fragments of an attempted writing.

america.

Recently my father got my mom to relent from her usual strange hatred of sliders and she agreed to go to Krystals to pick up the lunch they were going to eat at a park after church.


Dad goes inside the Krystals to get the food.  As Sunday afternoon is a slow time, the Krystals only has a couple of people in the back and one lady, 50something years old, working the counter.


As dad goes up to place his order, the lady stops him at one point and goes over to an elderly man who was wandering around and assists him back to a table.  She comes back to the counter, but before dad finished placing the order she had to step out and help the elderly man again.


She apologized to dad and explained that the man was her father.  Dad told her that he too had had a parent who had Alzheimers and they commiserated a bit.  The woman said "back when I had my job I took him to an Alzheimers day care Monday through Friday," but the Alzheimers day care did not operate on weekends.  


She said her manager was gone that day.  She told dad that she was certain her manager would not allow her to continue bringing her father to work with her much longer.  She didn't know what she would do after that. 









Tell Us


We have had names for you:
The Thunderer, the Almighty
Hunter, Lord of the snowflake
and the sabre-toothed tiger.
One name we have held back 
unable to reconcile it
with the mosquito, the tidal-wave,
the black hole into which
time will fall.  You have answered
us with the image of yourself
on a hewn tree, suffering
injustice, pardoning it;
pointing as though in either
direction; horrifying us
with the possibility of dislocation.
Ah, love, with your arms out
wide, tell us how much more
they must still be stretched
to embrace a universe drawing 
away from us at the speed of light.


- R.S. Thomas, Collected Poems 1988-2000.


When I was watching the State of the Union (OK, those few minutes of it I could stomach), I thought that they should have a channel in which the dude and robots from Mystery Science Theater 3000 provided overdubbed commentary during the speech.

But this service will do.

HT MR Zine.

...on October 10 Venezuela seized and nationalized a massive fertilizer plant part-owned by Koch Industries. The media silence is a bit puzzling. You’d think that the seizure of property belonging to America’s second-largest private company, owned by one of the most powerful families in the country and the bankrollers of today’s libertarian/Tea Party revolution—the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch–would be considered newsworthy. But no, even though their Venezuela plant was nationalized a whole three months ago, other than a handful of short business-wire dispatches, this has yet to make the news. Even Koch Industries has been suspiciously silent on the matter.


One reason why the Kochs could be keeping the news under wraps is that the nationalization of the fertilizer plant may appear to be bad news for Charles and David Koch, but here’s the big surprise: the Kochs made hundreds of millions on every end of this deal…and even more surprising, bond markets cheered the nationalization. In other words, the free markets championed by the Kochs gave a big thumbs-down to Kochs’ negative influence on the value of the business, while at the same time, the free-market Kochs earned huge windfalls doing business with socialists. No wonder this story hasn’t made the rounds.


Here’s what happened...



....So for all the enterprising Americans out there wondering “What’s the secret to the Kochs’ success?” The answer isn’t pretty—especially if you’re one of the gullible Tea Party libertarians who believe the Kochs practice the free-market libertarianism that they preach. Their ability to reap billions and billions in profits year after year isn’t about buying low and selling high, but about buying subsidized-by-the-state, and selling subsidized-by-the-state. Using taxpayer money to cover the costs and ensure profits every time—that’s the simple formula to the Kochs’ success.


- read the rest of Yasha Levine's article here.
From Arturo:


Consciousness is the universe defecating on itself.

r.i.p.



His People's History and the many other popular histories which follow that model were a necessary corrective to the usual Americanist/Capitalist ideological fare.  But where exactly Zinn stood politically I could never figure out - in looking at a half dozen videos this morning he once calls himself a democratic socialist and once infers that he is an anarcho-syndicalist.  As far as the recently deceased Leftist lions go, I have more affection for Studs Terkel than I do Zinn, but I am thankful for Zinn's work, as his People's History and its many offshoots provide materials you can give to anyone who can read at a high school level that at very least challenges some of what needs to be challenged.  There is even a children's version of the People's History that my oldest daughter will soon be reading.

Zinn died one year ago today.

He is that great void
we must enter, calling
to one another on our way
in the direction from which
he blows. What matter
if we should never arrive
to breed or to winter
in the climate of our conception?

Enough we have been given wings
and a needle in the mind
to respond to his bleak north.

There are times even at the Pole
when he, too, pauses in his withdrawal
so that it is light there all night long.


- R.S. Thomas, Collected Later Poems, 1988-2000, pg. 122.

go ahead, be an asshole, there's no benefit in being happy...

But there’s no evidence to back up the idea that an upbeat attitude can prevent any illness or help someone recover from one more readily. On the contrary, a recently completed study of nearly 60,000 people in Finland and Sweden who were followed for almost 30 years found no significant association between personality traits and the likelihood of developing or surviving cancer. Cancer doesn’t care if we’re good or bad, virtuous or vicious, compassionate or inconsiderate. Neither does heart disease or AIDS or any other illness or injury.


- from here.




Robeson died on this day in 1976.


However lucid and logical it may be, in European Christianity there is a rank ordering of all living things. They'll never be able to understand the import of a verse like Bashō's haiku:

when I look closely
beneath the hedge, mother's-heart
flowers have blossomed


- Susako Endo, Deep River.

The Great House

However it came, this great house has gone down
Unconquered into chaos (as you might see
A famous ship warped to a rotting quay
In miles of weeds and rubbish, once a town.)
So the great house confronts the brutish air,
And points its turrets towards the hidden sky,
While in the dark the flags of honour fly
Where faith and hope and bravery would not dare.

Accident did not do this, nor mischance.
But so must order to disorder come
At their due time, and honour take its stance
Deep in dishonour’s ground. Chaos is new,
And has no past or future. Praise the few
Who built in chaos our bastion and our home.

- Edwin Muir, Collected Poems.


The first edition cover of Fredric Jameson'sPostmodernism and Cultural Theories, tr. Tang Xiaobing (1987, Shaanxi Normal University Press).

I was reading Paul D’Amato’s The Meaning of Marxism, and I came across this, which is the sort of assertion that Free Marketers like to jump all over:

Given the opportunity, everyone is capable of learning the scientific, administrative, and mathematical skills necessary to play a direct role in running society, just as in pre-class society knowledge of terrain, plants, and animals, or of tool-making, was shared by the group, and not treated as the monopoly of a minority. (pg. 200)

The immediate capitalist objection to D’Amato’s statement will be this: that not everyone is thus capable, that a wide range of ability and capability is to be found among humans, and that the best and most successful societies are those which allow the most able and most capable persons to rise to those positions which demand the most ability and capability.

But this dismissal misses the point, and assumes that our social order actually corresponds to the myths of meritocracy which float about, rather than the social-strata banality and cult of mediocrity which abounds all around us.

I had a friend (he died in 2000), whom I have mentioned a great deal on the previous blog, whose name was Mark. Mark was at one time the youngest tenured professor in the U.K., a professor of neuro-robotic engineering, and he had one of those intellects which was so intimidating and commanding, even though Mark was a very approachable Welshman from a working class home. I remember one conversation when Mark and some of his scientist friends were explaining to me why Microsoft was not only a farce, from the point of view of a supposed meritocratic technocracy, but also an icon of coercion and distortions. One of the points they stressed was that Bill Gates was not, from the point of view of the science of computer technology or the application of computer technology, all that intelligent of a man. At the time this seemed to resonate with my, shall we say, “humanities based” intuition that told me that when Gates opened his mouth a notably intelligent person was not speaking. Yet Gates and his multi-national corporation, to be sure, have played a rather “direct role in running society.”

There are many other examples of this nature which come to mind. A conversation I heard on the radio with a bio-chemist who spoke of the ways that large pharmaceuticals fought against needed pharmaceutical science which would/could help the masses in affordable ways painted a picture of sober, intelligent scientists thwarted by less intelligent scientists working in cahoots with business majors who should probably only be considered marginally intelligent. We could go on and on, but Gates will serve well enough.

Gates is obviously able and capable of doing things which have dramatic effects on the entire world. But this did not come about by way of him being a scientific genius, or even an organizational genius. Gates' “genius,” if you will, follows a different model. There is a word for the psychology of action Gates embodies, and that word is a part of the classic Marxist vocabulary. The word is opportunist.

Marx considers opportunism an integral part of capitalism, and he noted the correspondence between opportunism and alienation. Bill Gates and the tactics of Microsoft provide a picture perfect example of this. Microsoft depends upon the suppression of technologically “better” alternatives (hence their buying the rights to technologies with the sole purpose of making sure they never get developed, etc.). Microsoft depends upon the classical capitalist technique of information asymmetry. Microsoft presents a myth of meritocratic value, but in fact its real success is that of the achievement of a superior vehicle of ambition, its ability to sell and resell itself as innovative, when more often than not it has slowed innovation. It has, however, directly brought technology to the masses, with some parallels to the ways Soviet industries did the same thing on a smaller scale. Microsoft has both made use of government regulation and been the victim of government regulation, but overall it has masterfully maneuvered various social and political systems, in spite of producing a product that virtually every computer expert in the world considers mediocre at best. Of course, the problems associated with software mediocrity keep a lot of people employed, but perhaps that is too cynical a view. We might note that keeping these people employed is not a means of wealth distribution, most of those employed are pawns in a game which concentrates wealth to relatively small number of opportunists.

When one starts to meet persons in executive and management positions in business and government, it does not take long to realize that most of them are not the brightest bulbs in the tree. There are certainly some very bright people in government and business, but I am convinced that the highest concentrations of exceptionally intelligent people are not found in government or business. This need not be the case. I believe it is the natural result of capitalism playing itself out.

But to get back to D’Amato’s point, of course he does not think a person suffering from a severe brain injury could administrate the IRS. But I think his bold assertion does take into consideration that most of those persons engaged in roles connected to the running of society are not particularly bright.

Having worked in a metal shop for a number of years, I saw people who had rather dismal public educations and who could not for the life of them use correct grammar two phrases in a row engage in custom fabrication which required cognitive skills which were very much akin to what is required in a typical high school geometry class. Most of these folks were intellectually capable of the level of thought routinely engaged in by those who play a direct role in the running of society. My coworkers did not often think about such things as the running of society in part because they were conditioned not to – their entire social experience was one which churned out cheap, non-union members of the proletariat who were not inclined to ask too many questions.

When I was in Russia in 1992, sometimes visiting towns which had not had Western visitors in a generation or two, I found (via translators) that the street sweepers wanted to discuss great works of literature and listened as a store clerk or tram driver would sit at a piano and play a bit of Rachmaninoff. That these persons were most likely the grandchildren or great grandchildren of those peasants which both Marx and the Tsars thought firmly bound to traditions of “backwardness” and stupidity is something to consider.

Capitalism rests on the use of character masks in which a Gates presents himself as something he is not, with nearly all of society believing him.


A few years ago, on the occasion of the inauguration of the Géode, I wrote: ‘Don’t go to la Villette. Have no fear, the Géode will come to you.' This premonition is now becoming a reality for virtual-world technology, the hemispherical rooms of the Imax or Omnimax model only ever being simulators of a spherical cinema to come: eyeball cinema.

We might observe that, here also, the electromagnetic transmission revolution paves the way for the transplantation in vivo of physiology-stimulating devices, the miniaturization practiced by biotechnologies promoting implantation of postindustrial machinery into the living being’s very insides. The pacemaker points the way to the coming insemination of emotional prostheses capable of adding to the pharmacological arsenal of stimulants and hallucinogens, physics quite clearly not wanting to let itself be outdone in this domain by chemistry!

Clearly, the increasing desertion of movie theatres is not a sign of a decline in ‘cinematic obscurantism’. It is in fact the dawn of an ‘infographic illusionism’ that will, if we are not careful, wind up once again undermining the status of appearances, the reality principles of our immediate representations.
- Paul Virilio, Open Sky
When I read this passage, I am reminded that the bourgeoisie align their anthropologies with the pursuit of perpetual or would-be perpetual euphorias or patterns of euphoria, and this is done through consumer cycles and machinations. And it is increasingly done with overt spiritual overtones - we already have the apparatus, as it were, of emotional prostheses in the various functional means of bourgeois lifestylizations.