Thanksgiving Is Ruined
July 31, 2016
Is everything really beautiful?
In its own way? Like a starry summer night? Or a snow-covered winter's day?
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?
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:
"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:
No more posts.
supplemental request blogging only:
Posts only allowed in the event of national emergencies or war.
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.
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.
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
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:
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
on the implied, subversive polytheism of second-hand booksellers
on the cuisine of the DDR: a video investigation
"The International Monetary Fund and the Ebola Outbreak" (Lancet)
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
Schjeldahl on Valéry on the composed set of "brief little dreams" that is language (see "Petite lettre sur les mythes," 1928)
"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? A 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?
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
meme alert: what's behind so much of the new conceptual art? "labor shame"
on homo homini lupus and pillage as our last remaining economic strategy: A. Mbembe on the predatory state -- & society
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."
"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?
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
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"
How minimalist can TiR keep it in 2016?
We shall see.