Thanksgiving Is Ruined

The Personal is Political. The Political is Personal.

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September 30, 2016

The USA has more reason than ever this year to be confused about this question.  

Because maybe, in fact, it contains a few sub-questions:

1)  Which Elvis?  

Sun label Elvis only?  Pre-army Elvis, plus the '68 "Comeback Special"?  Hollywood Elvis?  The Elvis that campaigned during the primaries, before he got the nomination and pivoted to the general?  Specifying the Elvis may determine the fan's potential capacity for wrongness.

2)  What is a "fan"?

This is related to the above sub-question, but goes deeper.  Do "real life" fans only count? What if you're merely pretending to be a fan, on-line, but are very convincing, have many followers and drive the conversation?  What if you're just trolling, but are extremely funny?  What if you're meta-trolling, and none of the lamesream sheeple have figured it out yet? Or accidentally self-trolling, but nevertheless generating lulz?  What if you attended an Elvis concert, but only out of a kind of "hate-watching" curiosity or from boredom?  What if you refuse to tell anyone that you are a fan, and are thus part of the "silent majority"?  What if you support Elvis merely as a clever and strategic chessboard move, to block the rise of the nefarious Fabian, Ricky Nelson, Frankie Avalon, Bobby Rydell or, shudder to think, Pat Boone?  Or as a disposable stepping stone to help hasten the burning down of the whole pre-existing system

3)  What's the source of the "50,000,000" number?

Related to the above sub-question, but even more confusing, probably by design.  Who gathered the data?  Can the pollsters be trusted?  Were the results peer reviewed?  Might the results have been "rigged"?  When was the survey performed?  How?  Internet Pop-up Poll?  Self-Selected Sampling?  Registration-Based Sampling? Snowball Sampling?   Mitofsky-Waksberg Sampling?  Troldahl-Carter-Bryant Respondent Selection Method?  Kish selection grids?  Random-Digit Dialing?  Landlines, cellphones or both?  Exit polls?  And above all, have the results been "unskewed"?   On the other hand, what if events reveal that the diehard fans of a particular Elvis are in reality quite few, but are very loud?  Or armed? And refuse to go away?  

4)  How do we determine what "wrong"-ness is? 

Is that determination even possible?  Or if possible, allowable?  This may be the key question, and an increasingly destabilizing one.  After all, one equals one.  A fan is a fan.  By definition then, on some level it is impossible to be "wrong," is it not?  Likewise with "misguided," "deplorable" or "an Elvis fan against one's own self-interest."  Mustn't all fans be counted?  Regardless of why they are fans or their inner motivations?  Thus  taken seriously on some level, and heard, simply because they exist?  All the more so if coverage of these fans or their chosen Elvis pulls in viewers, or boosts circulation numbers or generates traffic?  The sociocultural phenomenon of the fandom must be interesting because it exists.  Or does it exist because it's interesting?  How much more shredded, fraught, mind-bending and topsy-turvy can the criteria for deliberation about any and all of this possibly become?  

Or on the contrary, should certain Elvis fans simply be considered too far beyond the pale, too outside of collective norms to be counted, countenanced or tolerated

TiR is thinking specifically of Elvis fans (if any) who endorse the film "Harum Scarum" (1965) or refuse to denounce the version of the song "Old MacDonald" (1966) which is listenable here.

August 31, 2016

When Victor Hugo gave his love a bat

In The Nation magazine's last issue for the year 1880, it recounted the following charming anecdote from the life of the author Victor Hugo:

One day. . .  Victor brought to his betrothed a paper well pinned and tied. She thought there was in it a precious flower, and opened it cautiously: a bat came out of it. She was much frightened, and only forgave the poet when she read on the paper the ode on the bat.  This ode is one of the first in which the true Romantic spirit is shown.

The story is sourced to an account of Hugo's life from 1863.

Authority for the tale is a good one, given that the book was written by the very same recipient of the chiropteran gift, Adèle Foucher.  Foucher, despite her receipt of the surprise package, was nevertheless not deterred from marrying Hugo, several months later in 1822.

The original-language version of Hugo's poem, "La Chauve-souris" (from April 1822) is here.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Before allowing the reader to commence the reading of his bat poem proper, Hugo precedes it with a separate quote from another author, as he was generally wont to do in this period.

What was up with that?  Was this a shout out?  Logrolling?  Homage?

A very entertaining and useful article that explains  some background of the use of literary epigrams in the era is Rainier Grutman's "Quoting Europe: Mottomania in the Romantic Age" (2005), viewable here.

Hugo's choice of epigram for "La Chauve-souris" was a quote translated into French from an evidently favorite author of his from around this time, Charles Maturin, and his 1816 Gothic play, Bertram; or The Castle of St. Aldobrand. A copy of the play is viewable here.  

Maturin's English-language play made it across the Channel to the wider, non-English-reading public in France, in an 1821 translation, done by Charles Nodier and one M. M. Taylor.  Their translation is viewable here.  Nodier's version became the basis for Bellini's opera, Il pirata.

What is Hugo trying to tell us via his selection of epigram here? Where was his head was at when he penned "La Chauve-souris"?  TiR doesn't purport to know for sure.  

The premise of  Bertram is basically that its central, titular (anti-) hero, returns home, courtesy of a freak shipwreck, to his native land, after many years at sea as a brigand, scoundrel and exile / fugitive, to find that his true love, Imogine, has married his worst enemy.  

Hugo's quote from the play is in fact a mashup of two lines, spoken by different characters.

The first part is spoken by Bertram in Act 5, scene 3.  Spoiler alert: Bertram has by now murdered his romantic rival, and is being led to the dungeon to await execution.  A Prior comes, asking Bertram to repent. B. is in a trance, oblivious to the outside world.  He proudly, almost snottily tells all around him that he welcomes the most painful death possible.  However, he also seems to be struggling, internally and spiritually, with the whole situation, specifically about whether to repent his misdeeds.  Bertram's heart appears to be on the verge of softening when the Prior's presence snaps Bertram out of his reverie, whereupon B. snaps back into his hardened and stoic stance.  Bertram asks the Prior: "Why art thou here? There was an hovering angel, Just lighting on my heart, and thou hast scared it." 

The second part of Hugo's mashup epigram is taken from a bit earlier in the same scene of the play.  Imogine has just seen her husband murdered before her eyes.  She has fled to a dark cavern near the woods, taking her small child with her.  She's wracked with guilt.  She's been awake all night, wandering the woods, raving, seeing ghosts.  Meanwhile, her child gambols around the trees, playing.  She calls to him:  "Yet come . . .  I'll sing thee songs the churchyard spirits taught me."  Creepy.  Does this kid live to see the end of the play?  We think not.  

Hugo jams together the above two quotes, for his prefatory epigram.

Bertram and Maturin today might be even more thoroughly forgotten than they are, were it not for the scorchingly righteous rantage against them, perpetrated by Coleridge and preserved in his 1817 Biographia Literaria, chapter 23 (readable here).  

Coleridge's chapter, like the practice of literary epigrams, contains within itself a window into a miniature history of Romanticism.  He suggests a scurrilous process whereby the superior grotesqueries of Elizabethan drama were plagiarized by the French, from whom they were in turn stolen by the Germans, with the dramatic material coarsened and cheapened at both steps of the way.  At last, per Coleridge, the gullible and slavish British theatrical public is buying back its heritage from its own "apes' apes," as continental Europe floods the market with schlock ("speaking monsters imported from the banks of the Danube"), and imitators jump on the bandwagon.  Prime example:  Bertram.   

Coleridge attended a performance of Bertram in Drury Lane, probably with the great Edmund Kean in the title role.  An image of a  print of Kean as Bertram is here.

Coleridge's observations about the play and its contents include the following:

"crowded with solecisms, corrupt diction, and offences against metre"

"the shocking spirit of jacobinism"

"atrocious events and characters"

"rant and nonsense" 

"a superfetation of blasphemy upon nonsense"

"senseless plagiarism"

" this loathsome and leprous confluence of robbery, adultery, murder, and cowardly assassination"

"a series of super-tragic starts, pauses, screams, struggling, dagger-throwing, falling on the ground, starting up again wildly,  swearing, outcries for help, falling again on the ground, rising again,faintly tottering towards the door, and, to end the scene, a most convenient fainting fit"

"proof of the depravation of the public mind"

"And did a British audience endure all this? -- They received it with plaudits"

Yes, sure enough:  Bertram was a huge hit with the theater-going public, enjoyed a long run, and saved Maturin from financial ruin.  Robert Lougy's book on Maturin has some good details on this.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

Hugo published "La Chauve-souris" among the odes in his book Odes et Ballades.

But is the poem in fact an ode?  What exactly is one of those, anyway?  Did Hugo even really care?

He addressed these questions, somewhat, in his 1826 preface (one of several published over the years) to the book, saying in effect:

Plenty of serious minded persons have said that these Odes were not exactly odes.  So be it.  . . . . You can give them whatever name you like.  The author hereby signs off on it, in advance.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

TiR, having found no complete English translation of "La Chauve-souris" on-line or published anywhere, decided to give it a shot.  Below is our possibly fanciful version.

The Bat
by Victor Hugo

 "Why art thou here? There was an hovering angel, Just lighting on my heart, and thou hast scared it. . . . Yet come . . .  I'll sing thee songs the churchyard spirits taught me." 
Maturin, Bertram

Sad bird! Yes, I know you, I've seen you in dreams. 
Now o'er me you lurk, although useless it seems.
In long loops erratic, you block out the sun,
But I'll never fear your dark portents of dread.
I've heard them already from ghosts of the dead.
So go! Guilt or gladness, you bring neither one.

My young bride awaits, so you linger above,
'Though heaven itself blessed my fate with her love,
Long hoped for, of worth more than crowns worn with pride.
You'll visit our wedding day, plotting to spread,
'Midst sweet celebration, wings over my head,
Like two veils in black to mourn someone who's died.

Your kin: woeful owl, preying eagle that screams,
Or glum holly crossed with pale leaves from dead streams.
You're too friend of witches, called for in their spell;
Flee far from my home and the air my lungs draw;
My poet's lyre, touch not with hideous claw,
Or down I'll call on you all specters from hell. 

On murky nights when, in dance, demons take wing, 
From the gloom you sail forth, enticed to hear sing 
The infernal coven, joined evil in song.
Begone! Nuptial flowers here give sweet perfume.
Begone, yours instead is the stench of the tomb,
With pools of blood steaming.  That's where you belong!

Who sent you my way?  Flew you from black hillsides,
Strewn with ruins bleak, where the moon even hides?
Your brow, pale and mournful, is like that same hill. 
Did weak eyes here guide you in devious flight,
Thus stalking the fire of my lamp's distant light? 
By radiance brought, to bring dark omens ill?

Come you from some tower where Vertigo rules,
Or peaks where you flutter, beast stunted and cruel? 
You stoke the hot swamp, bid it ignite and hiss, 
But too buzz the precipice where, laughing, you
Would unfoot the mountaineer, aghast, and who
To vultures below plunges in the abyss.

I'm unmoved; above me you flutter in vain.
So flee with your stench of dry human remains,
Or, wait 'til tomorrow, you monster. That's when
I'll set, like a gift, before innocent eyes
Your carcass of gauze, like one hung as a prize, 
By the rustic shepherd who adorns his den.

Your once-fearsome fangs, I'll give to tykes for toys.
My fair maid will see you and shriek, and the noise
May rouse you.  You'll bolt towards the sky in blind fright,
Exiled by nobler flocks who fly by bright day, 
Who'll jeer, foul wretch, as you flounder away,
In vain hapless search for the shelter of night.

April 1822

July 31, 2016
Is everything really beautiful? 

In its own way? Like a starry summer night?  Or a snow-covered winter's day?

Like, really?

Granted, so would have us blithely believe what we understand to be a multiply award-winning hit country-gospel-pop song from two generations ago, with video here.

To listen to the record today is to measure the immense distances we've traveled, and have yet to travel.  The song seems like an artifact from an utterly faraway, almost unrecognizable time.


You catch TiR's drift.  How quaint the recording sounds, those sentiments feel today.  Like a relic from our parents' generation, our grandparents', even.

Beyond quaint -- offensive!  Presumptuous.  Bigoted.  Totalitarian.  Creepy!  From its monotheistic theological presuppositions to its coercive recruitment of schoolchildren as background singers or, as seen in the video, stage props,  For example, did those children freely give consent to participate, if that's even a meaningful question?  How traumatized may they have been by the experience of being forced to sing such a monstrosity?

More along these lines in a moment.  As a threshold logical matter, how can literally everything be beautiful at the same time?  Equally so?  If so, then beauty must be a property pretty commonplace, trivial, even empty.  If something exist, then it's beautiful? Beauty is no more than is-ness, thing-ness?  In other words, every individual thing is a thing?  Everything that is . . . is?

How is that information supposed to help or be of use to us?  The singer's weasel wording tips us off right away that something phony is going on here deeper down.

Then again, below the showbiz phoniness, yeah, yeah, we get it, we get it.  He really means:  "Everything contains within itself its own unique particle of special, redeeming, snowflake goodness, which can be found and treasured if you know how to look for it, through the right perspective, an open-hearted viewpoint, blah blah blah.  The singer leaves it as an exercise for the listener, after this song ends,  to figure out exactly how in practice to do that work.  The singer trusts the listener totally to know how to do so in a way that gets it right, fairly, correctly, humanely, respectfully, decently, etc. etc."  

Yes, but how on earth do we do the latter work?  Wouldn't a follow-up record to explain the complexities have been helpful, or more like a follow-up shelf of LP box sets?   The record ends exactly where it should have started.  Today's savvier and more historically sensitized listener sees this and knows that events could not have been otherwise. No such instructional album to be used by everybody for all purposes would have been possible, conceivable or maybe even desirable.  Thus our dilemma.  Thus how cruelly antiquated, how dishonestly simplistic that old tune now sounds.

The above aren't even the most damned and damning of the dilemmas.

No, TiR will go even further -- while of course conceding in advance, on the one hand, our growing contemporary awakening that it's never possible to go far enough about anything and, on the other hand (and perhaps hard to concede 46 years ago), the reality that we can never presume to be certain about which direction we should travel together, or about if "we,""should" and "together" can even be imagined, and that any "agreement" about which road to take is itself probably suspect. Agreement on whose terms, at what cost, in whose interests?

"Everything is beautiful."  Ha!

Who are we to characterize how or what "everything" is?  Can't everything speak for itself?  What if some members of the set of Everything don't want to be "beautiful"?  Or what if their ideas of or about beauty differs from ours?

Aren't we unfairly imposing our idea of beauty, the idea that "beauty" even exists, on possibly unwilling others?  How dare we aestheticize on such a universal, totalizing scale!  As if they, the "things" that make up "everything," are mere objects devoid of independent agency to decide their own fates, identities, and statuses or lack thereof?

Ultimately, shouldn't we simply refrain from trying to say anything at all about "everything"?  What indeed does everything include?  Does it not presuppose the hegemony of our own oppressive preconceptions and one-sided criteria for defining a "thing" and determining whether we're in fact presented with one?

Listen again to the little ditty from 1970.  Does it, can it ask whether everything thinks that we're beautiful?  What room or freedom does its worldview afford for everything's utterances,self-expression, avowals or refusals? None!  And if none, then by what right dare we set up a conversation that by it's very terms is entirely one-sided, then drag everything into it as a possibly unwilling supposed participant?

TiR is pretty sure that, back in the day, the creators of the record believed it to be a plea for humility, tolerance, universal love, harmony and peace.  Nowadays, we're more wised up.  The rug's been out from under us too many times.  We can see the plea for what it is.  Condescending.  Obnoxious.  Insulting.  Entitled.  Totally lacking in self-awareness.  Manipulative.  Guilty, guilt-tripping and shaming.  Violent.

What about all that which stands outside of  our inevitably limited and biased idea of "everything"? Are the denizens of such a realm, if any, therefore by definition ugly?  Who are we to decide what stands inside or outside of the set called "everything," imprisoned as we are too within its border walls, not floating above them?  In what position are we to really know the boundaries, then the limit cases, then to cast any judgment on them whatever? Who are we to say?

So shouldn't we really just STFU, about beauty, about "everything," about everything?

In fact, shouldn't TiR really just STFU in general?  Including about whether this very blog post is serious, comical, ironical, a combo of these, not entirely sure and trying to figure it out aloud, or whaat?


June 28, 2016

peas, and not peas

A few obituaries and appreciations of the late philosopher   Morton G. White mention his 1950 article, "The Analytic and the Synthetic: an Untenable Dualism."

The article first appeared in John Dewey: Philosopher of Science and Freedom, a Symposium, edited by the great Sidney Hook, and published by The Dial Press.  It was later collected in White's From a Philosophical Point of View: Selected Studies.

TiR's current favorite passage from the essay (pdf.) is this one:

A self-contradiction need not literally resemble in shape 'A and not -A' or 'Something is P and not -P.'  All it has to do is produce a certain feeling of horror or queerness on the part of people who use the language. They behave as if they had seen someone eat peas with a knife.  . . . But I have a few questions . . .  
 Who is supposed to feel the horror in the presence of the opposites of analytic statements? Surely not all people in the community that uses the language.  There are many who feel no horror at seeing people eat peas with a knife just as there are many who are not perturbed at statements that philosophers might think self-contradictory.  Who, then? 

Who indeed?

Among the commentaries on White's essay is a humbly enjoyable and nicely done 2009 paper in a seemingly short-lived West Virginia University philosophy journal, by one J. Alex     Langlinais.  The paper offers a way to think about this nest of questions through an alternative framework: "eating peas with a different fork." The upshot: "[I]t ought not matter whether we eat peas with a knife or a fork. What matters is that the peas get eaten."

Going even further, a letter-writer to a November 1870 edition of the Journal of Horticulture, Cottage Gardener, Country Gentleman, Bee-Keeper and Poultry Chronicle (published from Fleet Street, London) potentially set up not only a sublation of the "horror or queerness" impasse called out by White, but a radical explosion of the essentialist, binary frame itself, with a still more expansive imaginary.  S/he imagined a world of diversity populated not merely with "Ps and not Ps," but with "Peas and not Peas only --   Beans, Cauliflowers, and almost all other crops."  Specifically, they were speaking in praise of wide applicability of the "furrow-system of growing."

Is it any coincidence that in the same year, 1870, appeared C. S. Peirce's groundbreaking "Description of a Notation for the Logic of Relatives, Resulting from an Amplification of the Conceptions of Boole's Calculus," his milestone first attempt at the working out of a formal symbolic logic?  TiR thinks not.  Obviously.

[Peirce's original paper, scanned from a copy at Harvard University, is here.  Any consideration of "p" of course immediately brings to mind his chapter therein on "Elementary Relatives," in particular its highly suggestive analysis of their quaternion logical forms (pg. 50): "Let p be 'lover,' and q be 'benefactor.' Then this [formula above] reads, lovers of their own benefactors consist of self-lovers of self-benefactors together with alio-lovers of alio-benefactors of themselves."  TiR won't further insult the reader's intelligence by spelling out the clear connections here.]

Regardless, the same letter-writing author ("J. Wright, Gardener to Hon. J. L. Melville," about whom TiR sadly can find no further information) sagely added: "Peas, like other things, are affected by circumstances, hence it is as well to speak approximately."

So, do peas contradict themselves?  Very well, then.

         [And is the above post merely a pppeaisce of pointless and puerile tomfoolery?                  Another rhetorical question.]

May 31, 2016

in dreams begin really crap blog posts

This past month, TiR dreamed that we arrived by bus an hour late for a rendezvous at a remote Berlin newsstand. So we shopped for maps and football magazines.

Just prior, a young David Johansen performed a short set behind glass at a punk clothing store.  He expressed the following sentiment from the stage, in lieu of a song introduction:

'They say that History is nothing less than the the story of God's efforts to alienate Himself from Himself, then become One again, through Love.  In other words, a failed romance."

"Schleiermacher, via Nietzsche," TiR understood.

April 30, 2016

when Thornton Wilder cracked up during a Frank O'Hara play

The story was told by the remarkable and protean    Mary   Molly Manning Howe Adams, in a December 1975 interview with Charles Ruas, in which she discussed the Poets'   Theatre, Cambridge, Mass., USA:

"We started off with the first two, you know, the O'Hara and Bunny's play there.  And we were greatly helped by Thornton Wilder who was then teaching at Harvard.  A great man, I loved him, we all loved him.  
"But suddenly, in the middle of it, it was a very funny play, the first one was marvelous -- 'Change Your Bedding' -- he stood up at the end, the audience roaring laughing throughout, because it was funny, and meant to be funny, at the end of it, Thornton Wilder stood up, shouted at us all, and said 'How dare you!  How dare you!  This is disgusting!  This is a sacred moment in the history of theater.  For the first time, poetry, poetry! can be heard on the stage.  Shut up, you beasts,' he said.  
"He was removed to MGH almost immediately afterwards, he was having a nervous breakdown.   
"But I may say, the audience also had one.  And we didn't dare laugh throughout the next one, for fear he'd stand up and shout at us all again.   
"It made the evening." 

TiR transcribed the above from a newly aired radio show entitled "V.R. Lang, A Memorial, Part 1," podcast listenable here, from the mighty and righteous Clocktower Productions. The anecdote in question is recounted around 45 minutes in.

Biographer Brad Gooch assembles a basically congruent account, set within his intensely well-researched City Poet: The Life and Times of Frank O'Hara (1993), chapter five, "Ann Arbor Variations," drawing upon sources that include a separate interview with Mary Manning / Molly Howe.

March 31, 2016

Was Liberace a good pianist?

We mean, like, technically?

Some links that may or may not pertain to the resolution of this passionately burning question, one pondered by everyone, all day, every day, globally, waking or sleeping, whether they admit it to pollsters or themselves or not, perhaps can be found here, here, here and here.

During March 2016, TiR researched or saved or gathered links pertaining to around 95 topics of at least remotely theoretic blog post-worthiness.  Typical month.

However, TiR at the moment can be bothered to blog about absolutely none of these topics, save the above.

February 29, 2016

Zero growth blogging

For 2016, TiR is considering one or more of the following strategies:

permanent ceiling:
No more posts.

supplemental request blogging only:
Posts only allowed in the event of national emergencies or war.

blogging sequestration:
If the annual number of characters typed exceeds certain hard caps, then across-the-blog cuts are immediately imposed that will remove an equal number of randomly chosen characters from all previous posts.  The overall size of the blog thus will remain fixed and constant, forever, regardless of readership or population growth.  

Each new post must "pay for itself."  Whatever that means.

For each post added to TiR,  a previous TiR post must be deleted.

TiR may only add a new post if we can persuade some other blogger to delete a post of theirs.  

subsistence blogging:
TiR can only link to or discuss material already posted to TiR.  TiR is forbidden from reading or consuming content from any other site.  Nor, if TiR wants something new to read, will TiR simply be allowed to "run the printing press" by creating and posting new content.  It must draw upon what's been previously produced.

If TiR can get somebody else to post on TiR for us, it won't count towards how much "we" post.

reduce the size and scope:
Eliminate wasteful, duplicative and especially the many, many, many, many fraudulent TiR posts. Reduce this idiotic and pointless blog to the size where we can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.

stop kicking the can down the road:
In the present crisis, this blog is not the solution to TiR's problem, this blog is the problem.

It will purge the rottenness out of the blog . . . TiR will work harder, live a more moral life.

post hoarding:
Wait for every other blog to "go to the wall," go bankrupt, shut down or run out of things to write.  Then post everything we've saved up, once we've outlasted all the others and the field is cleared of competition.  TiR will have the privilege of being last to starve then die unburied with no one to mourn it. Yay!

Doomsday prepper blogging:
Change all settings to private.  Share access password with no one, but suspect everyone of wanting to hack their way in.  Post continually evolving conspiracy exposés and enemies lists, but nothing very original.  Wait for the SHTF on the big Bug-Out Day, then plan simply to scavenge, plunder, steal and post the most awesome of everybody else's content, which, however, TiR will refuse to let anyone read.  

disruptively innovative blogging:
TiR can take up as much space posting as it damn well pleases, but only after first maneuvering somehow  to sabotage, vandalize, terrorize, undermine, take down, discredit, drive out, enjoin, outlaw, buy out, tie up in litigation or eliminate every other blog.

devise alternate methods of value measurement:
Instead of counting how much we post, count how many times we don't post something.  This has in fact been TiR's preferred secret method.

January 21, 2016

2016:  Attack of the B's killer

Boulez.  Damn.

Bowie.  Unimaginable.

Blowfly.  Jeez.

Though still young, this year clearly is not kidding around. 

Thus TiR hereby decrees that, for the duration of 2016, the following musical artists are forbidden from traveling all together in the same blimp:

Susana Baca George Benjamin Ken Boothe
the Bad Brains Lorna Bennett Leon Botstein
Erykah Badu Tony Bennett Boukman Eksperyans
Joan Baez George Benson Dennis Bovell
Alice Bag Dan Bern Boy George
Corinne Bailey Rae Chuck Berry Susan Boyle
Una Baines Adele Bertei Carla Bozulich
Anita Baker Pete Best Billy Bragg
Brian Baker Beyoncé Martin Bramah
Ginger Baker Asha Bhosle Glenn Branca
Balkan Beat Box Jello Biafra Anthony Braxton
Ed Ball Justin Bieber Toni Braxton
Moe Bandy Barry Biggs Biily Bremner
Devendra Banhart Big Youth Alicia Bridges
Pato Banton Benjamin Biolay Dee Dee Bridgewater
Gato Barbieri Gina Birch Bette Bright
Lou Barlow Cindy Birdsong Sarah Brightman
Afrika Bambaataa Jane Birkin Baba Brooks
Azealia Banks Harrison Birtwistle Maxine Brown
Bessie Banks Chuck Biscuits Carrie Brownstein
Daniel Barenboim Bisso Na Bisso Bill Bruford
Blixa Bargeld Roy Bittan Gavin Bryars
Gary Barnacle Iva Bittová Peabo Bryson
Courtney Barnett Biz Markie Chico Buarque
Aston Barrett Björk Peter Buck
Dave Bartholomew Frank Black Lindsey Buckingham
Cecilia Bartoli Pauline Black Rick Buckler
Toni Basil Black Stalin Harold Budd
Shirley Bassey Rubén Blades Budgie
Kathleen Battle Hal Blaine Eric Burdon
Beatallica Mary J. Blige Clem Burke
Beck Bliss Blood Jean-Jacques Burnel
Jeff Beck Buster Bloodvessel Hugo Burnham
Walter Becker Colin Blunstone Burning Spear
Maya Beiser Hamilton Bohannon Busy Signal
Harry Belafonte William Bolcom Jerry Butler
Adrian Belew Yami Bolo Richard & Tim Butler
Andy Bell (either one) Bombino James Burton
Pat Benatar Richard Bona Kate Bush
Miri Ben-Ari Gary U. S. Bonds Junior Byles
Mordechai Ben David Tracy Bonham David Byrne
Jellybean Benitez Bono Don Byron

Though at moments in recent weeks we would worrisomely wonder if some begreieved might not in a moment of weakness trade every one of those listed above to get back Bowie.  

December 31, 2015

blogged / unblogged in 2015

2015 was an OK year for TiR not blogging anything.    We slipped up about once a month, but tried to do our best to shut the heck up.

As during every year, we tried always to bear in the forefront of our consciousness that no surer way exists to make a damn fool of oneself than saying or writing something.  On the other hand, often there exists only one equally sure way, and that is by not saying or writing something.  

Below is a partial list of items, idle thoughts and random unfinished search projects from 2015 that thus far we have been either too wise or too lazy to develop into full blog posts.  TiR now posts them here, so that we can morally have it both ways.


from jokes that kill to jokes that cause killing:  We all know about the deadly, once-weaponized Funniest Joke in the World (1969).   Would we concede that there exist in the world some jokes that we consider to be "funny"?  And further that there are some jokes that we consider to be "unfunny"?  From where do we get our ideas about all this?   And the ultimate, almost unfathomable question: Are there any conceivable jokes that we would consider so unfunny that we would want to murder the joke-teller?  Perhaps one who published a newspaper? And all their co-workers?  How is this even possible?

Our God can beat up your God, or the ant creeping across a black stone in a dark night:  on the Secret    Shirk,  Žižek's "dialectical clarity," and the hidden polytheism within fundamentalist or uninformed monotheism 

How may Islamic philosophy have influenced the Enlightenment?  Some  links  to   pursue  

on the implied, subversive polytheism of second-hand booksellers

Minimalist Kitty's avant-garde compositions:  the   complete   videography

on the cuisine of the DDR: a video investigation

"The International Monetary Fund and the Ebola Outbreak" (Lancet)

on Chapter II, Article 43: China's constitutional right to nap 

Morgan Labar on stupidity as a deliberate (US)  artistic strategy

on the rise of "research-based practice" art as "a thing"

the Grand Rapids ArtPrize, or the representational art that Americans are secretly preprogrammed to love whether they admit it to themselves or not

Do Christians believe that they have a duty to hasten the Apocalypse at all costs?  on how it seems   to depend   on   who   you   ask

why 1492?  Because 1477: when Columbus visited Iceland

on Nicolas Bourbaki, Oulipo's secretly fake mathematician

Anne Mangen on the narrative engagement of reading on paper

Schjeldahl on Valéry on the composed set of "brief little dreams" that is language (see "Petite lettre sur les mythes," 1928)

on the jaw-droppingly horrific history of US anti-black pogroms: the ultimate on-line database

on Ferguson MO's most revolutionary gas pump: some   photographic   evidence

"Even the laziest becomes industrious, even the most cowardly becomes brave" Kautsky (1907) on the elasticity of revolutionary time 

The real question behind the US Civil War?  de Tocqueville interviews John Quincy Adams, per Oct. 1 1831 diary entry (p. 276, herein):  Without chattel slavery, was it at all clear that US capitalism as then constituted, or in any form, could even have continued to survive at all?

what Graeber doesn't mention:  How much historical immigration to the New World colonies / USA was driven by flight from debt?  

Who fears code-switching, and why?  from Bakhtin on heteroglossia, to sociologists on "situational ethnicity":  some   links

on code-switching as genre - switching, and analogies to film: What in the world is more boring, than to watch a sci-fi, fantasy or action film with a literal minded person who prefers documentaries and criticizes every scene for being too "unrealistic"?  If enjoyment of film requires the "willing suspension of disbelief," doesn't each genre of film really presuppose its own particular and sometimes shifting set of working "beliefs" on the viewer's part?

Is Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit a "history book"?  If not, then what the hell is it?  A work of historiography?  A parable?  metaphor?   Something else entirely?  Some panic-stricken flailing about

on the DBCP (the "Days Before Cellphones") and other 21st century acronyms of historical description:  the "Era Pre-IPhone"? "Before Instagram"?  "Slightly After Friendster But Before Facebook"? 

the greatest living philosopher of time: Étienne Klein

Should God have punished Lord Lugard?

Ogunrotifa's class theory analysis of Boko Haram (2013)

Who elected Billy Graham?  How the Southern Baptism Convention -- & now the Charismatic movement? -- became the default setting for US public discussion of theological issues

reaching Peak Solidarity? Castoriadis  on the liberal "juridico-merchant" society's reliance for survival on extraction from cultural lodes or wellsprings of collective human values (e.g., solidarity, charity, hard work), which it also logically must both exhaust and pollute

"I shouldn't even have to tell you!"  On the social construction of trust in the age of the paranoid, the narcissist, and the emotional bully

on Raffles v Wichelhaus, and a burden-shifting taxonomy of human misunderstanding, with biological-cognitive digression

on the preface to Diane Di Prima's Loba (1998), and the author as self-confessed linquistic Osterizer

on the late Rene Ricard's "If lost, please find" notebooks, and his hilarious poem "To an Ironing Board Nailed to a Bedroom Door" (2005)

How, if at all, did the end of serialization change the novel?  some attempts at bibliography

meme alert: what's behind so much of the new conceptual art? "labor shame"

how evolution in harp technology and repertoire enabled French classical music decisively to leave Wagner behind: some illustrative  audio  recordings

how the Beatles destroyed (sax-driven) popular music forever: evidence presented by Bobby KeysElijah Wald, and Riley Haas  

how private punditry devoured public candidacy:  on Harry WalkerBob BarnettAll American Speakers, and the dictatorship of the cable TV contributor agreement

on homo homini lupus and pillage as our last remaining economic strategy:  A. Mbembe on the predatory state -- & society

But corporate HR departments love him! what Maslow  got  wrong

on James Tilley Matthews, Victor Tausk, and the 19th-century roots of the "'Truman Show' syndrome"

"so I go," "I'm all like . . . ": Penelope Eckert on how adolescents master narration and the navigation of the social order (.pdf)

from Thomas Reid's "common sense," through Pragmatism to Trump's "everybody knows it!": excavating the genealogy of the uniquely and frustratingly American attitude towards knowledge claims: "Why, sir, should I believe the faculty of reason more than that of perception?—they came both out of the same shop, and were made by the same artist." 

Why do Americans suck at theory?  Is their thinking too concrete, not "abstract" enough?  Too "conservative"?  Influenced by too much fundamentalist morality?  Blame the education system?  Related to why they suck at math?   And sez who?

"Various Unpleasant Happenings in Manhattan": Cleveland Moffett (1921) on how the US lost the Great War, in fiction

"'Americanizing' Mittel Europa," and how the Gospel of Americanism was Carried to Every Corner of the Globe through advertising: a book-length account from 1920

As with the movie theater Wurlitzer, as with the recording studio sampling synth, as with the nightclub DJ: How many varieties of Baroque-era live musicians did the invention of the pipe organ put out of work?  

Baron van Swieten, the librarian who created Mozart: the Larouchite take (because of course)

towards a triple-helix timeline: drafting a synchronous chronology of  developments in affordable drum machine technology, new wave music, and old-school hip hop records

on "Chattanooga Choo Choo" (1941), "Hey, Porter!" (1955) and Sidney Bechet's "Roll On, Mississippi, Roll On" (1931), the Great Black Migration, popular music, and complexities of supposed or projected nostalgia for the "Old South" in myth and reality

on the architectonics of disco music arrangements:  Randy MullerHenry Stone. and others

Charles Strozier's  lecture, “The Apocalyptic Other: Reflections on the Religious and Psychological Basis of Contemporary Political Violence” (video here),  from the 2014 conference on "Terror, Trauma, and the Sacred" at BU's Danielsen Institute:  one of the most thought-provoking talks TiR heard all year? (& wotta year)  related work here (The Fundamentalist Mindset: Psychological Perspectives on Religion, Violence, and History (2010)) and here (Apocalypse: On the Psychology of Fundamentalism in America (2002))

on the awesome Icelandic concept of "skítaredding"

post-Piketty, is Desné   Masie   TiR's new favorite economist of the moment?


How minimalist can TiR keep it in 2016?  

We shall see.