25 July 2007

Images II

1. What is the scandal of thinking? If only our scientists would read Kant; if only our metaphysicians would read Gödel (Badiou); if only we could think the fact that we are not thinking (Heidegger); if only it were possible, through education, to open the American mind (Bloom, Adler); if only philosophy could move us to compassion (Rorty). Is there not a moral obligation to be intelligent (Erskine, Trilling)?

Or is not the task of thought to be done with thought—to flirt with the nothingness of thought in the heart of man, i.e., death, in the silence of nonknowledge (Bataille: “language, stubborn in refusal, is poetry, turns back on itself (against itself): this is the analogue of a suicide … Silence is the unlimited violation of the prohibition that human reason opposes to violence: it is divinity without stops, which thought alone disengaged from the contingency of myths”).

This would seem, to some, to be a retreat to the inner citadel—an evasion and, paradoxically, even a repression of existence that even the most ardent pessimist would revile. In this regard, Nietzsche’s most important teaching, if nothing else, is the lesson of courage—that all is not vanity (even if it is absurd).

2. If philosophy, then, is to transform the world, to critique the institution, to bring us to the leap, to think the possibility of freedom and revolt—what is the imperative for thought today when reflection hides its face under the mask of fascism (Bush’s Amerika), runs behind the gated walls of covenant communities, or parades its wares in the “marketplace of ideas”?

3. Metaphysics, Bergson says, is the language that dispenses with symbols. Bergson proposes an image of thought (i.e., intuition) that goes right to the heart of things. Here, Bergson finds, right down to the language of “dreaming”, an unlikely ally in Bachelard, who opposes the model of poetics (the image) to the concept (science, phenomenology, psychology).

“The cogito of thought can wander, wait, choose—the cogito of reverie is immediately attached to its objects, to its image. The shortest distance of all is the one between the imagining subject and the imagined image. … A kind of multiple cogito takes on new life in the closed world of a poem. Of course, other powers of consciousness are required to take possession of the poem’s totality. But the flash of an image already provides us with an illumination.”

[But—and here is my fundamental question—is the name of such an experience philosophy or art?]

“Suddenly an image occupies the heart of our imagining being. It seizes us, holds us. It infuses us with being … [The poet’s] being is simultaneously the being of the image and his commitment to the astonishing image. The image brings us an illustration of our wonderment. … In reverie on a simple object we experience a polyvalence of our dreaming being. A flower, a fruit, a simple familiar object suddenly insists that we think of it, that we dream in its company, that we help it to rise to the level of man’s companion [i.e., that we inhabit a world].”

And here there is yet another unlikely alliance: the law of Bachelard’s elements finds another expression in the Chinese wuxing—the phases or processes by which being is articulated (“even more than clear thought and conscious images, dreams are governed by the four fundamental elements”). We can go further: poetics is nothing else than the thinking of these images according to their immanent laws; the task of poetics is thus to break the representation of the word. Is this not also what we have in the Taoist wuwei (movement/non-movement)? Not merely the “disclosure” of a hidden Being but the very bringing into being of a becoming—is this not anything other than a thought?

“The poetic object, duly energized by a name rich in resonances, is a good conductor of the imagining psyche. For such conduction, we must call the poetic object by its name, its old name, giving it a just sonority, surrounding it with the resonances it will being to life, with the adjectives that will prolong its cadence and its temporal life … Each contemplated object, each creative name we murmur is the point of departure of a dream and of a line [a line of flight!], a creative linguistic movement.”

4. Gauchet has shown that the very possibility of reflection consists, first, in the separation of God from life and, consequently, the death of God. But to this we must add three (equivalent) corollaries: thought is singular; the essence of thought is not discourse; philosophy is not politics. And yet neither is philosophy ethics: even if one were to say that philosophy concerns the one who philosophizes, one must still ask who this “one” is (certainly not the thinker!).

5. The question or the image? Perhaps: philosophy is the opening of the question; music is the creation of the image.

24 July 2007


A quiet exhalation of breath trembled past an ear. “Here I am”, she had said in that moment: “[it is] here [that] I am”. That is all she has ever said—in scribbles, in the sharp rending of flesh, and in the tears that refused to fall.

22 July 2007


A friend--whom I had hoped would post a comment herself here--sent me a link to a story from the NY Times today with the following quotation from France's Finance Minister: "France is a country that thinks ... There is hardly an ideology that we haven’t turned into a theory. We have in our libraries enough to talk about for centuries to come. This is why I would like to tell you: Enough thinking, already. Roll up your sleeves."

Can we not admit truth on both sides of this statement? On the one hand, those among us interested in French culture cannot deny their predilection for hyperlocution. On the other, is not one reason Sarkozy won the election the absurd condition of the French economy? Unemployment is out of control, and the mandatory 35-hour work week, embraced by a good number of disaffected young laborers who have no desire to work, makes no sense for either workers or for companies, for example. Is not the exhortation to work not a legitimate political agenda?

But, on the other hand, Lagarde has certainly created a false dichotomy--that there is something between thinking and labor, even if, as many have pointed out, thinking is labor.

The NY Times story is here: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/22/world/europe/22france.html?pagewanted=1&ei=5070&en=2e712e5d4c6891ec&ex=1185768000&emc=eta1

21 July 2007

Introductions, Collecting

Hello. This is my first post since mk was gracious enough to allow me to contribute.

A few loosely connected thoughts on collecting...

Walter Benjamin writes in "Unpacking my Library" that the true mark of an inveterate book collector is the failure to read those books that she collects. One does not purchase a book with the intention of reading it... rather the collector seeks to save the book as an object, to care for it and protect it, for "the true freedom of all books is on his shelves." By collecting, one gives the book a new life, one redeems and renews the weary object: "to renew the old world -- that is the collector's deepest desire when he is driven to acquire new things."

Though I understand and share this collector's streak, I unfortunately do not have the fiscal resources to hunt down the rare books and records of my dreams (i am not fanatical enough to go hungry for records). Yet today, while packing up my library (i am in the middle of moving) i was struck by a collector's remorse -- perhaps a guilt -- seemingly absent in Benjamin. After picking up a copy of Being and Time, I was overwhelmed with memories of the books I had read in college, books whose thoughts seem so distant and buried in the past to me now. When will I ever have the time to reread Heidegger when there are so many other books to read now, so many other philosophers and artists and musicians to discover? Unfortunately, the absorption of philosophy and art is not akin to collecting... when is it one is truly finished with a thinker on the level of Heidegger? When can one lock up his corpus in one's memory as in a glass case, content that his thought is secure from the passage of time?

One of my greatest anxieties as a student has always been that there is too much still to read, too much left to be discovered. Clearly, this can be a blessing, the thought that one will never exhaust the storehouse of history and culture -- the wonders truly never cease -- yet it is also overwhelming and frightening; when can one finally rest, comfortable that one finally "cultured," "educated" or, at the very least conversant? Now I am starting to worry more about the endless list of things i have forgotten, relics of culture and thought indeed safe and sound on my shelves, quantitatively and objectively there in my collection, yet never again to be recalled in thought.

13 July 2007

Tori, the Storyteller (a la maniere de Benjamin)

When, under the systematic destruction of experience in the name of prosperity and democracy (the very definition of fascism), the storyteller raises her voice to speak to those for whom experience cannot be represented—because it cannot be recollected, because “history” no longer has a meaning—she must speak of those experiences that neither she nor her listeners “have ever had and possibly never will” (“Tori”). If we are living under a regime of distorted communication, then what we need are not true stories, nor even impossible stories, but stories that are fictional, i.e., that give a voice not to those who “need” a voice because they are oppressed, bound, or invisible (this assumes a presence prior to the voice) but that sing from elsewhere (“Isabel”). If wisdom is no longer the gift of the storyteller, then the voice of the storyteller must disappear behind the story. Who, then, speaks to us? “What is it that is really haunting us?” Not the shades of forgotten children, but personae that bring themselves into existence by nothing other than their call for us to listen and hear what they have to say. This is the difference between the storyteller and the “beekeeper”: the storyteller becomes yet another fiction (“Tori”), effacing her own voice under the “secret spell” of her song.

09 July 2007


1. Deleuze wants the creation of concepts, like the ritornello. Perhaps (also/instead) what we need is the creation of images, like the prélude. Why the prelude? Like the rhapsody, the prelude was once a miscellaneous archetype that freed the composer from the autocratic laws of structure and architecture (the only difference between the prelude and the rhapsody is contextual). These laws determined, a priori, two sets of relations: the internal relations of sound within the piece and the experience of the listener. It is true that, as Boulez points out, the former relation is left intact in the prelude; reconfiguring this relation would require someone like a Cixous. But, consider: some of Chopin’s most evocative moments occur in his preludes when he either releases the linearity characteristic of most of his music or his lines converge into something more like a Rachmaninovian tableau. Unlike, say, a sonata, a prelude is not a narrative; the listener is thus always led to go on—the prelude always signifies beyond itself (pre-lude). Often a prelude leaves us asking “what next?” or “is that it?” (perhaps Bach presents a special problem here). Sometimes one gets a prelude to a larger narrative (say in Gershwin); other times the prelude is simply a prelude. But the question “to what?” must never be lost. The closest equivalent to a prelude is an aphorism that, as Dienstag has recently reminded us, is the form par excellence to communicate the discontinuity that is thought itself (Adorno, Derrida, Bergson). If there is a difference between an aphorism and a prelude, I would say it is this: the aphorism is a statement; the prelude is a question (another image!).

2. Adler in the 80s wrote a series of books such as “How to Speak/How to Listen” and “How to Read a Book”. These are, unfortunately, outdated and, paradoxically equally unfortunately, little read today. What perhaps is needed desperately today, in a climate of total technologism (particularly in education), in both philosophy and art, is the book “How to Listen/How to Read” (admittedly, I have yet to read Nancy’s book on listening). By “listen”, in addition to music, I intend things like “seeing” a painting or “experiencing” a space: if philosophy has been dominated by the “hegemony of vision”, perhaps it is time to assert the rights of hearing; in other words, if vision and touch are indicators of space, equally so hearing.

It is precisely the inability to read that frustrates both the teacher of philosophy and the Continental insofar as s/he fights the ideologies of discourse, persuasion, and philosophy itself (i.e., reading Quine, held as an exemplar of clear academic writing by the MLA, is but one technique of reading; reading Bataille is another). Analogously, aside from Barenboim’s recent precipitous remarks about the experience of sound, noise, and music in contemporary culture, it is the inability to listen that threatens not only the quality but the very existence of art. To take one example, Listisa and Kocsis (in their Rachmaninoff), and Hamelin (in Alkan) are often criticized for losing melodies for the sake of speed. And yet—all three have revealed sonorous aspects of various pieces hitherto unknown precisely because of the reconfiguration they effected by changing that one modality of sound. The error, in short, is an analytic conception of sound: that sound can be analyzed into its components of pitch, rhythm, volume, timbre, tempo, and so on; this is also the error that thinks music can be analyzed into melody and harmony (or, better, that thinks “melody” has any significant meaning at all; “melody” needs to be replaced by the “line”, one species of which is Schönberg’s “row”).

07 July 2007

Early thoughts (6 JUL 2007)

“Unable to precede myself, to exceed myself, or to cross the distance” Marion says, “I can neither think nor perform the formula ‘I love myself’”. The erotic reduction makes narcissism impossible. The subject is always split by the excess of its desire. Is not, then, the other from elsewhere—the flesh that is there, caressing the flesh that is here, my flesh, and that lust always wants to tear—the precise meaning of a supplement—a supplement beyond (and prior to) need, to which “there is no relation”?

Yet: not only is narcissism impossible—it must be forbidden, which is precisely why Freud (rather, the Freud-Lacan complex) places the myth of Narcissus in the absent heart of libido wherein it is precisely narcissism that reveals the non-coincidence of the ego. The price that the ego must pay for itself is nothing other than guilt. But, of course, guilt is not always pathological. Guilt is simply the “original” condition of the human being.

The ideology of persuasion; or: Gaps (after Adorno) (6 JUL 2007)

“The injunction to practice intellectual honesty usually amounts to a sabotage of thought. … This demand not only invokes the liberal fiction of the universal communicability of each and every thought and so inhibits their objectively appropriate expression, but is also wrong itself as a principle of representation. For the value of a thought is measured by its distance from the continuity of the familiar [the Whole].” (Minima Moralia) Knowledge, Adorno continues, proceeds from what he calls experience, but what in other terms might be called the machine of desire—of beliefs, inclinations, lacerations, joys, and love.

The existence of discursive and logical structures is not teleological. The purpose of these structures is not consensus (Einverstandes)—not even Rawls’ “overlapping consensus”, which itself is a symptom of the problem to which Lévinas draws us: democracy cannot be totality or homology. Democracy, radical democracy, is instead dissensus (Näsström). Rawls wants to preserve plurality; better: we must create multiplicity. Discourse is multivalence. “Discourse” is not the communication of ideas but is nothing other than the life of ideas (Mill). What, ultimately, we need is to be attuned not to the “pleasure of the text” (Barthes) but to the life of a text.

Fragments IIa (2 JUL 2007)

1. Can philosophy “communicate” with others? The question is badly put. The point is not for philosophy to “teach” or “communicate” anything to, e.g., science. Philosophy does not “inform” or even “critique” science. Philosophy opens science. Yet is not philosophy also a deductive, axiomatic structure (i.e., a totality)? Can philosophy thus open itself? Is this not the ethical imperative of reflection (as a colleague of mine says)? Has not this reflection and this opening onto thinking (the thinking of the infinite) been at the heart of philosophy since Socrates? Socratic philosophy has never been, primarily, about “critiquing” or “negating” or even “changing” the world. Philosophy has always been positive, creative of new worlds, other worlds (“otherworldly resonances”).

2. If philosophy is the presentation of what happens or what does not happen, the relevant difference between philosophy and art is that art is precisely irrelevant to what does or does not happen.

3. If I say “Plato” should be treated as a big text composed of his (individual) texts, and thus that Platonic philosophy is fidelity to his concepts—this is a descriptive-normative conception of philosophy. A philosophy that treats the text otherwise can certainly do so, but is this not a naïve philosophy, since the former is the condition of possibility for the latter (naïve) philosophy?

And yet, we face again the problem of the limit: naïveté can never be revealed to itself.

The myth of the everyday (1 JUL 2007)

Can there be a writing that speaks to/about the everyday? Does this not presuppose a certain ideology of the everyday or, worse, of generic communication? Perhaps this is the error of structuralism: meaning is not combinatory, compositional, or generative. Meaning is not a function of the historicity of language but is in the effect of the saying: of each saying. There is both a unique saying amidst the history of the said. What we have is multiple worlds/spaces of articulation.

But: the “ethics” of discourse thus becomes nothing other than violence or the imposition of a state.

Social space (23 JUN 2007)

Functionalism can’t be right—people, talent, and power fall through the cracks all the time (so too Bauman has traced humanity’s “wasted lives”). And yet we can describe the “complexity of cooperation” and map at least one dimension of social space.

Fragments II (22 JUN 2007)

1. Towards a definition of philosophy: The measure of a philosophy is its explanatory power. We ask, for example, if an ethics is either descriptive or possible in experience. Or: philosophy is precisely a critique of experience, in which case it is still theoretical—Adorno’s philosophy must show what is not the case (mimesis). Art, on the other hand, is what is able to be other without being theoretical. Philosophy is always theoretical, even when it is otherwise.

So, perhaps, the definition of philosophy is always posterior. Philosophy is constituted by its effect and not its intention. All definitions, descriptions, objects, subjects, and identities, for example, are effects. What we have is an ontology (both the method and the content) of events.

2. Negation is a zero-sum game. Difference, on the other hand, is “positive” in the sense of a non-zero result. But already there is a conceptual problem...

Crises (10 JUN 2007)

1. The ideology of philosophy: The philosopher, it is said, is one who can simply “sit and think” about philosophical (read: human) problems—i.e., logic and reason are universally, essentially human. Is this not the hidden metaphysics of post-metaphysics that implicates not only the legislating subject of the Enlightenment but also, unfortunately, the counter-Enlightenment (Hobbes, Montaigne, Pascal, Rousseau)?

2. Yet we can only counter (oppose) something within a genus (Aristotle). Therefore, can one be willing to relinquish the name of philosophy? What else, then, does one do? Theory? Critique? The question is not only, a la Deleuze, what is the image of thought, but what is the name of thought?

3. What is most severely and desperately lacking today, if we are ever to move beyond a metaphysics (of the essence) of man, is a philosophy of nature.

4. The fundamental tension: Taoist silence (Tao) and mind (yi). It is not a matter of choosing between them but in the difference between them without hypostasizing this difference into an essence. What is a philosophy of nothingness (wu-wei)?

Two propositions (1 JUN 2007)

1. There are no genera. There are only generic procedures.
2. Closure is necessary for reflection.

Boredom (29 MAY 2007)

The “discourse” of boredom is the management of boredom (Adorno on “free time”, normalization, and ideology). Discursive practices conceal boredom, even while boredom is experienced.

There is also a discourse on boredom—how useless! What is this discourse? Is it not assimilated into the discourse of boredom (who would participate in a discourse on boredom)? Either: the discourse of boredom suppresses or marginalizes the discourse on boredom; or: the discourse of boredom preempts the discourse on boredom (what happens to the discourse on boredom when in the vice of the discourse of boredom?) or, in other words, the discourse on boredom fails to become a discursive practice—the discourse on boredom cannot simply be an “understanding” or “reflection” on boredom.

Or: perhaps boredom is not a condition on which we can reflect or a problem to be solved (optimism). Boredom is also a possibility (pessimism).

Mystery and Separation (18 FEB 2007)

Butler has recently made much of the opacity of the self to self. But just as importantly, there is a mystery of the other. One fundamental principle of psychoanalysis is precisely that we cannot understand the other. We may seek to understand by analogy, semiotically, etc, but we are never “in agreement” with the other. We must, so to speak, “let the other be”, even if psychoanalysis is an interaction—the analyst enters into the other and, as physicists know, any measurement results in a change in the measured object. But there is a forbidden, untouchable place. I can never coincide with the other.

Fragments I (24 NOV 2005; edited 6 JUL 2007)

1. These new "unbelievable" graphics are certainly not mimetic in the sense that the goal is no longer to emulate an indistinguishable reality but, rather, to create a hyper-reality that is more real than the world through which our feet must tread. What does this mean for perception? for experience?

2. What offends most about so-called "displays of manhood" is not their vulgarity but the intolerable amateurism. Similarly, people often think they're being rebellious without knowing they are contributing to the very system they think they reject. In this the Frankfurt School was absolutely right—false consciousness.

3. Is it possible that the moral duty of the artist requires a withdrawal? If the masses can only be parasitic on art—if the system that makes the dissemination of art possible is precisely what is enslaving art (i.e., the networks of capital, industry management, etc)—then the artist is required to withdraw into silence and sacrifice the existence of art—let it be destroyed by the amateurs and opium peddlers—so that it must be created again. (The Chinese masters, under the threat of Communism, let their art die, for example.)

Ellis (8 NOV 2005)

After trying to come to terms with Ellis' oeuvre, I've finally decided that it's too moralistic, despite flashes of brilliance. If Ellis had chosen a style more suited to the expose, his prose might have not pressed too far across the boundary into pornography. What is so frustrating about him is not the point he is trying to get across but that his style is not adequate to the task at hand—he needs, in short, to read his Adorno. Note, then, I am not at odds with the object of Ellis' moralism—just his moralism. One cannot, after the avant-garde, shock anymore, but unfortunately this seems not to be Ellis' point.

Two unresolved questions (20 OCT 2005)

1. What cannot be doubted after recent developments in narrative theory and moral philosophy is that practices require ethical commitment. In other words, human conduct is an essentially ethical affair, not only in the intersubjective or political sense, but in one's fidelity to oneself. Practices (performing music, skateboarding, reading, gardening, even having friendships) require historical awareness. But what remains to be accounted for is that practices also require passion.

2. I tried to give an account of the so-called "history of philosophy" recently. Things got complicated around Descartes, but things just exploded after Kant and I had to give it up when the idea that part of philosophy's definition involves questioning that very definition (or: philosophy is critique) becomes inescapable. I'm not so sure that such a definition uniquely signifies philosophy (why not art, for example), but perhaps that is not the right criterion. Why must a definition pick something out uniquely? Philosophy, as we well know, has no utility. This was a mistake in philosophy of language, too: that a definition or language use required that words signify uniquely. So too in metaphysics: we can no longer assume the =x or =1.

Donde habite el olvido (8 OCT 2005; edited 6 JUL 2007)

I had to steal the title for this post from a poem by Cernuda. That poem, however, is ineluctably romantic. What prompted this post is most certainly not.

I wonder when I see a young person sitting or walking with the mp3 headphones in their ears where they go once those headphones are on. My students would do this all the time. It's not like putting their heads down and closing their eyes. Closing one's eyes abrogates space in one way. Music does so in quite another. If architecture is the art of the re-organization not just of space but also our experience of space, if arts like painting are a re-creation of one's basic spatiality, then why can music not be the same thing? The architectonics of music, it seems to me, are analogous to the architecture of buildings—where the latter redistribute space according to touch and sight, music reconstructs spatiality itself (inner space and outer space) through the architecture of sound. Music is, essentially, a sonic experience and not, as many would have us believe, an affective one. This is also why music has been throughout the ages preeminently religious (chants, singing bowls, etc).

À la Nabakov (8 OCT 2005)

1. I had wanted to write a piece along the lines of 'the author is always a fiction'. I realized today that it's rather unnecessary—it's something we should know anyway from reading Homer, Lao Tzu, or any number of other fictitious authors.

2. If there is a salient difference between Danielewski and Nabakov, it is simply that Danielewski makes Nabakov speak to Nietzsche—and the result is terrifying. I once said that Danielewski "borrowed" Nabakov; I think this was the right word to use—the two are colla voce.

3. Kinbote thinks he can write himself into existence by inserting himself into a work of art a la commentator/interpreter. Do we not all think the same thing? (Actually, Danielewski's editor is much more amateur and, therefore, much more apropos.)

4. The pale fire is, really, memory itself. We exist only in/as memory. There is nothing moral or even beautiful about it—these categories simply do not apply.

Amateurism (6 OCT 2005)

There are those babbling voices that like to protest the barbarities of our gargantuan (yet invisible) world of concrete and capital. Entire genres of music have been born from the cries of those giving birth to that world. But these are those who fail to understand that it is only the priest or the king who can stand and speak of what is forbidden—for it is hidden precisely from those who would proclaim it.

Kozol (30 SEPT 2005)

With yet another book published recently, Jonathan Kozol continues to fight a noble battle despite the fact his voice tends to be lost amidst the unintelligible clamor of school boards and parents who still believe that what they are doing is educating the youth of this country. The question one should be asking, however, is whether or not Kozol is barking up the right tree.

Kozol's answer to the problem he attacks is money. But as we all know, money makes people complacent. The question Kozol has never bothered to ask is whether or not the education he thinks the rich kids are getting is necessarily a good one. Of course, it is certainly better than the education the poor kids are(n't) getting, but at best Kozol's solution is the lesser of two evils.

There are a few reviews on Amazon.com that raise objections along similar lines: i.e., we ought to wonder whether money is the essential or even a primary factor instead of, say, families and communities or, what is more accurate from a theoretical perspective, the way we think about the very idea of education.

The question is not simply why Johnny can't read, why Johnny can't think, or why Johnny can't dissent (this last is from Thomas Frank). The real question of education is why Johnny can't live.

Malediction (28 SEPT 2005; edited 6 JUL 2007)

I just realized today while passing by a TV playing Fox News' "O'Reilly Factor" that I hate syndication. At first I thought I just hated Bill O'Reilly, who cannot be accused of being an impartial analyst and is probably the perfect exemplar of petit-bourgeois intellectual philistinism.

I cannot think of anything more offensive to the idea of democracy than the syndication of people like O'Reilly (not to mention Pat Robertson—about whom a friend of mine recently wrote a relevant blog—and those of his ilk) who provide their syncophants with the crudest verbal ammunition to assail every habit of active thinking that has been a part of our ideology since the 17th century.

People like Chomsky in political science and Glassner in sociology have done work in trying to demonstrate that the media is anything but what it likes to say it is. What to my mind is more interesting is work done in the intersection of Hegelian critical philosophy and (post)structuralism that goes under the name "cultural studies". But whatever perspective from which one chooses to criticize the media, it is not enough to say things like "don't believe everything the liberal/conservative media tells you". Nor is it even enough, in the spirit of historians like Ohmann, to ask how the current situation came about. The question we really should be asking is: what conditions made it possible for our current situation to be the way it is and, subsequently, what conditions might make it possible for things to be otherwise? If the German theorists are right, those revolutionary conditions are today impossible, not because the condition of democracy is discourse, but precisely because syndication is so effective at propagating the ideology of discourse.

Three quick thoughts (25 SEPT 2005)

1. Bumper stickers are inherently fascist.

2. Althusser argued that ideology interpellates compulsorily. Structuralists like Judith Williamson ran with this and argued that advertisements—as one form of ideology—interpellate compulsorily. This is also the case with things like music. In fact, if Althusser got anything right, it is that interpellation constitutes an unresolved ethical problem facing anyone who gets out of bed in the morning.

3. I just listened again to Ashkenazy's recording of the Prokofiev concerti with Previn and the LSO. Although the percussiveness of Prokofiev's music is about the only thing well-suited to Ashkenazy's otherwise heavy hands, both he and Previn are too Romantic to pull off the jagged edges of Prokofiev's modernism. Or is the fault with Prokofiev?

Presence Silence Event (8 SEPT 2005)

The painter Newman says that his paintings "make the viewer present". So too Deleuze tries to theorize a kind of cinema that makes the viewer constitute itself as a subject actively without merely being "given" in the sequence of images.

Part of my problem with composing music—and why I do so little of it—is that music faces a similar problem. The music of people like Berg and Stravinsky make the listener pay attention, certainly, but it has been noted that it's difficult to listen to modern music without having a theory about it (Schoenberg had to write a lot of treatises about music while he was composing). Adorno thought that was this was great thing because music then would not pacify consciousness but jar it into the recognition that everything else does. Unfortunately we're all familiar with the aporias into which Adorno and modernism were led.

Perhaps with music what is needed is not to make the listener present, but to make the listener disappear. Tibetan singing bowls do this; Boulez in a different way, I think, is on the right track.

A guilty conscience (4 SEPT 2005)

Like the blind monster of industry I sat with my back against the mountain. The ancients have long said the mountain unites the earth and sky and withstands even the erosion of time's shores. Yet the master who understands the ways of the universe can move the mountain with the tip of his finger.

To hell, we have said, with enlightenment--settle instead for conquest. It is not enough for moles with dynamite to object to snow-covered peaks … May the mountain be tested! The shoulders of Atlas drip with the blood of sacrifice and patiently we are borne. But how much longer until that silent arm will bear us no longer?

Tragedy I (1 SEPT 2005; edited 5 JUL 2007)

There is a political message in Inferno XXIV: "Now you must cast aside your laziness / ... / ... for he who rests on down / or under covers cannot come to fame; / and he who spends his life without renown / leaves such a vestige of himself on earth / as smoke bequeaths to air or foam to water". But this "renown", as Hegel showed us, is only the reciprocal recognition of one's love in the world. One loves the world by becoming its mirror (I wonder if the converse is true). That the intrepid wanderer refers himself to the Christ is well-known; this is why Dante's Christianity prefigured Hegel by 500 years.

Dante’s “io sol uno” becomes, in Montaigne, “je le recite [l’homme]”. Montaigne describes a man and not, as Rousseau, of man. Thus the innocent naïveté of Montaigne vis-à-vis the totalitarian naivete of Rousseau. "If the world finds fault with me for speaking too much of myself," Montaigne says, "I find fault with the world for not even thinking of itself!" What could be farther from the modernity that has come to us in the guise of bourgeois liberal democracy? Mimesis is mandatory because we are never ‘outside’ the world. Auerbach was on to something here; so too was Nietzsche who asked whether he could show us this world—this “zoological monstrosity” as Jameson says—in his mirror. But as we know, it was Nietzsche's own shadow that drove him to madness. ... And perhaps that is the fate of any truly ethical engagement with the world.

A friend of mine likes to say she is “broken”, as if this were an insight. We “pull ourselves together” every morning. We do it better or worse, but we must do it constantly. There are times we “lose ourselves”, but is not psychic activity nothing else than the assemblage of an identity in fragments? There is, as Bergson points out, only memory.

Look to the sky (30 AUG 2005; edited 5 JUL 2007)

Evening is a time of remembrance when memory wrests itself from the grip of light (i.e., the concept); truth abandons its deplorable readers so that their lives might be touched instead with beauty. To what future do we look when we are called by the voices of our own commands, driving us to the labor of hands we have never known—and who we have never been—throwing brick upon brick. Bab-el. But only caution, not language, is scattered “to the winds”. The future, we are told too, inexists. This “abyssal time of life” is an “adventure” that only the sea-faring explorers (and not the cartographers) could have known—it is they who could look across the ocean into the world’s end and dive into it full-speed-ahead. “Time is an arrow” shot from the bow of a blind huntsman who couldn’t give a damn where it might land. So there is a song that says “if at all God’s gaze falls upon us, it’s with a mischievous grin”. Perhaps the sky can smile … for those who care to look.

There are those who think the future is a mirror and when, like the small child who has not yet grasped the laws of optics, they reach toward the world contained therein, they find themselves barricaded in themselves by nothing more than an indifferent ray of light. The plane surface is infinite. Their own reflection can only laugh—a cruel, silent, unforgiving laughter amidst the rhythm of fists beating against the glass.