Sunday, November 23, 2003
war anti-war and peace in the global village
Lecture by Marshall McLuhan - Florida State University - 1970
"One of the strange implications of the phonetic alphabet is private identity. Before literacy, before phonetic literacy, there had been no private identity. There had only been the tribal group. Homer knows nothing about private identity, Homer's world of the acoustic epic, the tribal encyclopedia of memorized wisdom, which Eric Havelock has reported so ably in his Preface to Plato, the Homeric epics were part of this acoustic wisdom that preceded literacy and which were phased out by literacy. Homer was wiped out by literacy. Homer had been the educational establishment of the Greeks for centuries. An educated Greek was one who had memorized Homer, who could sing it to his guitar or harp, and perform it in public. He was a gentleman and a free man. Along came the phonetic alphabet and Plato seized upon it and said: Let us abandon Homer and go for rational education. Plato's war on the poets was not a war on poetry, but a war on the oral tradition of education. Now today everyone in this room is being subjected to a new form of oral education. Literacy is still officially the educational establishment, but unofficially the oral forms are coming up very fast. This is the meaning of rock. It is a kind of education based upon oral tradition, an acoustic experience which is quite strangely remote from literacy. I will be glad to come back to the whole problem of rock and its relation to the modern city and the modern society. It's a very big subject and it is not very much studied. But rock is not something that is merely stuck onto the entertainment card as an extra item. Rock is a kind of central oral form of education which threatens the whole educational establishment. If Homer was wiped out by literacy, literacy can be wiped out by rock. We're playing playing the old story backwards, but you should know what the stakes are. The stakes are civilization ..."
Empire Falls - How Master and Commander gets Patrick O'Brian wrong
"The summa of O'Brian's genius was the invention of Dr. Stephen Maturin. He is the ship's gifted surgeon, but he is also a scientist, an espionage agent for the Admiralty, a man of part Irish and part Catalan birth - and a revolutionary. He joins the British side, having earlier fought against it, because of his hatred for Bonaparte's betrayal of the principles of 1789 - principles that are perfectly obscure to bluff Capt. Jack Aubrey. Any cinematic adaptation of O'Brian must stand or fall by its success in representing this figure."
Peter Krapp - Virilio on the Time of the Future
"In the dozen or so "dromology" books that Paul Virilio has published since 1976, he develops the thesis that if speed used to be the essence of war, today speed IS war. This war, however, is not led against an enemy, but against the materiality of the world."
Marshall McLuhan - War and Peace in the Global Village
War and Peace in the Global Village is a meditation on accelerating innovations leading to identity loss and war. McLuhan wrote this book [more than] thirty [five] years ago and following its publication predicted that the forthcoming information age would be "a transitional era of profound pain and tragic identity quest".
Close to the edge
"I think social and moral disengagement is repugnant. In the book [Hey, Nostradamus!] the opposite of labour is theft not leisure. And that's very much how I feel but there is part of me that wants to leave everything, like now. And I kind of fight that every day. The rational part of me says no you have to stay and engage in the culture and if you don't you're a coward."
Sandra Blakeslee - How Does the Brain Work?
"In the continuing effort to understand the human brain, the mysteries keep piling up. Consider what scientists are up against. Stretched flat, the human neocortex - the center of our higher mental functions - is about the size and thickness of a formal dinner napkin.
[...] Researchers are finding that emotions arise from body states as well as brain states, confirming that the supposed distinction between mind and body is illusory.
Others are delving into individual differences. What makes one person empathic, another mean or shy or articulate or musical? How do genes relate to temperament and how is a baby's brain constructed from early experience? Specialized cells called mirror neurons seem to help babies imitate the world to learn gestures, facial expressions, language and feelings.
Brain chemistry is no longer the study of neuromodulators as "juices" that make us feel good or awake. Substances like serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine play crucial roles in learning, updating memories and neuropsychiatric disease.
The question of free will is on the table. Some of our behavior is conscious, but most of it is notoriously unconscious. So although we make choices, is free will mostly an illusion? And what is consciousness? In seeking an explanation, a new mystery has emerged. Many scientists now believe that the brain basically works by simulating reality."
What does it mean to be me?
"The quest for point zero in astrophysics, for the ultimate foundation of organic life in molecular biology, has its counterpart in the investigations of the human psyche. Freud himself privileged the comparison with archaeology, with the methodical excavation of successive strata of consciousness. Depth-psychology, in the Jungian programme, seeks to go even deeper. Its image could be that of probes into those marine trenches in the ocean floor, vents into the final deeps from whose turbulent volcanic heat emerge anaerobic life-forms and proto-organic shapes. We sense that the prehistory of the first person singular, of the organization of the ego, must have been long and conflictual. Autism and schizophrenia, as we now know them, may well be vestiges of this uncertain evolution, markers of a complex beginning as are background radiations in cosmology. Myths are replete with motifs which point towards the prolonged opaqueness of the individual self to itself, to the fragility and terror of the borderlines to be drawn between the 'I' and the other. In progressive interplay, neurophysiology, genetics, neurochemistry, the study of artificial intelligence and psychology, analytic and clinical, are edging towards the earliest sediments of mental being. The subconscious, even, conceivably, the outlying regions of the unconscious - of that first long night in us - is being drawn towards observation. This rising out of chaos is mimed perfectly in the celebrated initial chord of Wagner's Ring, whose resonance, simultaneously radiant and ominous, poses the question: as we comb the deeps, what monsters are we trawling?"
George Steiner - Grammars of Creation (Faber, 2002, pages 10-11)
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
In her Foreword to the Hesperus Press edition of 2003, pages vii-viii, Helen Dunmore writes:
"The evil of Mr Hyde is beyond doubt. It is florid, brutal, terrifying. He is identified with the snake and with the ape, and yet there is a cunning in his cruelty which is all too human. Descriptions of him are tense with fascination : Hyde moves 'with extraordinary quickness', he gives 'a hissing intake of the breath', he tramples calmly over a child's body 'like some damned Juggernaut'. He is evasive and he must be hunted. Indeed he must be hunted out, for the good of the tribe. In Utterson's words: 'If he be Mr Hyde, I shall be Mr Seek.'"
The Sign of Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Chapter 1 - The Science of Deduction
"Sherlock Holmes took his bottle from the corner of the mantelpiece, and his hypodermic syringe from its neat morocco case. With his long, white, nervous fingers he adjusted the delicate needle and rolled back his left shirtcuff. For some little time his eyes rested thoughtfully upon the sinewy forearm and wrist, all dotted and scarred with innumerable puncture-marks. Finally, he thrust the sharp point home, pressed down the tiny piston, and sank back into the velvet-lined armchair with a long sigh of satisfaction."
The Crime of the Sign: Dashiell Hammett's Detective Fiction
"Now I'm a detective because I happen to like the work ... And liking work makes you want to do it as well as you can. Otherwise there'd be no sense to it. That's the fix I am in. I don't know anything else, don't enjoy anything else, don't want to know or enjoy anything else. You can't weigh that against any sum of money."
Narrative is one of the fundamental means by which we organize, explain and understand our own experiences. Aspects of narrative play a central role in our learning, our communication, our social interaction, our arts and our recreation. Why, then, isn't the structure of human-computer interaction designed to exploit our common orientation towards narrative?
Visualization as Interpretive Practice: The Case of Detective Fiction
Andrea Laue: "Cognitive narratologists are interested in the relation between the material artifacts we call texts and the interpretive practices enacted as we realize texts. Texts become series of cues which prompt activities in the reader, and it is these activities which give form to narrative."
Todd Gitlin reviews "Elaine Scarry's On Beauty and Being Just"
The American Prospect, Vol. 11 no. 3, December 20, 1999
"Eric Hobsbawm has argued that all revolutions - including the failed and the fatuous - generate a Puritanical streak that cannot abide unruly sex. He might just as well have added unruly beauty. Totalist politics tend to be greedy for the soul. Lenin is said to have deplored Beethoven's baleful influence, which made him want to stroke the heads of his enemies."
Does beauty really equal truth?
"And the word injury and the word injustice are the same word."
Salon.com - 8 October 2003 - Blame it on Rio
David Ng writes: On June 12, 2000, a gunman hijacked a Rio bus in broad daylight and held a dozen passengers hostage in a five-hour standoff with the police. Ordinarily, such a routine act of violence might not have generated much public fascination, but due to police carelessness, the entire ordeal was caught live on national television, becoming Brazil's closest approximation to the O.J. Simpson freeway chase. This media orgy enabled the hijacker, a 21-year-old street kid named Sandro do Nascimento, to seize control of the situation and become an instant superstar in the process. (The broadcast scored the highest TV ratings in Brazil that year.)
Director José Padilha sifted through more than 24 hours of video footage to reconstruct the events of that surreal day. Supplemented by interviews with cops, social workers and the street kids with whom Nascimento spent much of his life, "Bus 174" mounts an ambitious investigation into the origins of urban violence. We learn that as a child Nascimento watched as gangsters gunned down his mother on her doorstep. [...]
José Padilha says: "Eleven people in Rio are murdered every day. Those are the official records. If you take into account that some murders are not reported, maybe the number is 20 for a day. If you add these numbers for a whole year, more people are murdered in Rio in one year than all the people who've been killed in the whole of the Israeli-Palestinian intifada since it began."
Roger Ebert reviews Bus 174
"Sandro do Nascimento is not merely poor, or hungry, or doomed to poverty, but suffers from the agonizing psychic distress of being invisible. Yes, says the movie, literally invisible: Brazilians with homes and jobs go about their lives while unable to see people like Sandro, who exists in a parallel universe."
In Our Own Image: A New Tribal Self
How do our media of communication work to create and recreate our individual and collective self? Chris Dunning wonders: "Can the split in our consciousness, the self/other construct that is the basis of all oppression, finally be mended?"
Donald Kalsched - Trauma and daimonic reality in Ferenczi's later work
Journal of Analytical Psychology (Vol. 48 Issue 4 Page 479) September 2003
"Jung and Ferenczi made independent discoveries of an 'archaic' (Jung) or 'primordial' (Ferenczi) layer of the psyche that shone through the 'basic fault' in the psyche opened by childhood trauma. This paper explores those parallels through an extended vignette of Ferenczi's work with Elizabeth Severn, known as 'R. N.' in the Clinical Diary. A remarkable inner object known as 'Orpha' appeared in the patient's trauma experience and saved a seed of personality from total annihilation. Ferenczi's speculation about this 'daimonic' object is cited along with his discussion of a trans-personal immaterial reality that Orpha makes visible, and that links the patient's ego-experience with a spiritual/material unity not ordinarily available to consciousness."
Floyd Merrell explores the ideas of Charles Sanders Peirce
It Becomes a Matter of the Self and Its Others:
"[...] For Peirce the self does not attain a state of self-awareness -- awareness of its other self -- until it has erred regarding its perception and conception of the Other "out there." When this occurs, the self artificially extricates itself from everything else in the universe which leads, residually, to what it is not as an objective realm set in the context of time and space -- and the Cartesian split suffers its first birth pains. Yet this move is necessary, though it need not necessarily be taken to its extreme manifestation. That is, there can be mindfulness of self and/in the Other rather than self pitted against the Other. Indeed, this relationship, which can be written self/other//Other, is a double binary which generates a triad, and what is most significant, a complementary relationship."
Citta Violenta by Oliver Craner (Friday, 14 November, 2003)
Crisis Management, Cold War-style.
"LeMay had formidable military credentials. In the final stages of World War II he he was put in charge of bombing Tokyo. To this end, LeMay devised a mean innovation. He stripped his B29s of guns and loaded them with incendiaries and explosives which he delivered in low-flying, night-time raids (in contrast to the accepted Strategic Air Command tactic of high-altitude bombing in the middle of the day). The tactical switch was devastating: Tokyo lit like a pyre, 100,000 died in 6 hours, temperatures at ground zero reached 1800 degrees Fahrenheit, canals boiled and metals melted. Despite the barbarity - and illegality - of the attack, LeMay's raid was acclaimed and the airforce adopted his technique wholesale. By 1945, 75% of the bombs dropped on Japan's 63 remaining cities were incendiaries, apart from Nagasaki and Hiroshima, which were nuked. After the war, LeMay took charge of the incompetent Strategic Air Force, building from scratch an airforce of unprecedented strength and reach. An American military icon - respected, feared, ridiculed and idolised in equal measure - his path to Air Force Chief of Staff was assured. Once there, he was - even compared to his belligerent colleagues - outspoken, aggressive and hard-hearted. Kennedy considered him typical of his type: unhelpful, absurd, almost inhuman, if effective during conflict. LeMay's own nuclear warplan entailed dropping 80% of the US stockpile in one operation, wiping out 70 Soviet cities in 30 days, killing 2.7 million people, and inflicting 4 million additional casualties. Airforce strategists called this plan "killing a nation".
When Robert McNamara took over as Secretary of Defence and advocated General Maxwell Tayler's doctrine of "flexible response" as opposed to "massive retaliation," the stage was set for a final showdown between civilian government and the Pentagon Chiefs of LeMay's stripe. This happened in 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis."
Friedrich Nietzsche - Human, All Too Human
About friends. [from Section VI. Man in Society]
Just think to yourself some time how different are the feelings, how divided the opinions, even among the closest acquaintances; how even the same opinions have quite a different place or intensity in the heads of your friends than in your own; how many hundreds of times there is occasion for misunderstanding or hostile flight. After all that, you will say to yourself: "How unsure is the ground on which all our bonds and friendships rest; how near we are to cold downpours or ill weather; how lonely is every man!" If someone understands this, and also that all his fellow men's opinions, their kind and intensity, are as inevitable and irresponsible as their actions; if he learns to perceive that there is this inner inevitability of opinions, due to the indissoluble interweaving of character, occupation, talent, and environment then he will perhaps be rid of the bitterness and sharpness of that feeling with which the wise man called out: "Friends, there are no friends!" Rather, he will admit to himself that there are, indeed, friends, but they were brought to you by error and deception about yourself; and they must have learned to be silent in order to remain your friend; for almost always, such human relationships rest on the fact that a certain few things are never said, indeed that they are never touched upon; and once these pebbles are set rolling, the friendship follows after, and falls apart. Are there men who cannot be fatally wounded, were they to learn what their most intimate friends really know about them? By knowing ourselves and regarding our nature itself as a changing sphere of opinions and moods, thus learning to despise it a bit, we bring ourselves into balance with others again. It is true, we have good reason to despise each of our acquaintances, even the greatest; but we have just as good reason to turn this feeling against ourselves. And so let us bear with each other, since we do in fact bear with ourselves; and perhaps each man will some day know the more joyful hour in which he says:
"Friends, there are no friends!" the dying wise man shouted.
"Enemies, there is no enemy!" shout I, the living fool.
John Knoblock: An Introduction to Friedrich Nietzsche
Michel de Montaigne: "There is as much difference between us and ourselves as between us and others."
Colin Burrow reviews Michel de Montaigne's Essays
"Montaigne above all does not seek to inculcate principle. Through their mingled musings, exemplary tales and character sketches, the Essays present not a clear set of values (although they do attach great weight to mercy and friendship) but a shifting pattern of dispositional preferences extended through space (more than a thousand pages) and time (more than two decades).
[...] Montaigne's thought processes and his shifting attitudes to his sources, his sudden frisks from what he has experienced to what he has read and back again, these are what the Essays are. They enable you to read dispositionally rather than methodically; that is, you build as you read a sense of the habits of mind underlying the associative trails, the jolts and starts, of each essay's progress."
Review: Godard by Colin MacCabe
"At the end of the book we find MacCabe acknowledging that 20th-century efforts to link avant-garde art to progressive politics have been dismal failures, Godard's included. Cinema has not changed the world, at least not for the better. All that remains for Godard is individual witness: collective work, presumably, being belatedly recognised as a delusion. Godard claimed recently that he now makes films for 100,000 friends around the world who can appreciate his difficult work. For those of us hoping Godard will make a snarlingly self-serving autobiographical blockbuster called A Shit is a Shit any time soon, this is disappointing news."
Loving Enemies, Loving Friends - [Book Review] Cross Currents, Winter, 1999
John P. Cleveland says: Just as Nietzsche stood at the end of the nineteenth century announcing through the mouth of the prophet Zarathustra a new humanity, capable of loving the friend who is distant and radically other, so Derrida stands at the end of the twentieth century announcing the possible arrival of lovers of humanity (arrivants). By loving at a distance a new kind of democracy is announced: a Nietzschean democracy! This new political "community without community", this "bondless bond", constitutes "friendship without memory itself, by fidelity, by the gentleness and rigour of fidelity, bondless friendship ... for the solitary one on the part of the solitary" (Jacques Derrida - Politics of Friendship, Verso, 1997, page 295).
Islam perverted: The Islamists have got it wrong
Islamism - a late 20th century totalitarian ideology that violates Islamic principles.
Sheikh Abdul Hadi Palazzi writes: Islamists draw on modern European models that posit a scientific revolutionary movement, an elitist scheme of ruling society by means of secret cults that act behind the scenes, and a manufacture of consensus by means of propaganda. They reject those aspects of the Islamic tradition that do not fit with this political outlook.
Theirs is, in fact, an extremist ideology; they consider their organisations and militants as custodians of the projects for Islamising the world, and whoever criticizes them (be he a Muslim or a non-Muslim) is immediately accused of being anti-Islamic, "Islamophobic," and so forth. Unwilling to be ruled by non-Islamist Muslims, Islamists adopt an approach characterised by political supremacism.
Like other totalitarian ideologies, contemporary Islamism is blindly utopian. It implies a wholesale denial of history; the Islamists' model of an ideal society is inspired by the idealised image of seventh-century Arabia and an ahistorical view of religion and human development. It is based on anachronistic thinking that rejects modern concepts of pluralism and tolerance. And it ignores a history of Islam that is rich in models of heterogeneous social organisation and adaptation to the times.
In traditional Islam, military jihad and all other forms of material jihad constitute only the external aspect of jihad, while the inner dimension of jihad is the struggle that a Muslim undertakes to purify his soul from mundane desires, defects, and egotism. Jihad is not limited to the military arena but denotes striving hard toward a worthy goal. According to some sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), "the best jihad for women is performing a valid pilgrimage," while "the jihad for someone who has old parents is taking care of them." According to a well-known tradition, after coming back from a military expedition, the Prophet Muhammad said, "We have returned from the lesser jihad to the greater jihad" (raja'na min jihad al-asghar ila jihad al-akbar). The Prophet was asked, "O, Messenger of Allah, what is the greater jihad?" He answered, "It is the jihad against one's soul."
Politics of Friendship (book review) by Colin MacCabe
[Initially published in The New Statesman, October 17, 1997]
"Political thought in the west is dominated by Hobbes and Rousseau, both of whom offer contractual accounts of the social -- dystopian or Utopian according to taste. Aristotle and Plato are read backward from this perspective.
Derrida rejects all such accounts, which presuppose a pre-contract identity, and neither Hobbes nor Rousseau rate a mention. Instead, Derrida focuses on the Greek tradition of friendship as the fundamental social relation and attempts to tease out the implications through a prolonged meditation on Aristotle's famous phrase, "Friends, there is no friend."
This paradoxical greeting is productive grist to the Derridean mill, not least because it does not appear in any of Aristotle's texts but only in an account of him by Diogenes Laertius, author of Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers. It is thus, from the start, deprived of an "origin" which Derrida would have to deconstruct.
The book displays Derrida's astonishing interpretative powers to their fullest and he persuasively demonstrates how notions of friendship and enmity are crucial to any understanding of the social ..."
Networks, Netwars, and the Fight for the Future
David Ronfeldt and John Arquilla write: "The netwar spectrum also includes a new generation of social revolutionaries, radicals, and activists who are beginning to create information-age ideologies, in which identities and loyalties may shift from the nation state to the transnational level of "global civil society." New kinds of actors, such as anarchistic and nihilistic leagues of computer-hacking "cyboteurs," may also engage in netwar."
Salon.com News: Why the antiwar left must confront terrorism
William Schulz, director of Amnesty International USA, says: "In the face of a new kind of force in the world that is detrimental to human rights, the human rights community has been slow to adapt to that new reality, in both its understanding and its tactics."
Fueling Poverty - The Curse Of Oil - [Plastic.com]
"Thirty years ago, a Venezuelan Oil Minister and founding member of O.P.E.C., Juan Pablo Perez Alfonzo, gave a strange if compelling speech to his fellow countrymen: "Ten years from now, 20 years from now, you will see, oil will bring us ruin. It's the devil's excrement. We are drowning in the devil's excrement." According to a new report (full PDF here) published by Christian Aid, Alfonzo's speech was depressingly prophetic. Rather than bringing benefits and enrichment to the citizens of oil producing countries, it has in fact, condemned the vast majority of them to poverty, corruption and oppressive governments. An earlier study by Professor Michael Ross of the University of California produced the startling evidence that in a typical Third World country with an oil industry, each 5% point rise in oil exports was matched by a 1% rise in child malnutrition," chatsubo writes. Christian Aid seeks to explain such an apparently counter-intuitive fact by outing four interconnected factors ..."
Making Oil Transparent - Op-Ed
The New York Times 6 July 2003
"It is a widely noted paradox that striking oil can be disastrous for a poor country. In Nigeria, Sudan, Angola, Venezuela and many other places, oil and gas have brought corruption and strife. Some of the reasons, such as oil's distorting effects on exchange rates, trade balances and credit, are hard to combat. But around the world, governments and oil companies are beginning to embrace a simple change that can help: strip the secrecy from the deals.
[...] Last year, the British government started the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, which seeks to persuade companies to disclose voluntarily their payments to resource-rich countries."
U.S. Renews Ties With Equatorial Guinea
Nov 17, 2003, DAKAR, Senegal - report by Todd Pitman: "Equatorial Guinea's president had his opponents imprisoned and tortured, had his presidential predecessor executed by firing squad, helped himself to the state treasury at will. State radio recently declared him "like God." Teodoro Obiang might seem an unlikely candidate for warmer relations with Washington, except for one thing -- his tiny West African country's got a tremendous amount of oil.
[...] Obiang keeps state oil proceeds a secret, and critics accuse him and other top officials of funneling hundreds of millions of dollars of oil money into private accounts in foreign banks.
[...] "If you talk to anybody in Equatorial Guinea, they'll say, 'We don't have access to that oil wealth," said Marise Castro, a researcher at Amnesty International in London. The country is so poor that many of its people live off what fruit they can yank off trees and what meat they can kill in the forests. Commerce outside the capital is largely limited to hunters lining dirt roads, selling charred bush-meat on sticks."
Dick's Special Interest in $87 Billion - The Nation
John Nichols reports: "Cheney aides claim all the talk about the Vice President's ties to Halliburton are a "a political cheap shot." But as the details of Halliburton's sweetheart contract, its overcharging of the U.S. government and the ever expanding value of its contracts with the Pentagon are revealed, what Cheney aides call a "cheap shot" is starting to look like a smoking gun."
More U.S. Families Hungry or Too Poor to Eat, Study Says
WASHINGTON, Nov. 1 (AP) -- Despite the nation's struggle with obesity, the Agriculture Department says, more and more American families are hungry or unsure whether they can afford to buy food. About 12 million families last year worried that they did not have enough money for food, and 32 percent of them experienced someone's going hungry at one time or another [...] Some 34.6 million Americans were living in poverty last year, 1.7 million more than in 2001, according to the Census Bureau.
In the United States, 65 percent of adults and 13 percent of children are overweight, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Barbara Laraia, an associate professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said hunger and obesity could coexist because many hungry families buy high-calorie foods that are low in nutrients.
"They're dependent on foods that are going to make their bellies feel full, rather than on nutrients," Ms. Laraia said. "The diet is compromised." Many families will spend their incomes on fixed expenses before buying food. "Food is the most elastic part of the budget," Ms. Laraia said, "meaning that's what households will compromise on when they have fixed payments such as their rent and their utilities."
Ubu goes to Africa - The Guardian (Saturday August 9, 2003)
Alfred Jarry viciously satirised the grossness and greed of the French bourgeoisie. Nobel winner Wole Soyinka explains why his play is perfect for modern Zimbabwe [...]
"We have of course been here before, not once, not twice, but perennially, and each tyrant had his impeccable logic to floor all detractors. Mobutu Sese Seko, the couturier of leopard-skin machismo in his heydays, flung the cult of the African authenticité in the face of his opponents whenever he ran out of productive ideas - which was all the time. Every act of Mobutu was trumpeted as being undertaken in the cause of the restoration of the African past, of African condemned values, a contestation of the European negation of an African authentic being and the dignity of the black race. Virtually single-handedly however, Mobutu methodically looted his nation's resources, pauperised the inordinately endowed nation of Congo/Zaire, turned himself into a multi-billionaire with holdings in Switzerland and Belgium in a rampage that beggared even the insatiable rapacity of his erstwhile colonial master, King Leopold of Belgium, proprietor of the obscenely named Congo Free State."
James Joyce - Finnegans Wake (Book 1 Chapter 4)
"Toties testies quoties questies. The war is in words and the wood is the world. Maply me, willowy we, hickory he and yew yourselves. Howforhim chirrupeth evereach - bird! From golddawn glory to glowworm gleam."
A Finnegans Wake Gaarden - M
A reference guide to the allusions to plants and trees, apparent and supposed, in the Wake.
"Joyce promotes his tree fertility theme after declaring 'the war is in words and the wood is the world' by parodying a counting out rhyme."
Animal Farm by George Orwell
"Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend. And remember also that in fighting against Man, we must not come to resemble him. Even when you have conquered him, do not adopt his vices. No animal must ever live in a house, or sleep in a bed, or wear clothes, or drink alcohol, or smoke tobacco, or touch money, or engage in trade. All the habits of Man are evil. And, above all, no animal must ever tyrannize over his own kind. Weak or strong, clever or simple, we are all brothers. No animal must ever kill any other animal. All animals are equal.
And now, comrades, I will tell you about my dream of last night."
George Orwell - Animal Farm: A Fairy Story (Penguin, 1951, pages 11-12)
Orwell Alone, Patron Saint of Inconsistency
Writing in The New York Times on the 9 November 2003 Benjamin Schwarz states:
In pointing up the unspoken political and social assumptions behind cultural artifacts and works of literature, [George Orwell] practically invented what we now call ''cultural studies.''
George Orwell: Politics & the English Language
"In Burma the issue had been quite simple. The whites were up and the blacks were down, and therefore as a matter of course one's sympathy was with the blacks. I now realised that there was no need to go as far as Burma to find tyranny and exploitation. Here in England, down under one's feet, were the submerged working class, suffering miseries which in their different way were as bad as any an oriental ever knows. The word 'unemployment' was on everyone's lips. That was more or less new to me, after Burma, but the drivel which the middle classes were still talking ('These unemployed are all unemployables', etc. etc.) failed to deceive me. I often wonder whether that kind of stuff deceives even the fools who utter it. On the other hand I had at that time no interest in Socialism or any other economic theory. It seemed to me then - it sometimes seems to me now, for that matter - that economic injustice will stop the moment we want it to stop, and no sooner, and if we genuinely want it to stop the method adopted hardly matters."
George Orwell - The Road to Wigan Pier [originally published in 1937]
(Penguin, 2001, pages 138-139)
George Orwell: Politics & the English Language
"Orpheus recognized and glorified the Muse; in gratitude she lent him her own magical powers, so that he made trees dance -- "trees," in ancient Europe, being a widely-used metaphor of the poetic craft."
Robert Graves - Mammon and the Black Goddess (Cassell, 1965, page 159)
A Portrait of the Artist's Troubled Daughter
"She was the light giver, the "wonder wild," James Joyce wrote of his daughter, Lucia. She was what Joyce scholars call the "Rainbow girl" in his masterpiece, "Finnegans Wake," Issy the temptress, who magically breaks up into the colors of the rainbow. Lucia had a mind "as clear and as unsparing as the lightning," Joyce once wrote in a letter. "She is a fantastic being."
But for the most part Lucia has been a marginal figure in her father's biographies, a sad girl with a crooked eye who was rejected by Samuel Beckett, her boyfriend and her father's secretary, and who died in an asylum in 1982. But now a new book, "Lucia Joyce: To Dance in the Wake" (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), by Carol Loeb Shloss, a professor of English at Stanford University, argues that not only was Lucia an extraordinary artist in her own right, she was also central to the creation of "Finnegans Wake," perhaps more so than her mother, Nora, long seen as the main inspiration for the female characters.
"Lucia was a centrally important muse to Joyce, who inspired him and whom he depended upon," Ms. Shloss said in an interview. Their relationship "helped to change the course of modern literature," she said.
[...] Dinitia Smith's article in The New York Times on 22 November 2003 continues:
"In the early drafts you can find Joyce using names of Lucia's boyfriends," Ms. Shloss said. "We find Lucia's dance teachers sprinkled all through there. Once you see the creativity of the child, you see the father learning new things about the world through her. The very language of 'Finnegans Wake' " -- words in perpetual motion, Ms. Shloss said -- "is a reflection of Lucia's interest in dance."
James Joyce's Daughter, Scars and All
all my eggs are broken, all my dreams are stolen, I am adrift ....
crater fender on a ship of fools
Jan Svankmajer: Alchemist of the Surreal
Fresh out of Water:Message to the Fish
The Use & Abuse of Violence by James Bowman [via Dr. Weevil]
"G. K. Chesterton once pointed out the intellectual legerdemain involved in the prohibitionist case against "alcohol." Nobody, Chesterton observed, drinks "alcohol," and nobody wants to. People drink beer and wine and whisky and brandy and frozen daquiris and pina coladas. "Alcohol" is merely some chemist's fancy, an attempt to render uniform drinkers' diverse behavior by identifying a common ingredient in what they drink. This is not a trivial point. We may not understand why someone chooses to drink, but it is a step away from understanding to deny that he has made a choice at all and instead to buy the chemist's story about how a mythical monster called "alcohol" has enslaved him.
The same thing is true, mutatis mutandis, of "violence." The word is torn from its natural context and made to stand on its own as a new bugbear to haunt the liberal imagination. Who commits "violence" -- still less its evil twin "senseless violence"? The expression merely reinforces the implicit assumption of "violence" alone: namely that, like "alcohol," it is a ravening monster with a life of its own whose motivations are inscrutable. I think this monster is even more a chimera than "alcohol." People rob and assault and rape and kill each other not for the sake of the violence but for some other end. And sometimes, as in the case of self-defense, violent acts are justified."
George Orwell: Politics and the English Language
"Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks."
Charles Fort suggested: "... if there is an underlying oneness of all things, it does not matter where we begin, whether with stars, or laws of supply and demand, or frogs, or Napoleon Bonaparte. One measures a circle beginning anywhere."
Sartre Redux - Scott McLemee [via ALD]
"The creation of a world in which basic needs are met -- in which no one's freedom is subordinated to the "systemic violence" of dehumanizing privation -- is, for Sartre, the ultimate horizon of any meaningful notion of freedom."
JG Ballard: Prophet With Honour: SPIKE magazine
David B. Livingstone writes: Ballard views his years in the camps as a painful education in the barbarous capabilities of humankind. "I don't think you can go through the experience of war without one's perceptions of the world being forever changed. The reassuring stage set that everyday reality in the suburban west presents to us is torn down; you see the ragged scaffolding, and then you see the truth beyond that, and it can be a frightening experience. The war came, I spent three years in the camp, and I saw adults under stress, some of them giving way to stress, some recovering and showing steadfast courage. It was a great education; when you see the truth about human beings it's beneficial, but very challenging, and those lessons have stayed with me all my life."
Atalanta fugiens emblems 21 - 25
Letter from Marshall McLuhan to Ezra Pound (June 22, 1951)
"This is not set down in pique, nor extenuation. I am an intellectual thug who has been slowly accumulating a private arsenal with every intention of using it. In a mindless age every insight takes on the character of a lethal weapon. Every man of goodwill is the enemy of society. Lewis saw that years ago. His "America and Cosmic Man" was an H-bomb let off in the desert. Impact nil. We resent or ignore such intellectual bombs. We prefer to compose human beings into bombs and explode political and social entities. Much more fun. We want to get rid of people entirely. And it is necessary to admire the skill and thoroughness with which we have made our preparations to do this. I am not of the "we" party. I should prefer to de-fuse this gigantic human bomb by starting a dialogue somewhere on the side-lines to distract the trigger-men, or to needle the somnambulists. In London 1910 you faced various undesirable states of mind. Since then the word has been used to effect a universal hypnosis. How are words to be used to unweave the spell of print? Of radio commercials and "news"-casts? I'm working on that problem. The word is now the cheapest and most universal drug.
Consider the effect of modern machinery in imposing rhythm on human thought and feeling. Archaic man got inside the thing that terrified him - tiger, bear, wolf - and made it his totem god. To-day we get inside the machine. It is inside us. We in it. Fusion. Oblivion. Safety. Now the human machines are geared to smash one another. You can't shout warnings or encouragement to these machines. First there has to be a retracing process. A reduction of the machine to human form. Circe only turned men into swine. Our problem is tougher."
Letters of Marshall McLuhan (Oxford University Press, 1987, page 227)
Robert Hooke wrote: "The footsteps of Nature are to be trac'd, not only in her ordinary course, but when she seems to be put to her shifts, to make many doublings and turnings, and to use some kind of art in indeavouring to avoid our discovery."
posted by Andrew 11/23/2003 05:42:00 PM