Category: Drive-by Crit

through less short passages of time

The Minotaur 1885 by George Frederic Watts 1817-1904There are days when passing through London feels like an immense, patient, intricate unwinding of the thread through the labyrinth laid down — without much forethought — years before. I’ve lived here 31 years: there’s a bus strike, I’m going to be walking down roads and clocking buildings I haven’t thought about for decades. More to say one day about this feeling as it applies to my mum, my dad and the town of my birth, but one way and another yesterday was a good day to be casting my mind back.

fairytale procedural: smiley unleashes the wrecking ball

Robin Carmody messaged me on FB to say he’d just been reading my le carré rereads on ilx, and enjoyed and agreed with them. Since one of my projects here is I guess to begin to centralise my boringly dispersed and rhizomatic self, I thought I’d link them here. This is the original, inset in a longer ilx thread: liveblogging Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. This is the same excerpted at FT (i.e. all the rest of the entertaining ilx chatter cut away). This was intended as a liveblog of a reread of Smiley’s People, except things ran away with themselves and I ended up just posting some thoughts (on an ilx thread no one else ever contributed to).


Over at Popular, Tom’s reached 1997 and Elton and Lady Di — his essay is of course excellent, and so are many of the (currently) 120+responses, especially Phil Sandifer’s, which is all about Blake and a haunted political unconcious. I’ve been superbusy all week, so my (very late, very long) comment is way down the pack; so I’m reposting it here also. Continue reading

“He blows up an electronic brain”

The Godard Film Generator: electronic brain 1, jeanluc g 0.

(Via Geeta D on twitter, see you soon d00d)

ps apologies for non-presence here, i’ve been writing writing writing all summer: some blogging turned into an idea for a book, a chapter of which has escaped and all on its own turned back into a (book-length) blogpost… MORE SOON I THINK

arma virumque

So I was toying with what I suppose has turned into a kind of riddle, along the following lines:

i: you embrace it — and build yr worldview round the fact of the embrace — bcz you believe it will deliver us from bother
ii: But then the bother arrives anyway, and is itself primarily fashioned around this fact of yr embrace
iii: And if you ever think to reach for it, to dispel this bother, you well know you simply affirm the logic of your foes and redouble their will to bother you…
iv: … which is the very model of an enraging positive-feedback pickle.

When I began, “it” was something like the “right to carry” or “gun culture”, and I was niggling idly away at the sheer baffling venom of the discussion in the US [edit: baffling as seen from anywhere else]. Except gradually it struck me that plenty of other “its” somewhat fit this bill: for example, “critical theory” engenders similarly over-reactive defensiveness when fingered as a symptom, as indeed does “rationalism”. But I don’t think the wars that bubble up out of such self-arming and the reactions against it are — at least straightforwardly — proxies for class politics as we ordinarily understand it (or indeed for religious or “philosophical” conflicts as we’d loosely sketch them).


I guess I actually quite like it that Aaron Bady reps for Corey Robin when (a) Bady’s much better at the things Robin is supposed to be good at than Robin is, and
(b) Bady’s much MUCH better
at the things Robin is rubbish
at. Maybe he doesn’t know
(I know Robin doesn’t know).

model this

“Wittgenstein was insisting that a proposition and that which it describes must have the same ‘logical form’, the same ‘logical multiplicity’. Sraffa made a gesture, familiar to Neapolitans as meaning something like disgust or contempt, of brushing the underneath of his chin with an outward sweep of the finger-tips of one hand. And he asked: ‘What is the logical form of that?'”
(Norman Malcolm, Ludwig Wittgenstein: A Memoir, pp. 58–59)

Faintly recall from student days long ago that N.Malcolm was hard work and unrewarding as a philosopher (trans.: I was a confused and unsatisfactory philosophy student, far as Anglo-Am Analytical etc goes). But this is a good story, and — whether or not LW drew the correct conclusions at length — Sraffa’s intervention was strong, and Wittgenstein was right to be impressed and unsettled. I’m tempted to argue that music — all music, from Blobby to Boulez — is making much the same gesture to all other intellectual activity: here’s something you can’t do. That might be too strong — other things are always going on in music (including rapprochement, or attempts at same), and of course the various forces and layers never aggregate to a single decisive intent or content anyway — but it’s definitely an element I value in music, and don’t see well grasped in its discussion.

what they do is who they are

“It’s hard,” writes Thomas Harris somewhere of Starling and Lecter, “to accept that someone can understand you without wishing you well.” Life’s too slippery for books, Clarice; anger appears as lust, lupus presents as hives.

I wrote something in July about political grifters, left and right: an argument (over-compressed, over-allusive) that their adept way with words — their subtle deployment, and indeed understanding, of the elaborate shibboleths of the tribe — is by no means necessarily the conclusive tell for their motivation. The heart of a good con is that you’re hearing what you very much want to hear: the conman may or may not at some level also believe it himself (and please to note: they are by no means all men). The sentence “I love you” is not on its own proof that the speaker loves you (this powerful argument is Seth’s, by the way). Karl Rove and the Super-PAC American Crossroads; the people who built ORCA for Romney… what did these projects seem to say but “I love you” to those whose money they took, in such eye-wateringly large amounts?

This species of con is BY NO MEANS restricted to the moneyed right: though I think the equivalent on the left perhaps feeds more on moral-intellectual authority and celebrity and glamour than actual cash. (Though some of them do like cash.)