Friday, December 31, 2004

sturdy reading

At last the evening of the play arrived....The place was full of peasants, waiting with wonderment for the show to begin. The play was La Fiaccola sotto il Moggio, The Light Under the Bushel, by Gabriele d'Annunzio. I expected to be bored to tears by this romantic drama, played by second-rate actors....But I was agreeably surprised. The female divinities, with their large, empty black eyes and attitudes charged with motionless but passionate intensity, played their parts to perfection and, on the stage not more than four yards wide, they stood out most impressively. All the rhetoric, affectation, and pomposity of the tragedy vanished, leaving just what d'Annunzio's drama should have been in the first place: a bare tale of immutable passions against the background of a land that knows no time. At last one of his works seemed to me good, and free of sham aesthetics.

Soon I realized that this sort of purification was due not so much to the actresses as to the audience. The peasants took part in the play with the liveliest interest. Its villages, mountains and streams were not far from Grassano; they knew exactly what they were like, and every time the names came up they murmured assent. The spirits and devils that enter into the story were the same spirits and devils that lived in the clay caves of this region. The plot was true to life, for the audience endowed it with its real atmosphere, that of the closed, hopeless, and mute world of the peasants. This performance, stripped by actors and audience together of its "dannunzianism," had a rough and elementary content which the peasants felt to be a part of their own experience. The whole thing was an illusion, but it demonstrated a truth. D'Annunzio was of peasant origin, but when he became a literary figure he was bound to betray them. His beginnings were in a mute world like this one, among the Abruzzi Mountains, but he sought to superimpose on it the many-colored coat of contemporary verse, which is primarily wordy, sensual, and haunted with a sense of time. In so doing he degraded this world to a mere instrument of rhetoric.... The Sicilian actresses and the peasants of Grassano reversed this: they tore away the layers of counterfeit and grasped in their own fashion the peasant core of the drama. It was this that moved them and fired their enthusiasm. The two worlds which d'Annunzio had vainly tried to weld into an empty aestheticism flew apart, as if aware that they could not fit together, and beneath the flow of superfluous words there stood forth to the view of the peasants the images of Fate and Death.

Monday, December 27, 2004

world o' painful tv journalism

NBC Nightly News in production:

Whoa - man that some bigass wave. 21,000. Make sure to say inside of 7 seconds: "We've got it all covered - don't go away, we'll be right back with more of that bigass wave. That was some bigass wave."

Fuck man this is bigass big -
He: "Ma'am, (approaching a British journalist who happened to be on vacation) did you see that bigass wave?"

She: "I was standing here looking out when all of a sudden I heard -"
Too blond, too together stale if it don't wail where's the gut shreik tectonic clap of soul? - this is sending the wrong vibe the wrong wave -we gotta shocktransmit did we say we got it all covered? We need killer editing to transmit wave after killer wave, killing. Where's the bloody sea standing up and walking toward us? Where's the goddamned Bible? Where's the inchoate screams - more fuckedup dark people on their bloody knees, dead little bodies all in a row

Bigass and biblical, whoa. 22,000. Eight bigass countries. Billions and billions served. Whoa. Noah's ark. Here's another prissy Brit
"My wife and I we were standing on our balcony watching as the waters rose wondering if we were going to have to jump when all of a..."
We don't need no stinkin tourist tale of holiday woe meanwhile in Sri Lanka, bigly bigass. whoa. son of a BEEAATCH did you see that it just 'bout sucked that swimmin pool dry - holiday terror - this'll shrink Bin Laden's weenie

airport shot - grizzled travellers

Dead, we got dead. 23,000. How'd that wave get so big? - earthquake under the sea - tectonic plates clap hands and sing - what could stop it? waves, aftershocks, earlywarning wouldn'a done no good - too little too late when it's this bigass, get ready for showtime five, four, three - Noboddy does dead better than yours truly do dead we wipe our arse with you, ABC, CBS, FOX, we got tourist footage and it rawks - we are sublimest you ain't, we are bigass, waves we got waves, we got we got we got more good wave killahs coming straight at you don't you dare move - no bigger ass ugly biglyasses than us here at MSNBC - keep it right here, 24,000, we got it covered.

Saturday, December 25, 2004


Architects pride themselves on having broader scope, more multifaceted and omniverous interests and sources, than the general run of folk. That hasn't prevented the academy as constructed in the US from keeping them mostly hemmed in, fascinated with their own specialization, conveniently forgetting that the point was about humans and spaces in general. As the Tutor knows, one can become too enamoured of one's discipline and dumpster.

A dear friend some time ago pointed me to Samuel Mockbee, who seems to have not forgotten what his profession was supposed to profess:
There are over 100 schools of architecture in the United States. If every school were to do just one project a year, you'd have 100 wonderful pieces of architecture. But you have to have the faith that the students can do it. Academia and the profession are too incestuous. They're pussyfooting around and babbling about environment and health and code issues. It's about going out and doing it, and all that other stuff will work itself out. From a 2001 interview in Salon.
Mockbee's work in rural Alabama produced the sort of thing that, given the way things are going, we will eventually acknowledge as necessary: A house that is not a clone, that works, that possesses dignity, and can be built with recycled matter at a cost of approximately $30,000.

Mockbee, who died of leukemia in 2001, spoke of creating a "shelter for the soul."

The thing about necessity is, it doesn't take visitors from afar to reveal it: It is what we would see if we weren't so busy pussyfooting. The trick is to recognize her before she exacts her due.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

goats and monkeys

The social gets my goat.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

hyperbolic vulnerability and its other

The other day I was driving home on an unfamiliar highway, and came to a tollbooth, a relatively rare thing in Florida, when I discovered I was in the wrong lane. I needed exact change, and was sure I didn't have it (though in fact I did), so I quickly glanced in the rearview mirror, saw nothing, and proceeded to back up in order to switch lanes.

A not so gentle crunch.

I hopped out, fearing I've given some nonagenarian a heart attack - I am, admittedly, Section Chief of Pessimism at the Bureau of Less than Vital Statistics. I was relieved to see two just-out-of-college type guys in a not very new small car, without any injuries or engine damage, and a couple of mathematically precise indentations in the front bumper.

I figured, they're young, they take life as it comes, we can settle this amicably. We went through the toll and pulled over to discuss. My offer: I'd willingly pay a fair repair bill. At first the driver seemed ok with that. We chatted, exchanged contact info, and I got back in to my car, ready to go. But no-o. The driver's friend was just getting to the peroration in his four-part dissertation on the risks and liabilities of USian fender benders; by the time he'd finished part Quartus, Liber III. cod.iv a sec. xiv, the driver was on his cell calling the police.

The resultant police investigation took well over an hour. I think the cop got out of his car for all of three minutes, took our stories, which did not conflict, got on his laptop and, I suppose, drilled down into the datamine of the Office of Homeland Insecurity to make sure no one on the scene was a dead terrorist kamakazi pilot, an escapee from Guantanamo, a liberal talk show host, scrub jay hugger, etc. His efforts must have compiled every shred of personal history on myself and the other driver known to Homeland Protectors and their extensive network of crack protection agents.

In the end I was found to be the one who backed up, key information which I had provided 74 minutes earlier, and was issued a moving violation to the tune of, I think, $120. I asked the officer what I should do the next time this happens. "Honk your horn and wait until an attendant comes over," he said with a hasty finality that indicated he'd certainly had enough of my wasting his time. I should mention that while this officer was Investigating the Case, another patrol car had pulled up parallel to the first, and the two officers enlivened the tedium of research by chatting interminably.

The cost to the public of the officers' time, gas (their cars were running the whole time), bandwidth, the loss of police presence where it might actually be needed, far outweighed the cost to my time, or that of the kids whose car I struck. More time will be consumed as two insurance companies evaluate claims, get hyperbolic estimates from body shops, boost premiums, and all those good things insurance companies love to do.

Some time later, I was listening to WMNF out of Tampa, the best little radio station. Some discussion of acupuncture, I think. A woman said (paraphrasing) in the US, we give Pain too much power over us. We go to doctors for minor ailments which people in other lands wouldn't even notice. We take vitamins and drugs for conditions that merit nothing more than fresh air.

We are the tenderest vessels among nations, even as we lay waste to cities and peoples, killing and being killed.

Delicate white sheath, dead to havoc played by the wraith it houses.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

generously proportioned thoughts

So much planning for wealthy people today assumes that they are basically selfish, and that even their giving is really a disguised way to get more of something good, like tax deductions or status, or political power for themselves. Actually, I am sick and tired of that assumption, however true it may be in many cases. Gifthub.
Google is adding the books and papers owned by some of the world's leading libraries to its database in the latest step of its mission to make every piece of information available online. business.telegraph.
This enlightenment, and with it a certain sympathetic interest which the enlightened man inevitably feels for anything good which he comprehends fully, must gradually spread upwards towards the thrones and even influence their principles of government. Derrida via wood s lot.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

order of signs: Al

Alexander, die vergröbernde Copie und Abbreviatur der griechischen Geschichte... *

[Alexander, the coarsened copy and abbreviation of Greek history...]

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Béisbol has been berry berry good

Chomsky's blog has resurfaced.

I found this out by coming here. To which I was led after finding this post on the Leiter Report, via pas au dela. One gets to a point that unless these little itineraries are recorded at the very moment they occur, one can never recall where anything, including oneself, was.

Anyway, according to Prof. Leiter, Derrida had a 255 lifetime batting average with "no more than 100 homers." The absolutely unarguable authority of American baseball lingo assures us that
He was a particularly flamboyant and outspoken baseball player, for certain, but one who failed to earn respect for his baseball skills.
In the course of further demonstrating the mediocrity of Jacques' beisbol career, Leiter first of all uses some unelucidated criterion twixt philosophers and non-philosophers. One wonders whether he actually could offer a litmus test for determining who's who, or whether he relies on membership in professional associations, or shibboleth ("does your sphincter tingle crawl when you hear 'Lacan'?")

One clue might be found in a fictional Crossfire exchange that Leiter stages between himself and Mark Taylor, who wrote an appreciation of Derrida (now hostage behind moneywall) in the Times for which Mr. Taylor shall, apparently, never be forgiven.

Of Taylor's comment that Derrida was famous for his habit of knocking canonical texts against the grain of received readings, Leiter writes:
...surely it bears noting that a primary reason for skepticism about Derrida is that overwhelmingly those who engage in philosophical scholarship on figures like Plato and Nietzsche and Husserl find that Derrida misreads the texts, in careless and often intentionally flippant ways, inventing meanings, lifting passages out of context, misunderstanding philosophical arguments, and on and on. Derrida was the bad reader par excellence, who had the gall to conceal his scholarly recklessness within a theoretical framework.
The gall of the Gaul.

Derrida's sin is that he played. Real baseball scholars work. Anyone who thinks it's a game obviously misplaced his limited partnership stake in Steinbrenner inc. To the extent the philosopher doesn't look like he's working, to the extent that he indulges in literary caprice, well he just doesn't have his jock carapace on straight. Talk about received ideas...Amazing how offspring of the genealogy of footnotes to Plato never fail to ignore the cryptographic sign of the literary, writ large, all over the corpus delicti of their nobodaddy. We murder literature to philosophize.

But I digress. The thing I wanted to say is, after dissing the Da, Leiter cites a passage from Nietzsche to cap it off. It has to do with reading:

Derrida, says Leiter,
...was the figure who did more violence than any other to what Nietzsche had aptly called "the great, the incomparable art of reading well," "of reading facts without falsifying them by interpretation, without losing caution, patience, delicacy, in the desire to understand" (The Antichrist, sections 59 and 52).
A lovely, sweet definition of reading, one that with a flick of the feather sets it forever and violently against the entire academic labor of interpretation. Invoking the Neetch to bludgeon Derrida for his baseball skill is like Bush invoking Christian values in the service of USian mass murder: It can be done, but something with less industrial-strength inanity perhaps would be more serviceable.

Nietzsche's remark offers a giant clue to his own philosophic processes, and helps me understand a bit more of what he was about. Thanks to AKMA's pointer, we can easily locate some of the Teuton's early, reckless baseball plays. For example, I better understand why as a reader rather than an interpreter he was inclined to write Prefaces to Unwritten Books, as opposed, say, to career-enhancing books.

Or, we can sometimes do that. I just tried, and got this:
Sorry, this site is temporarily unavailable! The web site you are trying to access has exceeded its allocated data transfer. Visit our help area for more information.
The last philosopher is inside Geocities, which is inside Yahoo, which sees fit to allow nearly infinite email space to as many replicas of ourselves as we wish, but puts an allocation on how much Nietzsche we can access.

"Sorry" doesn't do it justice.

In any event, fwiw, I hope in the next quarter-millennium to look at Nietzsche's practice of reading while rereading AKMA's thoughts on the subject.
The subject of reading. Reading reading. After all, what is blogging but that, unless it's a bunch of notes to prefaces to unwritten books?

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Send in the cranes

After an unquiet summer -- one tropical storm and three hurricanes here on the Gulf Coast -- nothing beats this wintry arrival.

Proteron hysteron*

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - The discovery of a tomb filled with decapitated bodies suggests Mexico's 2,000 year-old "Pyramid of the Moon" may have been the site of horrifically gory sacrifices, archeologists said on Thursday.

" is most likely that the ceremony created a horrible scene of bloodshed with sacrificed people and animals," said Saburo Sugiyama, one of the scientists leading the ongoing dig.

Of the 12 human bodies found, 10 were decapitated and then tossed, rather than arranged, on one side of the burial site. The two other bodies were richly ornamented with beads and a necklace made of imitation human jaws.

The master-planned city-state collapsed around 700 A.D., an event as mysterious as its formation.

It was the site of a modern-day controversy earlier this year when protesters fought and lost a battle to keep the Mexican unit of retail giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc. from building a new store a half-mile away.
They just knew.

*aka praeposteratio

Thursday, December 02, 2004

vagaries of executive nomenclature: ethics

Writing about facts and values, David Weinberger introduces us to a scientist working on a means to gather all the scientific names for species into a useful database:
...there are 10 million names for the earth's 1.5 to 1.75 million identified species. That includes scientific names as well as common names in multiple languages and vernaculars.
If this exuberance holds true for scientific names, where there has been at least some effort to classify and systematize objects of inquiry, how much more phantasmagoric is language when it comes to the ordinary "facts" of everyday life?

It might be helpful if some exposure to the problem of names and reference, fact and value, episteme and doxa were provided to every man, woman and child before they are (a) elected to political office, (b) given the right to vote, (c) invited to use guns.

Paynter, Locke, Lennon

Earlier today Blogger was moribund, but I meant to say:.

Frank Paynter, who has previously empedestaled aspects of blogging and bloggeurs, asked certain people why they blog. Mindful of the possibly more interesting question why certain people do not blog, it was well done of Frank to remember Fishrush.

I had already decided to quote La Sessum's response before discovering that she quoted mine. Must be that Italian/East european sympathetic magic thing:
When I stuck my flag in blogland three years ago, I wasn’t looking to “mitigate risk,” I was looking to accelerate it. I wasn’t trying to connect with the influential, I was trying to undo them. I wasn’t trying to attract eyeballs, I was trying to squeeze tears from them.
Anyway, I blog because I can. Because it’s the best place to inform and be informed by the hearts of the best bunch of people I’ve never met.

Christopher Locke has a new gig as Chief Blogging Officer, a showcase for the quantum interface betwixt Mr. Locke and Highbeam, a research tool.


And Sheila Lennon offers mere sanity on post election weirdness:

Vote-rigging is as old as voting itself, but it's especially easy now in this window of time where so few politicians grew up knowledgeable about computers and the new ways they could be used to stealthily rig the vote. Once, upon a time, locking up the machines was enough. Now, a modem call to the central vote-counting server can deliver an election. We might never know, because the software is a trade secret that no one may examine.

I wanted to hear [Ohio Secretary of State] Mr. Blackwell, in his capacity as a public official charged with ensuring a clean and fair election in his state, vigorously support the right of every voter to know for sure that his or her vote was accurately counted -- as Rev. Jackson and Councilman Rude did -- rather than whine about the cost, inconvenience, or futility of this fundamental rite of democracy, the vote recount.

Anyone who's at all computer-savvy -- especially including elected public officials in charge of voting -- should applaud tests to make sure that the private software that counts the votes is not also shuffling votes in strange ways.