His near stammering. With disconcerting promptness one word hid behind another. -- Maurice Blanchot, Le Dernier Homme Contact me: red3ad (at) yahoo (dot) com


I dreamt that saw clouds in my coffee 

I did go see Floating Clouds last night. Melodrama, removed by an ocean and half a century, is so much more palatable. Still, after 2 hours or so of poverty, bad decisions, worse luck, philandering lovers, abortion, hunger, and tuberculosis, I was ready to shout WOULD YOU JUST FUCKING DIE ALREADY! I sincerely doubt many of my fellow theater-goers would find that amusing. Or maybe not. I guess you just had to be there. But really quite fine, and a nice winding down to a somewhat irritating day. Hideko Takamine was exquisite. And that's not a word I use often.
Rented Hou Hsiao-Hsien's Cafe Lumiere afterward, just to watch the beginning before going to sleep. I cannot express how deceptively simple and beautiful a thing it is -- and not in some rarified way. Just life, beautiful and bittersweet as it can be. Right there... (In Tokyo, alas).
It is my Friday night. The weekend does begin around here. Now. At the library. Good night.



Bored, doing a google image search, I found the above still from a favorite scene from In Praise of Love, wch you shd know by now is my favorite movie, roughly five days out of seven. (Maybe four, who's counting?) The site I found it on has posted a pretty good review of Michael Haneke's Caché, wch I've written about before. There's also an interesting post at The Pinocchio Theory, as well an accurate bit about Time of the Wolf -- though I disagree in that I find Time of the Wolf to be more optimistic.


Previous post has all the hallmarks of whinging self-indulgence that should be filed, were this weblog to have indices, under "personal."
For "personal," read "trash can."

the end of history 

Not sure about that; after all, I have to work tomorrow. But how about an end to Sundays? I'm AT work right now, actually: I spend my Sundays behind the desk of a used book store. It's truly amazing how merely sitting behind a desk can be so benumbing. I shrug my shoulders, wch I seem to be doing a lot these days. It's cold. It's February. Go figure. Floating Clouds is showing tonight -- the last of the Mikio Naruse series. Somehow I feel I should be more enthused. I could say that a lot, I suppose. And I suppose I am enthused a lot, too. But not right now.


wonderful times 

Finished Wonderful Wonderful Times this morning, and I'm wondering if I should re-write my earlier post, or howto do so. How the finishing of a book is an entirely different experience than the reading of it. "Of" being the operative word, a preposition, a word used to designate relations between things.
It's a cold, grey morning, & crusts of the other night's snowfall remain in the shadows and hollows. The streets are dry and it's very unspringlike, reminiscent of a day, nineteen or twenty years ago, when a friend and I drove to Cleveland to see Fassbinder's Why Does Herr R. Run Amok? It must have been 1987: N. was living in Austria then; Kurt Waldheim was Secretary General of the UN; Die Ausgesperrten -- the book's German title, wch a popular web translator tells me means "The Lockout" -- had been in print for about seven years at that point, published approximately three years after members of the Red Army Faction, or "Baader-Meinhof Group," had been (almost certainly) murdered by the state in West Germany's Stammheim prison. These associations may be entirely personal and related to the book only by the fact of my reading it. I'll just look outside, pause, and mutter "wonderful times indeed."
One can't really call something "shocking" when it's expected; if one does, despite or in spite of one's better judgement, or one, perhaps purely accidentally, fails to avert one's eyes from the scene of an accident, one may well be repulsed. The shock registers, is recognized, and... dispensed with? And the book: to be re-shelved, re read at some future date? Like Ahl-behr bloody Camus?


Light, or uneasy sleep?-- and then, about 2:30am, a single, astonishingly loud explosion of thunder. I stared at the ceiling for a few minutes, thinking of one of Badiou's remarks last night, an answer to one of the last questions (I paraphrase): "It is always better to fight for the word. 'Communism' is a word completely dead because of the Soviet Union. 'Democracy' is a word completely dead because of the United States. Fight for the good words."
I had a headache and went home; watched the beginning of Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Pulse and fell asleep, until the aforementioned stroke of thunder.
Ten minutes later, it's a practical white-out with snow; the streets are covered.
Despite the new bookshelves, a volume of Anna Akhmatova (You Will Hear Thunder) is lying on the floor. It's fairly atypical of my books; perhaps that's why it's on the floor. Its title poem reads as follows:

"You will hear thunder and remember me
And think: she wanted storms. The rim
Of the sky will be the colour of hard crimson,
And your heart, as it was then, will be on fire.

That day in Moscow, it will all come true,
When, for the last time, I take my leave,
And hasten to the heights that I have longed for,
Leaving my shadow still to be with you."

3 a.m. ("Past two o'clock," Mayakovsky wrote) and the snow's tapered off, the street, roof, and parked cars covered in white. Not a single car has driven past, and the shadows of the wires line the streets. And now that I wrote that line, a car passes, slowly, as if to prove that others exist, and I watch its tail lights move through my field of vision. "We can begin," began Badiou, "with a contradiction."


Badiou’s Desire 

Because he’s speaking tomorrow and once upon a time I had the good habit of transcribing passages by hand to know them better; also because I woke up this morning and felt like doing some sort of desk-work and found myself utterly bereft of coherent thought, I decided to transcribe some passages from Alain Badiou. Cheers!

“[I]f the category of truth is ignored, if we never confront anything but the polyvalence of meaning, then philosophy will never assume the challenge that is put to it by a world subordinated to the merchandising of money and information. This world is in an anarchy of more or less regulated, more or less coded fluxes, wherein money, products and images are exchanged. If philosophy is to sustain its desire in such a world, it must propose a principle of interruption. It must be able to propose to thought something that can interrupt this endless regime of circulation. Philosophy must examine the possibility of a point of interruption -- not because all this can be interrupted -- but because thought must at least be able to extract itself from this circulation and take possession of itself once again as something other than an object of circulation. It is obvious that such a point of interruption can only be an unconditional requirement; that is, something which is submitted to thought with no other condition than itself and which is neither exchangeable nor capable of being put into circulation. That there be such a point of interruption, that there be at least one unconditional requirement, is, in my opinion, a condition sine qua non for the existence of philosophy. In the absence of such a point, all there is is the general circulation of knowledge, information, money and images. In my opinion, this unconditional requirement cannot be solely supported by the proposition of the polyvalence of meaning. It also needs the reconstruction or re-emergence of the category of truth.

We are subjected to the media’s inconsistency of images and commentaries. What can be opposed to this? I do not think that anything can be opposed to it except the patient search for at least one truth, and perhaps several; without which the essential illogicism of mass communication will impose its temporal carnival.

Philosophy also requires that we throw the dice against the obsession for security, that we interrupt the calculus of life determined by security. But what chance has philosophy of winning, except in the name of a value that would ordain this risk and give to a minimum of consistency and weight? Here again I believe it is vain to imagine that in the absence of a principle of truth, one can oppose an existential gamble to the calculus of life, a gamble that could give rise to something that could be called liberty.

Given the axioms of contemporary philosophy, can the desire for philosophy be maintained in the world such as it is? Can we maintain the four dimensions of revolt, logic, universality and risk against the four contemporary obstacles: merchandise, communication, technical division and the obsession with security?

I submit that this cannot be done within the framework of the hermeneutic, analytic, or postmodern orientation of philosophy. In my opinion these orientations are too strongly committed to the polyvalence of meaning and the plurality of languages. There is something in them that goes too far in reflecting the physiognomy of the world itself. They are too compatible with our world to be able to sustain the rupture or the distance that requires.

[...] Our world is marked by its speed: the speed of historical change; the speed of technical change; the speed of communications; of transmissions; and even the speed with which human beings establish connections with one another. This speed exposes us to the danger of a very great incoherency. It is because things, images and relations circulate so quickly that we do not have time to even measure the extent of this incoherency. Philosophy must propose a retardation process. It must construct a time for thought, which, in the face of the injunction to speed, will constitute a time of its own. I consider this a singularity of philosophy; that its thinking is leisurely, because today revolt requires leisureliness and not speed. This thinking, slow and consequently rebellious, is alone capable of establishing the fixed point, whatever it may be, whatever its name may be, which we need in order to sustain the desire of philosophy.

At base, it is a question of philosophically reconstructing, with a slowness which will insulate us from the speed of the world, the category of truth -- not as it is passed down to us by metaphysics, but rather as we are able to reconstitute it, taking into consideration the world as it is. It is a question of reorganizing philosophy around this reconstruction and giving it the time and space that are proper to it. This supposes that philosophy will no longer be in pursuit of of the world, that it will stop trying to be as rapid as the world, because by wanting to be as rapid, philosophy dissolves itself at the very heart of its desire, no longer being in a state to maintain its revolt, to reconstitute its logic. to know what a universal address is, or to take a chance and liberate existence.

[...T]he world itself, despite all the negative pressures it exerts on the desire of philosophy, the world, that is the people who live in it and think in it, this world, is asking something of philosophy. Yet philosophy is too morose to respond due to the morbidity of its own vision of itself.... Philosophy is required to ensure that thought can receive and accept the drama of the event without anxiety. We need a philosophy open to the irreducible singularity of what happens, a philosophy that can be fed and nourished by the surprise of the unexpected. Such a philosophy would then be a philosophy of the event. This too is required of philosophy by the world, the world as it is. [...]

I am convinced, and this is the reason for my optimism, that the world needs philosophy more than philosophy thinks. Philosophy is ill, it might be dying, but I am sure that the world (the world, neither a God nor a prophet, but the world) is saying to philosophy: ‘Get up and walk!’”

-- Alain Badiou

“The Desire of Philosophy and the Contemporary World” ~ reprinted as “Philosophy and Desire” in Infinite Thought (Continuum Books, 2004) pp. 39 -57

I find his optimism refreshing; I also very much like his remarks on the slowness of thought. Of course, you can use your computer with its speeedy DSL connection to read what P. Inman, a poet and not a philosopher, has to offer on the subject of slow writing; something I’ve pointed to before and will, no doubt, refer to again.


Residue and Complicity 

In writing about Michael Haneke, I used the word “objective.” Reading Elfriede Jelinek, I think “analytical.” It’s precise, it examines its subjects from various points of view with a sometimes distracted, though clear, accounting. The digressions, the occasional baring of artifice disrupts the surface just enough -- one isn’t carried away on the flow of a voice as in Thomas Bernard, say. There’s a certain coldness, almost deadness of tone; it’s very post war: cold rooms, stale coffee, the aftertaste of cheap tobacco, stained shirts, crumbs and dried blood. Not bitterness, but the dull aftertaste of bitterness. Residual.

Not that one can trust a jacket blurb, but I’m lazy and won’t write a proper summary. From the back cover of Wonderful, Wonderful Times: “It is the late 1950s. A man is out walking in a park in Vienna. He will be beaten up by four teenagers, not for his money or anything he may have done to them, but because the youths are arrogant and very pleased with themselves. Their arrogance is a way of reacting to the decaying corpse that is Austria, where everyone has a closet in which to hide their Nazi histories, their sexual perversions, and their hatred of the foreigner.” [I might add that a national love of the work of Gustav Klimt may have something to do with it].

Reading Wonderful Wonderful Times I can’t think but of a sense of complicity the writing provokes. Of course, “one” writes “of course, “one” [the reader] constructs meaning: this is the first and unavoidable sense of complicity in any work. It develops further, goes deeper when you use your own imagination and draw your own conclusions, wch extends the work. But in Jelinek, for example, you witness and thereby participate, albeit passively, in the commission of crimes; more so by letting the characters capture your imagine, or surrendering it to them. Yes, you can relate to the students -- you were one once, you sat in cafés, you fancied yourself a nihilist. It’s possible such acts, such thoughts or sentiments, certainly, weren’t beyond you. None of the characters is likable, or particularly attractive [“neither were you,” the reader thinks] - but you can relate, in some small way. Reading Wonderful Wonderful Times gives you pleasure. And thus you are guilty.


there’s a bankruptcy joke waiting to happen in the post below

"the black debt" 

-- Hegel's term for writing, acccording to Steve McCaffery.



I will offer no analysis of Michael Haneke's Caché here, for reasons that will be made apparent, or that you understand if you've seen it. In lieu of a review, I will make two or three general observations about Haneke as I see him and the movie itself.
An interesting thing about the movie is that it's provoked discussion with everyone I know who's seen it; I came home last night to find a message on my machine saying "I just saw Caché and I want to talk about it with you." Over the past two weeks, I've also seen Haneke's Time of the Wolf and The Piano Teacher; it's possible that I'm under the influence of a cin-aesthetic crush, but I honestly doubt it. Haneke's movies have a certain bracing, dare I say "objective" quality: lengthy takes; medium distance shots and relatively few close-ups; and frames that are composed with an understated, quiet perfection that rarely proffers the candied or studied charm of "beautiful cinema." The quiet build-up, the sustain and sequencing of often straightfoward scenes, the absence of non-diegetic music and a restrained tonal palette; the abrupt shift from dark to light or the punctum of a sudden dramatic movement and the binding tension that ensues -- everything points to a director who is in absolute control of his medium; so much that he takes care not to make a show of it.
What's particlularly striking about Caché, and why I refuse to write about in detail for fear of giving anything away, is that I think it a rare work in the manner in which the scenes are presented and the narrative is delivered. In the process of viewing, Haneke teaches you how to watch the film: the movie offers itself on its own terms. Perhaps, to employ a dubious simile, in the way that Thomas Bernhard's "rolling prose" or the repetition and variation of Blanchot and Pinget teach you how to read their books in a slightly different way than others. In Caché, things are cached, hidden, hinted at and revealed; this hiding includes the apparatus of the film. I hope I'm not making extravagant claims or drawing overmuch attention here to the movie on the level of construct at the expense of its thematic implications, plot, or quality of performances.
By all means, see it, and pay close attention at the end; there's one detail in the final scene that will give you a different level of resolution & meaning if you catch it. Interestingly enough, those who've missed it have found the movie fascinating and intriguing all the same; there's a sort of openness & tapering off towards the end -- it doesn't hand you closure either way you see it. There's more at stake than simple narrative.
Summing up several pages of coments written after seeing it the other night, I felt I had to conclude as I do now: "I could be entirely wrong."


between the ides and the nones 

[see calend, posted below]
Today, sun. And crocusses. Purple ones.
only notes, I think, here. Informal exercises. A way of testing out a voice, or a phrase. Like practicing an instrument. I used to play violin, warming up with scales, stopping on a tone, listening to it, varying it, dipping up or down, expanding and varying the pattern... a series of intervals suggests a tune, and one flows into a theme by Bach, the theme from Mahagony (Bacharach), or the theme from Mahagonny (Weill).
The way things (if a thought is a thing, or a thought suggests an object, or an object suggests a concept or idea)... The way things suggest themselves. Sometimes it’s a matter of waiting.


You’re thinking, not thinking; coming to a point, circling it, developing it... and suddenly there’s a loud noise. You flinch, there’s a surge and a blankness, and thought, so quickly obliterated, returns in the form of an awareness: “a door has been slammed shut” or “a collision has occurred outside” or “the building shook.” (The latter may seem an extreme example, but I live in an earthquake zone. I’m also slightly paranoid). One’s jacked-up heart rate lowers with the realization, the identification of the sound: the surge of panic has gone out on a tide of adrenaline and one is aware only of the aftermath, presence ebbing back in. What occupies that space, that unrecoverable white fold of time, wch could be considered either as a hard blink (image / afterimage) or the point of orgasm? ( refer, I think, to Bataille’s essay on Emily Brontë in Literature and Evil).
So now, then: the sound -- the jarring ring of the telephone, say -- the interruption has passed; one has passed over to the other side of the fold, through the Siren’s gate or crossed the bridge w/o being harmed by the troll. One’s eyes settle back onto the page where one has been reading or writing and picks up the thread, locates the passage (or should I say “relocates the passage”; stress the word passage?)... Thought had been moving in a more or less linear fashion and then been disrupted. Perhaps daydreaming -- one was simply looking out the window, book or cup of coffee set down, near at hand. This was just a casual day, and the thought scattered by the phone has not reasserted or reassembled itself. And now

The white fold of bewilderment: viewed as antagonistic; an isolated molecule of anxiety; a moment of filmed narrative where the film breaks and one flinches at the bare, white screen. Unrecoverable
a lost, isolated present. One apprehends the before and after-spaces, absence at the join/t: a back-slash, not as an absorbing black hole, but as an explosion / emanation... Some thing past the point of implosion, not collapsing into the point of a period, but moving outward. A period, stretched into a line, separating and trailing off / / “the fragment as a spasm of thought” -- Jean-Luc Nancy

Alternately (this a sidestep, a lateral move, a digression): in a more expansive, temporal sense, blank spaces of time. We all go through them; periods in wch nothing much seems to happen. Say a season, or a month: June 1996, for example. I could dig through notebooks, letters, and such where there might be an artifact of that time. Sitting here now, I can’t recall a single thing. I know where I was working, where I was living, various actions that I performed in the social sphere then, but a blank space; no real stakes or markers declare themselves. Things are rarely one thing or the other. IS this too much of an assumption? The rainy period of 1998, was it? 1997?-- almost three solid months. There were holidays. What remains is little more than a pervasive sense of mood, a few flashes of images, retained as if from a dream or a movie. Without rupture: a page, out of focus. Perhaps it’s around dawn. Grey block of text, white border intruding at points along the edges; a darkening at the gutter. Time makes you aware, not only of what you don’t know, or have forgotten -- what exceeds you -- but also what’s proximate, nearby, perhaps only as texture or sound. The value of quiet attention.
Around nine, there’s a shift in the pipes that supply steam to the building, a few taps, a rattle. By eleven, the room is appreciably cooler. At noon, the church bells ring to announce the hour and the Mass; the bells ring at other times for weddings or funerals, special services for holy days. In the cold room, around four, four-thirty, the steam pipes bang again as the sun declines and the process reverses itself.

The Value of Inattention 

Not to ignore things, but to resist their allure; to avoid being fully engaged or absorbed, letting the mind move freely -- a sort of intellectual derivé. One may take notes, create a list... a flow of focus w/out focus, field of foci, paratactic drift.... By stepping aside from an object or intersection, one may encounter something of interest on the periphery. To let things find you, not to seek things.
I write this, at first with hesitation, then out of a sense of defensiveness - proceeding without rigor, falling into a New Year seemingly without direction, with few projects asserting themselves... I’m unwilling to sit down and transcribe my project from 2005. To address that would be to admit the presence of 5-6 filled and dormant notebooks, and a file box of papers. Indecision’s companion may be the agency, or (literal) work of fire.
And while the month of Janus recedes, I let my fingers brush against the reverse side of the coin, it will do to acknowledge the face of determination that is inattention’s persistent shadow. The sun is working its boundaries ever northward. There's a stake planted in the ground near the door. That I am aware of, and I’m doing my best to avoid tripping over it.
And I know enough by now, I think, to stop when I drift into metaphor.

Books are put away and later taken off the shelves.


The scratch as gesture 

from the inside -- physically / bodily: one scratches an itch, or scratches compulsively
from the outside -- graphically: one scratches to obscure, to reveal, or to make a mark (to sign)

to obscure -- one may see something and react viscerally, scratch to remove it (swastika/graffito), or
one may scratch to reveal: an iced-over window, painted or pasted over signboard or page, an instant lottery ticket, etc.
In the latter two cases, an intent has been made to render something illegible, and one scratches away with intent to read. The greatest degree of intention is made in the effort to sign, or mark.
Perhaps scratches could be classified in regards to degree of intentionality.

Readable actions / artifacts:
There is the scratch as by-product of test: one scratches a diamond against glass to prove the diamond, not scratch the glass; one scratches gold to judge its softness, or to see if it’s plate.

The legs of my writing table are scratched by the subconscious action, or an action that’s unintentional, but recognized on some level, of my shoe grazing against it; legs crossed, hunched over the table, forming a thought, my leg swings in a short, repetitive arc, worrying at the table-leg.
There's something dead in the road this morning, my attention first drawn to it by a gathering of crows. Cars coming by more frequently, swerving to avoid the carcass, what it is I can't tell, with the crows scattering sometimes, sometimes moving back slowly, then returning. And the tide of the morning commute rising, the cars almost nonstop, driving less carefully, the more adventurous ones driving so that the wheels of their vehicle straddle the remains. Unsettling, I think: no doubt it was the action of a car that produced this set of circumstances, and many drive on neither slowing nor swerving. A van barrels forward in a straight line. Now the increase in traffic has chased the crows off, but the commute will taper off, the office workers will continue their routines in a different direction, some barrelling straight on, it's Monday, after all, and the crows will return. They have exceptional memories, crows do.


Pitiful, the below. What follows, or precedes, depending on your point of view. The urge to move. Played Wire's "Lowdown" loud; hearing the words "another cigarette" spit out, terse. And, in my mind's ear, Robert Ashley's voice from "The Park" section of Perfect Lives: "He took himself seriously." That section, an early version of it on Ashley's Private Parts, pretty much saved my life a couple of years ago. And a friend's voice: "Gosh, lighten up. Take a vacation."

from The Park

a fact He takes himself seriously. Motel rooms have lost their punch for him. The feeling is expressed in bags. There are two and inside those two there are two more. It's not an easy situation, but there is something like abandon in the air.
Now he grips himself with determination, even knowing that it causes sadness.

He is determined to be what? He is determined to be serious, not for the first time, and, not for the first time, there is the feeling of a mistake.

-- Robert Ashley, Perfect Lives


February. A nasty business, this month — made all the more bitter with its deceptive shortness. Two, three days less. That’s all. The mud has turned black with fall’s -- that is, last year’s -- rotted leaf mass and months of ash-colored skies. Last February was freakish; unusually warm and dry, cherry trees, jasmine and even magnolia in bloom by the end. And now, on the first, noting how the days creep slowly longer. And what to make of the calend of February?-- January gone now and with it, all remnants of the holidays. It’s the second of two days off; un-driven by distraction yesterday: a bit of movie-watching, a bit of reading, two, three lines written. A feeble, thwarted effort to go out: I stood on the street as the bus sailed past. Material left on hold at the library gone back into stock, into the waiting queue. There are, of course, books sitting on store shelves that invite me to buy them, dreamer that I am, that I will actually read them; others that sit in stacks on the floor, pulled off the shelves - or the “to be read” shelf that functions as an intermediary place -- near the door, no less. If I don’t start Proust now, or soon, I think... Or Richardson. (Either one). And other books lay stacked near my feet, things that need to be re-read, or remain half-read, skimmed or barely cracked: Distracted, Between Life and Death, Guilty, Here, Infinite Thought, That Voice, The Sense of the World, The Book to Come, Someone, The Step Not Beyond, Event... a list, a sort of index. Objects. Statements. Accusations. Indictments.

Rot always just beneath the surface. It’s necessary, of course. After all, the lotus is rooted in mud.
Intellectually, and somewhere deeper, a vaguely Buddhist notion of change sits. An ember cloaked in ash; it slowly burns, consumes itself, generates more ash. Always more to burn, I suppose.

B.’s dream: not of a blank page, but a page covered entirely in ink.

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