Thanksgiving Is Ruined

The Personal is Political. The Political is Personal.

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June 30, 2018
new Adrian Piper on Kant

. . . 

We similarly betray the autonomous exercise of our rational faculties when we deceive ourselves about what it is we are actually doing . . . or when we register our motives accurately but belittle their significance . . . or when we act thoughtlessly, failing to register our behavior in consciousness at all (to which, therefore, only a pronounced hostile reaction can awaken us from the slumber of habit).


The rest = here.

Pretty much the best, bravest, timeliest, most concrete (numerous examples) and multi-faceted, encapsulated piece of writing about Kantian philosophy, especially his ethics, that TiR has read?

Pretty much.

Will this impel the eternally lazy TiR to get off its butt and read the 1200 pages of her Rationality and the Structure of the Self: A Two-Volume Study in Kantian Metaethics

Time "nothing else than the form of the internal sense, that is, of the intuitions of self and of our internal state . . . the formal condition a priori of all phenomena whatsoever . . . nothing but the form of our internal intuition" will tell.

AP this year as much as ever.

[ICYMI:  TiR's whimsical attempt to translate the first paragraph of Kant's first critique, into words of no more than one syllable, from over 10 years ago, is here.  Retrospectively, the translation is laughable in even more ways than we were capable of seeing at the time, as is everything on this blog, indeed as this very post will begin to be revealed to us, starting immediately after TiR hits "publish" on it.]

May 31, 2018

What it’s like to watch someone dance into a gravitational singularity

The Bolshoi Ballet theater’s seating capacity (.pdf):  2,153

La Scala's, in Milan: 2,800

Royal Opera House's, in London: 2,256

However, Graham Harman might suggest that no attendee at a ballet at any of these locations or others has ever actually “seen” the dance:

The proper object of aesthetic judgment in dance, then, is its composition: its choreography, we could say.  If   OOO   is right that every aesthetic object is inherently withdrawn, it is the choreography that recedes behind its sensual qualities or surface appearance. . . .

The choreography that is the object of aesthetic judgment is something over and above the actual movement of the dancers.  It is a certain style, a “spirit of the thing” that endures even if  --  within reason  --  a certain number of changes in detail are made to the choreography itself. . . . [I]t is hard to describe exactly what this is . . .

In the case of music, Kant speaks of the wonderful sound of a flute or violin as examples of charm. . . .

While charm is a matter of sensual delight rather than of the aesthetic object per se, it is “of the same kind” as our liking for that object. OOO explains this by pointing out that the tension in charm between the sensual object and its multitude of glittering qualities is clearly analogous to that between the hidden real object and the swarm of qualities it leaves behind, orbiting it like dust spiraling into a black hole.

The above is taken from Harman’s “Dance and Philosophy,” which appears in Movement Research Performance Journal # 51 (April 2018).

TiR is unsure whether all of what GH has to say in the essay is earth-shatteringly original ("original" -- ha! whatever that even means -- whotheyellknows) (e.g.,. Yvonne Rainer: "Dance is hard to see," etc.), to the extent that GH’s meaning(s) penetrated the thickness of TiR’s skull in the first place.  

However, Harman’s essay is the first of his in quite a while that TiR actually finished reading.

April 30, 2018
the dialectics of solitude

could a more pretentious blog entry title possibly be devised?  hailz no

but is as good a phrase as any to capture some of what's going on in Amiri Baraka's early 60s but timely poem "Hegel":

. . . 
       I am trying to understand
       the nightmare of economics
. . . 

                        Either I am wrong
                        or he is wrong. All right
                        I am wrong, but give me someone
                        to talk to.

The poem in its entirety is reproduced on the typically excellent Autodidact Project site, here.

TiR went searching for the poem after passing mention of it in the also excellent talk by professor Jeremy Glick at this fine event.

or rather, TiR went searching for it months after the talk, after reviewing TiR's well nigh illegible notes, buried, than excavated, then puzzled over, then deciphered

Glick discusses the poem, Baraka's poetics, and scholarship on A.B., in the context of what he critiques as "pragmatist longing," in his 2010 boundary 2 article here (.pdf).

March 31, 2018
our smarter self is more easily bored with itself

Chris Kraus, writing on her recent biographical subject, Kathy Acker, in the Guardian, last autumn: 

Arriving in the East Village from New Zealand in the late 1970s, I read Acker’s books as if a bolder and more intelligent part of myself had written them. . . Or, as William Burroughs put it more elegantly: "Acker gives her work the power to mirror the reader’s soul." How does she do this? 

as per here

If Acker's writing mirrors the reader's soul, Fran Lebowitz's conversation may mirror the reader's brain.  From the same newspaper, this month:

"It’s a shocking thing to realise people love their hatred more than they care about their own actual lives. The hatred  --  what is that about? It’s a fear of your own weakness."
"I do feel that this very young generation  --  people who are teenagers today and in their 20s  --  are so much better than the generation right above, people who are in their 40s. . . .  when these new young people started coming up, I was pleasantly surprised. I mean  -- they read books. When I am on the subway and I see a person reading a book, they will be 24, and the person on the Kindle is 44." 
"I don’t really think about myself any more. It’s one of the upsides about getting old. I’ve lost interest." 

February 28, 2018
"minimalism" as mere lifestyle choice

The plodding and dutiful but intellectually superficial and thus easily bored online performative character known as "TiR" expected ArtForum's new interview (paywalled, yegodz) with Jacques Herzog, by Julian Rose, to be factually informative but boring.

On the latter count, we were proven entirely wrong, as we so often enjoy happening, after the first 5 seconds . . .  then read several minutes later:

Rose: . . . Minimalism is a term hotly contested between art and architecture, largely because many artists feel that architects reduced it to something purely aesthetic. If for Judd and other artists of his generation Minimalism was about shifting the emphasis from object to experience, rethinking the way seeing is framed by the spatial envelope of the gallery and inflected by our movement through it, for architects in the ’80s and ’90s it became just a look, or even a lifestyle -- a branding slogan.

Herzog: Oh yes, I agree. Minimalism became an aesthetic school, especially in Switzerland and England, and then also in America and elsewhere. A number of architects became famous for their “Minimalist” boxes. We felt responsible for that evolution, since we did radically Minimalist work early on. . . . Also, we introduced the term Minimalism to describe an approach to structure and materiality, which was different from what architects were doing at that time, and was closer, in fact, to the concepts of artists such as Sol LeWitt, Robert Morris, and of course Judd.

Herzog goes on to mention "our rejection of the way Minimalism had been reduced to a style. Paradoxically, Minimalism led us to ornament, which seems to be its opposite."


Judd, of course, famously in 1965 (.pdf):

"It isn’t necessary for a work to have a lot of things to look at, to compare, to analyse one by one, to contemplate. The thing as a whole, its quality as a whole, is what is interesting. The main things are alone and are more intense, clear and powerful. They are not diluted by an inherited format, variations of a form, mild contrasts and connecting parts and areas.”

Two random Fred Sandback quotes from 1975, both accessible here:

A piece made with just a few lines at first seems very purist and geometrical. My work isn’t either of these things. . . . I intend what I do to be concrete and particular. It’s just the opposite of abstract art, which is derived, deduced, or refined from something else. . . . Keeping the art from being decorative is a hard thing -- using only a line, it easily becomes pretty or zappy -- the phenomenon isolates itself too easily -- becomes just something to look at. (from "Statements")

I’d rather be in the middle of a situation than over on one side either looking in or looking out. . . .  I don’t make "dematerialized art." I complicate actual situations, and this is as material as anything else. (from "Notes")

January 31, 2018
Hoping* to continue keepin' it minimal in 2018

In 1771 appeared Abbé Joseph Dinouart's  L'art de se taire.

Or, as TiR likes to think of its title: The Dummy’s Guide to Keeping Your Mouth Shut.

Or maybe even better: Getting Over Yourself: a User’s Manual.

From Chapter One, Englished in TiR's typically half-assed way:

In the conduct of everyday life, the discretion required to keep genuinely silent is no less a virtue than is the practical skill of speaking well.  
 There is no more merit involved in explaining well the things one knows than there is in keeping well and truly quiet about the things of which one knows nothing. 
Sometimes, a wisely kept silence is worth more than a philosopher's argumentation: in the former case, silence teaches a lesson to the insolent, and admonishes the sinful .. . . 
 Even if you have a general inclination towards staying silent, you must still mistrust yourself: A burning passion to say a thing should often be considered sufficient reason to redouble ones efforts to keep it unsaid.

A nice summary of what all Dinouart had to say about the principles behind not-saying-anything (in "Silence, the Utmost in Ambiguity" (2010), by Mario Perniola), can be found here.

                                                                    * (and, as usual in all realms, probably failing foolishly)

December 31, 2017

How we all learned to deutsch zu sprechen in 2017

from a July 1909 issue of the newspaper Proletary (No. 46):

During the revolution we learned to "speak French," i. e., to introduce into the movement the greatest number of rousing slogans, to raise the energy of the direct struggle of the masses and extend its scope.
Now, in this time of stagnation, reaction and disintegration, we must learn to "speak German," i. e., to work slowly (there is nothing else for it, until things revive), systematically, steadily, advancing step by step, winning inch by inch. 

So said dis fookin guy, heeyah

November 23, 2017

Remembering the Ten Days that Shook Thanksgiving



To pick up on the thread of TiR’s previous (and as always, pointless) post:

This month’s 100-year anniversary enables the further ruthless interrogation of this blog’s (pointless) namesake proposition, with another dive into the historical record.

. . . Especially to attempt to answer further the question:  Why exactly did it all kick off, anyway? 

Was it the desire for bread? 

For peace?

For freedom? 


Of could there have been some other, heretofore overlooked factor??


TiR leaves it to the reader to decide that last question, by means of the below VI quotes – each from throughout that crucial year exactly a century ago, presented chronologically.   Perhaps the attentive reader will detect a certain recurring, drumbeat theme.

Each quote reproduced guaranteed 100% verbatim – TiR    a s s u r e s    you.   





The following is an absolute secret. Please reply to me immediately and, perhaps, best by express (I think we won’t ruin the Party OR ITS THANKSGIVING (EDIT: TOO LATE ON THE LATTER) by a dozen extra express letters), so that I can be sure no one has read the letter.




However, it was not our impatience, nor our wishes, but the objective conditions created by the imperialist war that brought the whole of humanity to an impasse, that placed it in a dilemma: either allow the destruction of more millions of lives and utterly ruin European civilization AND BY EXTENSION ITS THANKSGIVING, or hand over power in all the civilised countries to the revolutionary proletariat, carry through the socialist revolution.




The least confidence in this respect either in Milyukov or in Kerensky (an empty chatterer, an agent of the Russian imperialist bourgeoisie in his objective role) would be simply ruinous for the working-class movement and for our Party AND FOR OUR THANKSGIVING.




The masses must be made to see that Blancism is ruining THANKSGIVING and will utterly ruin the further success of the revolution UNTIL IT EVEN MORE CLOSELY RESEMBLES THANKSGIVING IN THIS RESPECT.





It’s all talk! Talk, flattery of the revolutionary people, is the only thing that has ruined all revolutions AND ALL THANKSGIVINGS. . . . This point of view spells ruin for socialism, AND  EVEN THE MOST UNLETTERED PEASANTS  KNOW THAT TO SPELL “RUIN” IS EFFECTIVELY ALSO TO SPELL “THANKSGIVING.”

Report at a meeting of Bolshevik Delegates to the All-Russia Conference of Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies”




All countries are on the brink of ruin (OVER THE BRINK OF WHICH ALREADY HAVE FALLEN THEIR THANKSGIVINGS); people must realise this; there is no way out except through a socialist revolution.




The present war, therefore, has brought humanity to an impasse and placed it on the brink of ruin, AND IF IT PLUMMETS OVER THAT BRINK, WHAT WILL IT FIND THERE WAITING?  PRECISELY THIS: THANKSGIVING.

From The Seventh All-Russia Conference of the R.S.D.L.P.(Bolshevik)




Small and middle enterprises are being squeezed out and THEIR THANKSGIVINGS ARE BEING ruined at a faster rate than ever.




Before the revolution the land belonged to the landowners. That was not called anarchy. And what did that lead to?  It led to a break-down all along the line, to “anarchy” in the fullest sense of the word, i.e., to the utter ruin of the country’S THANKSGIVING, WHICH IN THIS RESPECT WAS REFLECTED IN the ruin of the majority of population.




What started this war, what is it being waged for?  . . .They are carving up colonies and seizing territories in the Balkans and in Turkey -- and for this the European peoples must be ruined AS BADLY AS IS THEIR THANKSGIVING, for this we must die, for this we must witness the ruin OF THANKSGIVING (IF WITNESS IT WE DARE), NOT TO MENTION, starvation and death of our families.




Economic AND THANKSGIVING-RELATED ruin, crisis, the horrors of war, an impasse from which there is no way out—this is what the capitalists have brought all the nations to.




The old division was based on the fact that Britain, in the course of several centuries, had ruined THE THANKSGIVINGS OF her former competitors. . . . This rapid development of capitalism in Germany was the development of a young strong predator, who appeared in the concert of European powers and said: “You ruined THANKSGIVING! ALONG WITH Holland, you defeated France, you have helped yourself to half the world now be good enough to let us have our fair share.”




To cloak an unpleasant truth with a deceptive phrase is most harmful and most dangerous to the cause of the proletariat, to the cause of the toiling masses. The truth, however bitter, must be faced squarely. A policy that does not meet this requirement is a ruinous policy AND BY “POLICY” WE NON-DECEPTIVELY MEAN “THANKSGIVING.”




The alternatives are either utter ruin OF, YOU GUESSED IT, THANKSGIVING or a revolution against the capitalists. That is how the question stands. That is how the very trend of events poses it.




“The country’S THANKSGIVING today is heading for ruin,” says Izvestia’s editorial. Correct. For that very reason it would be unwise today to rely on the conciliatory policy of the petty bourgeoisie, the Narodniks and the Mensheviks, with regard to the capitalists. The country cannot be saved from ruin in that way – NOR, YOU FINE NARODNIKS AND MENSHEVIKS, CAN ITS THANKSGIVING!




Without universal labour service, the country cannot be saved from THE INEVITABLE ruin OF ITS THANKSGIVING . . . Every person is bound to stand for such measures if he really wishes to save tens of millions OF THANKSGIVINGS from ruin and disaster.




Socialists are out to make only the landowners and capitalists “abdicate”. To deal a decisive blow at those who are defying the people the way the colliery owners are doing when they disrupt and ruin production, IF YOU COULD CALL IT THAT, OF THANKSGIVING, it is sufficient to make a few hundred, at the most one or two thousand, millionaires, bank and industrial and commercial bosses, “abdicate” their property rights.




It’s like a madhouse, with the capitalists acting in collusion with the bourgeois section of the Provisional Government (among the members of which are Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries), with the capitalists using obstruction and wrecking tactics, and doing nothing to ship their products, without which the country is facing ruin – AS HAS ALREADY FACED THANKSGIVING, WHICH, CONSEQUENTLY AND TO REPEAT, WILL FEEL THAT IT’S LIKE A MADHOUSE.




The masses will learn from their own experience. The sad experience of the new stage of the war (a stage already begun), of further ruin OF THANKSGIVING (AND WE SAY “FURTHER” BECAUSE, THE EXPERIENCE OF THE MASSES IS THAT IT ALREADY IS), accentuated by the offensive, will inevitably lead to the political downfall of the Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik parties.



Fall 1917:

The government violates the law by adopting, in the interests, of the rich, the landowners and capitalists, a measure which ruins the whole business of control AND THE WHOLE BUSINESS OF THANKSIVING, food supply and the stabilisation of the extremely shaky finances.

The Impending Catastrophe and How to Combat It: Government Disruption of the Work of the Democratic Organisations”




These words contain the most thoughtless, the most monstrous untruth concerning the most important Issue of the revolution, an untruth, moreover, which has most often been put about, in vastly differing countries, among the petty-bourgeois democrats and has ruined the greatest number of revolutions AND THE ENTIRE NUMBER OF THANKSGIVINGS.




The revolutionary proletariat would never do anything worthwhile in the Soviet as long as the Tseretelis were allowed proportional participation; to let them in meant depriving ourselves of the opportunity to work, it meant the ruin of Soviet work AND OF THANKSGIVING.  THANKS A BUNCH, TSERETELIS!




There is not the slightest doubt that at the "top" of our Party there are noticeable vacillations that may CAUSE THANKSGIVING EVEN MORE COMPLETELY TO become ruinous, because the struggle is developing; under certain conditions, at a certain moment, vacillations may ruin the cause OF THANKSGIVING EVEN MORE THAN IT IS.




If even the experience of the Kornilov revolt has taught the "democrats" nothing, and they continue the destructive policy of vacillation and compromise, we say that nothing is more ruinous to the THANKSGIVING OF THE proletarian revolution than these vacillations.




The Bolsheviks would be traitors to the peasants, for to tolerate the suppression of the peasant revolt by a government which even Dyelo Naroda compares with the Stolypin government would be to ruin THANKSGIVING AND EVEN the whole revolution, to ruin it, AND BY “IT” WE OF COURSE MEAN THE PEASANTS’ THANKSGIVING,  for good . . . For it is my profound conviction that if we "wait" for the Congress of Soviets and let the present moment pass, we shall ruin the revolution AS COMPLETELY AS IF IT WERE THANKSGIVING.




If the Bolsheviks were to yield in any form and in the slightest degree to the philistine stupidity of this argument they would ruin their Party, THEIR THANKSGIVING (WE MEAN: EVEN FURTHER, WHICH WOULD BE THE VERY DEFINITION OF PHILISTINE STUPIDITY) and the revolution. . . . That is why I say that if the Bolsheviks were to give in to these moods they would ruin both their Party and their revolution AND THEIR THANKSGIVING, NOT THAT MY WRITING STYLE IS REPETITIOUS OR ANYTHING.




War and THANKSGIVING’S economic ruin have forced all countries to advance from monopoly capitalism to state monopoly capitalism. This is the objective state of affairs.




We must admit that unless the Kerensky government is overthrown by the proletariat and the soldiers in the near future the revolution is ruined, AS IS THANKSGIVING, TO WHICH KERENSKY WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN INVITED ANYWAY.




The people will not allow the rich to ruin THANKSGIVING ANY MORE THAN IT ALREADY IS, NOR the cause of peace they uphold.

“Draft Of A Manifesto To The Peasantry: From The Second All-Russia Congress Of Soviets Of Peasants’ Deputies”




The imperialist war, the war between the biggest and richest banking firms, Britain and Germany, that is being waged for world domination, the division of the spoils, for the plunder of small and weak nations; this horrible, criminal war has ruined THANKSGIVING EVEN MORE CONSISTENTLY, RESOLUTELY AND DECISIVELY THAN WAS PREVIOUSLY THE CASE, ALONG WITH all countries.




This is the way of the bourgeois intelligentsia, of all conciliators, who ruin everything, WHICH LOGICALLY ENCOMPASSES THANKSGIVING, with their constant agreement in principle and disagreement in practice. . . . The adoption of the decree is urgent, otherwise opposition and sabotage will ruin us – AND YOU KNOW WHAT WE WOULD THEN BE EXACTLY LIKE? THANKSGIVING. (Stormy applause.)

“Speech On The Nationalisation Of The Banks: Delivered At A Meeting Of The All-Russia Central Executive Committee




The war, brought about by the conflict between capitalists for the division of the spoils of depredation, has resulted in untold ruin OF THANKSGIVING, WHICH, WHILE “UNTOLD,” DOES NOT EXCLUDE THE LIKELIHOOD THAT I WILL WRITE ABOUT IT AT GREAT LENGTH.



The world-historical implications of the above discoveries are obvious and, of course, staggering.






October 31, 2017

Return of the blockheads

. . . of the “philosophical blockheads,” of course.

. . .  discussed in this work, and last mentioned here a dozen years ago, herein.

Given now here comes upon us the 100th anniv of da big trowdown, what is there to do but to read all of VI’s books, in order, in their entirety?

Thus below, TiR hereby presents: 

Materialism and Empirio-criticism: Critical Comments on a Reactionary Philosophy (1909):  the funniest passages.

(page references to the edition from the always fetish-worthy, cream-covered series published by the Foreign Language Press of Peking (1972))

Well, well, the titmouse first promised to set the sea on fire . . . i.e., to construct physical elements from psychical elements.

(pg. 62)

To the mouse no beast is stronger than the cat.  To the Russian Machians there is no materialist stronger than Plehkhanov.

(pg. 90)

The Russian Machians will soon be like fashion-lovers who are moved to ecstasy over a hat which has already been discarded by the bourgeois philosophers of Europe.

(pg. 99)

Engels has been treated à la Mach, fried and served with a Machian sauce.  But take care you do not choke, worthy cooks!

(pg. 124)

It is true that not only is the wildest dream a fact, but also the wildest philosophy.  No doubt of this is possible after an acquaintance with the philosophy of Ernst Mach.

(pg. 156)

Clad like a harlequin in a garish motley of shreds of the ‘latest’ terminology, there stands before us a subjective idealist, for who the external world, nature and its laws are all symbols of our knowledge.

(pg. 193)

Lunacharshky says, ‘. . . a wonderful page of religious economics, I say this at the risk of provoking a smile from the irreligious reader.’ However good your intentions may be, Comrade Lunacharsky, it is not a smile, but disgust your flirtation with religion provokes.

(pg. 218)

They read it and they copied it, but they did not make head or tail of it.

(pg. 219)

. . . Hegelian dialectics -- that pearl which those farmyard cocks, the Büchners, the Dührings and Co. (as well as Leclair, Mach, Avenarius and so forth), could not pick out from the dungheap of absolute idealism.

(pg. 289)

And, it goes without saying, where there is a muddle there you will find Machians.

(pg. 292)

. . . from the standpoint of the materialists it is a dispute between a man who believes in a yellow devil and a man who believes in a green devil.  For the important thing is not the differences between Bogdanov and the other Machians, but what they have in common.

(pgs. 326-27)

But five pages later the founder of recent empirio-symbolism declares: ‘Everything that is not thought is pure nothing, since we can think nothing but thought.’ You are wrong, M. Poincaré: your works prove that there are people who can think what is entirely devoid of thought. 

(pg. 351)

However, in spite of the fact that his main line of ‘endeavour’ lies in the borderland between philosophy and the police department, Mr. Lopatin has also furnished certain material for a characterisation of the epistemological views of this idealist physicist [N. I. Shishkin].

(pg. 361)

Just fancy, one can, like an apothecary, weigh out a little more or a little less relativism and thus save Machism!

(pg. 373)

The man is hammering at an open door! --  will be the thought of the Marxist when he reads the lengthy disquisitions on this subject.

(pg. 375)

And if our Machians renounce [Franz] Blei (as they surely will), we shall tell them: You must not blame the mirror for showing a crooked face. Blei is a mirror which accurately reflects the fundamental tendencies of empirio-criticism. . .

(pgs. 385-86)

A single claw ensnared, and the bird is lost. And our Machians have all become ensnared in idealism.

(pg. 420)

It was amusing to see how -- perhaps for the first time in their lives -- the eyes of these mummies, dried and shrunken in the atmosphere of lifeless scholasticism, began to gleam and their cheeks to glow under the slaps which [Ernst] Haeckel [author of The Riddle of the Universe, 1899] administered them.  The high-priests of pure science, and, it would appear, of the most abstract theory, fairly groaned with rage.

(pg. 424)

Here’s the 2nd funniest passage:

The reader is probably fuming at us for quoting at such length this incredibly trivial rigamarole, this quasi-scientific tomfoolery decked out in the terminology of Avenarius.  But wer den Feind will versthehen muß in Feindes Lande gehen -- who would know the enemy must go into the enemy’s territory.

(pg. 383)

And TiR here presents the top funniest passage of all:

A man in a dark room may discern objects dimly, but if he does not stumble over the furniture and does not walk into a looking-glass instead of through a door, it means that he sees some things correctly.

(pg. 331)

Hilarious . . .  no?