Friday, October 30, 2009

American Work: Joe Bageant on "Human Resources"

Joe Bageant, The Iron Cheer of Empire, reporting from Ajijic, Mexico.
It may be my bias, or my imagination, or my distaste for toil, but from here America looks like one big workhouse, "under God, indivisible, with time off to shit, shower and shop." A country whose citizens have been reduced to "human assets" of a vast and relentless economic machine, moving human parts oiled by commodities and kept in motion by the edict, "produce or die." Where employment and a job dominates all other aspects of life, and the loss of which spells the loss of everything.

Yeah, yeah, I know, them ain't jobs -- in America we don't have jobs, we have careers. I've read the national script, and am quite aware that all those human assets writing computer code and advertising copy, or staring at screen monitors in the "human services" industry are "performing meaningful and important work in a positive workplace environment." Performing? Is this brain surgery? Or a stage act? If we are performing, then for whom? Exactly who is watching?
Continued HERE
See also: Human Resources

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Some Thoughts on the Aesthetics of Process, Realism and Representation

I'm the most unsystematic of thinkers. A pathetic failure as a philosopher, I would never be able to develop a coherent critical, aesthetic theory. I like to think the way I write poetry and fiction, the way I would make a painting: by association.
Mix and match.
A collage of shapes and colors.
Interrupt the static horizontal line with the descending arc of the dancer's arm--a hint of orange in the upper right to compliment the dominant blue-green of water and forest.
And yet I find that my thinking, such as it is, does evolve, does develop, though not into anything organized. Never into something with a beginning, middle and end. My ideas always in tatters, scattered fragments and pieces--but the fragments aren't what matters, or rather, what does matter--is the very state of their fragmentation; that whatever it is that makes them seem to (temorarily) cohere, to fall into and out of shifting patterns--like pieces of colored glass in a kalaidascope, remains outside what I'm able to secure in language.
The space between the words.

A while ago I wrote a review of an Alice Munro short story HERE:

Misquoting Camus... one fragment

Artistic creation demands of the writer
that he/she reject reality
for what it lacks
and for what it sometimes is.
In a recent post, another...

Literature and art are borne of the stuborn and always failed effort to image forth what cannot be seen, to forge into words what cannot be said or thought, to bring to our ears what has never before been heard.
It follows then, that critical writing worth the time to read, will be devoted, always, to exploring a numinous failure. 
Not a failure to achieve something that exists out there, in some mystical or transcendent reality. A  creative failure,  a lack, the not yet: the aesthetic quality of a work that emerges from its generative power, from that which created it, as the first word on a page (or musical note or brush stroke or step of the dance) generates the next--each new word at once, setting limits, and opening into newly infinite multiplicity. The generative process doesn't end with the last word or the final brush stroke--but is continued, awakened from silence and invisibility through the engagement of viewer and reader. A becoming that is never finished, never complete. Not creatio ex nilo, a becoming from nothing, but from the something of the work, as the work is a continuation through the artist, a becoming from the something of world through the artist's dialog with reality... keeping mind that each word, each brush stroke, every cultural idea and convention called upon or suggested, is part of, not seperate or other, no less real...
 ...nature is made better by no mean
but nature makes that mean. So over that art
Which you say adds to nature is an art
That nature makes [...]
...this is an art
Which does mend nature--change it rather, but
the art itself is nature.
Winter's Tale. 4.4

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Fiction of "Literary Fiction"

BAD PAPER: Bursting the 'Literary Fiction' Bubble. Edmond Caldwell, on Contra James Wood.

Behind the veil of humanist ideology, “literary fiction” is just another genre among genres, written according to a comforting formula and intended for “culinary” consumption. The difference between genre fiction and literary fiction is all in the appearance of distinction, such that if genre fiction = entertainment, then literary fiction = entertainment + status. Works of literary fiction are therefore merely more mystified and meretricious, like those prostitutes who are paid larger sums of money not only to have sex but to pretend they enjoy it.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Review: Where the Wild Things Are

If the message (tacked on: a too-grown-up after-thought added to anethetize adult anxieties) of The Wizard of Oz was "there's no place like home," the message of Where the Wild Things Are would be everyplace is like home... there is no escape.

When I was not yet four years old I had a kind of ephiphany. Both frightening and empowering. Smarting from a punishment I didn't think I deserved, I told myself that something happened to grown ups that made them altogether forget what it was like to be a child--wiped their memories clean. Clueless. I vowed to myself to write a book.. then and there. I would call it 'The Book of the Child' and I would keep it for myself to read after I went through that terrible change... but I could neither read nor write. The book went unwritten. I can recount time after time with both of my sons--as a young--and ten years later, a not-so-young father, recalling that moment... remembering, but too late.

There have been a few others I suspect of having experienced similar ephiphanies: Roald Dahl, Maurice Sendak... and in a very different way, Fred Rogers. They were all more faithful to their vision than me.

Maybe Spike Jonze remembers, too. He's remained courageously faithful to Sendak's core insight, even as he's expanded the ten line illustrated book into a full length film. I'd add Dave Eggers name, but I don't have a sense it was Egger's screen play so much as Jonze's cinimatic realization that captured it. I admit to being baffled by the adaptation in short story form published in The New Yorker Max at Sea Oct. 23, 09), unless it was to accept Egger's idea to slow the pace (Eggers' drawn out description of the sea voyage in that story)--no small contribution to the strength of this film; a Seseme Street, music vid Bim-Bam flash-n-cut take would have been disastrous--because there is far more in Sendak's book than the five minutes it takes to read it.
Children who want it read to them again and again... this is not a symptom of early OCD... this is wisdom. This is one of those occasions when we forgetful grown-ups should damn well pay attention to what our kid's are getting... that we aren't.

What it will be like to be adults? How do kids put that?

When I'm BIG...

Yes. And when we're big... we'll be KING.

On the island of the Wild Things, like in a dream--real dreams, not literary or cinematic dreams--everything is split up...and recombined. Max is all of what he experiences, and yet not entirely any of it... or of them, of the creatures: unlike the film version of The Wizard of Oz (Baum's books are orders of magnitude more strange), the Wild Things by name and relationships echo Max's family... but are not reducible to any of them. Associations are permissible, neither metaphorical similitude nor allogrical identity quite works. The Wild Things are projections, for sure... but remain more than that, some part of their reality indecipherable... as in real dreams.

I don't know that this film will be watched in future generations the way The Wizard of Oz is now... but I hope it will be. It deserves it.

Comment: What is "Hope?"

A comment I left to a post about Hunter Thomson by my friend, Andy Breslin on his blog, Andy Rants

We need to stop thinking of 'hope' as some sort of bet we're wagering on the future.

A re-reading of Camus would be helpful.

That kind of 'hope' is what you play with while sipping your late night dream potion wondering whether there's anything that can be done and if there is... will it be worthy it?

Didi and Gogo.

I can't go on. I must go on.

Have a carrot

Hope is what happens between two people when they join hands to help a third.

Hope is the unanticipated joy of taking action, of finding a place in the collective human effort to save ourselves...from ourselves.. and maybe in the process, make life a little better, increase the balance in favor of happiness over misery and suffering.

Those who kill hope are always the ones who are driven in their anxiety and fear of death by their need to control... everthing: not only the present, but the future-- enemies of whatever is spontaneous, inexplicably joyfull, or forces them to confront a reality they have not already tamed in their atrophied imaginations.

Hope is not and never was something waiting for us in the future--which never comes, being always... the future. It is what happens when we discover together that such freedom as is possible is always now, in what we are doing and creating in the present; hope is the realization that what we are doing is never finished, that we can never quite anticipate where it will lead, and that in this open-ended, uncontrollable unfolding is everything we can... yes... hope-- to experience of freedom and happiness.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Waldrop on Metonymy and Metaphor

John Gallaher (Nothing to Say & Saying It) has an elliptic REVIEW of Rosmarie Waldrop on metonymy and metaphor (from her book, DISSONANCE.

Found this interesting as a take on poetic structure as process, form generating content. The schism described here, while oversimplified, at least in these selections, is as relevant to fiction as it is to poetry: the 'realists,' and those critics who defend them, falling on the side of metaphor, the simulacrum of mimesis--while the modernists and those who have resisted the more familiar formulas of plot/character/message, no less than the several avant streams of poetry, give greater weight to associational structures built on juxtipositions unassimilable to metaphorical similitude.

Olson has called this vertical tendency of metaphor “the suck of symbol.” Metaphor as hotline to transcendence, to divine meaning which casts the poet in the role of special being, a priest or prophet. [... ]


Now it happens that these two emphases, on metaphor or on metonymy, are not simply differences between two styles, but coincide with the two dimensions of every speech act, selection and combination . . . . Words always have a double reference: (1) to the code and (2) to the context.


. . . literary language tends to divide according to an emphasis on one axis or the other. In rhetorical terms, an emphasis on metaphor or an emphasis on metonymy (also in the large sense: any relation by contiguity). Some writers are more concerned with finding “the right word,” the perfect metaphor; others are more concerned with what “happens between” the words, with composition, exploring the sentence and its boundaries, slidings, the gaps between fragments, the shadow zone of silence, of margins.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Net Resources: Politics and Philosophy

Mike Champion, list of links to audiovideo lectures and audio books on politics and philosophy (Kant, Zizek, Linges, Gilgen, Nietzsche and more), posted on Avoiding the Void

Not Enough to be 'Good,' Why Politcs Matters

Yeah, recycling is good, and screwing in those spiraly light bulbs and refusing to use plastic bags and doing random acts of kindness--it's all good. I try my best. But it damn well ain't enough! Another installment on "Politics Matters," this time, a quote from Money for Nothing on Larval Subjects.

Perhaps the clearest symptoms that transcendent and transcendentalist accounts of normativity want their money for nothing are to be found in the vigorous defense of the is/ought distinction, the imprisonment of normativity in a transcendental subject completely independent of the body, the world and society, or the imprisonment of norms either in the mind of God or in a Platonic realm of the forms. In all these cases, transcendentalist (Kantian and post-Kantian) and transcendent (Platonic and theistic) construct a theory of normativity that carefully divorces norms from thermodynamic questions of work and labor. By taking the norms out of the world and treating them as non-existent yet nonetheless binding, transcendental approaches carefully separate normativity from the frictions of the world.

Incidentally related comments on 'changing human behavior (or not: the RealClimate post dealing with "misrepresentations and mistakes in the ‘Global Cooling’ chapter of the new book SuperFreakonomics by Ste[ph|v]ens Levitt and Dubner.'

Human nature – the desire to strive for a better life, our inability to think rationally when trying to impress the objects of our desire, our natural selfishness and occasionally altruism, etc – is very unlikely to change anytime soon. But none of those attributes require the emission of fossil fuel-derived CO2 into the atmosphere, just as they don’t require us to pollute waterways, have lead in gasoline, use ozone-depleting chemicals in spray cans and fridges or let dogs foul the sidewalk. Nonetheless, societies in the developed world (with the possible exception of Paris) have succeeded in greatly reducing those unfortunate actions and it’s instructive to see how that happened.

The first thing to note is that these issues have not been dealt with by forcing people to think about the consequences every time they make a decision. Lead in fuel was reduced because of taxation measures that aligned peoples preferences for cheaper fuel with the societal interest in reducing lead pollution. While some early adopters of unleaded-fuel cars might have done it for environmental reasons, the vast majority of people did it first because it was cheaper, and second, because after a while there was no longer an option. The human action of releasing lead into the atmosphere while driving was very clearly changed.

In the 1980s, there were campaigns to raise awareness of the ozone-depletion problem that encouraged people to switch from CFC-propelled spray cans to cans with other propellants or roll-ons etc. While this may have made some difference to CFC levels, production levels were cut to zero by government mandates embedded in the Montreal Protocols and subsequent amendments. No-one needs to think about their spray can destroying the ozone layer any more.

...again, politics, collective economic action... matters!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Audio of PAPP Symposium, Sunday Oct.11, 2009

The audio of the entire PAPP (Philadelphia Arts Performance Project) symposium can be opened and downloaded HERE

Monday, October 12, 2009

Andy Breslin Gives the Real Dope on Columbus Day


And, as one Rant deserves another!

Come on, ol' Chris just did what most anyone in his time would have done, given the opportunity... with the exception of the slaves he shipped back to Europe, targets of genicide, the totally destitute and utterly powerless...

Hey--just like our times!

Okay... the Corporate slavers are better at covering their tracks these days, but just about as effective in convincing those they exploit, sell into prostitution, whose houses they steal and leave to die--that they're really the good guys, the backbone of the American Dream, scorge of Tearists everywhere, builders of Casinos where Joe Six Pack can send his grandma to spend her last days trying to win a gazillion bucks at the one armed bandits!

Neil Bluhm--get the fuck out of Philadelphia, go back to Chicago and give someone worthy a couple hundred mil to save the Cubbies and Wrigley Field! Come on, Neil... even you can make a difference!
so... Reconsider Columbus Day

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Human Resources/ Corporate Personhood

Employees long ago ceased to be 'persons' to the Corporatate Beast: thrown in with lumps of coal, mythical widgits, soybeans and pork bellies... we are now de-humanized resources. When corporations are treated as persons, persons will be treated as Things.

Carol, in a Letter to Joe Bageant, gets it.

Excerpt below:
After 56 years or so of watching the "powers that be" in operation, I have come to the conclusion that slowly, but surely, big corporations and the government are dehumanizing us.

I can recall a time when those who dealt with employee relationships were called "personnel departments and employees were referred to by name. The first step was to take away our names and give us "employee numbers", (under the guise of simplifying accounting procedures) so that we would no longer be thought of as a real person. Then it was to change the corporation department that deals with employees from the "personnel department" to the "human resources" department, which takes away our humanity altogether. With time and constant hearing of ourselves referred to in this manner we've come to accept it when we should be screaming at the top of our lungs against it. Even our media, whom I truly believe are on someone's propaganda payroll, refers to us in this manner.
Our government and the same media are now referring to servicemen as "boots on the ground" instead of soldiers who are "real" human beings with "real" lives. It has occurred to me that as long as they are allowed to refer to people as "human resources" and "boots on the ground" most of us will never think of them as real people, our next door neighbors or family members.
Read the rest HERE

Saturday, October 10, 2009

New Translation of The Tin Drum

Michael Dirda reviews Breon Mitchell's NEW TRANSLATION of The Tin Drum.

"Each sentence in the new 'Tin Drum,' " notes Mitchell, "now faithfully replicates the length of the sentence in Grass's original text, and no sentences are broken up or deliberately shortened."

Mark Twain claimed (in “Die Schrecken der deutschen Sprache” [The Horrors of the German Language], delivered in German to the Vienna Press Club, in 1897) that Shiller was capable of writing the entire history of the Thirty Year's War between two parts of a seperable prefix verb.  I look forward to seeing how Dirda manages this...
In recent years ... Grass has grown increasingly involved in the foreign versions of his work, going so far as to organize Übersetzertreffen -- short convocations of his translators -- at which he fields questions about his various books. From his experience of these meetings, Grass persuaded his publishers to commission a new English version of "The Tin Drum" from the distinguished Germanist Breon Mitchell.

In his afterword Mitchell explains that great books demand new versions because translations, no matter how fine, eventually grow dated. "The works that are never retranslated are those we only care to read once." In this instance, he underscores his deep admiration for Manheim, who was something of a mentor, while making clear that this new version has benefited from the inestimable help of the author and that it aims to reflect as closely as possible the rhythms and intricacy of Grass's German. "Each sentence in the new 'Tin Drum,' " notes Mitchell, "now faithfully replicates the length of the sentence in Grass's original text, and no sentences are broken up or deliberately shortened." As Mitchell concludes, "The new version I offer is meant for our present age, one that is increasingly open to the foreignness of the text, to the provocative innovation of linguistic play, to a syntactic complexity that stretches language."

Friday, October 9, 2009

Creative Misreading: Philosophy as Critical Poetics

I am irresistably drawn to writing, of which the powers of suggestion seem to overflow the bondries of their defined fields. That is to say, work which invites creative misreading, writing which is in-formed by an implied aesthetic structure that opens it to multiple re-formations, multiple interpretations.
In philosophy: Plato (over Aristotle), Vico, Wittgenstein, Spinoza, Kierkegaard.  What is it about Freud that lends himself to endless reinvention and revision, if not this?
I return to Paul Levi Bryant's Larval Subjects  because, again and again, he touches on something that makes my brain fizz!--on multiple  levels. His thinking within the confines of his own field is always challenging and inovative, worth reading in itself, but more important for me, because again and again, he formulates his idea in such a way that I find myself reading them as though their subject were something entirely different than that intended. Even when, as in the following, it's through texts he's choosen to quote for comment and analysis.
Read these quotes from Deleuze, and tell me you can't follow them simultaneously for what they are meant to be, and as part of a critial exposition on the aesthectics of assembledge in painting and poetry.
(Please do listen again to MC Hyland and her collage poems, assembled from lines taken from The New Yorker.)
This is from a post on Larval Subjects HERE
In preparing my talk on Deleuze’s overturning of Platonism and his theory of simulacra for the RMMLA on Friday, I came across the following terrific interview with Deleuze on A Thousand Plateaus and assemblages:

If there is no single field to act as a foundation, what is the unity of A Thousand Plateaus?

I think it is the idea of an assemblage (which replaces the idea of desiring machines). There are various kinds of assemblages, and various component parts. On the one hand, we are trying to substitute the idea of assemblage for the idea of behavior: whence the importance of ethology, and the analysis of animal assemblages, e.g., territorial assemblages. The chapter on the Ritornello, for example, simultaneously examines animal assemblages and more properly musical assemblages: this is what we call a “plateau,” establishing a continuity between the ritornellos of birds and Schumann’s ritornellos. On the other hand, the analysis of assemblages, broken down into their component parts, opens up the way to a general logic: Guattari and I have only begun, and completing this logic will undoubtedly occupy us in the future. Guattari calls it “diagrammatism.” In assemblages you you find states of things, bodies, various combinations of bodies, hodgepodges; but you also find utterances, modes of expression, and whole regimes of signs. The relations between the two are pretty complex. For example, a society is defined not by productive forces and ideology, but by “hodgepodges” and “verdicts.” Hodgepodges are combinations of interpenetrating bodies. These combinations are well-known and accepted (incest, for example, is a forbidden combination). Verdicts are collective utterances, that is, instantaneous and incorporeal transformations which have currency in a society (for example, “from now on you are no longer a child”…).

These assemblages which you are describing, seems to me to have value judgments attached to them. Is this correct? Does A Thousand Plateaus have an ethical dimension?

Assemblages exist, but they indeed have component parts that serve as criteria and allow the various assemblages to be qualified. Just as in painting, assemblages are a bunch of lines. But there are all kinds of lines. Some lines are segments, or segmented; some lines get caught in a rut, or disappear into “black holes”; some are destructive, sketching death; and some lines are vital and creative. These creative and vital lines open up an assemblage, rather than close it down. The idea of an “abstract” line is particularly complex. A line may very well represent nothing at all, be purely geometrical, but it is not yet abstract as long as it traces an outline. An abstract line is a line with no outlines, a line that passes between things, a line in mutation. Pollock’s line has been called abstract. In this sense, an abstract line is not a geometrical line. It is very much alive, living and creative. Real abstraction is non-organic life. This idea of nonorganic life is everywhere in A Thousand Plateaus and this is precisely the life of the concept. An assemblage is carried along by its abstract lines, when it is able to have or trace abstract lines. You know, it’s curious, today we are witnessing the revenge of silicon. Biologists have often asked themselves why life was “channeled” through carbon rather than silicon. But the life of modern machines, a genuine non-organic life, totally distinct from the organic life of carbon, is channeled through silicon. This is the sense in which we speak of a silicon-assemblage. In the most diverse fields, one has to consider the component parts of assemblages, the nature of the lines, the mode of life, the mode of utterance…

In reading your work, one gets the feeling that those distinctions which are traditionally most important have disappeared: for instance, the distinction between nature and culture; or what about epistemological distinctions?

There are two ways to supress or attenuate the distinction between nature and culture. The first is to liken animal behavior to human behavior (Lorenz tried it, with disquieting political implications). But what we are saying is that the idea of assemblages can replace the idea of behavior, and thus with respect to the idea of assemblage, the nature-culture distinction no longer matters. In a certain way, behavior is still a countour. But an assemblage is first and foremost what keeps very heterogeneous elements together: e.g. a sound, a gesture, a position, etc., both natural and artificial elements. The problem is one of “consistency” or “coherence,” and it prior to the problem of behavior. How do things take on consistency? How do they cohere? Even among very different things, an intensive continuity can be found. We have borrowed the word “plateau” from Bateson precisely to designate these zones of intensive continuity. (Two Regimes of Madness, pgs. 176 – 179)

Philadelphia Poetry Symposium

An audio of the discussion beginning to end HERE. This was posted on Philly.Sound by CA Conrad

From the Poetic Arts Performance Project:
Sunday, October 4, 2009
PAPP's Symposium Series: What is Philadelphia Poetry?

What is Philadelphia Poetry? Who is Philadelphia Poetry? Where is Philadelphia Poetry? Why is Philadelphia Poetry? Join us as we consult some of the most moving and shaking poets in the Philadelphia area today as they discuss these and more questions over the next several months as part of PAPP's Symposium Series.

Our first panel of poets will address the question: What is a Philadelphia Poetics? This event will be moderated by Adam Meora. Panelists will include:
Debrah Morkun, founding member of the New Philadelphia Poets
CAConrad, author of Advanced Elvis Course and The Book of Frank
Tamara Oakman, director of the Light of Unity reading series and the Business of Words workshops
Sherod Smallman, host and organizer of Fuze at Infusion Cafe in Germantown
and Michelle Myers of Yellow Rage
When: Sunday, October 11, 2009
Time: 2:00pm - 4:00pm
Where: University City Arts League (4226 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA)
Cost: $3.00

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Civiil Disobedience: Health Care Action at CIGNA

A video of those arrested Tuesday in Philadelphia in front of the CIGNA headquarters... as you can plainly see... they sent the wrong people to jail HERE

Tonal and Atonal, Poetry and Music

There is a piece in the Telegraph by the pianist, Stephen Hough , followed by a discussion of tonality and atonality in music--how the tension between them generates affective power for the listener. Follow the discussion HERE (thanks to Gonzalo Barr for linking this in FaceBook.)
As I read this piece I was thinking how over the years I've grown tired of much of the classical repertoir, while the works of Berg/Stockhausen and such--music which once left me confused and unmoved, I find now far more engaging and affectively rich; so too, I thought, with literature--poetry in particular. I wonder if the tension (as described in that article) is not more between the music and the listener, than in the structure of the work. Isn't it perhaps our need, our driving desire for order, for meaning, that in being challenged, engages our interest and arouses our emotions? If the problem is too easily or too completely solved/resolved, we grow bored.
We return to powerful works of art--of any kind, empowered by what we have already mastered, but are drawn back in by what has remained beyond us, not because chaos or imperfection is pleasing in itself, but because we cannot let it be. Difficulty matters, but it is a particular kind of difficulty, that of integrating what is new for us with what we have already learned, what we come to understand: the pleasure of discovering that, in a sense, what we have discovered we have known all along, but have only now learned to see, to hear, to understand. Isn't this what we mean when say there is nothing new in art, why we can't speak of 'progress' in art, as we do in science or other fields of knowledge?  Note how the musicians in this  piece, in discussing modernist atonal music, return to earlier precidents, Motzart, Hyden, as if to say: here, in these examples we have mastered, we will find what we need to read/hear what is still new and undiscovered--not only in more recent works, but what has remained beyond us in their anticedents. If in my reading, I stopped at Shelley, Keats... or Yeats, I would have grown sated, bored. Confronted by Ashbery, the Language poets, FLARF... I return to the older works with renewed understanding as I recognize the genetic (and generative) threads, as it were, that lead from one to the other, from generation to generation.  

8 minutes ago

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

MC Hyland

READING collage poems assembled from The New Yorker.

Three Poems on Slant Thanks to Rachel Mallino for posting this on FaceBook.

From an interview on Apostrohe Cast News

4.) How do you feel about politics and poetry hanging out together?

I think they absolutely should hang out together–maybe it’s kind of ’70s feminist “the personal is political” of me, but I really think all human activity is inherently political, and ought to admit to being such. That said, I think that it’s important that poetry–art in general–not be a form of sloganeering. The point of art is to reflect and magnify complexity; to cause us to see additional alternatives and points of view.

5.) Is it bad to laugh at propaganda? Good? Insensitive and bourgeois? Intellectual and proactive?

The problem is that propaganda is, once you’re out of the context from which its power derives, often quite funny. At least, on a discourse level: for all the pretty colors and happy children, what Maoist propaganda says is still: “You might as well like this system, because you have no other choice.” It’s not a message you can ever actually succeed in getting across, is it?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Politics Matters!

I was not unaware as a young man in my twenties of the conjunction of literature and politcs, but it was Hilton Kramer and Samuel Lipman's naked, unholy coupling of neoliberal ideology and aesthetics in their revival of The New Criterion in 1982 that nailed it for me--how important this was; the imposiblity of thinking about art, literature or music as pursuits autonomous from politics. And yet, for the most part, I've compartimentalized these realms on Barking Dog. At times--felt uncomfortable in posting notices of political events, accounts of campaign activities... wondered, do they belong here?
No more.
Past time to bring them together--not in indeological harmony, but as the Blakean contraries they more truly represent.
Jacob Russell's Barking Dog: The aesthetics of process: ruminations on poetry, literature and the intersection politics, art and the human condition.
So, off to a Health Care protest at the CIGNA headquarters (with no plans to be arrested this time!). If you're in Philly, come join us!
Tuesday, October 6, at 11:30 am at 1601 Chestnut Street in Philadelphia to we are going back to CIGNA's world head quarters in Philadelphia to protest business practices that deny people insurance coverage and health care and their political efforts to block health care reform.

A few of us are going to risk arrest by blocking the doors to CIGNA's lobby. We need as many of you as possible to join us and show support for this action. Please RSVP ...or just show up! (Only those who attented the non-violent training session will participate in civil disobedience)

Neoliberalism Reviewed: David Harvey

Reactionary assault on progressive democratic liberalism after WWII.

Alex, of Je est un autra: review:

David Harvey’s book, A Brief History Of Neoliberalism is the modern classic Marxist mid-range study of the emergence of neoliberalism as an attempt to reconsolidate class power lost after the brief WWII period of Keynesian embedded liberalism and progressive social democracy. The following is offered as a attempt to fill in the gaps that Harvey omits, critique a few elements of his work and provide notes on other fascinating literature in this field.

As a mid-range work it suffers from omissions of certainly complexities, as well as detailed studies of the development of local ‘actually existing neoliberalisms’ as is becoming increasingly common in the literature and is utterly necessary in describing how local populations were and were not able to resist changed[1]. The books deficiencies are ably described in Philip Mirowski’s fair but critical review[2], which I will sumarise and supplement. Cont reading HERE

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Exploring the Gap

Literature and art are borne of the stubborn and always failed effort to image forth what cannot be seen, to forge into words what cannot be said or thought, to bring to our ears what has never before been heard.

It follows then, that critical writing worth the time to read, will be devoted, always, to exploring a numinous failure.

California/ Failure of the American (Suburban) Dream

Just put these two together.

American Suburb
"The greatest misallocation of wealth in the history of the world"
California, Failed State

Friday, October 2, 2009

Edmond Caldwell on Book Lists

From Contra James Wood
Recently a literary blog or site or whatever calling itself The Millions posted for the edification and entertainment of its readers a list of “The Best Fiction of the Millennium (So Far).” The judging-process was set up along American Idol lines – a panel of literary Simon Cowells and Paula Abduls coupled with a poll of the faceless audience, culled from Facebook.

The resulting lists generated the type of discussion that you would expect: expressions of pleasure over the presence of favorite titles along with much quibbling about who was left off – behavior which, essentially, reproduces the work of the list itself, “playing along” even where the participant has differences over this or that selection.

Therefore I was happy when at least one litblog commentator, Andrew Seal, sounded like he was going to go beyond mere participation in the spectacle. As he wrote in a September 25 post:

“The inclusions and placements of the list are not really worth quibbling about, and itemizing the good books that were left off is about as easy as falling off a log. I'm not really interested in specifics, because there's a much bigger issue which the list raises—”

Ah, I thought, now we’re getting somewhere! He continues:

“—if ordered lists like this must exist, to whom should we be listening to fill them?”

Oh. A critique of the make-up of the celebrity-judges panel, in Andrew’s view too heavily skewed to young and US-based creative writers, with not enough critics, editors, and academics, so that perhaps the panel was too narrow or not expert enough. He may or may not be right on that score, but we haven’t gotten to any “much bigger issues” yet if we’ve just moved from quibbling about the selection of books to quibbling about the selection of judges. That’s playing the same game at one remove, when what we need to do to get to “bigger issues” is to examine the game itself.

Read the rest here List Lust, or, The Banalities (Updated!)

Comments and discussion on Blographia Literaria