November 8, 2011

this wonderful person has some jpegs of one of the key books of my childhood, Silver Book of Fairy Tales by Bozena Nemcova. She d also written a Golden Book, but either I didn’t have that one, or it didn’t leave the same impression.

Here you can read the text, but no more pictures.


September 18, 2011

When i was growing up in Azerbijan, one of my favorite things to eat was feijoa. Yes, this fruit, originating in Brazil, was quite common in Baku. Yesterday I spoke to a Brazilian person, who’d never heard of it. But, lo, it grows well in Bay Area. October and November is when it ripens. This book says that in 2001 there  were two trees of Acca Sellowiana, also known as pineapple guava, at the Strybing arboretum in Golden Gate park. Will have to investigate further.  My grandmother said there were some trees in Castro Valley, with almost no one around to appreciate that those are edible (and delicious!).

Also, I finally figured out the name of a Japanese animated film i saw with my grandfather in Baku, sometime before 1983. “Taro the Dragon Boy”. And it is on DVD here. Hooray.


I have a reader!

September 7, 2011

Hello, reader. I am sorry I have not written for awhile. I will do better soon.

May 29, 2011

Polina Barskova writes about Aleksandr Vvedensky in the NLO 108.
“Akhmatova shrugs her Altmanesque  shoulders of a swimmer on mention of Kharms; Gumilev is touched, but without comprehending it, by Vaginov’s gnat-like buzzing”.

Yakov Druskin left some notes about Veedensky’s poetics. Anna Gerasimova (Umka) also mentions, in her essay which appeared in the 2010 edition of Vvedensky’s works from the publisher OGI,  some other fragments by Druskin about Vvedensky, published as “The Nonsense Star”.

this is about memory of friends.  Not settling of scores, but historical judgment on one’s generation, with hindsight. Vvedensky’s

May 16, 2011

Found a poem by one Valery Nugatov in the 107th issue of Russian NLO.

Found his LJ. I liked this poem even better. (But I don’t like his clothes).

Nugatov links to one Alexej Nilogov and his LJ post about some mock literature award in April : the Star Phalocracy. In the comments someone calls WAR “mainstream savages”, and links to an essay by Slava Danilov     where members of WAR are claimed to have links to Gleb Pavlovsky, the dark genius of Russian State politology and PR. Well, actually, they were introduced to him. So? But are they his project? That’s not clear to me.

sex, war, conversion

May 15, 2011

In our previous post, we alluded to pornography and political assassinations.

Since the acknowledged demise of Osama bin Laden, I have been drawn, yet again, to the invariants, to the repetitions, to traces.

A recent inter-communal violence in Egypt was twisted into a particularly melodramatic spike by rumors that some Christian woman was attempting to convert to Islam, but was prevented by her co-religionists. Which reminds me:

In Salonika, in 1876, the French and the German consul were killed by a crowd, when a Christian girl was likewise prevented from conversion. (Arguably, a forced conversion). One of the ironies was that the Frenchman  and the German were just passing by, whereas the American vice-Consul, who actively aided the girl, stayed unharmed. (see page 160 of Mazower’s book).

Aleksandr Griboyedov was a Russian statesman, as well as author of a famous play (see Khrushchev quoting from it), and a famous waltz. H e was killed in Tehran, in 1829, after aiding an escape of an Armenian eunuch and two Armenian concubines from the royal harem.

After the WWII, there were numerous marriages between US soldiers and German women. I don’t recall hearing of a single instance of the same happening in either Iraq or Afghanistan. Rapes, sure. But not marriage. I wonder why.

Regarding the French ban on veiling. In the new biography of Malcolm X, Manning Marable ( lamentable, deceased days before publication of this his life’s major work) mentions (page 21) that

In January 1923, the anti-KKK coalition petitioned Nebraska’s state legislature to outlaw citizens from holding public meetings while “in disguise to conceal their identities”…The bill easily passed the state house… but failed to gather the necessary two-thirds majority in the state senate, where Klan supporters ensured its failure.

morning reading

May 14, 2011

In Uganda, police fire cannons with pink-colored water at the protesters.

Monte Hellman has a new film out, his first in 20 years.

Res Obscura – a pretty cool blog by a graduate student whose dissertation is on the early modern history of drug trade.

Louisianna floodgates will be opened to protect the cities.

An analysis of recent events in Ivory Coast in LRB, from Stephen W. Smith, formerly the Africa editor of Libération and Le Monde, now teaching at Duke University.

In the same issue of LRB, T. J. Clark, who recently abandoned Berkeley for LOndon, writes about the current Aesthetic movement exhibit at the Victoria and Albert museum. He gives us the word of the hour: etiolation – it is what happens to plants grown in partial or complete absence of light, resulting in long weak stems and pale yellowing of the poet’s, I mean, the plants, flesh. Clark wonders about the lack of self-irony in the period’s visual art, asking why the movement did not produce a worthy analogue of Yeats. (He almost grants that honor to Edward Burne-Jones, a friend of William Morris, whose famous painting of Merlin you may remember from the cover of A.S.Byatt’s Psssession.) Clark gives a cool quote from WIlliam Morris:

It would be a pity to waste many words on the prospect of such a school of art as this, which … has as its watchword a piece of slang that does not mean the harmless thing it seems to mean – art for art’s sake. Its fore-doomed end must be, that art at last will seem too delicate a thing for even the hands of the initiated to touch; and the initiated must at last sit still and do nothing – to the grief of no one.

Clark calls the 2008 book William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones: Interlacings by Caroline Arscot “astonishing”.

Browsing through Clark’s earlier contributions to LRB I stumble across his review of the 2005 book about Classical mythology in renaissance by Malcolm Bull. Bull is a frequent contributor to NLR (New Left Review), and has written responses to Zizek and Hardt-Negri. That’s a man after my own heart – Renaissance historian with a penchant for contemporary theory. He seems to have kept it very quiet the last few years, though.

Clark quotes a paragraph from Bull’s book:

during this period there were two main audiences for depictions of the loves of Jupiter: anonymous consumers of pornography, and the Holy Roman Emperor. Correggio’s Loves were given to Charles V by Federico Gonzaga; Perino’s tapestries were woven for his visit to Genoa, and the gallery of Francis I was hurriedly completed for Charles’s visit in 1539. To a remarkable degree the audience for all these visions of lust was one man.

According to an essay in The Invention of Pornography, a volume edited by Lynn Hunt, one of the original uses of pornography in early modern Europe was to lampoon the clergy. Character assassination through sexual scandal is still very much with us. Forget Clinton. Osama bin Laden’s compound is supposed to have contained a stash of porn. To have revealed something like this without killing him, now that would have been a coup. We are much more adept at smearing the dead than the living. After all, the living can defend themselves, and even prove innocent. Whereas to be dead is basically to be open to any suggestion.

France Fox Piven

May 14, 2011

Unfortunately, i didn’t know about Poor People’s Movements (1977), until Glenn Beck branded Piven a dangerous radical. Having just read Piven’s introduction to the paperback edition of her book, I actually see why Beck would choose her book to lash out against. Her thesis is that worker “organizations endure, in short, by abandoning their oppositional politics”, that concessions made by the elites are a response not to the organizational strength of the movements, but to the chaotic, mass disturbances of the actions of the crowds and masses of workers. Organizations only come on the scene as a result of spontaneous mass mobilizations, and they stay and grow less because they harnessed and continue to rely on the masses, then because they are co-opted by the elites to become a stabilizing factor.


this just in: “Reformers win in California Grad Union Election

Yet again, I am trying to read Ulysses. I am past chapter 3, and have finally met Bloom. David Auerbach’s post at Waggish today links to this useful chart.

Over at The Valve, Bill Benzon mentions Gregory Jusdanis’ post at his Stanford blog Arcade, who praises the work of   Nurdan Gürbilek, “Turkey’s foremost literary and cultural critic”. Years ago, I had to read Jusdanis for a class on language and nationalism. The book by Gyrbilek has just been published by ZED Books. (The UK edition has a slightly different title).  In a related post, at Cambridge Forecast, is a look at Pamuk and the concept of huzun as “the melancholy of Istanbul”. Elif Batuman is skeptical.

Both Benzon and Jusdanis want to see culture as something more than just a superstructure determined by economics. I am not opposed to the idea, but think that instances of that are rare, perhaps much more rare today than in the era of Romantic nationalism and philhellenism Jusdanis so often revisits.

Eric Hazan, recently deceased Marxist academic, author of a new book about Paris is interviewed by The Guardian’s Stuart Jeffries.

R.I.P.  Joanna Russ.

An interview with John Berger in The Guardian. Berger’s new book is heavy on Spinoza. It’s also nice to see him comparing Woodie Guthry and Andrei PLatonov.

Domenico Losurdo’s new history of liberalism looks promising.

Badiou’s short text “Contemporary obscurantism” appears in the May 8 edition of last year’s Le Monde.

However, my translation below is from the Russian translation I found here. This is a sort of a test of what one of Badious’ interpreters describes as Badiou’s desire to be perfectly accessible in translation.  What I’d like now is to find a French person who could translate my English version back into French.

What name should we give to the strange intellectual constructs that are the works of Darwin, Marx and Freud? They do not belong to science  in the strict sense, even in spite of the fact that biology, inculding modern biology, thinks itself within a Darwinian framework. They do not belong to philosophy, even though the dialectic (Plato’s old name for philosophy) received a new impetus thanks to Marx. They are not reducible to practices which they illuminate, even though laboratory life aims to confirm Darwin, revolutionary politics tries to verify the communist hypothesis of Marx, and psychoanalytic treatment places Freud within the unstable boundaries of psychiatry.

Let us frame XIX century as the period between the French Revolution and the October Revolution. I propose to call these three brilliant attempts  – dispositions of thought which,  in a sense, determine the contribution XIX century made to the history of humanity’s liberation.

After Darwin, the movement of life and of the human being-as-species is irreversibly split from any religious transcendence, and is returned to the immanence of its own laws. After Marx, the history of human collectivity sheds that nebulous providence which is the omnipotent oppression of inertial forces of private property, family and the state. That history surrenders (or is surrendered) instead to the power of the free play of contradictions, from which, though in stress and uncertainty , equality may yet be established. After Freud, we realize that there is no soul (whose education is but a moralistic training) as something  opposite to primary instincts, which are the very element of childhood which makes us who we are. In fact, it is among those desires, including the sexual, that the possible freedom of the subject is staged, of the subject as it is determined by language, of the language which compactly reproduces the symbolic order.

Various “conservatisms” have, of old, fiercely assaulted these three great dispositions, and naturally so. It is known that in the U.S., even today, educational institutions are often required to present, opposite the Darwinian evolution, a biblical creationism. The history of anti-communism is virtually identical with the history of the reigning ideology of those great  states in which under the name of “democracy” a twin of capital-parliamentarism reigns. The normalizing psychiatric positivism, everywhere finding  anomalies and deviations to be straightened through chemical violence, is desperately invested in “proofs” that psychoanalysis is a hucksterism.

Yet, throughout the whole period, mainly in France, Darwin’s, Marx’s and Freud’s powerfully liberating influence as regards  both thought and action has been winning, though of course not without fierce debates, agonizing reappraisals, and inspired criticque. The momentum of our three dispositions dominated the intellectual scene. Conservatisms assumed a defensive position.

Since the 1980s which saw the start of an extensive process of global normalization, any liberatory or even critical thought has become a hindrance. Thus today we behold numerous attempts to erase from the public mind all traces of these great dispositions,  which are even condemned as “ideologies”, though they actually are the rational critique of ideological enslavement. Unfortunately, because of the activity of some cliques of renegades from the “red decade” (1965-1975), France – a model country of the class struggle, according to Marx – has been at the forefront of this reaction. Here blossomed the “black books” of communism, psychoanalysis, progressivism and, ultimately, of all that is not included in the current set of nonsense: consume, work, vote and be silent.

Among these attempts, which under the guise of “modernity” pull out the junk liberalism circa 1820s, not the least offensive are those that invoke a materialism of pleasure, and wish to consign the liberatory dispositions, particularly psychoanalysis, to the brig. The imperative to”enjoy” which bears no relation to any kind of liberation – this is the injunction which the so-called Western societies order us to obey. We are thus to forbid ourselves the organization of what is really important – the liberatory process of several accessible truths, which are guarded by the great dispositions of thought.

Without exception, we will name as modern obscurantism all forms of subversion and destruction aimed at the power contained, for the good of humankind, in the writings of Darwin, Marx and Freud.

Milo and the Calf

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Object-Oriented Philosophy

"The centaur of classical metaphysics shall be mated with the cheetah of actor-network theory."