Saturday, December 31, 2011

"*If you have just one project, such as a dissertation, it can feel like a scary monolith rising in the desert. If you don’t feel like dealing with it, you’ll waste time watching TV, web-surfing, getting drunk with friends, whatever. Even in a good mood, when the Muse makes you courageous enough to approach the monolith, you’ll have a good day or two with it and then become intimidated by it again.

That’s why you need to get away from the “lonely desert monolith” conception of projects. You should have several of them simultaneously, like an ecosystem of projects. When you’re sick of one, you can turn to one of the others."

--Graham Harman

Harman's advice is worth repeating: develop an "ecosystem of projects." It's something very much on my mind.

Having retired from my wage-earning activities of the last 34 years, my job now is to write. I've embarked on what's being conceptualized as a year-long project -- a "novel" tentatively entitled APPEARANCES. I don't know if I'm going to be able to carry it off, but I'm giving it my all. I do know that I'm going to keep Graham's advice in mind and continue with other projects also -- poetry and interviews, blog posts, etc.

I'm also reading and re-reading a number of interesting things. Notably:

The Outlaw Album by Daniel Woodrell,

Insect Media: An Archaeology of Animals and Technology by Jussi Parikka,

Unlimited Intimacy: Reflections on the Subculture of Barebacking by Tim Dean,

Portraits & Repetition by Stephen Ratcliffe,

Puppet: An Essay on Uncanny Life by Kenneth Gross,

Four Honest Outlaws: Sala, Ray, Marioni, Gordon by Michael Fried,

Art and Ventriloquism by David Goldblatt,

The Sluts by Dennis Cooper,

Being and Event by Alain Badiou,

Fanged Noumena by Nick Land,

Ecology Without Nature by Tim Morton.



Tuesday, December 27, 2011

This is the first time I've been truly alone with myself since my last day at the Hellth Dept. on December 15. What that means, right now, is that I'm seated at the kitchen table. The dishwasher is running behind me. (Sometimes it sounds like it is talking.) I'm feeling hyperalert.

I've been reading back and forth between Nick Land's Fanged Noumena, Michael Fried's Four Honest Outlaws: Sala, Ray, Marioni, Gordon, and Julian Barnes' The Sense of an Ending. I've also been flipping back and forth between 3 works-in-progress of my own.



*




The de Kooning retrospective at MOMA was fabulous: 7 galleries of his work arranged chronologically. I particularly enjoyed the serial work--observing how images morphed and mutated over time.




The Gertrude Stein exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery was terrific too. It made for a great multi-faceted look at Stein and her oeuvre. It made me want to revisit an early ambition to write about Stein. Particularly in comparison with Marcel Duchamp.




*




During some alone time with my father, as he was driving me to an Amtrak station in Stamford, CT, he confided unbidden that the three people who have most influenced him in life are my mother, me, and a pastor. He explained the influence of mom and the minister in some depth and then said that perhaps I hadn't heard when he mentioned my influence. I told him I'd heard but didn't know how to respond or whether I should. He then explained what he felt my influence on his life to have been. It was something of a tortured monlogue. Well intentioned, but painful, nonetheless. I'm going to need to try and write about it soon. Even if only so that I can process the occasion.




*




Wow. I don't have to go back to the Hellth Dept. Except, eventually, to pick up a final check. The reality is slowly dawning on me. Unless I decide, at some point, to do some consulting or volunteer work, I will never do public health work again.




I'm a little nervous about retirement. I'm 58 point something years old and have spent the last 34 and a half years earning a living doing something I didn't particularly like to do but had learned to do pretty well. Now, all kinds of possibilities beckon. I hope that I don't fuck too much up.




*




Stay tuned.




Friday, December 23, 2011

Back from six days on the East Coast. Caught the de Kooning retrospective at MOMA in NYC and the Gertrude Stein photographs at the National Portrait Gallery in DC. Both were fantastic exhibitions. When some holiday fervor fades I'll try to write a bit about my impressions.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Who owns the concepts of space and time?
One falls
out
of a template

and
into an actual
World.

*

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Retirement

This Friday just past was my last Friday at the Hellth Dept.

Tomorrow will be my last Monday.

Then there will be my last Tuesday.

The day after will be my last Wednesday there.

The Thursday which follows will be my last day there ever.

Strange to contemplate leaving. I'm excited and frightened at the same time.
Much to the spouse's irritation I spent a considerable amount of time today listening to John Zorn's music (which I unabashedly love). It is a bit too dissonant for her.

Aesthetic "taste" is a funny thing. When I encounter something, some sort of art--say-- that I don't on first blush like , I explore it more. There's so much that I don't know, don't understand, that I kind of assume that I'm probably not getting something on the first take. I guess that practice makes innocent bystanders uncomfortable.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Two Philosophy Books of Interest

Just finished reading two brief philosophy books:

Towards A New Manifesto by Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer (Verso, 2011)and One-Dimensional Woman by Nina Power (Zero Books, 2009).

A New Manifesto is, as one of its blurbs has it, "A philosophical jam session." It's comprised of transcripts of exchanges between Adorno and Horkheimer in 1953 as they attempted to formulate something akin to a new Communist Manifesto. They're trying out ideas, thinking out loud.

This sort of thing is really in my sweet spot. I love exchanges that are based in true inquiry and aren't about position or besting someone. This passage was of particular interest to me:

Adorno: Philosophy exists in order to redeem what you see in the look of an animal. If you feel that an idea is supposed to serve a practical purpose, it slithers into the dialectic. If, on the other hand, your thought succeeds in doing the thing justice, then you cannot also assert the opposite. The mark of authenticity of a thought is that it negates the immediate presence of one's own interests. True thought is thought that has no wish to insist on being in the right.
(71)


One-Dimensional Woman is philosophically based cultural criticism at its best. This passage needs quoting:

The jokey male hypothetiical question to lesbians ('don't you spend all day playing with your breasts?') has literally come true. They are 'assets' in the physical and economic senses simultaneously and as much use as possible is to be extracted from them -- their role in breastfeeding is perversely secondary to their primary function as secondary sexual characteristics.

What the autonomous breasts and the concommitant becoming-CV of the human means is that the language of objectification may not be useful any longer, as there is no (or virtually no) subjective dimension left to be colonized. The language of objectification demands on a minimal subjective difference, what Badiou quaintly identified in the realm of personal relations as 'the intangible female right ... to only have to get undressed in front of the person of her choosing.' In the realm of work we could call this the right not to have to lay bare one's entire personality and private life. In effect, this is what the world of work increasingly demands --that one is always contactable (by email, by phone), that one is always an 'ambassador' for the firm (don't write anything about your job on your blog), that there is no longer any separation between the private realm and the working day (Facebook amalgamates friends and colleagues alike). The personal is no longer just political, it's economic through and through.


I'm struck over and over again by how fucking much I don't know. But I do know this:
if we can't as human beings find a way toward something like concern for the others we don't know, then we, ultimately, have no regard for ourselves. Think critically. Act on the behalf of others. Try to love one another (right now).