward." The allusion (like most) was a wink. A crumb by way of some remuneration: did you know that for many years (& maybe still for all I know) Harvard's Widener library (if memory serves, a repository according to Arkham legend of one of the few extant copies) actually had a card in its catalogue saying "Al-Hazred, Abdul. Necronomicon. [now, i don't remember what if anything else it said except] FORBIDDEN"?

This same card catalogue, by the way, owing to some sub-sub-sub-librarian's OCD compulsion to begin an important heading in a fresh drawer, was obliged to endure on one drawer the label "LIBRARY to LITERATURD," which seems to capture something enduring about the belletristic trajectory (or maybe has it backwards).

i'm grateful to Jean's Blue Kangaroo site for leading me to Nick Piombino's where (Tuesday, August 26) repose the following two quotations on the topic of conversation—or I guess I should say "on the topic of 'conversation.'"

"...to listen attentively, and to answer precisely,
is the greatest perfection of conversation."

Francois de la Rochefoucould

"A gossip is one who talks to you about
others; a bore is one who talks to you
about himself; and a brilliant conversationalist
is one who talks to you about yourself."

Liza Kirk

I would simply supplement:

"The opposite of talking isn't listening. The opposite of talking is waiting."

Fran "Melmoth" Leibowitz

Hymn to Pseudo-Intellectual Beauty
Reading my blog Leigh got inspired to review her own legion of beautiful, crabbed journals, illuminated with drawings and pastings, like courtly books of hours. She insisted I post this meagre poem she found in one. Evidently, I wrote it one night when we got really drunk (that's not the unusual part) and somebody challenged somebody else to write a poem on the spot (that is). She was taking a course in Keats & Shelley. I was reminded of Keats v. Hunt on orthoptera.

The awful shadow of some unseen power
floats, though unseen, among us. We have had
too much to drink—our alcoholic haze
inebriated polysemousness
compels the recognition of the great
orgasmic all-consuming haze of life
in which we swim like mako shark or kelp
in which we undulate and deliquesce
and which we feel in every pore and vein.
This is our state. Take it who says it suits.

I post it only because, stupid though it be, it seems eerily on the topic of wishing to communicate a state in which the disappearance of all discrimination becomes the sensation urged on the discriminating palate . . . . And it also had in mind Byron's hock-and-sodawater fragment I allude to below.

OK. This blog is getting boring. From now on, no poetry, literature, speculation. Just pure sex.
I'm trying to get Leigh to start her own blog, but she won't.

Don't get me started.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Fuck synchronicity
Disaster. I came to the computer this AM pruritic to get down (out? off? over? at? behind?--just where exactly am I in relation to them?) at least some of the hypomaniacal lucubrations of an all-but-sleepless night (watched Adaptation late w/L, animated conversation, then thoughts racing off in so many directions like a dropped handful of marbles, several more of which no doubt I then lost) and discovered a calamitous glitch in the matrix: every single date of every entry from 2003 had been changed to 8/22/03. A few days ago it seemed that only some dates from this summer had been homogenized. Now it’s infected the entire year. This was in many ways a transformative summer. I’ve been writing so much more. How fucked not to have a record of when my brain was meandering and loitering where. I suppose I can recapture the last few days from the blog. But that’s not much. Should I start printing this shit out on paper?

Raymond Smullyan's penis, jism flying everywhere, Adaptation
Raymond Smullyan’s penis must have exploded in a ripsnorting orgasm, jism flying everywhere, when he watched Adaptation. Can you imagine it? He probably owns the DVD and masturbates to it every night.

In my poem about the film (sneaking a branch from Ellen Levy's tree) I want to say something about Charlie playing himself and playing with himself. The movie certainly thematizes masturbation (and leaves itself spread legged to the obvious criticism). One great thing is that though Charlie's scopophilic masturbation to pictures is typically male, it is to head shots of really talented and beautiful women, which, presumably, is not.

Uh, that, Capability, would be a negative
This year’s idée fixe seems for me that the successful representation of flat contradictions unresolved is the asymptote toward which great writing aspires. Of course, Keats and Fitzgerald have famous formulations of this notion, as does just about everyone who opens mouth or uncaps pen, from Johnson to Norman Rabkin to Harold Bloom, as regards Shakespeare. The difference from what I'm saying is this: their focus is on that refusal-to-resolve-flat-contradictions quality as rare and valuable in, indeed constitutive of, the artist. Sure. But I'm saying in addition that the great writer takes as his or her task the attempt-- through language, a medium that by its nature must express discriminations -- to recreate his or her transcendental contradiction-resolution-refusal (sounds like i'm speaking german) in the reader. The glass just is both half full and half empty. A may well be A. But only "A is B" is worth writing about. Nietzsche’s “Truth & Lie” comes in here.

One penis leads to another
Last night it seemed that Raymond Smullyan (or his penis anyway) is going to loom increasingly larger as a character in my blog. Remember thinking about David Bowie’s penis and in what state of the world it would to come to pass that I should have access to it. My life is now officially over—I have stroked David Bowie’s cock into a hard-on! I wanted to write a poem about that. What’s weird is that I don’t fantasize so much about making him come as I do just making him hard . . . .

Plus ça change . . . .
Think about how people are eternally obsessed with the phenomenon of change, transformation. The Mutabilitie Cantos. The same-but-different. Trope, metaphor, plot. Compare Matrix Reloaded, Adaptation and The Corrections (which one of these things is not like the others? i guess it's debatable) on this issue of change, transformation, same-but-different—not at all in order to reduce them, and every plot, into that formulation, but rather then to hold the reductive compulsion itself up for examination. Suppose I made a Brooksish argument that all plots (all great plots, all modern movies, all the good movies this summer, whatever) can be described as agonized meditations on the same-but-different. Would I have added anything to the store of the world’s knowledge? I don’t think so. The conclusion looks pretty analytic to me anyway (Right, Van, the analytic/synthetic distinction is passé).

Leigh is making me go help her put up curtains in her office. I told her I'd do it a half hour ago. She said to write that I'm a bitch.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Breughel's Icarus
About mistakes they were never wrong, the old masters. How well they understood their poetic position! Take Keats, for instance. In the sestet of "On . . . Chapman's Homer" (actual clipping Nabokov found & stuck into Pale Fire: "Red Sox Beat Yanks 5-4 On Chapman's Homer") if Keats had correctly said "stout Balboa" instead of "stout Cortez," he would've fucked everything up. Take the end of "To Autumn": "And gathering swallows twitter in the skies." "Gathering" at evening, "twittering"--you don't hafta be an ornithologist to suspect he's really talking about chimney swifts, but "gathering chimney swifts twitter in the skies" doesn't fit the pentameter, so he went with "swallows," figuring nobody'd notice.* Even Eliot. Look at the opening of "Prufrock": "Let us go then, you and I, / When the evening is spread out against the sky / Like a patient etherised upon table . . . ." Is there any chance in the universe that T. S. fucking Eliot didn't know that it should have been "you and me"? I mean, the clause is appositive to "us," isn't it? And "us" is there instead of "we" 'cause it's in the hortative subjunctive mood (ok, fine, imperative, if you absolutely must). But "Let us go, then, you and me, / When the evening is spread out against the sky"--no, sorry. Eliot knew when to relent. For him it was not an important failure.

Then there's when the young masters take you by surprise and don't make the mistake you expect. Like when Richard Butler sings, "There's only you, and only I, bang, bang, bye-bye" or when Ian Anderson demonstrates admirable nimbleness with pronoun cases while complaining about his parents: "It was they who were wrong / And for them here's a song."

Vive les snoots. . . .

(Now, that I'd be willing to call third-person plural imperative)

*Am I the only girl in the world who thinks that Stevens' pigeons at the end of "Sunday Morning"owe a pretty hefty debt to Keats's chimney-swift/swallows in "To Autumn"? ("Downward to darkness, on extended wings"). But just don't get me started on pigeons and extended wings. If there's one bird in the entire avian order that is widely known for never seeming to really extend its wings, it's a pigeon. They mostly hold their wings in a dihedral (v-shape) or slightly curved back like a scimitar . . . .

I also hear the beginning of the last stanza of Keats' "Psyche" in the lines just before the pigeons enter. Maybe Stevens was just reading a lot of Keats.

Obla Di, Obla Da
Here's a link to a sensitive explication of "Musée des Beaux Arts," inviting the reader to consider how a celebrated tragic meditation by Paul "Freedom" McCartney reformulates Auden: "The basic premise of the poem is response to tragedy, or as the song goes 'Obla Di, Obla Da, Life Goes On.'"
Mika & Leigh, driving behind some boring SUV in some earth tone, suddenly notice that it has a rainbow strip across the tailgate.
M: Isn't it great to see so many out gay drivers?
(M ponders the disappointing incongruity of a gay person's owning an SUV.)
M: What if they're not gay? Maybe they don't know the rainbow is a gay symbol.
L: Isn't it great that the GLBT community has overtaken the rainbow as a symbol.
M: Don't you mean "taken over"?
L: (Intoning) Rainbows. They're not just for leprechauns anymore.
Queen Mab's Visit
Mika: I had all these bad dreams last night. Well, not really bad . . . . Anxiety dreams. All this stuff I had to do that I wasn't doing.
Leigh: I had a bad dream too. I dreamt I was kidnapped. On a horse. With all these other women. We were being taken to the king for sex.
M: (Giggle) So was that a bad dream then or good dream?
L: I couldn't smoke cigarettes.
M: Oh, so it was a nightmare.
The Colour Out of Space
I don't know how I missed this. Apparently, in January, 2002, some scientists at Johns Hopkins announced they had determined the color of the universe, a sort of mint-sorbet turquoise. Then in March, 2002, they shamefacedly admitted they'd made a mistake in their calculations. The universe, it turns out, is actually beige.

Monday, August 25, 2003

For god's sake, hock and sodawater . . .
I have the worst hangover.

Saturday, August 23, 2003

O Florida, Venereal Soil . . . .
Today my son, Max, 6, and daughter, Anneliese, 11, returned bearing gifts from their trip with my ex to the exotic tropical island paradise of Fort Myers Beach. Max brought me some pretty sea shells he found on Sanibel and a stein-shaped refrigerator magnet sporting the admonition "WARNING! Sober to horny in FOUR beers." Anneliese with justifiable pride bestowed on me a whole fabulous outfit consisting of a pair of pinky-ring-sized liquid-rubber-dipped hoop earrings resembling miniature, postmodern crowns of thorns or sea-anemones (RAV-4 blue set off by hot pink); a beautiful seaweed-green fringed sarong, faux-batique-patterned with an adorable motif of dolphin pairs competing in synchronized-swim trials; and a classic bikini top, two coconut halves shellacked and strung on baling twine.

I have the best kids.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Some passages from Carlyle

I mentioned earlier, by which of course I mean further down the page,
that I've kept also a commonplace-book file for many years, mostly a
list of things I wish I'd said or written (You will, Mika, you will
[Twitch, Raymond Smullyan's penis!])
along with some things I'm glad I didn't
say but don't want to forget someone else did. I just happened to be
scrolling through the file today looking for something I can't for the
life of me find (the name of this woman whose work I want to get a look
at, who apparently won a Radcliffe Fellowship in political science this
coming year for a project on Madison & multicultural education, but
who seems no longer listed at their site [if ya know her, please lemme
know]). I scrolled past a favorite quotation that I'm so totally dying
to use (the first sentence anyway) in a really mean book review
someday. It's from Carlyle's French Revolution (1.2.VIII):

Wretched cloaca of a Book; without depth even as a cloaca! What 'picture of
French society' is here?  Picture properly of nothing, if not of
the mind that gave it out as some sort of picture.  Yet symptom of
much; above all, of the world that could nourish itself thereon.

He's talking about Louvet de Couvray's Chevalier de Faublas,
in his view one of the two "Noteworthy Books" (the
other being Bernardin de Saint-Pierre's Paul et Virginie)
"which may be considered as the last speech of old Feudal France," having been
"produced on the eve of the ever-memorable Explosion itself, and read eagerly
by all the world."

He's like an endless lingerie warehouse of fabulous quotations. Here
are two more I like:

France was long a 'Despotism tempered by Epigrams;' and now, it would
seem, the Epigrams have got the upper hand. (1.2.IV)

It is thus everywhere that
foolish Rumour babbles not of what was done, but of what was misdone or
undone; and foolish History (ever, more or less, the written epitomised
synopsis of Rumour) knows so little that were not as well
unknown.  Attila Invasions, Walter-the-Penniless Crusades,
Sicilian Vespers, Thirty-Years Wars:  mere sin and misery; not
work, but hindrance of work!  For the Earth, all this while, was
yearly green and yellow with her kind harvests; the hand of the
craftsman, the mind of the thinker rested not:  and so, after all,
and in spite of all, we have this so glorious high-domed blossoming
World; concerning which, poor History may well ask, with wonder, Whence
it came?  She knows so little of it, knows so much of what
obstructed it, what would have rendered it impossible.  Such,
nevertheless, by necessity or foolish choice, is her rule and practice;
whereby that paradox, 'Happy the people whose annals are vacant,' is
not without its true side. (1.2.I.)

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

More on the weird specular identification/distanciation between audiences and performers

You might want to read the entry below first, esp. the "Pleasures of performances & other minds" stuff, first. That's the weirdest thing about experiencing blogs—they're totally chronologically inverted. Well, not literally. sdrawkcab meht daer ew ekil ton s'tI. You know what I mean. They're broken up into chunks, and the order of the chunks is inverted, overhand-shuffled. The fabulous Memento/ Betrayal structure, where the big payoff comes in at long last getting to the surprise beginning . . . . That'd be something to blog about another day.

But I was rereading what had written about the relation between audience and performer and I thought of another way of formulating it.

The audience is trying-but-failing to know what it would be like not to find the performer amazing and the performer (bored with, accustomed to, his/her own talent) is trying-but-failing to know what it would be like to find him/herself amazing; and both are taking pleasure in the contradictoriness of the trying-but-failing. The performer, even provisionally, cannot wipe out the knowledge (certainly not at the very moment of employing it) of the fact of having honed his/her talent and the audience cannot wipe out their ignorance of that talent. The audience finds its delight in the tragedy of its unsatisfied desire to be the amazer and the performer in that of her lost innocence, her tragically satisified desire, her inability to be amazed. They both depend utterly on the other's otherness. And the wider the gap, the better. The more talented the performer and more cloddish the audience, the better for both to experience the hopelessness of the wish to see the performance with the other's eyes. Then things really crackle.
Pleasure, inner experience, other minds

Can you teach people pleasures you feel? Can you learn theirs? Sometimes it feels such an explosion inside my head. Brain-evaporating universe-inverting orgasms —sexual, sure, but musical, literary, cinematic, intellectual, too. Does everybody achieve that level of intense rushing pleasure? Or maybe it's I alone who's missing out on the real thing. . . . Are my ecstatic moments anything like the extremes of consciousness in meditative and trancelike states—nirvana? It's not exactly a piece of cake charting inner explorations. It's hard to bring someone else along with you. You can't point and show it ostensively—or, I guess, that's all you can do: point to yourself ostensively (since ostensively always implies showing something to someone precisely because they can't share the inside of your head and know what you're talking about otherwise) and say, "Inside, I'm feeling it now."

Tantric sex gurus have certainly gone much farther than I. Wonder what they feel? How different is it?

Aren't eastern transcendental-meditative monks wild, creating a community entirely of shared—or mutual, or at any rate simultaneous—inner experience? Can anyone know whether or not he's doing it right, experiencing the right nirvana, the real one? What if one monk were doing it wrong & didn't know it? How would he ever find out? Could you imagine if he suddenly found out somehow after living fifty world-forsaking vow-of-poverty years in the monastery (maybe by chance he just suddenly got the hang of it)? Oh, THAT's what it's supposed to feel like! Well, shit Wish I found that out fifty years ago. . . . Well, for crying out loud, Dong, what did you think we were talking about all this time? But they probably weren't even talking, if they were keeping a vow of silence. . . . No wonder they have problems teaching this stuff.

Well if you're not going to let monks talk about it among themselves, of course it's going to be pretty hard to get everyone on the same page, nirvana-wise. So, OK, so suppose they do talk about it. . . . They obviously have to during the indoctrination stage . . . . You get there much faster and it's a lot bigger bang if you keep your toes apart like this . . . . But they must also talk about it from time to time afterwards, after they've perfected the skills, no? Don't they have, like, master classes? Or don't some masters just sit around breakfast talking about their trance states from the night before and sharing pointers? Whoa, last night you'll never believe it, I felt this electric spark start in my nose and go behind my face and down my spine and to all my fingers and toes and then shoot out my asshole! . . . . Hmmm. I don't know if you've really quite got it down yet, Dong. . . .

Or is it just that once you finally feel the pleasure of transcendence, of nirvana, you can't help but be doing it right?

Pleasures of performances & other minds
When people watch performers, the largest part of their pleasure comes from trying but being unable to fully identify with the performer. You imagine yourself attempting whatever the performance is and you realize that you couldn't do it, so you're suitably amazed. How otherwise would you be amazed at a performance, except by realizing, That's beyond me. I wish I could be doing that, but I just can't. Wow, she's talented! Hence the humor of those "Dah de Daht Dah de Dah de DAH" imitation magic routines from the seventies—thumb and forefinger of each hand shown ostentatiously to be separately fashioned into the O of the OK sign, then brought together and Voila! A sudden motion and the two O-rings are astonishingly linked! "Dah de Daht Dah de Dah de DAH!" Routines four-year-olds can do. Look, my raised index finger is here on my left hand . . . . I just bring my hands quickly together . . . . LOOK! Now it's on my right hand! Amazing.

I guess what the viewer is really feeling is a kind of vicarious adoption of the performer's presumed pleasure/amazement at his/her own abilities (this is beginning to sound kinda mirror-stagey). Of course, the performer rarely is as amazed at his/her own performance as the viewer is. So the viewer is thus vicariously identifying with an amazement that actually doesn't exist. Couldn't we also say that the performer derives performing pleasure from identifying with the viewers' amazement at him/her? The performer takes delight in seeing his/her deeds through the audience's delighted and gratified gaze. So performers work to habituate the most difficult and abstruse practices in their brains and bodies in order to identify with others' amazed failure to identify with them!

OK, but don't performers give pleasure otherwise than through amazement? Maybe. But whatever those other pleasures are, don't they nevertheless involve this same procress of taking pleasure in trying but failing to identify successfully with the performer?

The history of western arts has transfigured the artist from someone whose execution (technique, style, medium, detail, colors—record of performance, final product, in short) you happily try unsuccessfully to identify with to someone whose inner process—coming up with the idea for the performance, as it were—you pleasurably try but cannot ultimately identify with. We're more and more interested (Romantically) in the inner experience that precedes the artwork, that inner experience of which, presumably, the work is but a feeble representation. Wouldn't you infinitely rather have the experience of coming up with the idea of, putting together, forseeing, imagining King Lear, Beethoven's Ninth, Ulysses, Guernica, Psycho than just of consuming the finished product as someone else's? (Of course, Hitchcock was completely up front about the fact that coming up with his films was the real fun part; casting, shooting, & everything after he thought a drag).

So, then, what happens when in the Being-John-Malkovich future we can actually have other people's experiences? Have, for instance, artists' coming-up-with-art experiences? Does that mean that the Art will eventually just drop out? Eliminate the middleman, so to speak?

Suppose I had hour-long extended orgasms and others could share them. Would they? Would it be like open source software—everybody shares and adds improvements along the way?

[Think about what the fact of open source software seems to mean for capitalism. Isn't it the case that groups of people will always work for free to provide things that others charge for, exactly because they believe the others shouldn't be making sleazy profits from things that nice people could just get together and make for free?]

What's sobering to realize is that, in a future where you could share the inner experience of anyone you wanted, the vast majority of people in the world would want to have the inner experience of someone very, very different from me—probably somebody I don't even like very much. (Of course, my take would then be, Hey, baby, how do you know if you haven't had the experience? Huh?)

Certainly there would be a wide palette of human types people would wish to identify with. Would it be fair to say that most American men would want to identify with some sort of Schwarzenegger? Or Ben Affleck? Women, J. Lo or Jennifer Aniston? Who would I want? Lorrie Moore? John Waters? Tori Amos? Johnny Depp? Eve Sedgwick? Stanley Cavell? Margaret Cho? Aimee Mann? Eddie Izzard? Would I want to take a peek in, say, Heidegger or Lacan, just to see if things were any clearer on the inside? Hitler, just to see what the fuck was going on there?

Wouldn't it be great if everyone was tested to determine their moral/political worldview and—on the argument that all truly socially comitted ethical citizens in a democracy should be as open as possible to political views alien to their own, just in case their own turn out to be unjust—then were forced to have monthly indoctrination in the directly contrary moral/political worldview? Every month I'd have to go in for my night of right-wing Republicanism! How character-building! Really, it'd have to rotate—next to fundamentalist Islam, then Nazism, then Christian Science, then men's sportsism, then Reality TVism . . . .

Really, the great question of all time . . . how is it possible that there are so many zillions of people that disagree with me? (I'm not being just solipsistic here: I really think that you and everyone should be wondering how it's possible that so many zillions disagree with you too.)

Can I be persuaded that my fundamental beliefs are wrong? (Are they?) Is there any way in the universe I could ever hold the view that, say, sex is evil, needs repression, gay sex is perverted, masturbation is wrong, porn should be illegal, etc.? Then how is it that a large number of people can? What can we do with those people—beyond forcing them to see the Truth� Or putting them in Gulags? Just kidding. But seriously, aren't John Danforth, Ed Meese, Dick Cheney, President Rumsfeld, etc. beyond redemption? Why in god's name is it so fucking impossible for them to see that?

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

I lied. From time to time I will, to tell the truth, post things I thought to myself many years ago, as well as things I'm thinking about now. Hey, I would've posted then, but there weren't any blogs, so I didn't even have a chance.

Like post what?

Well the "Ideas" file begins on July 18, 1988 with the heading "Vague Notes." You can pretty much tell I was working on my dissertation at the time. You can also tell it had something to do with epistemology and narrative. If epistemology and narrative theory aren't your cup of tea, you should probably skip this. I promise I'll post one about panty fetishism and metonymy soon.

Let's talk about the epistemology of narrative. It can be approached in at least two ways. First, how we come to know a story is ultimately an epistemological concern and from this arises phenomenological criticism--in what does the novel inhere, the words, the "meanings" of the words, the plot, the story? etc. Second, as much as "plots" involve "actions", "actions" stem from characters' decisions based on their knowledge and information. One can look at narratives as transfers of information among characters. Most novels have a protagonist and many plots center around how the protagonist comes to learn something, what he or she must undergo.

Two things need to be explored: (1) theory of logical inference and (2) what knowing something is. I guess they're really the same thing.

It seems to me that knowing something on the most fundamental level is being able to say it. Cf. exams. But this isn't always true. Cf. bullshit.

Bullshit is the art of implying knowledge, stating things from which one can logically conclude a lot of knowledge or not--the question is open, the conclusion unforced. The appropriate language has been successfully invoked.

Examining someone is testing their knowledge. Presumably the oral examination is the most thorough, because the examiner can focus a line of questioning and weed out the bullshit.

A: Of course, in a work such as Lord Jim which argues the subjectivity of human experience . . .

B: What do you mean, LJ argues the subjectivity of human experience?

A: Um

Either the student has read LJ and has made the connection between the text and the statement "LJ argues the subjectivity of human experience" or he hasn't made the connection because he got the statement from somewhere other than his own logical inference and perhaps he hasn't even read LJ. He doesn't have "actual" knowledge of the text and therefore can only make inferences from his "textual" knowledge of it. Probably all he knows is the one sentence about it.

Of course, he might know the novel quite well and just not know how the sentence can logically be derived from it. That's what criticism is all about--teaching rules of transformation, transforming texts into (usually, in the case of narrative) shorter texts. So the examiner points out that the student doesn't really know the meaning of the statement even if he knows the words and what they individually mean.

OK. So reading is the activity of understanding the implications of what? words? sentences? Well, surely sentences. Isn't it Frege or somebody who said that the sentence is the smallest logical unit of meaning? Or unit of logical meaning? As Valéry said, you register your understanding of something by being able to paraphrase it, putting it in other words.

And characters in narratives are also always trying to understand implications of events, thereby reading them, getting their meaning. How do they demonstrate their understanding? Well, the author perhaps tells us it, or they do, or they act in a way such that we infer their understanding according to principles of inference (such as Freudian principles of inference).

So what's the point?

I've been fucking blogging for years, but i didn't even know it. Since the '80s I've been keeping two documents on my main computer—"Ideas to Remember"— in case I thought of anything worth remembering— and "Commonplace Book"—just random quotations I liked reading over. So now I can torture the Blogosphere with the entire archive . . . let me just check . . . yes, it's about 85,000 words . . . .

Just kidding. Not about the words. The torturing.

But from now on, anything I put into one or the other of those files I'll also upload here. If I'm logging 'm, I might as well be blogging 'm.
I just felt like writing. I'm sitting in bed with all lights out, wearing a monstrous home-made body cast and being irradiated into headache by the ridiculous brightness of my iBook. So why not start a blog!--if I can keep my hands close enough together to type effectively. I always used to be dubious about, but just now I'm beginning to see some virtue in, those misshapen ergonomic keyboards where the left- and right-hand keys are separated, pitched, and angled, to make it easier to type. Actually what would be easiest for me at this moment would be two entirely disocciated keyboards each shaped more or less, sized more or less--and, well, why not--feeling more or less, like a cat's body, soft, furry, one on each side of my legs, purring. Nobody said keyboards had to be hard and flat and just go tic tic tic.

I'd read blogs idly before, but never with much attention. They seemed to me just another version of reality tv, which I simply don't get. I mean, why would you want to be reminded that people like that even exist, let alone waste time watching what they say and do? The blogs I spent any time with were the right-wing ones like Andrew Sullivan's, because they would always get a rise out of me, and I frankly still have a hard time believing those guys are for real. Which, now that I think of it, is probably why people watch reality tv mostly . . . .

Anyway, being late in discovering things, on the safety edge of the aprés garde, I got hooked into friendster just this week (same story: invited ages ago, but stupidly thought, "Stupid"), and started clicking through lives out there and finally starting to read those people's blogs and finally ended up bouncing around the wide poetryblog landscape for an afternoon, from which I've returned a changed woman. Who knew all that was out there? Some of those guys are so fucking deliciously pompous and self-absorbed!!!!! Finally, IT'S REALITY TV WITH MILLIONS OF INTELLECTUALS!!! Which, thankfully, is consumed in the form of words--not that i've got anything against images & sounds, mind you, it's just seeing those appalling tv hairdos-with-voices that sound like a conclave of skiboarders on blackboards booming down a mountain of chalk-----blecccch.

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