Thursday, May 27, 2010

Smart Guys, Top Girls, The Talented Tenth

Richard Seymour's second book, The Meaning of David Cameron, is out, and from the intro to it given as a launch talk, it looks to be a worthy sequel to The Liberal Defence of Murder, an informative and thoroughly persuasive denouncement of imperialism and a debunking of the liberal political tradition's claims to various virtues. I haven't read the new book yet; I was happy (and a little surprised, considering) to see Seymour taking on the ideology of excellence/myth of the ladder/cult of individual merit as a bogus and hackneyed old justification for social hierarchy and material inequality.

While in the early Thatcher era this petty bourgeois cult of excellence and individual talent went over well with pundits and flourished in the punditry of ordinary public discourse, as it does today, and was propagated zealously in the mass cocaculture, as it is today, there was an explosion of rage and ridicule in response to it from the realm of the arts (parallel to some predictable participation in its propagation). This is perhaps most interesting because it had been this very realm which pundits like Nietzsche and Rand and their spawn used most often as ideal exemplar and model of meritocracy to be imitated across human affairs. It was not long after Thatcher's assumption of the UK's helm that petty bourgeois aesthetic theory began aggressively to denigrate this realm of contemporary performing arts which increasingly rejected not only the myth of existing meritocracy but the values expressed by the offering of meritocratic hierarchy as a goal, which repudiated the pseudo-progress of neoliberalism as both illusory and undesireable, and which was developing practises designed to undermine the individualist mythology serving as its justification. The new wave of contempt for "agitprop" and the "experimental" took a populist tone against the "pretentiousness" of avant-garde work and a haughty aestheticist-elitist one against "preaching" in traditional forms, and simultaneously laboured to elevate in their places, with the help of purpose built exegetical habits geared toward representing it as a kind of popular culture, the mass commodity cocaculture which relentlessly promoted that individualist mythology that justified its own enterprises of exploitation and accumulation, celebrated and protected the privileges of the demiurgic creative intellectual proprietor, and laboriosuly enticed audiences to enjoy the spectacle of the virtuous, wholesome and thrilling properties of competition.

Caryl Churchill's Top Girls (1982), instantly a "feminist theatre classic", is a dramatically ornate and politically simple play about exploitation in capitalism, poignantly exhibiting the "failures" [refusals] of bourgeois feminism to grasp [acknowledge] the intolerably unjust totality which produces the limited problem of women's unequal opportunities - disadvantages as individuals in competition with men - it recognises, isolates and confronts. The play more than deserves its imposing reputation, though it suffers from Churchill's blindness to imperialism and race and the faint but not insignificant Anglosupremacism permeating all her work. At the time of its appearance there had already been several years of public criticism of white bourgeois feminism (embodied for Churchill by Margaret Thatcher and depicted by her through the heroine of Top Girls, the new managing director of the Top Girls employment agency whose career advancement has depended on her ability to shift the labour of child rearing onto a subordinate woman). Much of the most powerful such criticism came from radical black American women who like Churchill illuminated the reformist bourgeois feminist movement's fatal individualism but from a perspective concerned and acquainted with the function of race and imperialism, as well as gender, in capitalist exploitation and the division of the exploited by hierarchies of oppression. Marred by a repressed but operational Euro/Anglocentrism and White/Anglosupremacism traditional to the most prominent strain of British Socialism, Churchill's dramatic attack on the petty bourgeois cult of meritocracy as adapted by a mass culture commodity version of feminism, was nonetheless uncompromisingly dissident, impeccably socialist in the strict sense, and insightfully didactic. It was hugely popular and successful in 1982. In the same period, other hits of the West End and Broadway stage exhibited progressive and leftist creative intellectuals' preoccupation with this question of equality of opportunity, which throws elite individuals marked for representation up against glass ceilings, as the capitalist changeling substituted for socialist social equality. Among those mainstream plays most successful at the time and memorable today were August Wilson's Fences and Charles Fuller's A Solider's Play (filmed as A Soldier's Story by Norman Jewison in the mid 80s).

The same era also saw Amiri Baraka's autobiography, LeRoi Jones, raise for a (relatively) wide audience this question through an examination of the costs to African Americans of integration of institutions (such as Major League Baseball), a victory achieved by the Civil Rights Movement which had, until the ferocity of the reaction known in the US as Reaganism was unleashed, always been seen by liberals and those to the left of them as unmitigated progress toward the goal of racial equality which though routinely imaged by visions of integrated social spheres of the highest privilege was understood to involve a transformation of society and not just the redistribution of roles for proportional representation of race and gender. That the social movements' paths, which had set out for "liberation" (from racism and misogyny, from homophobia, from oppression and persecution, but also from exploitation, thus merging in the struggle for socialism), could be redirected toward the infinitely distant and worthless "equality of opportunity" was only beginning to be widely understood by progressives and radicals in the US in the late 70s, after a roll of significant victories for humanity had come up hard against a new ruling class offensive. Somehow, between then and now (in the past decade especially, starting about when the current crop of hipster pundits was entering university) progressives and radicals in the imperial core culture industries, fed an endless diet of flattering Nietzschianism in fifty different flavours of jargon, seem to have largely forgotten, and perhaps become incapable of learning without great difficulty, what about thirty years ago their predecessors easily understood. So Seymour's focus on this most loathesome, and possibly dangerous if usually risible, strain of supremacist individualist mysticism in his new book is particularly welcome.


  1. Thanks for this. A word about my fondness for some passages from Nietzsche. To some extent, it's not that different from one's appreciation of reactionary culture like Clint Eastwood's latest films, or South Park, or Penn & Teller - thus I am consuming as 'politically incorrect' 'subversive' literature, knowing full well that it's basically crap. (Btw, why is it that the tradition of American humorists and comedians is so littered with these bourgeois Libertarians?) On the other hand, what originally motivated my interest in the idea of slave morality was the use to which I'd heard it put in arguments about the Iraqi resistance and the liberal hand-wringing about their willingness to take up arms and use bombs and so on. It was argued that essentially the liberals were justifying their support for imperialism on the grounds that Iraqi insurgents were evil, and therefore the invaders must be virtuous... well, that's vulgarising the argument, but you see where it's going. I'm not, in retrospect, convinced that this was an appropriate way to respond to that problem (hence Liberal Defence), but the desire to provoke and infuriate hypocritical liberal moralists is a powerful reason to get up in the morning.

  2. I didn't mean to snark about Neech, just to note with appreciation the development; the book looks great, mazeltov, and of course I sympathise with the dislike of the concept of diabolical evil and agree that it is really pernicious

    (see here

    if you haven't already;)

    and you know my objection is to blaming this kind of thing, the self satisfied moralising and the popularity of exterminationist style demonisation, on slaves. In fact from what we know it seems the enslaved as a group are actually not as judgemental or vengeful as slave owners, historically, and are typically much more magnanimous and considerate captors and victors. People struggling for their own liberation tend to be more generous to their foes than their foes who are struggling, in contrast, to maintain control over and to exploit others. To this latter project, it seems the notion of the diabolical and its accoppanying discourse is more convenient than it is to the project of self-emancipation. So I don't see grounds for associating these bad qualities prevalent among the privileged and exhibited in US Iraq policy apology with the influence of slaves on them or for supposing that it's the "slave" ("blood" or psychological quality) in the liberal that is promoting that discourse. As when seeking to insult a straight high IQ man by calling him a girl, a retard or a faggit, insulting privileged liberal imperialists by calling them slaves or sons of slaves probably perpetuates contempt for the enslaved to whom their depravity is attributed, and the (real or supposed) direct descendants of enslaved people, more than for the bourgeoisie to which they belong. That's my big issue with the idea of "slave morality".

    Anyway, the book looks really good. you should do a facebook page for it, if only to give the likers in the US opportunity to clarify what it's about for the merikans, because Cameron is not yet a household word there.

  3. about all the libertarians in US comedy -

    -high stakes: very much more money is now involved (Lorne Michaels, David Letterman, Conan O'Brien, Jay Leno are all genuine ruling class now)
    -the importance assumed by the Letterman outfit and the Harvard Lampoon in the 80s

    Your friend Dennis Perrin could explain I bet!

  4. Senescent12:09 AM

    Eh, w/r/t comedy it's a good position from which to simultaneously act as the audience surrogate and as the challenger of pieties. American libertarians do cherish their self-image as the ones who say the emperor has no clothes.

    If you want to get structural I guess it might have to do something with us having nothing in the position of the BBC. Our system of patronage goes from touring a loosely and humanly knit club circuit to HBO specials to sitcoms and movies put together by diversified multinational corporations.

    Though there's strong (and rather libertarian) comedy tradition on
    morning talk shows, comedians don't come from radio around here; that career path leads to politics if anywhere.

    Anyway, American comedy is more distinctly Jewish, and maybe Canadian, than anything.

  5. "People struggling for their own liberation tend to be more generous to their foes than their foes who are struggling, in contrast, to maintain control over and to exploit others."

    Absolutely. Which is one reason why I don't any longer find that invoking 'slave morality' is an appropriate way to attack the lib imps. It does have an attractively contemptuous cadence, but that is sustained by the ruling class supremacist origins of the idea itself.

    This said, my limited experience of the academia suggests that some of the better and more reliable leftists tend to be those appropriating rightist thought - Schmitt, Nietzsche, etc. I attended a debate about international law a while back, and was disgusted by a left-liberal academic working on the Great Lakes region who, challenged about the neo-colonial aspects of international law, simply said that "we got so caught up in answering those criticisms that we end up forgetting the victims who we were motivated to help in the first place - so maybe we should just talk less about that." To their credit, aside from the small marxist corner (consisting of myself and two others) it was the left-Schmittians who most forcefully rubbished this condescending bullshit. As far as institutional battles in the UK are concerned, I get the impression that some of those Nietzscheans and Schmittians are, for whatever reason, better allies than the pomo liberals who have acquired hegemony mainly by attacking and driving out the marxists. That does not, of course, mean that their appropriation of reactionary thought is to be lauded or spared critique. But it suggests that in those environments, marxists have to relate to those left-Schmitt, left-Nietzsche traditions without succumbing to them.

    Re American humourists, I get the impression that it's older than the Leno/Michaels/Letterman crowd, maybe going back to Mencken. This is just a hunch. It's almost like having a license to kill, in which every crank and boob and idiot from right or left can be savagely attacked (but, of course, not capital, which is sacrosanct).

  6. "suggests that some of the better and more reliable leftists tend to be those appropriating rightist thought - Schmitt, Nietzsche,"

    Well people evoke the brands as Authorities, just to affirm the principle of authority and dahven a bit every time they say some frightfully obvious thing. Medieval monks were afraid to notice that they had five fingers per hand without an authority for the observation - academics today are much the same. And they prefer fascists for authorities perhaps because fascists enjoyed that role.

    Like your example. Does someone really need Schmitt to help them to and to authorise that observation?

    I suppose if Schmitt were alive today he'd be invited to lecture at Marxism.

    I do suspect that his celebrity in recent years comes about because most of the people familiar with the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion and the popular petty bourgeois anti-liberal dissident discourse it participated in retired or died. So there is a new generation to get all excited over this stuff instead of taking it as hackneyed old fogey rubbish version of brilliant satire (Joly, quoted below).

    "I get the impression that some of those Nietzscheans and Schmittians are, for whatever reason, better allies than the pomo liberals who have acquired hegemony mainly by attacking and driving out the marxists."

    These are the same people aren't they? Nietzscheans and Schmittians in the academy are all liberals. They are certainly not openly fascists. Not in the US anyway. That is still beyond the pale.

    and it was the new Derridean and now Deleuzian Nietzscheans who acquired hegemony and actually made common cause with old style liberals to deny marxists tenure and jobs.

    The main effects of larding text with these celebrity thinker brand symbols is a) to protect the profession's class exclusivity b) to push out Marxists. Every time Schmitt is cited it is as a crappy fasho childish substitute for some far better analysis one could get from any one of dozens of Marxist theoreticians and historians.

    Happily, outside academia people don't have to evoke Schmitt when they want to notice that mainstream policy apology is hypocritical. Most people can just lift their hand and rub the tips of their fingers together and get the point across, because everybody understands the plutocracy except academics and think tank intellectuals. Even journalists now understand though they pretend not to. Those dahvening dutifully and sincerely to Schmitt and his conspiracy theories are among the least astute about power becausethey have been subjected to a lot of indoctrination their failure to resist which is evidenced by the resulting defence to this authority.

    I think you are on to something there about US humour. The dominance of libertarian satirists in print is very pronounced. Though in performance there is something else - Lucille Ball, Burns and Allen, Mel Brooks, Bill Cosby, Lily Tomlin, Steve Martin, Richard Pryor, Paul Mooney, Jack Black the original SNL team, are/were not libertarians. But it's true even some of the best dissident leftists - Lenny Bruce, George Carlin - had a libertarian strain, and that the hottest stand ups and performer comedians now are mostly libertarians of some sort (Chris Rock, Mike Meyers, Ben Stiller).

  7. " comedians don't come from radio around here;"

    some kind of humourists though, Garrison Keillor, at one end, Howard Stern at the other...

  8. "Like your example. Does someone really need Schmitt to help them to and to authorise that observation?"

    No. And of course marxists have a better analysis of global power than the Schmittians. But presumably it matters that the framework the left-Schmittians are working in allows them a minimal critical space that prevents them from being taken in by the moronic pieties of the lib imps, who actually make much less of more interesting thinkers like Arendt. And appropriating rightist thought is not exactly beyond the pale for marxists, certainly not in 'Western Marxism'.

    I'd be wary of too loosely imputing a particular class status to academics, btw - the way the system's going, I get the impression that there are quite a lot of proletarianised lecturers and teaching assistants going about, often just as qualified as bona fide middle class profs, but on low wages and with little autonomy or authority.

    "These are the same people aren't they? Nietzscheans and Schmittians in the academy are all liberals."

    Well, in the sense that practically everyone in the academy is a liberal of some sort, with only a few outright revolutionaries and even fewer outright fascists, yes. But that's not what I meant. In the battles of the 1980s, sure, it was the Deleuzeans, Derrideans etc. who were in some ways the cutting edge of intellectual reaction (maybe not so much in the UK, which has sufficiently venerable domestic sources of reaction). I'm not sure if that's still the case. I get the impression that marxists in the UK academy more often than not end up on the same side as all those left-liberal postmoderns etc., perhaps as the latter see the dangers of an aggressive neoliberalism gutting their own departments...

    BUT, repeat and underline with big caveat exclamation marks, this is a very limited and parochial perception, I don't really know the academia that well, and wouldn't put too much store by these observations.

  9. "But presumably it matters that the framework the left-Schmittians are working in allows them a minimal critical space that prevents them from being taken in by the moronic pieties of the lib imps,"

    So people in danger of being taken in by lib imps are rescued by reading Schmitt? I think that's sort of worrisome. But I can't picture it really; perhaps we're not talking about the same people. My idea of a "left Schmittian" I guess is Agamben, who seems to have gone out of fashion.

    I also see academia only from the outside, but certain things are clear. How many marxists have been tenured in the strongholds of left Nietzscheanism lately? None I think.

    "I'd be wary of too loosely imputing a particular class status to academics, btw -"

    This is very true, and I would say it's not implausible that the fungal overgrowth of forbidding jargon in the humanities was fed by the anxieties accompanying the declining security in the industry and represent for some practitioners a comforting bulwark against forces arrayed against the prestige and social standing of the profession. The obsessive evocation of, often fascist, elite Ancestor Authorities is perhaps an incantation, by some magic hoping to elicit the protection of these demigods against the catastrophe befalling that industry and isolating it from those bourgeois professions (law, medicine) which are sharing in the booty of the class war. Proletarianisation in journalism accompanies a parallel if distinctive catastrophe in the product of that field, also once, with humanities academia, basically on a level with stock brokers, physicians and lawyers, and now much lower paid and less respected.

  10. Anything interesting Schmitt had to say was said better by Marxists - Schmitt recognized this and plagiarized them.

    Marx had effectively offered a forensic analysis of the 'state of exception' & 'constituent power' in the constitutional maneuvering of the first (proto-fascist) bourgeois dictatorship described in the Eighteenth Brumaire (though he didn't seem to take the 2nd Empire entirely seriously at the time as a viable paradigm for future bourgeois governance).

    Joly (a socialist, if not a Marxist) did much the same in his remarkable satire - its uncanny prescience is due to the fact that he took the Second Empire more seriously than Marx, and recognized that a bourgeois dictatorship would need to be sustained by a fairly sophisticated apparatus of ideological management: It must surround itself with publicists, lawyers, jurisconsults, practical men and administrators, people who thoroughly know all the secrets, all the motives of social life; who speak all the languages, who have studied man in all his milieus. It is necessary to take them everywhere, no matter where, because such people render astonishing services through the ingenious procedures that they apply to politics. (Schmitt didn't want to say too much about this kind of thing, so he changed the subject by waxing mystical about the Fuhrerprinzip).

    Finally Schmitt, as he himself occasionally acknowledged, relied heavily on Lukacs, whose short 1920 essay "Legality and Illegality" is worth more than a library of works by Schmitt and his "left" epigones.

    Schmitt erases the traces of his debt to the left somewhat by dehistoricising and abstracting concepts originally formed through materialist analysis. But it is not difficult to see what he owes to Lukacs and others. So it's a somewhat desolating spectacle when the left goes through strange contortions to appropriate ideas from fascists - for uncertainly defined strategic ends - when those ideas are diluted plagiarisms of ideas formulated originally by the left.
    Evidence of a large-scale and more or less orchestrated sabotage of historical knowledge, which is of far greater consequence than any momentary and dubious debating victory by 'Left-Schmittians'over liberal imperialists.

  11. thanks kenoma

    Lukacs, yeah, and it's also worth noting that the phallosupremacism of academia has ended given Lukacs credit not only for Lukacs but also for Luxemburg. Perhaps its for noticing this that Lucien Goldmann became the one brevetted French academic who is denied a corps of Ivy League fanatics.

    You express really well exactly what irks me about all this performance of respect and awe and deference for these right wing cranks like Nietzsche and Schmitt. Domenico Losurdo has devoted some fine pages and speeches to this also, it's part of a "self-hatred" problem the left has in his view, the result of defeat and of enduring the contempt of the victors etc.

    It has a white/euro/aryan supremacist aspect too, and propagates the ferocious individualism linked to it - the thinkers who are most thoroughly erased are not only inferior status individuals (notable Jews, Women, Black folks especially Luxemburg and Dubois) but the role of humanity in general, anonymous humanity, in intellectual and cultural production is simply denied.

    (I don't accuse leninino personally with doing any of this of course. The Liberal Defence of Murder is refreshingly dissident from this individualist tale of ideology production, though he doesn't get into an account of it)

    But yeah, the idea that "we" leftists and marxist are so indebted to fascists; and owe the canon of raving supremacist Great Men so much, and still require their tutelage, is the expression in this realm of the civilising mission itself. What kind of left would need to be pupils sitting at the feel of kooks like Schmitt and Nietzsche? And what would oblige anyone to engage with their supposed "critiques"? It's like being obliged to engage with a nine year old prep schooler's tantrum as if it expressed valid criticism of your carbonara sauce.

    The status of these particular Masters suggest things are worsening, because Kant and Hegel were just sort of limited and narrow and puffed up, these guys are childish, irrational and insane. The infantilisation of the dominant culture doubly infantilises those who position themselves as its respectful apprentices.

    Schmitt is especially bad, a real liability for leftists because not everybody finds Nazism a charming little pecadillo; like fast food - it looks like food, but it's a changeling - he's full of poison not just empty of nourishment.

  12. "Schmitt erases the traces of his debt to the left somewhat by dehistoricising and abstracting concepts originally formed through materialist analysis. "

    and this is fast foodish too; why childish people prefer Schmitt's baby blocks to Lukacs and Luxemburg's historical analyses. The unchanging simple formula - the same appeal as Lacan and astrology.

  13. Here's that Lukacs Legality and Illegality

    and what an appropriate quote from The Theses on Feuerbach it opens with:

    The materialist doctrine that men are the product of circumstances and education, that changed men are therefore the products of other circumstances and of a different education, forgets that circumstances are in fact changed by men and that the educator must himself be educated.

  14. "t's part of a "self-hatred" problem the left has in his view, "

    I mean, of course, the left acquiescing in this - the main protagonists of this revisionism (the whole thing is performed by hired clerks) are not left at all, but anti-leftist liberals of the centre and right.

  15. Thanks. How are things? Still off the smokes?

    Domenico Losurdo has devoted some fine pages and speeches to this also, it's part of a "self-hatred" problem the left has in his view, the result of defeat and of enduring the contempt of the victors etc.

    Is any of that translated? This is I think accurate and astute, but would like to hear more.

    I think the most generous explanation of the Schmitt fad in the academic neo-left is that his jargon is euphemistic, and offers a kind of storehouse of euphemism to a segment of the dominant class that is more circumscribed than any other in what it can talk about. It's interesting if you look at where and when Schmitt became fashionable: the "years of lead" in Italy and the Bush years in the US. A lot of what would need to be talked about in accurately describing those periods is literally unsayable in academia; you would have to say things that would make you unemployable, things that in the prescribed style of the professional argot are actually inexpressible.
    Schmitt's gnostic germanisms about decisions and emergencies offer a way of coyly nodding to and skirting around certain facts about the behaviour of the corporate-imperialist state. Plus if you use Schmitt's terms to discuss contemporary politics there's the little frisson of an implied correlation between the third reich and, say, the Bush regime's behaviour during Katrina. (It's like something from the Brezhnev era, but here euphemisms are used to escape blog-snark about Godwin's law rather than the Serbsky Institute.)
    At certain periods, the corporate state behaves in a way that makes the preferred pomo euphemisms of decentered, diffuse, immanent capitalist power inappropriate. The glaring executive excesses of these periods have to be addressed with the appropriate euphemisms. Hence the left-Schmittians. There's an inoculatory element of criticism, but this is rendered harmless by the exculpatory "since Plato..." vagueness of the whole thing.

  16. "and, say, the Bush regime's behaviour during Katrina. (It's like something from the Brezhnev era, but here euphemisms are used to escape blog-snark about Godwin's law rather than the Serbsky Institute.) "

    Well, aren't YOU clever? There can be fewer unpleasures in the world than reading your always-swinging 'woman-of-the-world' bullshit, sort of a cheap euphemism for an imitation of Margaret Thatcher's knowing power-laugh after 3 or 4 whiskeys still clinging redolently to her breath. I suppose Dominic will finally be pleased that I got some 'unpleasure' by inadvertently reading your SHIT.

    On the other hand, we must thank you for the info that Arpege has given up the smokes. THAT is the best news I've heard from you ignorant Marxist bleugers for a long time, although I am quite sure she was always insincere about restaurant fantasies, unlike the more free-and-easy type of gal I've started hanging with.

    And so, I leave you, in your faux-nonchalant loathsomeness, with the obligatory--oh wait, I haven't finished!

    I wanted to tell you I'm delighted you've had to resort to 'euphemisms'. Nobody deserves the Thought Police more. Go piss on your own parade.

    So now, in honour of Godwin's Law, since your 'euphemisms', you know esp. the shit you wrote about the Mumbai terrorists was easily lower than Jodi Dean's Zizekian review of Sex and the City 2 (at least she doesn't deserve a Stalinist pogrom victimhood) I leave you with the immortal:

    'Thanks, kenoma'.

  17. Patrick, I remember it upset you at the time that I said relatively few Westerners died in the Mumbai attacks, compared to the number of working class and dalit Indians gunned down in the train station and the hotel kitchens - and I said that though the media sold this as an attack on Western targets, western hostages had largely been spared. But it's true, and I'm happy to repeat it without euphemism, however much it disturbs your fetish for Western Victimhood.
    It upset you that I suggested the involvement of Western intelligence agencies in the operation - subsequently David Headley, a 'mastermind' of the attacks, was revealed to be a DEA/CIA spook, and is currently being cosseted by US authorities in Chicago on a plea bargain.
    I doubt you are interested or sober enough to read it to the end, but here anyway is an interesting about the Mumbai attacks and the questions still being asked about them in India:

  18. This comment has been removed by the author.

  19. Well, I'll say I appreciate that you have a memory, most don't. Okay, but I do not like it that you think I'm not 'sober', even though this is my one day a week that I get to drink wine and smoke...I'll look at the link later. I love it that people think I'm a drunk, though.

    Anyway, here's one for your 'home team'. Dr. Dean deleted ALL of my comments about Sex and the City 2, isn't that a fuckin' hoot? They were from 'Porfirio Stompanato' and 'Zsa Zsa Turner', which is a 4-headed monster serving 2 couples. I even put an ad trying to help poor Connie Stevens sell her Lincoln Center penthouse, and Dr. Dean deleted this link!

    And she also deleted my doctored version of Connie FRANCIS's 'Where the Girls Are'.

    I never read such a Zizek review in my goddam life, it was SO predictable, the way she 'quirkily' loves American Idol, et alia, it's like when spiritualists tell you to take sleeping pills instead of meditate, so camp yet so pop. At least Arpege allows a degree of freedom of speech, and has some flair, although lies about restaurant appts. Now it YOU are adorable ------, then you will NOT get either my stir-fry OR my devine Basil, Chicken and Parmesan Salad in July, not to mention NO Sacher Torte!

    Oh, btw, Arpege, my roommate checked at MoMA about the Kara Walker picture that was supposed to have been at the Whitney, and it's NOT there in its original form like that piece said. She tried to find it, but has gorgeous book that I just got from her, 'Kara Walker: Narratives of a Negress', and this is a really beautiful and magnificently produced book. Do you know it? Sorry this is so off-topic. She's also a fan of that 'silent opera' performance artist, Marina Abramovic, but I just can't get into these public flagellants (she once stabbed herself onstage and let some guy hold a loaded pistol to her head), so we won't talk about that one. Her 'silent opera' is over today. I do not respect these mutilants, much prefer Karen Finley, who is hilarious. There was in 1977 this idiot who invited many guest to a SoHo gallery to watch him cut off his penis and DIE--and he DID. Oh man, I just do not get this shit. But Kara Walker is another thing. I hope I can report back, although you have made it increasingly difficult with the loading procedures...

  20. PLUS--Martin of Shanghai has ALSO started deleting me, since I won't tell her that her intros to her Expo guides are 'great art' until she puts them in a more traditionally poetic form. She won't do this, because she thinks that 'history must be forgotten', and that Expo and Shanghai will teach us how to control the past and the future by controlling the present. THIS--while complaining about the Chinese Thought Police in Chinese Art Galleries! and also while proclaiming Shanghai the 'most sublime city in the world', as if that the fuck goes without saying. yes, now isn't that just too much? And I told her that otherwise I would be the only one who could see her as Baudelaire in the pulp form she has written about 'extravagances' and 'luxuries' at the Expo, that everybody else will continue to see her as just a 'Baudelaire manque', and that's just what she deserves if she's going to be so sensitive to slight constructive criticism. But I won't write her anymore, so she got her feelings hurt too...well, that's just too fuckin bad, now isn't it? I don't think we care to write very much for those who get upset just because they're having a hard time maintaining the temperature at Mao's waxen image-tomb.

    And she knows that, even though I don't think Dominic is nearly as sophisticated and holds drear beliefs, he is nevertheless capable of producing REAL poems despite his personality disorder, and 'Martin' will not do this, because she wants to sit sround, like totally stoned, and watch the endless flow of capital under her lotus pond bridge (but I don't think she has one, although my roommate and I have been hitting the lotus blossoms in wine lately--we recomment these)

    Of course, I DID sign in as 'Arpege' 4 times, and he deleted those, but I didn't feel as though I had committed identity theft because the lady in question does not use this sobriquet herself, and Martin DID tell me that he felt much less threatened by Zizek than he did by Arpege! No wonder he couldn't take it.

    Do not mistake my astute comments on poetix for the fulsome. Dominic can write, or I wouldn't say so, because he does espouse loathsome recipes for living. In addition, he is sometimes slightly rude, and I also don't like the apologies about Oxford, he probably just had the money.

  21. Oh yes, Kenoma, I almost forgot, I also hated your blase-cool use of 'the terrorist', nevermind what the ethnicity of the victims. Therefore, I have no intention of being your 'teacher's pet' nor following any link you might wish to lead me to, as per Arpege's edict that 'a lot can be done with such neoliberals as Patrick, just not the way Jodi does it...' and blah...and blah...and blah...After all, Arpege makes a grand and glorious confusion with 'vulgar Marxism' (which she claims hers is, but makes it sound academic, textbook and purist) and 'pure Marxism', which hers isn't, but that's supposed to be what by-the-book Marxism would be the closest pure form. Oh well, if that's wrong, there are worse things, like the way you and all other glaswegians suck. You and warszawa are one, of course. And Arpege is your BOSS! (thank god)

    Speaking of which, I didn't finish on Martin of Shanghai, which won't interest anybody here, all of whom are subject to 'herd mentality' when the going gets rough, but will interest me For the Record. Martin of Shanghai DOES think that CRASSNESS is the only viable aesthetic, that it is the only realistic approach to any kind of beauty, and more or less GET WITH THE CHINESE CAPITALIST PROGRAMME. Follow, Kenoma? Yeah, I thought so. Well, that's why he won't go ahead and put it into a poem like Dominic and I do, that's because he thinks real poetry is 'paleo curio' stuff, and that writing brochures and tourguide pulp beautifully is a Renaissance of Letters. That's the cost, of course, of being too far to the right and only when you need to. I have to pay the cost of being hated for being a 'centrist', and even those few who pretend to like me on the bleugs want to constantly remind me that 'centrism' is, in a sense, a 'nothing thing', but I don't give a shit about that. They can think what they want, I'm just hoping some young boys in my neighborhood are over 18 at the moment. Otherwise, I'm going to resort to do ask, don't tell.

    But CRASS is NOT BEAUTIFUL. You should know that by now, and this even includes that promoted and sold by the Red Chinese in the name of prosperity without protest.

  22. I proudly accept my MOST DELETED IN SHORTEST PERIOD OF TIME--3 count 'em 3 bleugs have deleted me, as this morning the esteemed Levi Bryant has said that Graham Harman 'hit the nail on the head' about the oil spill, and I didn't even write her a rabid comment, but I knew she'd delete it, because she can't take mild criticism. One thing I will say for the American bleugers, many of them cannot stand even slight disagreement and do like to censor their bleugs a lot. Messrs. Harman and Bryant think the 'public is not concerned enough'. This is more sympathetic from the loudmouth from Egypt, less so from somebody in Texas, because everybody is worried about it ALL THE TIME. This was just academic posturing at its worst, and they're bad enough when they just stick to 'in-house matters'. Really insufferable, this whiny bullshit, as though the famous OOO DUO would be the ones who'd help us understand how to truly turn all of our current events into the Thrilling and Sensation-Seeking Apocalypse. Real trash. I've heard others say Bryant deletes almost anything, but anybody who determines that Dejan is a 'christlike figure' has got serious retardation problems.

  23. thanks kenoma; I hadn't thought of it this way, the euphemisms allowing some oblique reference to a reality otherwise taboo in brevetted discourse - but it also accomplishes then backhandedly the association of people who acknowledge the proactivity of the ruling class in the class war with Nazism, global-Joo-Plot-paranoia, and all the rest. Unfortunate from every angle. But I think the big attraction is the childishness. The dominant culture is mainly geared toward the infantilisation of the largest slice of the enfranchised and influential electorates. Someone noticed recently we live with adults who don't read newspapers but consume Harry Potter, Batman, Avatar, Twilight, Lovecraft and Tolkein. And take all this very seriously. An infantilised clerk class. Schmitt is an early example of this childish thought that manages to pose as suitable for adults.

    patrick if "martin" feels threatened by me he must be quite a sad pantywaist, no? he has to actually seek me out, a needle in an online haystack, for any evidence that i exist.

    dominic writes well but thinks badly - this is not so rare a combo; but he's too boring for me. I could never manage to read a whole post of his blog. Also all his poems are "I... I.... I.... I" - which I I I (admittedly pretty ignrint) always understood (I don't like poetry really except the English, Spanish (in translation)and Italian Renaissance, Byron, P. B. Shelley, Yvegny Onegin by Pushkin (in translation), Blake somewhat, Elizabeth Bishop, Edna St. Vincent Millay, John Ashbery, Omeros by Walcott and the surprising and wonderful The Emperor's Babe, by Bernadine Evaristo) to be a bad sign.

    Dominic likes this satanist noise my friend Piotr the satanist buddhist who follows the lamas likes. It's so lowbrow, a funny combo with his taste for canonical british littrachuh. I suppose the low and highbrow can go together - the real menace is the nobrow and the middlebrow (sex and the city) - the mass cocaculture. This is really for the braindamaged and the the spineless weasels. The mass cocaculture is geared to a petty bourgeoisie without any sense of honour. A culture of cowardice, gluttony and groundless pomposity. Even Schmitt could not quite shake the spectre of honour pursuing him vengefully. The audience for him and the schmittian blockbuster today would not even be able to describe honour.

  24. "There was in 1977 this idiot who invited many guest to a SoHo gallery to watch him cut off his penis and DIE--and he DID."

    in the 70s, as a kid, I was walking around in SoHo - it was really desolate in those days, strange, but wonders were hiding being the facades of these old warehouses, now lofts. I passed a storefront, and in the window two women were sitting, knitting, and stabbing one another with their knitting needles . I was intrigued - someone came out to invite me in because I must have seemed confused; inside there were rows of folding chairs, and an area set as a stage,where someone with a black hood was hanging from a noose, and in a kind of monk's robe, and then the robe fell away and he ejaculated.

    shortly thereafer there was bread and cheap white wine and bad cheese. i left and continued my hunt for an at the time very very hipster insider used clothing place, which i think i never did arrive at that day.

    i find this chris burden sort of ordeal art legitimately interesting; perhaps it was being at an impressionable age for my first contact with it, but it certainly accomplished its goals on me. later, in the 80s, performance was just commericialised - the whole "scene" downtown became about the idnividual performance artists seeking fame.

    James Siena - the painter -(do you like his work? I always thought it really good. In recent years he has been adopted by Pace Wildenstein) was at the centre of a performance art crowd, (the edges of which were They Might Be Giants) which included also Kathy Dieckmann who made this god awful film with Uma Thurman, Motherhood. anyway Siena, his wife then Iris Rose (the real performance artist) and two others, Chazz something and another woman (who are immortalised in a photo by Ken Schles in his classic book Invisible City), used to do a performance piece called "Nancy" after Nancy Sinatra. They would stand on the stage wearing walkmans, set at different speeds, and beginning in different places, and sing along with whatever they were listening to.

    A friend of mine, academic feminist intellectual, very serious person, after one of these performances I took her to went up to James Siena and wanted to ask him about the piece, and she offered a rather flattering interpretation of it actually. and he was so offended that she had dared to suggest any significance to this act and was so rude to her - though she was friends with people close to him - it was literally breathtaking.

    so things became just fake. he was constantly taking offense, but soon was doing these intersticials for HBO or Cinemax or whatever with that Chazz guy (dressed as package delivery workers in jumpsuits they said "open the pod bay doors please hal!" over and over as they opend and closed cartons in a warehouse). Now he is a pretty majaor painter, showered with prizes and enjoying the status of the latest Rothko at Pace Wildenstein.

  25. ah here they are

  26. Kara Walker...very disturbing and fascinating. The otehr day I watched the newish BBC Jane Austen's Emma miniseries with Romola Garai - excellent if you like this sort of thing which I do very much - but the credits have these silhouettes in that style, and I could not stop thinking about the Walker, and it really makes you think as you watch something like a Jane Austen adaptation.

  27. Dior's cinematographic fashion campaign for the Lady Dior Handbag. Art direction by John Galliano, written and directed by David Lynch, starring by Marion Cotillard and Gong Tao.

  28. I hate to admit I don't know Siena's work, so I'll look it up tomorrow, I'm also being introduced to Yves Klein, and this Kara Walker stuff was quite amazing (but I still haven't seen any of the real canvasses, I bet she sometimes does shows at the big galleries as well, and I miss stuff of that too--my roommate says AWESOME, she's from San Francisco and says it for everything (I just don't know how to keep up with everything, even the MINIMUM, it seems), but that clip of Siena and Chazz did remind of this hilarious woman Monik Toebosch that my ex-gf. and I went to see in a SoHo performance space c. 1980 or 1981. Now what SHE did was similar to theirs in that she would contrive these long repetitions, in which she would stand as if paralyzed, and say 'This is an Ameddican Kitchen', almost like minimalist music, but much more interesting and less irritating, and the best one was an LP that she held in her hand, barely moving, for 10 minutes and would keep saying 'Theess eeess an Ameddican Record'. Oh, I guess I'm just a frivolity lover and clown. On the ballet board, I did say, after complaining about my troubles with these self-injurers, that I guessed that performance art did offer them some sort of means of coping with what seems like clinical psychosis to me, but no, what you were drawn in to is not something I'm capable of keeping patience with. Wow, you were young when you saw that too. It may say something important, these obviously suffering people who may be therapizing themselves by suffering onstage. Before Ms. Toebosch I saw one named Sharon Fogarty, who drove me fucking NUTS, as she talked about her terrible family upbringing, topping off her act with a special song called 'So Much Depression'. I told a vicious friend about this, who wasn't very gracious about it, but I got very uncomfortable too, and then Gordh (I forget his first name, but he was running the series of perfs. in that space),started talking about me aloud, that I was giving out bad vibes, he said 'this cat is upsetting me', it was all very bullshitty since I was sitting there stonily and stoically since I could NOT get into Ms. Fogarty's unhappy eating of Cheerios onstage. I thought I would NEVER get out, those places made me so claustrophobic. But then years went back, and I would keep bringing up Ms. Toebosch, who would do this outrageous 'home movies' of her shaving her pubic hair, but every time the camera would be too revealing, she'd spray shaving cream on it. Then she'd complain about how she wasn't getting paid for her perf., which I usually wouldn't like, but with her it was all funny. I also love Karen Finley, and she's a little like Siena in the way she reacts to her audience reaction--but you might find that commercialized perf. art, and it did tend with Laurie Anderson to start going more toward cabaret acts and closely-scripted theater. but then I fully admit I don't have the tolerance to watch people injure themselves or lie on shelves like Burden. I've seen some videos of McCarthy, strange pervert, who also has weird sculpture installations of fathers sodomizing their sons, etc., these were interesting, and I could watch his weird masturabation video, since it didn't feel imprisoning like some of the ones when they're actually onstage. Paul McCarthy, yeah, strange pervert. But with Ms. Toebosch, I got this terrible nostalgia and Diane would say 'Patrick, I think Monik Toebosch is GONE! You're just going to have to face it!'


  29. I don't know, some of that theatrical suffering seems contrived. The idea of wanting to sit across from the gaze of Marina Abramovic, and fighting for the opportunity to be a 'repeater' is so beyond me, but here she is going to go work on something with Robert Wilson, but this is going to be her most outwardly traditional effort, acc. to what little I read. I just think it's hard enough to sit with one's dying friends in the hospital or think about these horrific disasters (and I can't get some of them out of my mind either), but at least it feels somehow useful, I just don't see how being a Marina Abramovic 'repeat sitter' is much better than some of the flash mobs and 'radical ironing races'. Today I met a guy from the ballet board who's up from Miami to see ABT celebrating Alicia Alonso's 90th tomorrow night, staying at a lousy hostel at 94th and West End, and then he's not so well, and his glamourous mother has cancer operations in a month, and he hadn't even been able to tell me his father died all of a sudden 3 months ago, and he's no drama queen. Okay, well, maybe the stuff still is legitimate, these theatrical literal stabbings and flagellations, I just don't have the energy for it, and I didn't really have time to get to discovering SoHo till about 1979, when there were really a lot of galleries still there and some quite worthwhile, but Chelsea has many more by now.

    I was just reminded of that new 'Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky', which they also brought up and I watched the trailer (I'll try to get it later). It's ridiculous, as if that were essential to either of them, so they can do this fake high-cult thing which looks more like 'Brideshead Revisited', and Mads Mikkelson (I think the name) as Stravinsky, and he reminds you more of Michael York than Stravinsky.

    Well, as for 'martin', yes, I can't say anything at all; that's all something with the purpose of being as slippery as possible, so that any real value is proven to be valueless within minutes after it is taken seriously. I've given him enough of my time.

    But all very interesting, mademoiselle, good stuff all. Still very interested that you would be attracted to the 'ordeal stuff'. What is an audience supposed to 'do', though, as with the 'penis suicide'? Are they doing him a favour by accompanying him at 'the thing he loves to do' (killing himself expressionistically in public), or don't they seem a little bloodthirsty themselves, and doesn't the suicide 'enjoy' their slight gloating at not killing themselves? I guess he does want them also to feel guilty, as if they're killing him instead of saving him. Because he was not giving them the choice, it would have had to be someone who decided this was insane and I'm gonna go be superman and get this guy into some professional something or other.

  30. I knew a girl from back in the 90s, close friends with one of my best friends, who committed suicide in 2002--she was the only one who agreed to go through this process with him, not report it to anyone, this sounds more like the sensibility that may be like the audience for a suicide. I would have stopped him, or just told someone else. So that those who agreed to watch that guy in 1977 were agreeing with him that it was okay for him to 'do his death as art', maybe they understood he was adamant about seeing it no other way. My friend killed himself through the auspices of the Hemlock Society, and this girl who went through the plans (and in 2003 gave me all the written records of the plan for his suicide, drawn up with a secy. he hired and they worked together at the Sofitel hotel, it seems nearly uncanny that I have his notebooks about 'our wonderful work together', pretty creepy frankly, I'm mentioned in there a few times 'P.M. brought beef stew over, Henry here., and I only found out about his suicide a year and a half later. His family found out about it well after he was cremated and the ashes scattered in British Columbia. But point was the new guy I met today, we were talking about deaths and how some of them don't have that 'organic feel' to them (as with my mother, for example, after her heart attack, we all saw her die within the next few days), and only in the last year did Noel's death seem to be comprehensible as 'He died' or 'He's dead'. He just seemed to be 'not there anymore', but it didn't make since to say 'he died' for a long time.

    okay, that was quite a long ramble, and dreadfully organized, but your posts were well worth a read and then a re-read. Will check out more James Siena tomorrow.

    I'm not the only one who finds some of these silly-sounding 'philosophy complaints' a bit absurd at the moment. In fact, I think I long have, but wasn't able to concentrate on them when they were being taken seriously. Zizek definitely in caricature form by now,though, because doing a Zizek-style movie review is really so predictable that you wouldn't think one of the acolytes wouldn't know that the timing was severely off, and the audience is not listening the way it was, say, 4 years ago. I really don't see how he's lasted, don't know if he's still writing the occasional NYTimes op-ed, but he may have during the last year, definitely there was one within the last two, but when I read his praise of 'obscure music appreciation', as with his 'brilliant friend Mladen Dolar', who 'appreciated the obscure works of Beethoven, oh but not the 9th Symphony', as if since it was famous it couldn't be also good; and also Mladen loved 'schubert's unfamiliar hunting songs', and this would be the 'true connoisseur', that I realized that Zizek was an unassailable B-lister

  31. some amusing (albeit non sequitur) takes on abramovic


    and contrast:

  32. that Tao Lin piece was great

  33. This was esp. good, esp, the'made it', like 'making it in New York', etc.:

    "I’ve also felt that she originally existed in the computer game Diablo II, as an NPC, or “non-player character”—something to click on for non-essential, “story-line”-related information—who somehow “made it” into “concrete reality,” where she has apparently “very successfully” advanced through [various obstacles] to secure a highly-bloggable art project at MoMA."

    I skimmed both, but they were worthwhile so that I can see I just don't find Ms. Abramovic interesting at all. I don't want to have a thing to do with her, although I don't wish her ill (or any worse than she clearly already has it, to be acting like that). Some interest in Prof. Danto's mention of 'repeated perf. art' or not, I had more or less been aware of this ethic but never thought much about. I still like the comical ones infinitely better. Why doesn't somebody just do a Hunger Strike Perf. Piece? I know why. Because THAT is done when Margaret Thatcher doesn't agree with Bobby Sands, so it won't play in Peoria...

    The Tao Lin one was right, though, that if you get obsessed with 'defeating this ho' bag', she obviously wins. Hilarious about 'no chance of romantic attachment', or whatever the phrase, leading me to believe that anybody that wants to spend time staring at this witch is NOT getting laid.

    Prof. Danto a grand old guy of Columbia, I believe. Once Diane and I discovered his wife's ashes in the St. John the Divine columbarium, she must have died young, so in not having kept up, my main interest here was in finding that he's still around.

    Whatever the fuck happened to lustmolch? I think his own bleug disappeared, and last time I saw it he was complaining to somebody 'I'm not gay!' and screaming at them, I have no idea who it was.