Thanksgiving Is Ruined

The Personal is Political. The Political is Personal.

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October 15, 2014
through confusion wisdom

Mary the maid, in Ionesco's The Bald Soprano:

Who has any interest in prolonging [faire durer] this confusion? I don't know.  Let's not try to know. Let's leave things as they are.

[above rendering taken from this]

Later in the play:

Mr. Smith: Take a circle, caress it, and it will turn vicious.

one of the most observant or at least funniest works of art inspired by the attempt (and often failure) to learn a new language.

September 30, 2014

On Nerval's mad library

This is TiR's very favorite passage from Aurélia, written around 1853-4:

My books, an odd assortment [amas bizarre] of the knowledge of all ages, history, travels, religion, the cabala, astrology . . . the Tower of Babel in two hundred volumes . . . They were enough to drive a wise man mad [rendre fou un sage]; let us try to ensure that there is enough to make a madman sane [rendre sage un fou].  

(above translation taken from this)

Mind you, Nerval is describing the decor of his room in a lunatic asylum.  He claims his possessions in this chamber -- "an odd interior composed of palace and hovel" -- to include also a canopy bed, ornate 17th and 18th century furnishings with porcelain inlays, a crystal vase, a hookah pipe, wood paneling from his former home, oil paintings, a huge map of Cairo, and twenty years worth of various other personal momentos.  

The reader at first may assume with some justification that the writer is madly hallucinating it all, as he has so much already throughout his book-journal.  

Not so, however.  The progressive-minded Dr. Esprit Blanche allowed his patient -- more of a houseguest, really -- to move in all of these items.

Arthur Symons, in his The Symbolist Movement in Literature (1899), laid into Nerval and his library:

The madness of Gerard de Nerval . . . I take to have been essentially due to the weakness and not the excess of his visionary quality, to the insufficiency of his imaginative energy, and to his lack of spiritual discipline. He was an unsystematic mystic . . . precisely because it was this amas bizarre, this jumble of the perilous secrets in which wisdom is so often folly, and folly so often wisdom. . . Wavering among intuitions, ignorances, half-truths, shadows of falsehood, now audacious, now hesitating, he was blown hither and thither by conflicting winds, a prey to the indefinite. 

(Symon's whole book as .txt file = here)

Symons says this like it's a bad thing?

August 31, 2014

moi, global village idiot

          Like the village idiot [l'innocent du village], I see the vision, I hear the mode
          And the instrument, but the words like a herd of stumbling buffaloes  [un troupeau de buffles confus] 
          Bump against my teeth and my voice opens on the void.
          The last chord hushed, and I must begin again at zero,
          Learn once again this language so strange and ambiguous [si étrangère et double] . . . 

from Léopold Sédar Senghor's "Elegy for Martin Luther King (for jazz orchestra)"

(found here)

(orig. here)

methinks TiR often feels this way, this summer / year, esp. whenever after reading the daily newspapers

July 31, 2014

current dastardly undislodgeable brainloop







June 12, 2014

from Brazuca to Banzhaf

Below is TiR's current favorite World Cup factoid, about 2014's official soccer ball, the Brazuca, which replaces the little loved Jabulani from last time around:

"To stem criticism this time, Adidas showed the ball to more than 600 of the world's top players, a third of whom were not Adidas-contracted players."

                             (from USA Today)

Emphasis supplied.

Adidas seems to be a believer in weighted voting -- if not in its  shareholders meetings (TiR is too lazy to figure that one out),  at least with regard to footballs.

We glean that the Banzhaf power index might be what one resorts to, to make sense of these things.


The great Dave Zirin, here, describes the World Cup's FIFA as a great "Trojan Horse" of global neoliberalism . . . but one whose " product is irresistible."

A quite good Sports Illustrated profile of the factory  where the ball is manufactured, in Sialkot, Pakistan, is here.

Though, as stated therein, four-fifths of all of its raw materials come from China.

Basic monthly salary at the factory?  10,000 rupees, per here.

Current US dollar equiv.? $102.90, per here.

Current price of an official Brazuca on Amazon?  $144

Yes, TiR knows that you saw the last link coming a mile away.

May 31, 2014

recent dream:

discussion with B. Eno in which he recalled that for a time in early 70s he experimented w/ painting random letters onto his eyelids as part of his  everyday makeup.

TiR asked him if he began with the easiest letters to paint whilst looking in a mirror, i.e., those with vertical line symmetry

e.g., A, H, I, M, O, T, U, V, W, X, Y

he replied that, yes, that's exactly what he did


2 posts here w/in 4 mos. that relate dreams?  involving musicians?

are these indeed the depths to which this blog has sunk?  

oh yess

April 30, 2014
"the last"

Hopefully, it won't be, in the case of issue # 12, the latest, spring 2014 edition of Or, the "literary tabloid," edited by Paul Vangelisti, of the Graduate Writing program at Otis College of Art & Design.

Nevertheless, the ominous phrase above is emblazoned, unexplained, on the cover of #12.

TiR's glimpsing it caused us to put the new issue aside and leave it unread for days, then weeks, until a moment when we felt greater fortitude to open it and read the likely announcement of the death of yet another terrific print publication.

However: no such announcement!  we are happy to (not) find, apparently, behind the cover and within the contents.  Or on-line.

What a scare.

Would be a greater shame than ever to lose Or, given that, only last month, it published in # 11 a poem that TiR believes might be the most wonderful that we have ever read about a library:

It's downtown but it's in the mountains. It has no computers but there's a full bar (the bartenders double as librarians). The walls are solid books except for the plate glass facing the redwood groves. Late last night, or was it early this morning, they were serving Akhmatova gimlets while a chanteuse was scatting a remarkably long riff of Dewey decimals. . . . This place is a refuge at all hours, a shelter for those with no place else to go, and there's always entertainment, dead or alive. . . The barkeeps recommend books -- no bestsellers . . . These nights and days on the last barricades before paper is obsolete have the intense flavor of our final kiss, when we could savor Paradise disappearing. . . .

The above is approximately half of  "My Dream Library" by Stephen Kessler.

[The latest issue, meanwhile, features Amiri Baraka's* fashion this, from the irony of the world (2003):

                                                 . . .      Each night I fill my notebooks with formula

And instructions to myself and others on what to do of what to study of where to 

Go who to talk to and when. I make lists of words, names, events, processes,

necessary stages of what we have come to realize is protracted. And what we do we 

will do.

(We can relate to some of the above)


*now "lift[ed] into the outer waygonsphere"?

TiR often wonders whether the true ur- or sous-texte of this blog is the death, and survival, of print culture.

April 29, 2014

April's top dozen 


Peter Trawny on Heidegger's Denktagebuch: "This is a point that we can't contextualize any more. No hermeneutics can save this."

Piketty on how le passé dévore l'avenir; S. Durlauf on abolition as "the most important anti-inequality movement in the history of the country"


Lola Beltrán's "Te Traigo Estas Flores"
Francis Francine's ritualistic transformation in "Lonesome Cowboys"
          ["Lonesome Cowboys" filming location today]

the great Fran Lebowitz:  "I’m sick of looking at Andy’s work, and even sicker of his disciples."

Blind Summit Theater's astonishing puppetry contributions to "Madame Butterfly"

Frankie Faison's "the Doppler Effect joke," Jarmusch's "Permanent Vacation"

Orson Welles as valliant attempter at sneakily infiltrating the techniques of European surrealism into American mass culture?  (but also too: of Eisenstein)

 Dali, Boiffard and Lacan on the "paranoiac-critical method"


Chuito el de Bayamón's "El Niño Campesino"

March 31, 2014

The 50 Club

Forget the "27 Club."

This past month, when reading some of the newer memorials and moving remembrances of the brilliant Maggie Estep, TiR realized that her name sadly joins an astonishing list, almost certainly one closer to TiR's heart than that of the "27s,"  one which no one else heretofore seems to have noticed, and which deserves its own small-c canonization: 

The Fifty Club. 

Which would now then, in part, include:

Maggie Estep

Joe Strummer

Michael Jackson

Roberto Bolaño

Alban Berg

Gustav Mahler

Jelly Roll Morton

Dee Dee Ramone

Kurt Weill

Isadora Duncan

Jackie Wilson

David Ruffin

Dave Prater (of Same & Dave)

Glenn Gould

Violeta Parra

Jimmy Reed

Dave Brockie (of GWAR)

Steve McQueen

Carson McCullers 

Raymond Carver

Stieg Larsson

Rod Serling

St. Thomas Aquinas, and 


February 28, 2014
guns and (literally) perception

The following incidents all seem to have something in common:

"The only tunnel vision I had was his right hand and the gun in his hand." . . . He said he then looked for the gun he had seen Mr Duggan holding. He said he could not find it, adding that it had "disappeared".

also August 2011:
 "Orange County Cop Shot Man Holding Cell Phone, Claims He Thought It Was A Handgun"

But Williams played the 911 recording in which he first tells the operator that the man had a gun, then says he thought the man had a gun. The arriving police officer wrote in his report that Chitty told him, "I'm sorry, I thought he had a gun."

Martin was alone in his car when emergency workers removed him. No gun was found

"At least one of the officers thought he saw something in the suspect's hands" Scottsdale Police Sgt. Mark Clark told Arizona's KPNX . . . Detectives found no weapon on Loxas following the shooting.

"There was no -- no doubt in my mind that that was a weapon. That that was a firearm. The doubt came in when the police started telling me that they didn`t recover anything in the car at the scene."

Officials later determined Kaluza-Graham did not have a weapon with him. Gerlach defended what he saw and how he reacted in the moment. "There absolutely was something in his hand,” said Gerlach. Gerlach said his decision to draw his weapon and then fire a shot all happened in less than two seconds.

The trooper pursued him and fired at Pinkard when he thought he saw a gun. No one was hurt and no weapon was ever found . . .

"A male subject opened the front door pointing a pistol ... and pulled the trigger," the affidavit reads. The officer fired one round. . . . eyewitness testimony establishes that Roupe was holding a Wii Remote, not a handgun, when he opened the door.

Bordering on the unfathomable . . . 

unless, in some small part . . .  neuroscience to the rescue? 

as so often seems to be the aspiration nowadays. . . . 

Dr. Arne Nieuwenhuys seems currently to be a guy to go to on this.

See, e.g.:

Nieuwenhuys, Savelsbergh & Opedjans (2012) "Shoot or don't shoot: Why police officers are more inclined to shoot they they are anxious" Emotion 12, 827-33


We investigated the effect of anxiety on police officers' shooting decisions. Thirty-six police officers participated and executed a low- and high-anxiety video-based test that required them to shoot or not shoot at rapidly appearing suspects that either had a gun and "shot," or had no gun and "surrendered." Anxiety was manipulated by turning on (high anxiety) or turning off (low anxiety) a so-called "shootback canon" that could fire small plastic bullets at the participants. When performing under anxiety, police officers showed a response bias toward shooting, implying that they accidentally shot more often at suspects that surrendered. Furthermore, shot accuracy was lower under anxiety and officers responded faster when suspects had a gun. Finally, because gaze behavior appeared to be unaffected by anxiety, it is concluded that when they were anxious, officers were more inclined to respond on the basis of threat-related inferences and expectations rather than objective, task-relevant visual information.


Nieuwenhuys & Oudejans (2010) "Effects of anxiety on handgun shooting behavior of police officers: a pilot study" Anxiety Stress Coping. 2010; 23(2): 225-33


The current pilot study aimed at providing an initial assessment of how anxiety influences police officers' shooting behavior. Seven police officers participated and completed an identical shooting exercise under two experimental conditions: low anxiety, against a non-threatening opponent, and high anxiety (HA), against a threatening opponent who occasionally shot back using colored soap cartridges. Measurements included shooting accuracy, movement times, head/body orientation, and blink behavior. Results showed that under HA, shooting accuracy decreased. Underlying this degradation of performance, participants acted faster and made themselves smaller to reduce the chance of being hit. Furthermore, they blinked more often, leading to increases in the amount of time participants had their eyes closed. Findings provide support for attentional control theory, hereby also pointing to possible interventions to improve police officers' shooting performance under pressure.

But see also:

Zhaoping L, Jingling L (2008) "Filling-In and Suppression of Visual Perception from Context: A Bayesian Account of Perceptual Biases by Contextual Influences." PLoS Computational BiologyFeb. 2008

glossed here:

How Believing Can Be Seeing: Context Dictates What We Believe We See

Scientists at UCL (University College London) have found the link between what we expect to see, and what our brain tells us we actually saw. The study reveals that the context surrounding what we see is all important -- sometimes overriding the evidence gathered by our eyes and even causing us to imagine things which aren't really there. . . .


Miller S, Zielaskowski K (2010) "The basis of shooter biases: beyond cultural stereotypes." Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Oct. 2010


White police officers and undergraduate students mistakenly shoot unarmed Black suspects more than White suspects on computerized shoot/don't shoot tasks. This bias is typically attributed to cultural stereotypes of Black men. Yet, previous research has not examined whether such biases emerge even in the absence of cultural stereotypes. The current research investigates whether individual differences in chronic beliefs about interpersonal threat interact with target group membership to elicit shooter biases, even when group membership is unrelated to race or cultural stereotypes about danger. Across two studies, participants with strong beliefs about interpersonal threats were more likely to mistakenly shoot outgroup members than ingroup members; this was observed for unfamiliar, arbitrarily formed groups using a minimal group paradigm (Study 1) and racial groups not culturally stereotyped as dangerous (Asians; Study 2). Implications for the roles of both group membership and cultural stereotypes in shaping decisions to shoot are discussed.

Who will step up with the funding for some more scientific studies in this realm? 

Probably not this guy.