Monday, February 29, 2016

from "The Lost Children," Randall Jarrell

She sits in my living room and shows her husband
My albums of her as a child. He enjoys them
And makes fun of them. I look too
And I realize the girl in the matching blue
Mother-and-daughter dress, the fair one carrying
The tin lunch box with the half-pint thermos bottle
Or training her pet duck to go down the slide
Is lost just as the dark one, who is dead, is lost.
But the world in which the two wear their flared coats
And the hats that match, exists so uncannily
That, after I've seen its pictures for an hour,
I believe in it: the bandage coming loose
One has in the picture of the other's birthday,
The castles they are building, at the beach for asthma.
I look at them and all the old sure knowledge
Floods over me, when I put the album down
I keep saying inside: "I did know those children.
I braided those braids. I was driving the car
The day that she stepped in the can of grease
We were taking to the butcher for our ration points.
I know those children. I know all about them.
Where are they?"

Friday, February 26, 2016

Albrecht Dürer, Hare, 1502

“Books smell like old people,” I heard a student say in New Haven.

It’s very likely that teen-agers, attached to screens of one sort or another, read more words than they ever have in the past. But they often read scraps, excerpts, articles, parts of articles, messages, pieces of information from everywhere and from nowhere. It’s likely that they are reading fewer books. Yes, millions of kids have read Harry Potter, “The Lord of the Rings,” “The Hunger Games,” and other fantasy and dystopian fictions; also vampire romance, graphic novels (some very good), young-adult novels (ditto), and convulsively exciting street lit. Yet what happens as they move toward adolescence? When they become twelve or thirteen, kids often stop reading seriously. The boys veer off into sports or computer games, the girls into friendship in all its wrenching mysteries and satisfactions of favor and exclusion. Much of their social life, for boys as well as girls, is now conducted on smartphones, where teen-agers don’t have to confront one another. The terror of eye contact! Sherry Turkle, in her recent book “Reclaiming Conversation,” has written about the loss of self that this avoidance creates and also of the peculiar boredom paradoxically produced by the act of constantly fleeing boredom.

- David Denby

capitAl hill


I died for your yuppie sins

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Umberto Eco (5 January 1932 – 19 February 2016), pretty much describing Shrub, Trump, et al

Traditionalism implies the rejection of modernism. Both Fascists and Nazis worshiped technology, while traditionalist thinkers usually reject it as a negation of traditional spiritual values. However, even though Nazism was proud of its industrial achievements, its praise of modernism was only the surface of an ideology based upon Blood and Earth (Blut und Boden). The rejection of the modern world was disguised as a rebuttal of the capitalistic way of life, but it mainly concerned the rejection of the Spirit of 1789 (and of 1776, of course). The Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, is seen as the beginning of modern depravity. In this sense Ur-Fascism can be defined as irrationalism.

Irrationalism also depends on the cult of action for action's sake. Action being beautiful in itself, it must be taken before, or without, any previous reflection. Thinking is a form of emasculation. Therefore culture is suspect insofar as it is identified with critical attitudes. Distrust of the intellectual world has always been a symptom of Ur-Fascism, from Goering's alleged statement ("When I hear talk of culture I reach for my gun") to the frequent use of such expressions as "degenerate intellectuals," "eggheads," "effete snobs," "universities are a nest of Reds." The official Fascist intellectuals were mainly engaged in attacking modern culture and the liberal intelligentsia for having betrayed traditional values.

....The critical spirit makes distinctions, and to distinguish is a sign of modernism. In modern culture the scientific community praises disagreement as a way to improve knowledge. For Ur-Fascism, disagreement is treason.

Besides, disagreement is a sign of diversity. Ur-Fascism grows up and seeks for consensus by exploiting and exacerbating the natural fear of difference. The first appeal of a fascist or prematurely fascist movement is an appeal against the intruders. Thus Ur-Fascism is racist by definition.

....For Ur-Fascism there is no struggle for life but, rather, life is lived for struggle. Thus pacifism is trafficking with the enemy. It is bad because life is permanent warfare. This, however, brings about an Armageddon complex. Since enemies have to be defeated, there must be a final battle, after which the movement will have control of the world. But such a "final solution" implies a further era of peace, a Golden Age, which contradicts the principle of permanent war. No fascist leader has ever succeeded in solving this predicament.

....Ur-Fascism is based upon a selective populism, a qualitative populism, one might say. In a democracy, the citizens have individual rights, but the citizens in their entirety have a political impact only from a quantitative point of view – one follows the decisions of the majority. For Ur-Fascism, however, individuals as individuals have no rights, and the People is conceived as a quality, a monolithic entity expressing the Common Will. Since no large quantity of human beings can have a common will, the Leader pretends to be their interpreter. Having lost their power of delegation, citizens do not act; they are only called on to play the role of the People. Thus the People is only a theatrical fiction. To have a good instance of qualitative populism we no longer need the Piazza Venezia in Rome or the Nuremberg Stadium. There is in our future a TV or Internet populism, in which the emotional response of a selected group of citizens can be presented and accepted as the Voice of the People.

- "Ur-Fascism," New York Review of Books, 1995

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

elaine migraine

Lost most of last night and all of today to an oncoming migraine, which I managed to fend off fairly successfully with tea, coffee, a couple of lattes, and a lot of Vitamin I (sorry, stomach). "Fending off a migraine" means for me enduring headache (moderate to severe), nausea, light sensitivity, and brain fog but WITHOUT it turning into the horrible "someone is stabbing through my skull with an electrified icepick" pain, so it kinda counts as a win. Sorta. It did rain a lot of today, which soothes my sinuses and generally eases headaches for me, but I kept waking up with sleep apnea, which just makes headaches worse (and often brings them on) so for most of today I just dozed on the sofa half-upright and listened to a lot of music. Whee.

For me migraine pain, whether it's terrible or moderate, comes in waves, which is kinda disconcerting, because it makes me wonder WTF is going on in there. (Same thing happens to me with nausea. Maybe it's just a Moi-bodily thing.) When I'm deep in the tunnel I can kind of hang on through the pain and know it'll go away in a couple of minutes, which helps. But I also know it'll be back in a couple of minutes, which bites. But then the ebbs and flows get less violent and it's like eventually I wash up on the beach, and it's like the end of Infinite Jest: you come to flat on your back, it's raining out of a low sky, and the tide of pain is way out. It's a weird feeling. Emptied-out I guess more than anything else, not quite peaceful. Like right now my left temple is still throbbing and I barely managed to keep down some oatmeal and tea and my words aren't all the way back yet, but some things are still good: soft rain. Purring cat. Warm tea. We're too high on the Hill here to hear the tide but you can hear the boats sometimes, horns blowing as they ride past on top of all that cold darkness.

Yes, this: it would look like a floating palace to any poor soul out here on the ocean at night, alone in a dinghy, or not even in a dinghy but simply and terribly floating, treading water, out of sight of land.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

books read in February 2016

Fiction is in red. Date of first publication in (parentheses).

1. The Vanished Child, Sarah Smith (1992)
2. Revisionary, Jim Hines (2016)
3. The Black Presidency: Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America, Michael Eric Dyson (2016)
4. 1995: The Year the Future Began, W. Joseph Campbell (2015)

all 2016 booklist posts

master list of books read in 2016


all 2016 booklist posts

Friday, February 12, 2016

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

don't let me down

And we are put on earth a little space
That we may learn to bear the beams of love

- William Blake