A balance of faculties

John Williams
The Broken Landscape>
"Bookplate">

What brain has wrought
Tongue cannot show
Nor what tongue meant
Brain fully know.
The poem continues but these first four lines make a fine epigram.

And so for day 2133
23.10.2012

on parting from the party

Sometimes an atheist can be holier than thou...

AN AFFECTATION IN PARTING. He who wishes to sever his connection with a party or a creed thinks it necessary for him to refute it. This is a most arrogant notion. The only thing necessary is that he should clearly see what tentacles hitherto held him to this party or creed and no longer hold him, what views impelled him to it and now impel him in some other directions. We have not joined the party or creed on strict grounds of knowledge. We should not affect this attitude on parting from it either.

Friedrich Nietzsche
Human, All-Too-Human
Disengage becomes a work of in/difference.

And so for day 2132
22.10.2012

Praising the Damned

Tying freedom and privacy is an exhilaration that masks a fear.

If, as Freud remarks, the child's first successful lie against the parents is his first moment of independence — the moment when he proves to himself that his parents cannot read his mind, and so are not omniscient deities — then it is also the first moment in which he recognizes his abandonment. The privacy of possibility has opened up for him. If you get away with something — though, as we shall also see, it rather depends on what it is — you have done well and you have done badly. You are released but you are also unprotected. You have, at least provisionally, freed yourself from something, but then you have to deal with your new-found freedom. The ambiguity of the phrase is partly to do with the odd picture of freedom it contains. An exhilaration masks a fear.

Adam Phillips. Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life.
This for me serves as a comforting (though daunting) backdrop to a story by Michael Harris (author of Solitude: A Singular Life in a Crowded World and The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We've Lost in an Age of Constant Connection) in the Globe and Mail. The story is headlined: "Damning with praise" and subheaded: "A radical uptick in social-media use has produced an economy of accolades into which all users are drawn. Today, we are all performers and we all have to decide: Will I read the reviews?"
[Y]ou're letting those people control what you think about yourself. That's dangerous for a bunch of obvious reasons. But the harshest — the really toxic reason — is that, once you've been pumped up by the praise of others, you can be squashed by their criticism. If you were buoyed by the kudos, you'll be sunk by boos.
I am convinced that the negative valence is underwritten by the fear of exposure as outlined above by Phillips. Even if not a single critical statement is made, there is a certain anxiety. Consider the definition of social anxiety given by Ellen Hendrikson in an interview in The Guardian:
Social anxiety is often thought of as a fear of judgment or a fear of people, but that’s not accurate. Social anxiety is a perception that there is something embarrassing or deficient about us and that unless we work hard to conceal or hide it, it will be revealed and then we’ll be judged or rejected as a result.

For instance, we might have the perception that we are boring, awkward or have nothing to say, or any one of a million perceived flaws. We might avoid parties for these reasons, but we might also avoid them covertly by going to the party and only talking to the friend we arrived with, by scrolling through our smartphones or standing on the edge of groups.

So the root of social anxiety is fear of this reveal, and it is grown and maintained by avoidance.
Can we rally to a call for an economy of intrinsics? Cultivate an indifference without being indifferent?

And so for day 2131
21.10.2012

Claim and Less

Tim Cestnick writing in The Globe and Mail provides us with a found poem. The list has enormous poetic potential (imagine for example the mere recitation of names (from an old-fashioned telephone book) — very Homeric). And this list culled from an entry about medically expenses (not) eligible for tax purposes bring us into the ambit of the body in its vulnerability.

Medical expenses. The problem here is that, while the list of eligible medical expenses is growing slowly, there’s still much that can’t be claimed – and people push the boundaries. You can’t claim the costs of practitioners not recognized by your applicable provincial authority. Nor can you claim vitamins, natural supplements or over-the-counter medications, recliners, non-hospital beds and certain supplies such as rubbing alcohol, bandages and shoe inserts.
See what happens with some lineation:
  • vitamins
  • natural supplements
  • over-the-counter medications
  • recliners
  • non-hospital beds
  • certain supplies
    • rubbing alcohol
    • bandages
    • shoe inserts
The jumble remains a jumble. But the sub-list takes on the impression of a tour of the drug store for the supplies that help the hapless suffer through the quotidian. The list is leached of its specialness. It's elements are common. Difficult to justify which as Cestnick writes is the problem here. The lasting impression is of the mock-heroic.

And so for day 2130
20.10.2012

Habit & Taste

I like how these opening words draw an analogy between cooking and writing and how that analogy is cemented by the recourse to habit.

Cooking is not about just joining the dots, following one recipe slavishly and then moving on to the next. It's about developing an understanding of food, a sense of assurance in the kitchen, about the simple desire to make yourself something to eat. And in cooking, as in writing, you must please your self to please others. Strangely it can take enormous confidence to trust your own palate, follow your own instincts. Without habit, which is itself is just trial and error, this can be harder than following the most elaborate of recipes. But it's what works, what's important.
Nigella Lawson, preface to How to Eat: The Pleasures and Principles of Good Food.

And so for day 2129
19.10.2012

Woman Wins Praise

Joanna Trollope. The Book Boy.

Marianne at Good Reads remarks on the style and muses as to its purpose.

This novella is written in a very simplistic style: the reader might wonder if Trollope has actually written it for adults who are learning to read.
It just so happens that The Book Boy is published in the Quick Reads series which Wikipedia informs us are designed with a specific reader in mind:
Quick Reads are a series of short books by bestselling authors and celebrities. With no more than 128 pages, they are designed to encourage adults who do not read often, or find reading difficult, to discover the joy of books.
Alice, the protagonist of The Book Boy can't read and her story ends with the quietly noticed but quite remarkable triumph — she does learn to read and the book ends with a newspaper headline that is read and resonates with the plot: Woman Wins Prize. And she does so with the uncanny assistance of an adjuvant (to borrow a term of art from Greimas drawing on Propp): it is the lame Ram Chandra who observes that the boy, Scott, wants what Alice wants, that is freedom and true freedom is though unstated in the book grounded in a liberty of expression that is the ability to express:
"You don't know his home life," Ram said. "He can't say. He doesn't know how to say. He only knows how to act." He looked at Alice. "He can't say. Just like you can't read." He smiled. "That's why he picked on you."
The "opposant" becomes an "adjuvant" and saying comes via acting.

And so for day 2128
18.10.2012

Torque Variations and Matrix Manipulations

DWR first found these and tethered I keep reeling...

Tautened
Tongue
Tension
Taunted
Tongue
Tension
(Tautened
Tongue)
Tension
Tautened
(Tongue
Tension)
And so for day 2127
17.10.2012

Singular Praise of Reduplication

Nietzche from Human All Too Human

It is an excellent thing to express a thing consecutively in two ways, and thus provide it with a right and a left foot. Truth can stand indeed on one leg, but with two she will walk and complete her journey.
Does Truth ever crawl?

And so for day 2126
16.10.2012

Read My Lips: Affirmations

The Very Best of Jimmy Somerville - Bronski Beat and the Communards
The liner notes begin with the following comparisons:

The first two singles by Bronski Beat, Jimmy Somerville's first band, were "Smalltown Boy" and "Why?". They are the gay equivalent of the Sex Pistols' "Anarchy in the UK" and "God Save the Queen".
Remarks published in 2001 and still resonant.

And so for day 2125
15.10.2012

Grammar All Over the Body

David Wojnarowicz
Memories That Smell Like Gasoline
San Francisco: Artspace Books, 1992

and I realize he's one of those guys that you know absolutely that
if you'd met him twenty years earlier you both could have gone
straight to heaven but now mortality has finally marked his face. He
was really sexy though; he was like a vast swimming pool I wanted
to dive right into.
Intrigued by how this meditation surfaces to arrest and fix the reader in the midst of a description of hot sex — it's the tenses — we bring to mind in the present an experience to examine and then climb out of the past into the possibility of the conditional and then into the present touched by death through a perfect indicative which doesn't delay us from a plunge right into an infinitive

And so for day 2124
12.10.2012