Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Polar Ohio Snap Short

March 16, 2017

“I won’t be going to this year’s reunion” he said while taking measured calculated sips. “Might as well be a unicorn convention for all it matters. The only thing they’ll talk about is what doesn’t exist or never happened. All that second hand defense they’ve overheard others using – how it just might be, facts aren’t always so, need to keep an open mind and all – will set me off like an overheated lithium ion battery. I don’t need it. They will keep quiet about Junior beating up on his fiancé. Between cigarette puffs my niece will mention that her college educated daughter will be starting a new job. Unmentioned will be that it is her fourth this year. No need to talk of addiction at a family gathering, that’s only for family! Ang’s never employed grand kid will probably show up with a new baby and some young lady no one’s ever seen to cradle it. All news to the boy’s parents. Right. Children having children I can understand, but parents in the dark? And who pays for the delivery? Trumpcare indeed.” He obviously was concerned, but America wasn’t going his way. “They’ll talk about what’s not and act like what is, but isn’t talked about, is just all perfectly normal, and so not worth the bother. Besides, so much more can be said about what isn’t. I mean, Rumsfeld got a lot of miles out of the unknown, both the known unknown as well as the not known unknown.” Alone with his cup that was growing cold, cut off from those he cared about, “family” was quickly becoming just a memory of how great it once was.

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Performance Art

January 8, 2016

For the Associated Press, Wilson Ring and Jill Colvin report on presidential wannabe Donald Trump’s latest campaign promotion in Burlington. Vermont (Protesters interrupt Trump Vermont rally despite screening, 1-8-16). The national media has focused on location and the number of folks who lined up (“Thousands of people stood in line for hours waiting to get into the Burlington event after the campaign distributed 20,000 free tickets to the Flynn Center for the Performing Art, which has just 1,400 seats.”). No one seemed to focus on the actual name of the space, Flynn Center for the Performing Arts, nor the last part of the name, Performing Arts. D. Trump has been labeled a huckster, a P.T. Barnum, a Wild Bill Cody for his use of the stage, social media, and traditional media. Recently, many sources are analyzing campaign expenditure on advertising, noting that traditional TV ads are still king, with most of the other “lesser” candidates on the slate spending heavily to try to stay relevant. Trump has only begun to advertise within this framework. It appears that Donnie Trump is truly ahead of the pack, not only in terms of the polls, but in understanding the aesthetic of today’s culture. Jacques Ranciere may have theorized about the politics of aesthetics (the traditional take on culture as pertaining to art – architecture, dance, visual arts, music, etc.) as well as the aesthetics of politics (how politics is done) but Donnie Trump actually employs it. He may be one of the first to understand, through utilization, the effectiveness and viability of performance art. Within politics, this is a staple of South American democracies. In the US, it has been neglected primarily through regulation of the constitutional right to assembly (designated protest sites removed from the source of contention and debate). Mr. Trump has utilized the power of performance art to run a campaign without reliance on advertising. With the Burlington event we have his campaign manipulating the populace in order to produce the art (20,000 tickets for a 1,400 seat venue. Apparently Donnie has no regard for fire code). The ticket holders show up, forming a line, creating a news event. Like with open carry gun laws, it is impossible to tell which of the ticket holders in line are the good guys, and which are the bad (for or against the Trump candidacy). As with the performance art of the visual arts, no advertising expenditure created a spectacle, a sensation, an event or happening, whichever you prefer. In crass art terms – he got the message out. Performance art has a long, involved and rich history in American art dating back to Allan Kaprow’s Happenings in NYC (amongst others). Now it has finally entered the lexicon of America’s political aesthetic. Unfortunately, for most of the American public, it is a novelty that doesn’t have a name.

Open Letter To David Brooks

January 3, 2016

After reading The Road To Character by David Brooks (2015) this essay response would not be contained. Mr. Brooks associates character with morality, and (for Mr. Brooks) morality implicates repression. In 2013 The Philosophy Of Dreams by Christophe Turcke was published. Mr. Turcke is catalyzed by Freud’s connection of dreams with repression (as manifestation, enactment, return, etc.) Turcke takes this as a vestigial remnant of the primitive psyche, akin to the human skeleton’s “tail bone” (coccyx). For human primitives trauma was frequent, baffling and totally beyond control. Turcke hypothesizes sacrifice as the primitive response to occurrences of trauma and the ensuing PTSD. Sacrifice in turn creates its own localized and limited kind of trauma, analogous to the bloodletting Brooks describes as being perpetrated on the young Samuel Johnson which was intended to cure while inflicting what was considered to be “minor” damage. For Turcke, repression became part of the evolution of the human psyche in terms of coping with trauma, and the trauma of sacrifice that evolved. After arguing for this, and referencing the discomfort produced not only by trauma and sacrifice but also repression, Turcke links the development/evolution of western culture with repression. For Turcke, Modernity’s entry through Romanticism’s portal of reflexivity spawned the desire and belief that humans could be free of repression. Turcke considers this belief (and the capacities that ensued) to have facilitated the innovations (technical, organizational, economic and ideological) that produced the culture of Big Me which Brooks alludes to. Big Me negates repression through automation (“hi tech”) that provides memory, does the hard work of number crunching, research, enables instantaneous communication (both linguistic and data as well as physical relocation), etc. This may or may not be a Copernican Revolution, though it took the Roman Catholic Church 400 years to admit that Galileo was not immoral. Morality may not be rock solid, fundamental, immutable as the offspring of Plato and Abraham may have us believe. On page 208 Brooks writes a brief segment entitled Humble Ambition in order to “recapitulate the Augustinian process”. It is curious to note that substituting the word “dark matter” for “God” doesn’t significantly alter the meaning of this segment, and is just as consistent. Here’s the end summation utilizing the substitution: “The genius of this conception is that as people become more dependent on dark matter, their capacity for ambition and action increases. Dependency doesn’t breed passivity; it breeds energy and accomplishment.” The God of Abraham and Plato may have been unfathomable majesty, ultimate virtue. The God of the Renaissance/Reformation may have become a patriarch, a father figure. Of the 19th -20th century, a Daddy Warbucks personality morphed with the Law. Morality, what it is to be moral, may likewise evolve along with the human psyche and the knowledge of God. Pre Samuel Johnson, in Bakhtin’s World of Rabelais, homelessness was not an issue. The Industrial Revolution of Johnson’s time methodically drove people from their “homes”. In the world in which most of Brooks’ “characters” formed their morality, the production of food was a challenge, an uncertainty. Today, distribution and waste underlie hunger, not production. Juxtaposing The Philosophy Of Dreams with The Road To Character leads one to justifiably question whether sacrifice and its accompanying repression are integral to morality, being moral. If morality evolves, then perhaps active goodwill and mindfulness (the antithesis of repression), located within the “outside”, external elements of the bifurcation Brooks employs (such as social organizations and institutions), are more important and on the rise. If morality doesn’t evolve, then we can only anticipate a return of the repressed.

Je Suis Archie Bunker

January 8, 2015

With the conclusion of his essay “On The Phenomenology Of Giant Puppets: Broken Windows, Imaginary Jars Of Urine, And The Cosmological Role Of The Police In American Culture” (Possibilities: Essays On Hierarchy, Rebellion and Desire, 2007) David Graeber speculates on the threat posed by puppets (real, imagined or theoretical?). According to Graeber, not only are puppets targeted for destruction by state security forces during demonstrations but pre-emptive operations are executed to exterminate them prior to deployment, during construction. The official reasons given are always ostensible and fictitious. He cites specific instances and events. For Graeber, the police embody the state’s single interpretation of reality which grants them license, authority to interpret individually. Hence, to “question” or appeal to an alternate interpretation is to undermine that authority, outlook or decision on the nature of reality. Graeber claims the puppets do precisely that by actualizing, making real the possibility of some other interpretation. As the police embody the single interpretation of the state, the puppets “embody” an alternate presentation. The police legitimize their violence on the basis of license. Giant puppets license illegitimacy. The puppets perform this without the reliance on or need of any form of dominance. The imagined possible, no matter how ridiculous or absurd, has always been a threat to the single interpretation. In the straight line (no exceptions) logic of dominance, this appears as “See it my way or don’t see it at all.” The appeal to authority, an authority, the authority underlies such rigor. One variation of this theme is that all (and any) imagined interpretation is reserved for the authority itself, arbitrary or not. The single interpretation is the burden of the subjects of that authority (sometimes cynically given as the “privilege”). The State, God, The Prophet, The Law, Buddha, etc. enjoy (within their domain) the richness and multiplicity of possibility, as well as its origination, dissemination, destruction, etc. The subjects of said author cannot operate within the every day amidst such a richness of possibility (hence, the puppets must go). Although such an approach appears quite pragmatic (a variation of Real Politik), it likewise reveals extreme discomfort. It is as though it exposes an almost elementary condition of ordained determination, the lack of ability to handle the conceptual generative capacity of what is termed “the universal and the particular.” If subjects are possessed of imagined interpretation then God, The State, etc. no longer have monopoly over its generation, becoming restrained to just one version. If subjects are possessed of multiple imaginings then God, The State, etc. simply become one of many possibilities. Etc. “See it my way or don’t see it at all” is the violent manifesto of domination. Anything imagined always escapes the interpretation of dominance.

Net Neutrality

May 4, 2014

Alison Levine is this amazing person whose bio reads larger than life. One of only a few persons to have completed the Adventure Grand Slam (scaling the highest peaks on all continents along with skiing to both poles), she has done it while encumbered by some pretty debilitating ailments. She has leveraged her ability to overcome both outward and inward adversity into a lucrative enterprise as a motivational speaker/business consultant. This capitalizes on the analogy drawn between extreme business environments/conditions and those she conquered in her adventures. Strategies, tactics, actualities center around thinking and knowledge coextensive with summiting and polar conquest.

The end of net neutrality is inevitable no matter what candidate B. Rock repeatedly promised regarding its inviolability. His own appointed FCC commissioner is already drafting plans to make it otherwise. The fly in the ointment of Alison Levine’s ultra-heroism (or should we say heroine-ism?) is the speculative (and theoretical) possibility of the end of mountains. OK so mountain topping in West Virginia immediately springs to mind, but also Mt. Washington in New Hampshire where one can scale it by a well-trodden path if one chooses or one can just drive to the top on a paved highway. Then again there’s Dry Branch Fire Squad’s Ron Thomason’s “Testosterone Poisoning”. What if all the challenges and discoveries have been made? Folks today maybe have to make things up like who can hold their breath the longest or eat the most sushi or hot dogs. The motivation is all still there only entrepreneurial leverage of the accomplishment might require a bit of selling. Thomas Picketty’s “Capital in the 21st Century” has supposedly made common knowledge of another disparity to meeting the challenge (hot dogs or Everest). It seems that increasingly folks are earning their money the old fashioned way, as in the Victorian era of “Testosterone Poisoning.” They are inheriting it. Capital gained without inconvenience is much like ascending Mt. Washington by car. The unspoken underbelly of all this is the recent tragedy that befell the sherpas who make the ascent on Everest not only a possibility but an actuality for so many thousands. To say “convenient” would disparage the legitimate overcoming of physical duress (and disease in the case of Levine). Just the same, convenience, expedience, and immediacy usually always trump challenge for most, save die hard adrenaline junkies. Which brings us back to net neutrality and some of the reason’s its days are numbered. On the one hand folks expect it to be there like gas, electricity or water. On the other, by its very nature, it is composed of what once conquered must ever be created anew – literally as something new. It is located within a cosmogony of expected and anticipated change, development, upgrade, and planned obsolescence. Unfortunately this is at complete odds with regulated, specified and monitored fundamental public utilities like gas, electricity, or city water. Any change there is a huge undertaking. The siren’s irresistible entrepreneurial call of folks being willing to pay (and pay handsomely) to get to the top of the summit the old fashioned way – immediately, conveniently and without hassle – makes net neutrality’s end loom larger than life.

Environmental News

January 11, 2014

“West Virginia chemical spill triggers widespread tap water ban
Tyler Evert January 9, 2014 Reuters

A chemical spill along a West Virginia river on Thursday triggered a tap water ban for up to 300,000 people, shutting down schools, bars and restaurants and forcing residents to line up for bottled water at stores.

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin declared a state of emergency for nine counties following the spill of 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol, a chemical used in the coal industry.”

At least the car washes are still open and working!

It Takes Place In Real Time And You Can’t Control What You’re Going To Say

October 28, 2013

Sherry Turkle, clinical psychologist and MIT professor amongst other things, was interviewed by Bill Moyers on the 10-18-13 Moyers & Company. The emphasis of their exchange was on how the self has been re-identified as one dependent on the mobile device – smart phone, laptop, etc. “You begin to feel yourself as you mesh yourself with the means of communication.” A resulting outcome is the inability of face to face conversation, resulting in one excuse for its avoidance being the title of this blog posting. The mobile device over determines exchange; “The sweetness of something new that’s coming into us on our phone.” or its anticipated promise. Conversation becomes torn, “Attention divided between the world of the people we’re with and this other reality.”

Arthur C. Danto passed away on 10-25-13. It would be pretentious to write an elegy or obit. Perhaps, especially within the volume of what Arthur Danto left us, it would be better to consider what is not found, what was missing. AP presented an elegant report by Hillel Italie with quotes, counter opinions and a brief history (Groundbreaking art critic Arthur Danto dies at 89, 10-27-13). That should suffice for reference and context. I would like to consider two areas of exploration left open within Danto’s contribution that are pertinent and relevant to understanding the art (and culture) after the end of art – the technological reproducibility of next to nearly anything today, and the “rhizomatous” aspect of art production (conflating the scientific and philosophic meanings) and how little this is valorized in our culture.

Hillel Italie gives some intriguing quotes: “”But now I have grown reconciled to the unlimited diversity of art. I marvel at the imaginativeness of artists in finding ways to convey meanings by the most untraditional of means. The art world is a model of a pluralistic society in which all disfiguring barriers and boundaries have been thrown down.”” Danto, of course, was most instrumental in the shift from the hierarchical, progression interpretation (of Greenberg) to one of no end (of art). “”From my perspective, aesthetics was mostly not part of the art scene. That is to say, my role as a critic was to say what the work was about — what it meant — and then how it was worth it to explain this to my readers,” he wrote.” reflects the innate conversational approach that he imagined his work to be about. And “”When I became a critic, I met everyone under the sun. But I knew very few artists when I was an artist. Some printmakers, some second generation Abstract Expressionists. … They were the great figures of my world, like Achilles and Agamemnon in ancient times,” he wrote in a 2007 essay about his own work.” reveals more than its brevity suggests.

Contemporaneous with Danto’s contribution and thinking were the works of other thinkers and critics, events and developments. Some of these appear within his work. Some are never referenced. Although this pluralistic society for which the art world is a model produces work in which performance, installation, ready-mades, found objects and collaborations are ubiquitous, what happens when one cannot distinguish the hand of creation, what produced what, because of the seamless incorporation of technological reproduction (what Benjamin had adumbrated)? Along with the end of art was the death of the author, but when authorship becomes usurped by technological virtuosity, what then? Is this as Turkle describes that “You begin to feel yourself as you mesh yourself with the means of communication.”? Though Danto thought that with the end of art, art’s interpretation likewise differed (no longer seen as a Greenberg progression), he never confronted the dissipation that this produced – that a work’s understanding now hinged on what was not art, what surrounded the artist (“I knew very few artists when I was an artist.”). This horizontal interpretation (of all outside what is the artist’s discipline having a bearing on “what the work was about — what it meant — and then how it was worth it to explain”) introduces rhizomatous considerations associated more with Deleuze and Guattari than Danto. This enmeshed, artist identity produces “Attention divided between the world of the people we’re with and this other reality.” The notion of art as conversation was prevalent before the end of art. It was implicated by the artist’s awareness and reference of what went on before the work at hand as well as after. Contemporary culture disrupts this by “The sweetness of something new that’s coming into us on our phone.” This sweetness is not necessarily in real time (nor referential to anything that went before or to come), but of an “other reality.” – acceptable to technologically driven art but not to conversation (which Danto imagined his own work as a critic). Art after the end of art just may involve a heavy emphasis on what is not art!

SpongeBob And The Angels

October 23, 2013

The reports out of AP and others is that Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati has evicted a monument of SpongeBob SquarePants after originally admitting it, claiming it to be inappropriate. The legal argument (of course) pivots on a cemetery being like a condominium, though anyone who has visited one will attest that no one is living there – the cemetery, that is. Now the grieving are really aggrieved. Monuments are forever. No peace to be found in Spring Grove until this enduring dilemma is resolved.

In a 6-16-13 post entitled Punctum, All Of The Noose That Is Knot considered Eric S. Jenkins’ insights on a Barthesian Punctum within animation. Setting aside Barthes’ obvious corollary of mortality applicable to Spring Grove, what Jenkins had to say on a different matter creates some genuinely eternal concerns. “The punctum of animation, although likewise a punctum of “Time,” is about life rather than death… Jones [famed Warner Brothers animator Chuck Jones] might depict the character moving and expressing, but Bugs lives beyond the drawings. This child expresses animation’s punctum, sensing as alive that which exists only as image.” (Critical Inquiry Vol. 39 No. 3 pg. 585) This last line likewise could be used to describe an angel, of which there are probably a considerable number adorning monuments throughout most cemeteries. The Walkers, whose daughter Kimberly the monument is meant to commemorate, now may have recourse on aesthetic and cultural grounds. “Animation, animated subjects do not exist, have never been, share our world and experience only through the image, nothing more.” (this blog’s 6-16-13 post, Punctum). As much could be said for angels, though many, like the child recounted by Chuck Jones, actually see and believe in their actuality. This brings up an even gnarlier quagmire than the often related joke about Catholics in heaven (will anyone of another faith be there?). If our cemeteries are “populated” by what comprises our democracy (though strictly prohibited from being able to cast a vote by our boards of election), who determines the aesthetic, cultural appropriateness of commemorations to be found there?

Spring Grove's Eternal SpongeBob

Spring Grove’s Eternal SpongeBob

Time For An Updated Caberet Revival

October 17, 2013

I am reluctant since I write stream of consciousness, and some folks read as though it is a directive. I hope you aren’t in the latter frame of mind. Recent events have triggered correlations with my research/study. I guess 10 years ago everyone was all in a tizzy over “connecting the dots”. Since then we’ve taken up twitter and twerking, and left the children’s coloring book puzzles for the unsophisticated and immature thinkers amongst us. The school district here is running a final drive to renew an existing ongoing levy that funds the school. That levy has failed repeatedly in the past. Inside knowledge is that tea party activists, opposed to taxation carte blanche, have been very active with regards to their success at creating failure. My neighbors, in the compound down the road, have stopped in to educate me after I put up a pro levy sign the last election go round. The local paper ran articles on how the levy is a last resort. Cuts, etc. have already been made. The state is threatening to take over. The district has shown incredible, excellent results compared to 20 years ago when it was considered an educational doormat. Etc. Yet these folks claim “We’re broke. Vote no”. The paper ran a disappointing article trying to interview the opponents and get their side. Turns out they couldn’t track anyone down that lived in the district amongst the organizers. Of the people who are involved in the organization that actually live in the district, they refused to name them (though all the levy proponents always provide their names). Etc. That same day Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz and Mike Lee led the rambunctious rally at the WWII Memorial. There is a correlation between these events (Palin’s group, opposition to the school levy), the default crisis, and the brown shirts in Europe during the 1930’s. It is very complicated.

We have been actively engaged with a war on terror for the last 20 years. Historians and students of culture will affirm that wars of such duration tend to insinuate themselves on the people of the various cultures involved, morphing them into one, so to say. The crossover and intermingling of things like diet, fashion, or music/literature/art are easy to identify. Not so easy to identify is the subtle change in outlook/approach to political process. The plethora of suicide jihadism may, in a way, have rubbed off on how we conduct our own approach to solving our problems, especially when our own belief in righteousness finds itself in the minority (which is the situation the tea baggers find themselves in). So, like the thugs of the thirties, we create a problem, blame the opposition, the “other”, the despised for the problem, and then turn around and aggrandize our ability to solve the problem, to be the solution. Exactly what Cruz, Lee, et al did in Washington. It isn’t that such folks aren’t true to their stated convictions (to make a smaller government, if not eliminate it altogether). Rather, it is this strategy of destroy it, claim the destruction on the “other” and then legislate, or bloviate, or announce, promulgate that your approach is the solution, etc. (after the destruction has been perpetrated). This is precisely what the brown shirts did covertly as well as in an outright violent manner, for primarily racial reasons. But many would say the opposition to anything Obama is likewise racially motivated. My local school levy renewal opponents embrace the same modus operandi. Alan Dershowitz just blasted his (ostensibly) best student (Ted Cruz), claiming his approach to be not exactly what the founding fathers had in mind (of the senator perverting the constitutional framework established specifically to reassure regarding the good faith and credit of the US government; using it as a means of achieving partisan political ends, rather than what the framers intended – guaranteeing the good faith and credit of the nation as a whole). The latest manifestation of this noxious growth is from the VW plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Reuters reports (10-16-13) that the VW corporation wants UAW representation at the plant (management wants the workers organized). Once achieved, VW plans on adding another vehicle manufacturing line. The National Right To Work Legal Defense Foundation, from out of state, are pouring in money and have filed a law suit on behalf of 4 plant employees to disallow this; in essence to shut down the anticipated growth, if not the facility altogether (one senses a genuine, hand crafted Koch wallet opening here). Our Supreme Court is likewise entertaining the same twisted logic in the recent McCutcheon vs. FEC case brought by the same folks who produced Citizens United. It is to guarantee unlimited individual contributions AND no regulation, oversight or transparency. The logic is based on Supreme Court precedent that those exercising first amendment rights (like the 1950’s civil rights activists) not be subject to regulation, disclosure and transparency in order to protect them from intimidation and reprisal. Today the argument is, after Citizens United, that if spending money is free speech, those doing so should likewise be protected from intimidation and reprisal. It is just a skip and a hop to realize that the disposition, strategy and tactics of the brown shirts lies waiting to expand, completely nascent. It is part of capitalism to rely on “crisis” for the sake of profit (created or otherwise). Without crisis, things become a bit too ho hum, efficient, and the opportunities for “growth” are limited to ones that are real or genuinely new. Tear up the trolley tracks, get rid of the busses and people will buy GM cars to get to work. There’s a brown shirt outlook that has crept into our culture. Social scientists wouldn’t be surprised provided the prevalence of bullying in its unseen underbelly. But this is now bullying which threatens to bring us all down, to damage everyone, those involved as well as those innocent and oblivious – all like the daily news of jihadist suicide bombers to which we, as a people, have become completely inured.

Deja Vu All Over Again

October 1, 2013

What serendipity! This blog’s annual anniversary re-posting of the very first essay coincides perfectly with the times. Makes one wonder…

“Last night I had a dream about reality”
October 25, 2009

Last night I had a dream about reality.

It was such a relief to wake up.

Stanislaw J. Lec

Last night I actually did have such a dream. It was as though a sentence had been imposed, a curse. The fellow in the dream was to live his life within the identical same context as his former had been, only without the history. In this case he was involved with some rural activity and found himself within a farming community where the various folk were identical to those he interacted with previously, only he had no historical handle, no myth with which to have a connection (i.e. a co worker was a different physical entity, yet the job and relationship were as before). His only connection to them, and they to him, was his function, their interaction. So while functioning with them, he couldn’t (or didn’t) animate them with any stories or background, no shared experiences or memories. The functioning and interaction was matter-of fact, with the all encompassing (enshrouding?) pall of “who are these people? What am I doing involved with them? Shouldn’t there be something more, something significant in our interaction?” Everything was done as it ought to be done, as it was meant to be done, by definition in terms of how things function, as though according to a mathematical description of a function. Yet it was likewise totally and completely meaningless. What more, to even ask that it have meaning was meaningless for there was no history, no myth with which to relate it to, connect it to, by which to reference it. People acted with each other, within the functions we have grown accustomed to, that are taken for granted, that we have all come to expect. Yet there was no reason to be had for any of it. What was even worse, there was nothing exchanged within the interaction; as though it is really history and myth that are all that can be exchanged, the only things possible or of value, the exchange of which constitute the only sustenance of meaning. It was such a relief to wake up.