Friday, April 16, 2004
We Are All Bruce Lee
"When the Urban Movement group from Mostar brought up the idea of building a statue of Bruce Lee in the center of the city, the nationalists were disturbed. [...] "Out of all the ethnic heroes and those who have a material interest in acting as victims, we have chosen Bruce Lee. Now they can rack their brains trying to decide whether he is Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim), Croat, or Serb," said Veselin Gatalo, one of the initiators of the idea."
On the dark side of history: Carlo Ginzburg talks to Trygve Riiser Gundersen
Carlo Ginzburg: "Every literary device - be it in a fictional or historical text - makes reality visible in its own way, conveys its vision of reality. Specific linguistic forms are related to specific forms of truth, one might say. There is a kind of formal constraint at work here -- every literary form forces us to discover one thing and ignore something else. The traditional narrative, for example, has its own innate limitations, it imposes a kind of sequential constraint: something has to come first, something else later. When I wrote The Cheese and the Worms I dreamed of writing the whole book on one gigantic page, so that I could escape this straitjacket. It was, of course, a ridiculous idea.
[...] There is something problematical about the unequivocal linking of our concept of history with the idea of remembrance, of memory. We tend to talk of history as being mankind's collective memory - but collective memory has more often than not functioned on premises of forgetfulness. In the creation of the modern nationalism or the twentieth century's major ideological movements, collective memory has mainly been effective in virtue of all it has left out: history has been transformed into a succession of symbolical and abstract quantities all harking back to our Glorious Past: revolution, war, class struggle, Germania, Marianne, the Unknown Warrior and so on and so forth. Even personal memory is by its very nature selective: we remember only what we have not forgotten. Remembrance is, so to speak, interwoven with forgetfulness. That is why the Jewish historian Yosef Yerushalmi has pointed out that the opposite of "forgetfulness" is not really "remembrance" but "justice". It was the concept of final historical justice that was at the root of the ancient idea of judgement, and I find it hard not to think that that is a more satisfactory model for genuine historical awareness than those we employ today.
But the idea of judgement must not be confused with that of retribution."
The dry eyes of deep grief
"In 1990 the sociologist Gillian Rose became a consultant for the Polish Commission for the Future of Auschwitz. From then until her death in 1995, she argued that the Holocaust was being narrated in such a way as to protect the present generation from the thought that they too might have something in common with the perpetrators. For Rose, the story of the Holocaust is typically told so as to place the audience alongside the victim. The crisis of glimpsing our own reflection in the face of the Nazi camp guard is a horror too far."
Richard Jackson - Poetry and answerability
"The bullet that I shot
at the time of the great war
made a circle around the globe
and struck me in the back."
Geoffrey Owen reviews In Defence of Globalization by Jagdish Bhagwati
"Whereas Stiglitz argued in his book that something had gone "horribly wrong" with globalisation (an outcome which he attributed to the extreme free-market ideology of successive US administrations), Bhagwati believes that the world is broadly on the right track, that capitalism is a system which can undermine privilege and open up opportunity for the many, and that the best way for poor countries to lift themselves out of poverty is to develop institutions and policies which facilitate their integration into the world economy."
The Battles of Richard Wolin
Richard Wolin: "When I was a student in Berkeley in 1980, Habermas, as a visiting professor, gave a series of lectures that were published as Theory of Communicative Action. He re-read the classics of modern social theory - Weber, Durkheim, and Parsons - to show dynamic potentials for social change within the lifeworld of late capitalism. These concrete analyses, in my opinion, far outstrip the capacity of the Messianic Marxists, like Benjamin and Bloch, to diagnose avenues of contemporary political intervention (i.e, new social movements). I still have a soft spot for the Situationists, but it has little to do with Debord's political theory, which merely recycles (a la detournement) ideas from Lukacs and council communism."
Cage's artless art by Michael Eldred
Morton Feldman: "Boulez wrote a letter to John Cage in 1951. There was a line in that letter I will never forget. "I must know everything in order to step off the carpet." And for what purpose did he want to step off the carpet? Only to realize the perennial Frenchman's dream ... to crown himself Emperor. Was it love of knowledge, love of music, that obsesses our distinguished young provincial in 1951? It was love of analysis - an analysis he will pursue and use as an instrument of power."
Fighting Words: Camus, Sartre, and the rift that helped define them
"In the unpublished essay "In Defense of The Rebel," Camus writes, "The primary task of our public life is to preserve the fragile chance for peace and, to that end, not to serve any of the forces of war in any way whatsoever. I confess that without peace I can see nothing but agony. With it, everything is possible, and the historical contradiction in which we live will be transcended -- with each adversary enriching the other, whereas today each reinforces the other."
Perhaps declining "to serve any of the forces of war in any way whatsoever" is an effort to get out of history. But if so, we should all get out more often."
Mark Lilla - The Lure of Syracuse
"We might as well accept the fact that there is no conventional military force that can successfully challenge the American war machine. Terrorist strikes only give the US Government an opportunity that it is eagerly awaiting to further tighten its stranglehold. Within days of an attack you can bet that Patriot II would be passed. To argue against US military aggression by saying that it will increase the possibilities of terrorist strikes is futile. It's like threatening Brer Rabbit that you'll throw him into the bramble bush. Anybody who has read the document called 'The Project for the New American Century' can attest to that. The government's suppression of the Congressional Committee Report on September 11th, which found that there was intelligence warning of the strikes that was ignored, also attests to the fact that, for all their posturing, the terrorists and the Bush regime might as well be working as a team. They both hold people responsible for the actions of their governments. They both believe in the doctrine of collective guilt and collective punishment. Their actions benefit each other greatly."
Arundhati Roy - The Ordinary Person's Guide to Empire
(Flamingo, 2004, page 129)
Socialism in an Age of Waiting : Defining socialism
"Whatever shame we must still feel about their manipulation and betrayal by the agents of Stalinism, and whatever misgivings we may also have about their comparative neglect of China or Ethiopia at that time, we can still feel proud of the International Brigades and of the solidarity campaigns that helped to create them. In Republican Spain and then in occupied Europe, socialists knew that their first duty was, as C. Day Lewis famously wrote, to "defend the bad against the worse".
Sixty years on, another democratic republic in Europe came under sustained attack from a "fifth column" covertly aided -- indeed, armed, funded and directed -- by an ultranationalist dictatorship. Yet when the democratically elected secular and multiethnic government of Bosnia-Herzegovina called for support, and the western powers once again imposed unevenly enforced and lethal sanctions, the overwhelming majority of the western left either stayed silent or, worse, offered sympathy and understanding to the Serbian regime ..."
Where are the War Poets?
It is the logic of our times,
No subject for immortal verse --
That we who lived by honest dreams
Defend the bad against the worse.
The Jihadi Who Kept Asking Why by Elizabeth Rubin
[...] Alone again in his prison cell, Mansour began to retrace the genesis of his religious odyssey. When his sister came to visit, he asked her to bring books on Sufism (a strain of Islamic mysticism considered heretical by the Wahhabis) and by authors of Western philosophy and history, like Will Durant and Thomas Carlyle. Mansour passed through an intellectual paradigm shift, reading books that based their arguments on historical research. ''Before, everything we learned was by ideology,'' he told me. Wahhabism does not believe in history except insofar as it illuminates God's plan. Like a pathologist, he conducted a dissection of his own thinking. He questioned two of the defining tenets of Wahhabism: ''loyalty and dissociation,'' or loving Muslims just like you and holding hatred in your heart for Jews, Christians and Muslims not like you; and takfir, the practice of accusing fellow Sunnis of apostasy, which is a crime punishable by death.
Once the doubt crept in, it took on a logic of its own, spiraling through every stage of his life: if Salafism was flawed, then Wahhabism was flawed, and then so, too, were Islamic history and all the assumptions he had made about the universe. He couldn't stop.
As Adel al-Toraifi, Mansour's close friend explained, Mansour didn't change because he wanted music and wine and women. ''There is no politics in Mansour,'' he said. ''He didn't change because he found a new ideology. He changed from thinking deep inside Islam.''
The Public Life of Private Struggles by Mariane Pearl
I do not for a moment imagine that Danny has been in a car accident, or been robbed and left by the side of the road. I know he has been captured by Islamic militants. I know this. I know in my heart that he has been kidnapped by men who have kidnapped their own god, by which I mean men who have twisted the concept of jihad, of holy war, into something warped and wrong.
Numerous Muslims have described jihad to Danny and me as the most courageous process a person can undertake. A jihadi fights with himself to overcome his own limitations in order to contribute to society at large. This slow and difficult battle, the true jihad, is what Buddhists call "the human revolution."
Mariane Pearl - A Mighty Heart (Virago Press, 2003, page 51)
A scruffy fighting place by Richard Covington
[...] In his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize, Heaney evoked the image of a bombed bus with a dying Protestant man reaching out to shake the hand of a Catholic. "It is a fragile gesture, far from having the same impact as a shot, but it symbolizes the power of art," he observed. "The mission of art, of poetry, is not to make peace. Art is peace."
What They Said....
"We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric; but out of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry."
John F. Callahan on F. Scott Fitzgerald's evolving American Dream
"Fitzgerald embodied in his tissues and nervous system the fluid polarities of American experience: success and failure, illusion and disillusion, dream and nightmare."
Tina Rosenberg: What the World Needs Now Is DDT [vide MassiveEffort.org]
"DDT killed bald eagles because of its persistence in the environment. ''Silent Spring'' is now killing African children because of its persistence in the public mind."
Wired 3.05: The Age of Paine (May 1995)
"Paine's life and the birth of the American press prove that information media, taken together, were never meant, collectively, to be just another industry. Information wants to be free. That was the familiar and inspiring moral imperative behind the medium imagined by Paine and Thomas Jefferson. Media existed to spread ideas, to allow fearless argument, to challenge and question authority, to set a common social agenda.
Asked about the reasons for new media, Paine would have answered in a flash: to advance human rights, spread democracy, ease suffering, pester government. Modern journalists would have a much rougher time with the question. There is no longer widespread consensus, among practitioners or consumers, about journalism's practices and its goals.
Of course, the ferociously spirited press of the late 1700s that Paine helped invent differed from the institution we know today. It was dominated by individuals expressing their opinions. The idea that ordinary citizens with no special resources, expertise, or political power - like Paine himself - could sound off, reach wide audiences, even spark revolutions, was brand-new to the world. In Paine's wake, writes Gordon Wood in The Radicalism of the American Revolution, "every conceivable form of printed matter - books, pamphlets, handbills, posters, broadsides, and especially newspapers - multiplied and were now written and read by many more ordinary people than ever before in history."
Never skilled in business, Paine failed to foresee how fragile and easily overwhelmed these values and forms of expression would be when they collided with free-market economics. The rotary press and other printing technologies that later made it possible to mass-market newspapers also led publishers to make newspapers tamer and more moderate so their many new customers wouldn't be offended. Big, expensive printing presses churning out thousands of copies meant opinionated private citizens like Paine could no longer afford to own or have direct access to media, and journalism couldn't afford to give voice to opinionated private citizens.
Paine once warned a Philadelphia newspaper editor about the distinction between editorial power and the freedom of the press. It was a caution neither the editor nor his increasingly wealthy and powerful successors took to heart: "If the freedom of the press is to be determined by the judgment of the printer of a Newspaper in preference to that of the people, who when they read will judge for themselves, then freedom is on a very sandy foundation."
So it is. Paine's worst fear was echoed more than 150 years later by critic A.J. Liebling, who wryly observed: "In America, freedom of the press is largely reserved for those who own one." Almost everyone else has been shut out. But media history is being reversed. With computers and modems, individuals are pouring back in."
James Joyce - 46.12
Harry Levin: "From two Italian philosophers, from Giambattista Vico's cyclical theory of history and Giordano Bruno's dialectical concept of nature, Joyce learned how to reconcile the principles of unity and diversity: "the same anew."
A phrase from his notebooks, "centripetal writing," seems to indicate his direction."
HERMENAUT: The Club Havana Secret History of Cinema: 1939
"Our choice is not between struggle and rest. It is one between struggle and struggle. And is the struggle of trust and love and hope not better than the struggle of fear and hatred and despair?"
Ronald Segal - The Struggle Against History (Pelican, 1974, page 206)
Ousted possibilities: critical histories in James Joyce's Ulysses
"[...] Joyce's struggle against history (which is, more precisely, a struggle against the master narratives of history which determine social conventions of all kinds) is not a rejection of history per se but rather an agonistic relation with history whenever it functions as a monological, authoritarian legitimation of social power."
A Missile is a Missile is a Missile: A Semiological Analysis of Some Aspects of the Cuban Missile Crisis by Servando Gonzalez (2000)
As Umberto Eco rightly points out, "Man is an animal who tells lies."
The Contract of (Un)Truth - Documentary and Fiction by Kees Bakker
Wolfgang Iser: "The wandering viewpoint is a means of describing the way in which the reader is present in the text."
The write way to read by Janadas Devan (The Straits Times 7 March 2004)
"When medieval scribes copied texts on sheets, they would place marks at various points on the sheet to guide its folding and binding. Each gathering of the folded paper was thus called a signature. The scribes read the text; copied them out; made each copy individual, special; and called the gathering of each folding a signature. The entire process seemed directed at making what wasn't one's own, one's own."
The Pinocchio Theory: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
"So the narrative is scrambled; and it changes before our eyes, since truth is always a function of -- always subject to -- the vagaries of memory and desire. It's not that it's hard to follow: Kaufman isn't interested in luring us into trying to solve a puzzle, the way Christopher Nolan does in Memento. Much more interestingly, the non-linearity of Eternal Sunshine allows Kaufman to link memories (plot events) associatively, like music, developing themes, repeating with variations, changing the feel of a scene by undermining and altering its context. This, together with Gondry's quicksilver direction (continually varying mood through subtle visual and musical cues, plays of color and sound) is what makes the film so engaging and enthralling. Gondry uses a lot of technical tricks from his music videos, especially various sorts of visual composting ..."
Memory bottleneck limits intelligence [via Slashdot]
Single spot in brain determines size of visual scratch pad
Forget Me Not - The genius of Charlie Kaufman's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
David Edelstein: "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is like a topsy-turvy Orpheus and Eurydice, in which the hero must look back -- and back and back -- or his beloved will be lost forever.
The legendary music-video director Michel Gondry and his cinematographer, Ellen Kuras, get to strut their stuff in these sequences: Their style is glancing and (literally) vaporous. In farce, the hero runs in and out of doors; here, he runs in and out of doors of perception -- in and out of blurs. Joel flees with his mental Clementine to places in his life that he hasn't supplied to his memory erasers -- places where she couldn't have been, like his kitchen when he was 4 years old and curled up under a kitchen table staring at a baby sitter in a short dress and white boots (now impersonated by Clementine), or the time when some bullies made him smash a dead bird with a hammer. These are wildly funny scenes -- but they're scary, too, and surreal, like little body-snatcher movies. The technicians are flabbergasted. They say he's "off the map," and they hunt around his brain for his new whereabouts. And as they erase Joel's synaptic hiding places, the house of his childhood ages and crumbles before our eyes, fences blow away, faces dissolve into rubbery blanks, passersby disappear."
Charlie Kaufman's Critique of Pure Comedy
posted by Andrew 4/16/2004 06:54:00 PM