Friday, October 8, 2010


From Neo Conned to CONned-CONs: Why do so few CONgressMEN ever become EX-CONS? This Post was inspired by arguably the most libtarded piece of writing I have read in some times. Conservatard writing is so frequent, the default for most most extreme is always nolo contendre. But most libbertarded of the year goes to

CONgressMEN WITHOUT CONVICTION. From Neo Conned to CONned-CON: Why do so few CONgressMEN ever become EX-CONS? This Post was inspired by arguably the most libtarded piece of writing I have read in some times. Conservatard writing is so frequent, the default for most most extreme is always nolo contendre. But most libbertarded of the year goes to Roger D. Hodge for his book The Mendacity of Hope: Barack Obama and the Betrayal of American Liberalism. Hodge hallucinates chimeras of the automatic imaginary deomocracy. He wonders why Palin and the tea Baggers call themselves conservatives when they are really ultraright anti-Americans. What he doesn't get is that Palin is just the pea under the shell game that both parties play while and aout of power. Palin, O'Donell, Angle are the distraction, like in a magician's trick. While you look over there, the CONgress-magicians passes a law allowing banks to escape challengers to their botched robo signed foreclosures. Obama didn't sign it. Yeah! Dumbocracy works. But the Banks already got everything they wanted anyway. The con-game continues. Everyone gets a get out of jail free card in case they some how manage to exhaust their preexisting condition of total indemnification.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Afterthought-less-thoughts on Laura Mulvey and the Male gaze

Teaching Mulvey's Visual Pleasures and Narrative essay along with her "afterthoughts" essay this week in my grad seminar on Film Theory (. . . in Theory) by readings its textual unconscious symptomatically. The examples of Vertigo and Duel in the Sun both resist her account of them (she has no account of resistance or repetition compulsion in her putatively psychoanalytic account of the male gaze) and offer her material that could strongly support her account, material which she nevertheless omits. Mulvey is not a close reader, but even her account of the genre and narrative structure of the two films she chose are wildly off, and she does not explain why she has chosen these two films (which really do work well together). Mulvey, I will suggestion class, is an exemplary model of the (self-castrating) violence of all criticism irrespective of gender. It is telling that she avoids Lacan.

Watch your step son tradition

I've been teaching the Arden 2 and Arden 3 Hamlets (teaching all four Hamlets, the fourth being Jenkins' Arden 2 conflated text) and realized that Hamlet is in the "Watch your step son" tradition: on the one hand, the ghost tells his son Hamlet to watch his step; on the other Claudius says his stepson must not unwatched go. Meanwhile, Hamlet has to determine if the ghost is a faux pa(s).

Target De(ad)mographic

After I turned 55, I started getting letters from a funeral home with the words "Do you care enough to know?" written on the front. Of course, I don't want to know, and so I didn't open the envelopes. I also started getting pop ups from webpages trying to guilt-trip me into buying life insurance with pictures of a little girl kneeling in front of a gravestone (with no [your] name on it) asking "Who will take care of your family after you're gone?" I already have life insurance, so I ignore the pop ups. Nice to know I am in my special deadmographic. I thought the living were the ones were supposed to feel guilty about the (not so) soon to be dead, not vice versa. I'm not even getting letters about rest homes. Just straight to the funeral home for a "permarrest" in a grave.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Mis/Manage Your In/Sanity

Since you can never control your sanity, you need to mis/manage it. in other words, deal with your death drive by making sure you have a first class ticket when you get on the train and that you are the one stoking the fuel for the engine. You will always get off-track, but you can know your double can very comfortably take in the view while you determine how much fuel your train has (in the deluded belief that you can control the speed of your train).

In Order to Treat Yourself, You Have to Cheat Yourself

In other words,you have to trick yourself into taking care of yourself. When I swim,I always set 100 lengths (50 laps) of the olympic length pool at our gym as my goal. I reach it by first saying to myself it doesn't matter how many laps I do, and then setting benchmarks. After one length, only 99 more. After five, only have to do that 20 more times. After 25, only four times. The real trick is to get to 80. Then I know I will get to 100. Takes me 55-60 minutes. I swim every day. I want to stay alive as long as I can for my wife and children. But that is not how I get to 100.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Only a Rabbi Can Save Us: First Installment

Only a Rabbi Can Save Us:
The Late Philosophy of Heidegger and Husserl
and the Crisis of the German-Jewish / European University, 1929-1935
The European nations are sick; Europe itself, it is said, is in crisis. We are by no means lacking in something like nature doctors. Indeed, we are practically inundated by a flood of naïve and excessive suggestions for reform. But why do the so richly developed humanistic disciplines fail to perform the service here that is so admirably performed by the natural sciences in their sphere?
Edmund Husserl, The “Vienna Lecture,” 1935, 270
Everything suggests that, from as early as 1933, the date at which, lifting at last the quotation marks, he begins to talk of spirit and in the name of spirit, Heidegger never stopped interrogating the Being of Geist.
--Jacques Derrida, Of Spirit: Heidegger and the Question (1987), 83
Everything begins from the question mark [Fragezeichen] when one interrogates the essence of language.
--Jacques Derrida, Of Spirit: Heidegger and the Question (1987), n5, 129.
Der Speigel: Professor Heidegger, we have stated time and again that your philosophical work has been somewhat overshadowed by some events in your life, which, while they did not last long, have never been cleared up.
Heidegger: You mean 1933.
--“Only a God Can Save Us,” Der Spiegel’s Interview with Martin Heidegger on September 23, 1966.
And what if someone were to have fun showing you that these two books on soul and spirit are also the books of a political activist? That the essays on Heidegger and Nazism, on Mandela and apartheid, on the nuclear problem, on the psychoanalytic treatment and torture, on architecture and urbanism, etc., are “political writings”?
--Jacques Derrida, “Heidegger, the Philosopher’s Hell” in Points: Interviews, 1974-1994 (1995), 190

What is to Be Redone? A Geist Story

In this essay, I want to read Heidegger’s “Rectoral Address” of 1933 together with Edmund Husserl’s Vienna Lecture “Philosophy and the Crisis of European Humanity” of 1938 as a way of examining the currency of the “current” when it comes to an understanding of the fate of the modern university in the U.S. and Britain. In doing so, I want to put into question what it means to historicize philosophy. I ask the reader’s patience as I rehearse some basic philological information about Heidegger’s “Rectoral Address” of 1933, much of it regarding dates, before discussing it with Husserl’s lecture, in order to recast more clearly and broadly historicizing as a practice of “re/reading” philosophy’s “abjexutality”; that is, “re/reading” is a more or less attentive receptiveness to a text’s abjection, due to various kinds of interference following from the vagaries of publication and from posthumous publication. Only by proceeding in a careful and preliminary philological manner (in which a publication is historicized according to chronological, linear time) will the paradoxical and spectral temporality, the late-ness and lags of publication and translation, the varied relations between a lecture and its publication, will the nature of the modern university’s crisis begin to become visible. Nothing less than the relation between philology, especially editing, translation, and the philosophical figuring of empirical, writing marks is at stake. Any historicist re/reading of Heidegger (and of Husserl) comes down to publication dates, 1927, 1933, 1935, and 1953 being the most oft-cited years in Heidegger’s case, and typographical marks such as quotation marks surrounding a single word, italicized words, and question marks.[i]
Heidegger here inscribes invisible quotation marks in the use of the same word.
--Jacques Derrida, Of Spirit: Heidegger and the Question (1987), 95


I begin by rehearsing the reception and publication history of Heidegger’s Rectoral Address. After raising some broad questions about its re/reading, I will proceed to give the history of Husserl’s Vienna Lecture’s publication and translation history and then put the two texts in dialogue. Since the end of the Second World War, Heidegger’s “Rectoral Address” has been at the center of a fairly heated debate, a debate that Richard Wolin dubbed in a somewhat tabloid manner the “Heidegger Controversy,” the title of a book he edited and published in 1991. The debate concerns the extent both to which Heidegger was a Nazi who used his position as a university administrator in 1933-34 in anti-Semitic ways and the extent to which his philosophical writings themselves constitute Nazi philosophy (as opposed to philosophy written by a Nazi) or a rejection of Naziism. In 1945, Heidegger published “The Rectorate 1933/34: Facts and Thoughts.” In 1985, Heidegger’s Rectoral Address “The Self-Assertion of the German University: Address, Delivered on the Solemn Assumption of the Rectorate of the University Freiburg” was translated and published in English in along with “The Rectorate 1933/34,” both prefaced by a short apologia for Heidegger written by his son, Hermann. In a 1966 audiotaped and transcribed interview with Der Spiegel entitled “Only a God Can Save Us,” Heidegger engages more broadly both the importance of the year 1933 to the interpretation of his life and works, noting that his teacher Edmund Husserl, already retired from his teaching post in 1933, broke off relations in 1934 (in 1933 Heidegger had sent him a letter telling he could not lecture or tech in Germany because he was Jew.) In 1991, Richard Wolin published the Rectoral Address and the Spiegel interview in his anthology The Heidegger Controversy, a book that proved itself to be highly controversial and occasioned by book Victor Farias, Heidegger and Naziism.[ii]
Yet despite the controversy over the “Rectoral Address,” I think it is fair to say that that it continues to go unread, perhaps because the form of a debate forecloses the kind of questioning that re/reading requires. Heidegger himself complained that it went unheard by his audience when he gave it in 1933: “The Rectoral Address had been spoken into the wind and was forgotten the day after the inaugural celebration. While I was rector not one of my colleagues approached me to discuss the address in any way” (493). Furthermore, he says that its contents were misreported in a student (Nazi) newspaper. Jacques Derrida is the exception to the rule, offering a close reading of the word “spirit” in a “key paragraph” (36) of the Rectoral Address in Of Spirit: Heidegger and the Question (see 33-37; 44-45), a preemptive response to Farias. [iii] When Wolin included an English translation of a Derrida interview entitled “Interview: Philosopher’s Hell” that had been published in le Nouvel observateur in The Heidegger Controversy (1991), Derrida, threatening legal action, demanded that the volume be withdrawn immediately, and, if ever republished, all new editions would omit his interview. Columbia University Press, the publisher of Wolin’s book, withdrew it, and a second edition of the book without Derrida’s essay was printed by MIT Press in 1993 with a new preface by Wolin devoted to an attack on Derrida entitled “Preface to the MIT Edition: Note on a Missing Text.” In Points: Interviews, 1974-1994 (1995) Derrida published a complete and newly commissioned translation of the Nouvel observateur interview as “Heidegger, the Philosopher’s Hell” along with a second interview entitled “Comment donner raison? How to Concede, with Reasons.” In a relatively lengthy interview in the same book, Derrida lashed out at Wolin, fiercely attacking his translation of Derrida’s interview as being grossly incompetent.[iv] Like the contributors to Wolin’s book, including Wolin’s own, however, Derrida did not offer a reading of the “Rectoral Address.”[v] Similarly, in The Telephone Book (1989), Avital Ronell brilliantly discusses the telephone call Heidegger took from SA Group Leader Dr. Baumann in 1933 just after he was in office for a few weeks, a call that Heidegger mentions in “The Rectorate 1933/34” (492) and the interview “Only a God Can Save Us.” Yet Ronell does not discuss the Rectoral Address.[vi]
Given the partisan default of debate, it is not surprising that the Address has largely gone unread, then, used largely as a symbol to represent the totality Heidegger’s works and person. Why does it haunt readings of Heidegger, disappearing in background noise in some cases, but taken up by Derrida and read closely in Of Spirit? How is the text to be framed in relation to Heidegger’s other writings before and after? Is it the text which frames, through a relative exteriority, all of Heidegger’s texts? Or is it a repetition and reconfirmation of Being and Time and later repeated in The Introduction of Metaphysics, as Derrida maintains? Is to be read exclusively in relation to Heidegger’s writings? And what would it mean to re/read the Address now, particularly in relation of the present crisis of the university in the U.S., itself a leftover of the nineteenth century German university, itself in a state crisis by 1933 for both Heidegger and Husserl? These are some of the broad the questions I wish to pursue in a questioning mode in this essay; that is, I purse these questions from within a never to be overcome Western metaphysics, which as Derrida notes already returns as a ghost. Before I proceed to read the “Rectoral Address” together with Edmund Husserl’s 1938 Vienna Lecture “Philosophy and the Crisis of European Humanity,” let me make it pause again to make clear that I think the “Rectoral Address” can not be read in isolation for two reasons of a philological kind, the first being the history of its publication and English translation. Heidegger himself recontextualized the “Rectoral Address” in the 1945 commentary “The Rectorate 1933/34” and again in the Der Spiegel interview: in both cases, Heidegger states that two of his other works are central to any proper understanding of his “Rectoral Address”: his 1929 lecture “What is Metaphysics?” and his lecture on Nietzsche, circulated in 1944 but unpublished until after the War due, according to Heidegger, to Nazi denigration of his works, which were sold under the counter wrapped in brown paper bags, and surveillance of his teaching. Moreover, Heidegger carefully records time lags between lectures and their publication. His lecture on the essence of truth was given in 1930, copies of it circulated in 1932, but “published only in 1942” (1985, 482). Heidegger says he gave a different lecture course on the Greek concept of truth in 1930, gave it again in the “Winter Semester 1933/34” (1985, 482), but published part of it only in 1942. Heidegger introduced other kinds of gaps or gags into the he temporality of his publications: the editors of “Only a God Can Save Us” begin their preface to the Der Spiegel interview by noting that they could only publish it posthumously; “this was the strict wish of the philosopher” (1976, 267). This wish seems rather odd given that the interview contains next to nothing not already published in his much fuller and earlier account in “The Rectorate 1933/34.”
My concern in this essay is with how the years “1933/1934” joined by a slash bear on the difficulty of reading of Heidegger’s works as philosophical rather than political works and vice versa, not with the presumably transparent political import of Heidegger’s actions as Rector or the “Rectoral Address.” (I happen to think that his comments were made in good faith, which is not necessarily the same thing as being entirely truthful. But how could one establish that any such account was entirely truthful?). More specifically, my concern is with the way Heidegger displaces his “Rectoral Address” from a position of singularity to a position as part of a cluster of some of his writings circa 1933, including changes he made to re-editions of his publications, like his omission of the dedication to Husserl in the fifth edition of Being and Time published in 1941 (first edition, 1927; fourth edition 1935).
Heidegger in effect concedes to his critics a certain way of reading his works in relation to the “Rectoral Address,” granting it a relative exteriority by which it might be said to explain both his works and Heidegger himself. Heidegger defends against this move only by retotalizing his Address as part of a larger totality of works written between 1929 and 1944. Heidegger and son demand that Martin’s critics actually read his Address (rather than rely on inaccurate reports of its putative contents) and read it in relation to specific works by Heidegger.[vii] A contradiction emerges, however, from Heidegger’s yoking of the 1933 “Address” to the 1945 commentary “The Rectorate 1933/34” (or Hermann Heidegger’s yoking them together for publication): on the one hand, Heidegger wants to translate the “Address” into a philosophical rather than political work; on the other hand, Heidegger does not actually perform this translation and instead offers an explanation of the political circumstances which led him to become Rector of the University of Freiburg in 1933, give the Address, and then resign the Rectorship in 1934. Heidegger defers a philosophical translation of the Address by referring his readings to his 1929 lecture “What Is Metaphysics?” By displacing and re-placing the Address so as to alter its relative exteriority to his other works, Heidegger paradoxically asks both that it be read and resists its being read, a paradox deepened by Heidegger’s granting an interview he refused to have published during his lifetime.
The second, philological reason it is impossible of reading the “Rectoral Address” in isolation, or of doing so without interpretive violence, is due to the paratexts that are part of its publication history. Heidegger’s paradoxical resistance to being read in order (not) to be (mis)read is heightened by the framing paratexts written by Hermann Heidegger, the editors of the Der Spiegel interview, a brief introduction by Karsten Harries to his translator of the “Address” and the Rectorate 1933/34: Facts and Thoughts” (1985, 467) and a footnote by the translators of the Spiegel interview in English. These paratexts more or less directly reinforce Heidegger’s manner of resituating his “Rectoral Address” in the situation of 1933/34. Similarly, Wolin puts the “Rectoral Address” in the first section of his book under the heading, “Texts by Martin Heidegger,” a collection of texts that, incidentally, looks like a poorly disguised dossier of documents gathered to produce an indictment. Wolin does not include either of the documents Heidegger singles out for consideration, namely the 1929 lecture on metaphysics and the 1944 essay on Nietzsche. Instead, Wolin frames Heidegger’s “Rectoral Address” so as to make its re/reading unnecessary, following it with a subsection entitled “Political Texts, 1933-1934.” It is in effect a legal document, testimony to a political crime rather than a philosophical. Similarly, in Of Spirit, Heidegger sees the Rectoral Address as a repetition of being and Time (1927), albeit in a different rhetorical form, and restated in the Introduction to Metaphysics (Einführung in die Metaphysik, 1935 lectures published in 1953). Derrida retains in both the French edition of Of Spirit and the English translation the German title Einführung in die Metaphysik to analysis Heidegger’s linking of the leap (Ursprung) that follows from “Führing” and the “Führer” (42-44) of spirit, which “goes or comes on the way, in front, up in front, before all politics, all psychagogy, all pedagogy” (43).

Late Philosophers

The text translated here is that of a lecture given 14 March 1987 at the of a conference organized by the Collège international de philosophe in Paris, entitled “Heidegger: Open Questions.” The notes were naturally added later.
--Translator’s Note to Of Spirit, vii
We are going to speak of the “year” (Jahr) and precisely in order to approach what “later” sometimes means. What comes very late, the latest, can also lead back closer to an origin, or return [revenir], rather, to the origin before the orgin, even earlier than the beginning. [One of Trakl’s poem is entitled Jahr.”]
--Derrida, Of Spirit (1987), 83
This publication contains the text of the fully elaborated lecture course that was held under the same title in the summer semester of 1935 at the University of Freiburg in Breisgau. What was spoken no longer speaks in what is printed.
--Martin Heidegger, “Prefatory Note (1953)” Introduction to Metaphysics, xxix
I hope that the questioning I have pursued thus far in response to my question “Why has the ‘Address’ gone unread?” bears directly on any response to my second question “what would it mean to re/read it now?” My answer to my second question is to read the “Rectoral Address” with what I consider to be an authorized violence, along with Husserl’s “Vienna Lecture,” sometimes regarded as Husserl’s response to Heidegger. By “authorized violence,” I mean the same manner of reading Hölderlin’s poetry that philological critics attacked Heidegger for doing or that Derrida refers to ding himself in Of Spirit. As Paul de Man comments in “Heidegger’s Exegeses of Hölderlin, “Heidegger’s interpretation is based on a notion of the poetic that seeks to assert the fundamental impossibility of applying objective discourse to the work of art. Heidegger reduces philology to a subordinate position, although he does not hesitate to upon call upon it when his cause requires it; and he declares himself free of the restrictions it has imposed upon itself. Such violence has been found shocking, and rightly so, but it must be seen that it derives directly from Heidegger’s conception of the poetic, which he claims to have deduced from Hoelderlin’s thought” (249). Although Derrida defends Heidegger’s “Rectoral Address” comparing it to Husserl’s unfinished Crisis of the European Sciences and Transcendetal Phenomenology, I want to bracket the dialogical relation Heidegger’s “Rectoral Address” and Husserl’s Vienna Lecture. Furthermore, I expect that some readers might regard it as mildly scandalous to juxtapose the Address to a lecture by Heidegger’s former teacher after the two had broken off relations. My concern is not with what ever really happened, what Hiedegger did or did not do to husserl or with regard to him or what Heidegger’s motives were, but with how he and others have framed the reading of Rectoral Address. I only want to frame it a new way that reopens a philosophical reading as opposed to merely political reading of the Address and that thereby may shed light on the role of scientism in our own prolonged crisis in higher education.
Yet it is precisely the German / Jewish connection here that constitutes the scandal in that one cannot properly be thought without the other, the geopolitical, language, earth, and world. More specifically, both are concerned with the University, the main difference being that Heidegger is concerned with the German University and the relation of Germany to Greece, while Husserl is concerned with a national and supranational crisis that is European in scope. At a moment when what’s left of the legacy of the German University in the United States and Britain is under prolonged and fierce attack, it is worth examining, I think, how these writers responded to the scientism. Bill Readings story of the decline of the modern university from a State centered university of ideas to a corporate centered “university of excellence” traced by in the University in Ruins neglects a central chapter in the history of the German University itself which engaged less the political right’s attempt to takeover the University system than it did a perceived reduction of the University to the production of information and exact data (what Heidegger calls “political science”) to the exclusion of the rigor of “science” (or metaphysics and language), the essence of which of which is questioning. The “renewal” of the University, its “essence” and “inner unity” were at stake for Heidegger. Perhaps in the putatively post-metaphysical positivism that now dominates academia, the not so shiny patina of the “new” is all that remains for us.
The poem was written by Georg Trakl. Who the author is remains unimportant here as with every other masterful poem. The mastery consists precisely in this, that the poem can deny the poet’s person and name.
--Heidegger,” On Language” in Poetry, Language, and Thought, 193
The two wills must confront one another, ready for battle. All faculties of will and thought, all strengths of the heart and all skills of the body, must be unfolded through battle, heightened in battle, and preserved as battle. We choose the knowing battle of those who question and profess with Carl von Clausewitz: “I take leave of the frivolous hope of salvation by the hand of accident.”
Heidegger, “Rectoral Address,” 479 (emphases in the original)
I had no illusions about the possible consequence of my resignation from office in the spring of 1934; after June 30 of the same year, these consequences became completely clear.
Heidegger, “The Rectorate 1933/34,” 49
The Heidegger Clause-Witz
To pose the question of what it would mean to re/read the Rectoral Address may now be shown to put into question a pragmatic and supposedly therefore more powerful question concerning how to construct a defense of the already obsolete “university of ideas” as it is being destroyed. In any case, it may be that Husserl’s open break helps show how Husserl made possible Heidegger’s thinking through the question of metaphysics and the renewal of the German university from a German Greek trajectory which dis-allowed a Jewish German / German Jewish Greek trajectory. Heidegger as loser, doing a kind of Larry David stand up schtick: “No one listened to my lecture; the Nazis hated me; no one gets me; some of my best friends weren’t Nazis. Like I said, only a rabbi can save us.” No (Jewish) joke, no “Witz.” Heidegger comments on the Greek meaning of the word “battle” (1945, 488), bringing in Heraclitus, but Heidegger does not discussion his mention of Clauswitz in the address.

[i] See Derrida, Of Spirit, “twenty years later” (33-34); “six years later, 1933” (31); “We are still in 1926-27.” (29); the Einfuhrung (1935) repeats the invocation of spirit launched in the Address” (41); “between 19919 and 1939” (61); “twenty years earlier” (66);“in the Rectorship Address the quotation marks still remained, an already exceptional residue. They disappear in the quotation given in the Introduction to Metaphysics two years later” (66); “twenty years later” (70); “only in 1953. . . But in 1935 . . . the one that in 1953” (71);“Heidegger still does in 1935” (72); “of those 1942 lectures collected under the title “The Essence of the Poet as Demigod” . . . . published by Beisner in 1933” (75); “everything suggests that, from as early as 1933, the date at which, lifting at last the quotation marks he begins to talk of spirit and in the name of spirit, Heidegger never stopped interrogating the Being of Geist. What is spirit? Final reply, in 1953 . . Twenty years later, then, and what years!” (83); “continually from 1933” (95); “Heidegger was condemning in 1935” (96); “Heidegger devoted to it in 1933” (102); “Heidegger also tried, in 1936” (102); “(for example from 1933 to our time).” Derrida also remarks self-consciously at various points on the lateness of his own lecture (it is hard to believe that he read the entire book as one uninterrupted lecture): “It is too late and I won’t keep you here until morning.” See also pp. vii, 68, 85, 87, 99, 113, and: “There are so many reasons for not re-commencing when it is already too late, always too late” (n3, 132). Derrida’s historicist reading is particularly interesting because he often substitutes dates for the titles of texts, particularly in the case of Heidegger’s essay “Language” which discusses Georg Trakl’s poem “A Winter’s Evening.” Derrida’s “typographical” reading of Heidegger’s use and mention of the word “spirit,” from saying it had to be avoided (1927) and putting it in quotation marks; to lifting the quotation marks and italicizing it (1933), depends on, but does not entirely turn on philological exactitude. Derrida reads Heidegger’s works chronologically, but he figures Heidegger’s quotation marks in a series of ways (as a door, a frontier, a curtain, and their the lifting of a theater curtain (he also conflates, theater, film—“opening credits”—and opera [“overture”], though he only mentions theater by name) to arrive at his philosophical conclusion “Spirit is double” (41) and thereby better read Heidegger’s use and mention of three words “Geist” (the noun “spirit”), “geistig” and “geistlich” (both adjectives meaning “ghostly”). Similarly, Derrida irregularly retains the German original of Heidegger’s texts so that in some cases one has to translate the German word or phrase in order to know the Heidegger text to which he refers. While Derrida quietly departs from philological norms in his own "abjext," he skips over the spectrality of Heidegger’s corpus, its “abjextuality,” attention to which is even more necessary when it comes to reading Husserl’s posthumously published fragment The Crisis of the European Sciences, selections of which were published in an English trnslation by David Carr in 1970. A second German edition was published in 1977. the doubleness of Geist links up with Heidegger’s “uncanny.”
[ii] See also the less noted Günther Neske & Emil Kettering (eds.), Martin Heidegger and National Socialism: Questions and Answers (New York: Paragon House, 1990) and Critical Inquiry 15:2 (Winter 1989); the issue includes a symposium on “Heidegger and Nazism."
[iii] The relevant pages were exerpted from the book Of Spirit and reprinted under the same tilte “Of Spirit” in symposium on “Heidegger and Nazism” in Critical Inquiry 15:2 (Winter 1989), as if the excerpt qua article were an abstact of the book (in which Heidegger’s use of quotation marks around “spirit” is a major concern).
[iv] See Derrida’s essay “The Work of Intellectuals and the Press (The Bad Example: How the New York Review of Books and Company Do Business)” in the same volume, Derrida 1995, 422-56.
[v] Oddly enough, the only time Heidegger’s “Rectoral Address” is engaged in Wolin’s book occurs when, in the new preface to the MIT edition, Wolin attacks Derrida’s comparison of the “Address” to Husserl’s Crisis of the European Sciences in Derrida’s Of Spirit: Heidegger and the Question (1987).
[vi] The same inattention to the Address holds true for Jean-Francois Lyotard’s Heidegger and the Jews and for Phillipe Lacoue-labarthe’s Heidegger, Art, and Politics: The Fiction of the Political and Heidegger and the Politics of Poet. It may be to their credit, however, that they do read their criticism of Heidegger on a reading of the Address.
[vii] Heidegger’s critics, as Wolin’s collection makes clear, are not concerned with Heidegger’s philosophy but with Heidegger’s “political influence.” See especially Juergen Habermas, “On the Publication of the Lectures of 1935” (Wolin, 1993, 180).

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


How far is too far?

The "book" in The Book of Eli

Near the end of the Hughes Brothers' film The Book of Eli (2010), there is a reference to Shakespeare made by a character played by Malcolom

A gloss in "Don Quixote" on "Pierre Menard"?

"Rather than appear to be one of those authors, who when they are requested to rehearse their works, refuse to grant the favour; and, on the other hand, disgorge them upon those who have no inclination to hear them, I will repeat my gloss, from which I expect no reward, as I composed it solely to exercise my genius" "It was the opinion of an ingenious friend of mine, said Don Quixote, that no man ought to fatigue himself in glossing upon verses, because, as he observed, the gloss could never never come up to the text, and very often, or indeed,almost always, the gloss was foreign to the intention and proposition of him who proposed it; besides, the laws of the gloss were extremely narrow, restricting the paraphraser from the use of interrogations; and "Said he,' or,'I will say;' as well as form changing verbs into nouns, and altering the sentiment; and with other ties and shackles incurred by those who try their fortune in this way as you undoubtedly know." . . . your worship will be pleased to hear the paraphrase and the text, which runs thus:" (682-83)

Recount! as Request in Don Quixote

On recounting and accounting, see Volume II, Book IV: "call me to account," "give an account," "no jokes to repeated," "resurrection from this present death" (942; 943)

"incessant wheel," "The life of man alone runs lightly to its end, unlike the circle of time, without hope of renewal, except in another life, which knows no bounds" (938)

"Cid Hamet recounts" (931)

On doubles, see:
See also the student who writes two books (728-29) who repeats the galley slave who is also writing two books, as is Cervantes (Galatea and Don Quixote, which is in two parts). On the student's books, see p. 712.

On omissions and additions, see the two passages below:
"The author here minutely describes Don Diego's house, gives an inventory of the furniture usually contained in the house of a rich country gentleman: but, the translators of this history have thought it advisable not to mention these and such other particular matters, as being rather foreign to the main scope of this history,in which truth has more energy than needless and languid digressions." (678)
The narrator here follows Don Quixote's earlier advice about what does or does not belong in a history.

The student wrote a third "performance" which he calls "The supplement to Polydore Virgil: adding what "many things of great importance, which Polydore has omitted" (712)

He who translated this sublime history from the original, composed by its first author Cid Hamet Benengeli, says, that turning to the chapter which treats of the adventure of the case, he found this observation written on the margin, in the hand-writing of the said Hamet. (727)

"I have often said what I am now going to repeat, answered Don Quixote" (680)

An economy of requesting and reception works through these additions and omissions that attend recounting, calling into question what is a generous gift, a supplement, and what is madness, error, folly, digression. What is given to be read? When is a gift not a gift? What is being requested? How is the request met? Is it met? How does one get to (mis)read by recounting (and retrieving, recovering and re/collecting)? To write? To publish? What is the reward? Should there be a reward?
"With this advice, did the knight, as it were, sum up the process of his madness, which, however, was made more manifest in this addition." (685)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Borges and Cervantes on the dead end of the archive

Borges repeats Cervantes, not word for word, but by formalizing a philological problem of archiving, cataloguing, and reconstructing already present n Don Quixote. Compare and contrast the following passages from Don Quixote and from Ficciones:

That very night, the housekeep set fire to, and consumed, not only all the books that were in the yard, but also every one she could find in the house: and no doubt many were burned, which deserved to have been kept as perpetual archives. But this, their destiny, and the laziness of the inquisitors would not allow. . . .


But the misfortune is, that in this very critical instant, the author of the history has left this battle in suspense, excusing himself, that he could find no other account of Don Quixote’s exploits, but what has already been related. True it is, that the second author of this work, could not believe that such a curious history was consigned to oblivion; nor, that there could be such a scarcity of curious virtuosi in la Mancha, but that some papers relating to this famous knight should be found in their archives or cabinets: and therefore, possessed of his onion, he did not despair of finding the conclusion of this delightful history, which indeed he very providentially lighted upon, in the manner which will be related in the second book. (95-96)

From Part I, Book IV

When the innkeeper took up the portmanteau with the books, in order to carry them away, “Stay, said the curate, until I examine these papers which are written in a fair character.” The landlord accordingly pulled out a manuscript, consisting of eight sheets of papers, in large letter, The novel of the Impertinent Curiosity.. . . if I like the novel, you shall give me leave to transcribe it.” . . . Cardenio having taken up the manuscript, and begun to read . . . intreated him [the curate] to read it aloud, that the whole company might hear it. . . “Well then, said he, listen with attention, for the novel begins in this manner.” (334; 335)

But, the author of this history, although he inquired with the utmost curiosity and diligence, concerning the actions of Don Quixote, in his third sally, could never find any satisfactory and authentic account of them; only, fame hath preserved some memoirs in la Mancha. . . but, with regard to his death and burial, he could obtain no information, and must have remained entirely ignorant of that event, had he not luckily met with an old physician, who had in his custody a leaden box, which he said he found under the foundation of an ancient hermitage that was repairing. This box contained some skins of parchment, on which were written in Gothic characters, and Castilian verse, many of our knight’s exploits. . . All that could be read and fairly copied, are those which are here inserted by the faithful author of this new and surprising history, who, in recompense for the immense trouble he has undergone in his inquiries, and in examining the archives of La Mancha, that he might publish it with more certainty, desires the reader to favour him with the same credit which intelligent persons give to those books of chivalry that pass so currently in the world. . . . The verses which were written in the first skin of parchment found in the leaden box, were these: (535-536)

These were all the verses which could be read; the rest being worm-eaten were delivered to an academician, that he might attempt to unravel their meaning, by conjecture. This task, we understand, he has performed with infinite pains and study, intending t publish them to the world, in expectation of the third sally of Don Quixote

END of the FIRST PART (539)

From Juan Luis Borges, “Pierre Meynard, Author of Don Quixote,” Ficciones

I have said that Menard’s visible lifework is easily enumerated. Having carefully examined his private archive, I have been able to verify that it consists of the following” (45)

I don’t know if I would add a fourth, which coincides very well with the divine modesty of Pierre Menard: his resigned or ironic habit of propounding ideas, which were the strict reverse of those he preferred. 53

He dedicated his conscience and nightly studies to the repetition of a pre-existing book in a foreign tongue. The number of rough drafts kept on increasing; he tenaciously made corrections and tore up thousands of manuscript pages.* He did not them to be examined, and he took great care that they would not survive him. It is in vain that I have tried to reconstruct them I have thought that it is legitimate to consider the “final” Don Quixote as a kind of palimpsest, in which should appear traces—tenuous but not undecipherable—of the “previous” handwriting of our friend. Unfortunately, only a second Pierre Menard, inverting the work of the former, could exhume and resuscitate these Troys. . .

*I remember his square ruled notebooks, the black streaks where he had crossed out words, his peculiar typographical symbols and his insect-like handwriting. In the late afternoon he liked to go for walks on the outskirts

What Borges quotes from Don Quixote

Pete Donaldson has pointed me to the passage cited in "Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote":

. . . la verdad, cuya madre es la historia, emula del tiempo, deposito de las acciones, testigo de lo pasado, ejemplo y aviso de lo presente, advertencia de lo por venir.
[. . . truth, who mother is history,who is the rival of time, depository of deeds, witness of the past, and warning to the future]
Ficciones, 52-53

My point about recounting as a paradoxical voiding and surplus is illustrated by this passage. The quotes this passage to prove his point that Menard has not merely repeated Cervantes. The narrator sets up a distinction without a difference: Menard "did not want to compose another Don Quixote—which would be easy—but the Don Quixote. It is unnecessary to add that his aim was never to produce a mechanical transcription of the original; he did not propose to copy it. (49)

But the narrator's quotation from Don Quixote (in Spanish and in English is already doubles the "original" and the difference between the two "versions" (which are identical, word for word) can only been established through its negation (the difference between coincidence and copy is no difference at all; there are only more Don Quixotes; there never was "The" Don Quixote.) And yet by quoting from the composition (Menard's) in the next paragraph, the narrator can make the passage mean something different.
it is worth recalling that Cervantes calls the novel a history and in part two includes a discussion of poetry versus history:

Don Quixote discusses with Sancho Panza would could be left out for good reason by Cid Hamet from his comprehensive history:

Don Quixote observed, that they may as well has have omitted them; for those incidents, which neither change nor affect the truth of the story, ought to be left out, if they tend to depreciate the chief character. . . . it is one thing to compose as a poet, another to record as an historian: the poet may relate or rehearse things, not as they were, but as they ought to have been, whereas, an historian must transmit them, not as they ought to have been but as they were; without adding to or subtracting the least tittle from the truth.” (575)

Since history is a recounting, however, it always involves addition and subtraction, becomes a story of irreducible but productive losses in the archives and other storage devices.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Borges' Recounting of Don Quixote

The true irony of Juan Luis Borges’ wonderful short story “Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote” is that Pierre Menard’s word for word repetition of Don Quixote is in fact an act of criticism of Cervantes’ novel precisely because it is the negative image of that novel. [Note: I recommend Tobias Smollet’s translation.] Pierre Menard’s exact repetition of Cervantes’ novel as repetition makes explicit the formalization of repetition as recounting already in play in Cervantes’ Don Quixote. The novel allegorizes the madness of reading as repetitions: it a translation of a text written in Arabic written by a Moor who in turned translated other texts and transcriptions of letters, bills, found manuscripts, handwriting on the margin (727, Smollet). These repeated texts which are only partially recovered (all of Part two is what can’t be deciphered except by an academician (last page of Part One). The novel depends on an economy in which repetition that recounts in a paradoxical manner, adding new material that is repeated and by partially voiding. These various kinds of repetitions constitute the literariness of the novel, not because of it framings (novel within a novel) and self-reflexive modernity. The literariness of don Quixote lies in the way repetitions and recountings always adds on yet one more that is also lacking, unreadable, unmemorized, lost or subject to decay (by worm eating) and destruction (book burning). Some of the texts are unfinished, such as the galley slave’s autobiography. Even Don Quixote may be viewed as unfinished, a third part hinted at in the preface to Part Two put out of its misery in the final chapter of part Two. The novel’s literariness is a function both of its philological self-consciousness and of its philosophical ironization of philology: repetition cannot recover an original, correct errors, emend what has been lost. Rrecounting is always miscounting. But one can only understand this point about the error of repetition by reading the novel as if it could be read philologically, as if it could all add up by recounting it. Borge offers us Pierre Menard’s ‘exact” repetition of Don Quixote as the unacknowledged and misrecognized proof of this truth of Cervante’s novel.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Wounded Narcissism

Is there any other kind?


Is it the fate of aging academics to become increasingly agoraphobic, with the default for all social interactions, even so-called live ones, being tele-phonic and tele-graphic? Or is solo-tude the condition of academic life, listening to your own unconsciousness, the intrapsychic distances between me, myself, and I, being the possibility of composing the chamber music of one's mind?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Is Zizek popular because he is the obscene stain of academic discourse? (because he sucks)?

Slavoj appears to be a serious Lacanian capable of translating almost anything into what he calls "Lacanese." His prose is energetic, inteilligent, and, perhaps best of all, he can be funny. Isn't what appears udner the name "Zziek" as authentic political philosophy / Lacan 6.0 psychoanalysis actually a masquerade, a sham that makes Zizek either into the ultraLacanian charlatan / shaman or the dupe who dupes his readers and himself into thinking he has something to say. Are his rhetoric of overkill (why say anything briefly if you can say it ad nauseam) and suicitation (if you said something in a previous book that was good why not repeat it whole-cloth in your present book?) "sinthomes" or "symptoms?" Consider, for example, the lengthy chapter on "political subjectivation" (borrowed from Jacques Racniere) in The Ticklish Subject. Does Ziek really any anything worth listening to? He begins by characterizing three theorists as the inversions of what they appear to be, then translates them first into "Hegelese" and "Lacanese" and finally comes out at Derrrida's Spectres of Marx. In no case does he actually quote from any of the authors he discusses. In no case does he read. Is is just the ideal pundit of academics? Is that why he gets op-eds published in the NY Times? Because he doesn't read and reading hims relieves the reading of the responsibility of reading, of not having to "traverse the fantasy," which is precisely what Zizek never does while claiming constantly to have done it? My recommendation: Press "Eject" Zizek. Put the slightest pressure on his randomly structured "arguments" and they dissolve into the obscene stains of roadkill.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Theory: Self-Plagiarism, Recycling, Repetition

Is possible to formulate a poetics of repetition in "theory"? Zizekis undoubtedly a self-plagiraiszer. he lifts whole passage out of one book and uses them in the next, starting with They Know Not What They DO (or whatever the tittle of his second book is). Metastases of Enjoyment is the worst offender and horribly written. Routledge gave him an editor after that, and the ticklish Subject was a vast improvement (Zizek acknowledges his debt to the editor is a witty way). That's when I stopped reading Zizek too (except for Welcome to the Desert of the real and his review of 300, which I already read before I read it, Zizek having become so predictable). Derrida does and does nto rpeat himself. He often leaves little citational trials in foonotes to back up clism htat he has always beenwriingwhat he hpens to be writing at the time. But htese trials are more illusory than truly bibliographic. They are only partial, and don't amount to a totalizing reading of the sort Derrida asserts since they are not comprehensive and since they are more heterogeneous that Derrida implies they are. Derrida reists being htemztized by doing a sort of fake out thematiizing of his own work. ranciere I find an unusal case. he often repeats himself in hte curse of making his argument. Sometime he repeats the exact same sentences on the same page. But he doesn't repeat himself exactly, and so the effect is not to lose the reader r through redundancy but to keep going with the low key delirium Ranciere to which has given himself over. Ranciere also pulls off a kind of disappearing act. There are next to no "pullable" quotations in his texts. His far readings and densely illuminating syntheses make his works useless in terms of the ways in which academic readers usually define useless. But they do kind of shake up your readings, and the fact that he is totally contentious (dissensus is contention for Ranciere) and disagrees with everyone helps intensify the force of the shake up. Ranciere furthermore delays getting to questions the reader will have raised much earlier. For example, he gets to the question of the rationality of disagreement only in chapter three of Dis-agreement. He doesn't get to it at all in Dissensus. That said, there are repetitions than recyclings, if not self-plagiarism. parts of Dissensus are rewrites of parts of Hatred of Democracy (I would not buy / read the latter having read the former). A whole section of Dissensus repeats a whole sections of Dissensus (on metapolitics). Of course, people do this sort of thing all the time. But it is customary to note having done so in some paratext (preface, headnotes, or endnotes, and so on). Dissensus is largely a collection of previously published essays, and the original place of publication is noted by the editor. But the repetitions with Ranciere's work are not noted either by Ranciere or by the author. In Ranciere's case, I think this kind of recycling is worth reading, even though it has gone unread (probably because it has not noticed or seems mean-spirited to do so if it has been noticed). Since Ranciere thinks of democracy as a re-opening, counting of the uncounted, disruption, and contention, his deployment of various kinds of repetition (or repetitions to which his works are subjected by the vagaries of translation and publication) stage the kind of political action he says is actually very rare.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Jacques Ranciere's Dissensus

Dissensus is a collection of short essays and interviews. Quite pellucid. There's a fair amount of repetition, but not in a bad way. It's the perfect introduction to Ranciere, especially to Dis- Agreement. He has a really strong critique of the ethical turn as the eviction of politics (in the name of consensus), esp. Badiou on evil and Hart and Negri's Empire. Ranciere is a very strong far reader but a very careless reader of Derrida and Agamben (straight out misreadings of both), and he can be quite dogmatic (anti-Heidegger--nothing close to the sophistication fo Lacoue-Labarthe's critique). Ranciere is opposed both to Arendt on citizenship and to biopolitics (too Heideggerian--Being, given=way of life / bare life=destiny=only a god can save us. Ranciere is resolutely anti "onto-technological" and anti-political theology (messianic time). He has a reductive account of the sacred and messianic and misreads Agamben (homo sacer is not sacred for Agamben) and Derrida (messianism is without a messiah for Derrida). But Ranciere is really smart on democracy and a good writer to boot. I think Ranciere's critique of consensus--a look back at catastrophic created by infinite evil leading to a future of (George Bus's) infinite justice (pretty much exception as norm) that replaces politics with the police (not the police as we tend to think of them, however) and the evacuation of dissensus, or politics (the counting of the uncounted, the displacement of the placed). Democracy is not reducible to the population but comes with a supplement that makes politics / democracy (Demos) possible. Sort of like Agamben, Ranciere has his own aporias and neatly formulated paradoxes; he makes a combination of deconstructive moves (set up an opposition and collapse it) and Zizekian moves (invert what seems obviously the case and show that the inversion is actually the case). So I find it stimulating to read through the essays in Dissensus and recommend them to you. Sparks fly here and there.
Ranciere's Consensus is coming out later this Summer.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Soderbergh's The Girlfriend Experience Blu-ray

The blu-ray transfer is gorgeous. The plot structure of the film, set in New York, is far more interesting than its theme (vapid, narcissistic call girl played by a real life porn star and self-pitying Wall Streeters in the dumps after the 2008 Crash), but the real standout is the cinematography. The lighting often verges on overexposure, the compositions are original, and the look of the film alone makes it worth watching. The music is really good and makes what might otherwise have been a downbeat film into an uptown ride on the A train fueled by cocaine.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Revanche Criterion Blu-Ray review

The blu-ray is excllent. the film is great for the first thirty minutes but then goes totally South into a totally contrived plot and increasingly derivative formal structure (stationary camera and longer takes). It's as if it starts shouting this is a European art film, but you get to feel good in this one! Feel good movies always make me feel worse. And Revanche left me feeling sick. This film is perhaps at the opposite end of Michael Hanenke's Cache, White Ribbon, and Funny Games (both versions). Oesterich macht sauber! To be fair, there's no ethnic cleansing in this film. But there is a lot of bad faith. We start off with two working stiff in the sex trade trying to escape from the bad pimp, but the "redemption" of the "illegal immigrants" (a younger prostitute from the Ukraine and an older pimp's assistant, from somewhere in in rural Austria) comes at the expense of the women--how predictable (one is shot dead and the other's a housewife whore). Lots of gorgeous shots in the film, but the composition and editing are so unoriginal that they just flush this film down the drain even faster. Another weird Criterion choice.

Make the call!

Decide to get over your resistance and phone it in.

The Condition of Connection

is interference, static, and other kinds of disruption.

Befriendship--a LOST thought

While watching Season Three of Lost (on DVD) it occurred to me that the show is about telefriendship as a form of bereavement. You can befriend anyone but never really be friends because everyone is permanently estranged from everyone else. The Others / Them are Us. They / We are the good guys. "Live," face-to-face friendship, as we should have always already known, involves its own kinds of distancings. if you can only befriend on LOST, you no get to die whenever you want and as many times as you want, and there's no banishment, no voting off the island. There's no conclusion, no generic telos (Sci-fi--X-files or Western or thriller), no final destination (despite the episode with Desmond with the actress from the Others basically rehearsing a final destination serialization formula). The dead don't die in LOST. But the living don't live either. Life is a serial, a formula, that keeps repeating with small variations, like porn, but with reverse and replay the tape inversions.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Burt's Bumpersitcker Wizdumb: Be Mindless

To try to be "mindful" as New Age Yuppies think they (or you) should be is a big mistake. The idea of mindfulness forgets the ever present process of brain drain. Be Mindless. Put that on your bumpersticker. Or at least remember that your mind is only half full.

More Burt's Bumpersitcker Wizdumb

Don't"Be there." Design your Dasein for living out--lost in what is called thinking. Absent thyself from thyself awhile.

Monday, May 17, 2010

"It was a good finger": American Irregularism in Ang Lee's Ride with the Deivl, or, Rahm Emmanuel Was Right: Liberals are retards!

Ang Lee's Ride with the Devil is a very challenging film. While not as gripping or well-filmed as John Ford's The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence or The Searcher's, Lee's Ride with the Devil uses the Western as did Ford and so many others before him, to chart the aftermath of the Civil War. Lee offers a disconcerting critique of contemporary (neo)liberalism, disconcerting if you consider yourself a liberal (as opposed to, say, a Communist or Socialist). The film rather oddly channels the fate of liberalism in relation to the "bad" German. While German immigrant characters in the film are assumed to be uniformly pro-Unionist, the central character in the film is a German who identifies with the South and fight as an "irregular," a guerrilla bushwhacker. Because the guerillas are not soldiers, they are treated by the Union army, when captured, as "non-combatants" rather than as prisoners-of-war. But their opposite number is the jayhawkers who go around burning homes of Southerners and murdering their owners. Ride with the Devil has a familiar revenge plot akin to Ford's The Searchers, only in this case the Indian raiders are replcaed by Union irregular raiders: a teenage boy sees his father murdered and runs off with his friend to join the guerillas. We hear of other atrocities reported by the Southerners committed by the Union army. Things get pretty strange when the guerillas dress as Union troops to ambush other Union troops and act like the murderous thugs they oppose. Even as the moral difference between the violence on screen and the violence reported off screen begins to all but disappear, we are supposed to root for the Southern characters. When Union troops catch up with the guerillas when they stay in a Southern woman's house to rest up, we see a beautiful shot of trees waving in the wind and then a a shadow crossing over them just before we see Toby McGuire from the back in medium close up, sitting on the porch as lookout, when a gun click as it is put to his head. The Union soldiers then get shot down by the guerillas inside just before they are going to murder McGuire, but manage to shoot off one of his pinky fingers in the process. During the fight, the guerilla leader asks the Union leader if they Union soldiers kill women and arranges for the two women in the house to escape. Before the bushwhackers commit the major atrocity of the film, they are shot like Indians in so many Westerns, from below as they gathers across the ridge of a hill. The unresponsive union soldiers seem dim-witted, and little time is spent showing their massacre. A new distinction between good guerillas and crazy guerrillas has already begun to kick in, with McGuire and an ex-slave becoming friends and the supposed moral center of the film. They stop one the "bad" guy of the film from murdering one person. But the film really has no moral center. McGuire ends up enslaved by marriage and goes West, where he and the ex-slave part company. What emerges is a view of American history as discomfiting to liberals as D. W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation and GOne with the Wind are comforting to Southern racists. To identify with McGuire's character is to identify with a Southerner who is a bad German (he is called Dutchy by his friends and not regarded by them as a real Southerner), "bad" because he fights on the wrong side. Critics of American exceptionalism tend to appeal to some normal liberal democracy in their critiques of American imperialism. Lee's film, which is as formally irregular , especially in its editing, as it is in its plot, shows how retarded that appeal is.
I don't think what Lee does is conscious or deliberate, necessarily. I think the film's tonal shifts, weird editing at points (Jewel's breast feeding, for example), the meandering and undermotivated plot (how do the four guys end up digging that hole of a home in the earth? What happened to everyone else? How do they reunite with everyone else?) At one point during the hole in the earth period, a character says Winter is ending, but then we see more shots with snow in them. We also expect to see more of Ruffalo after hearing he killed McGuire's father, just as we expect the shoot out with Meyers (I always love that guy--he just stands there and already looks totally over the top). The bit about the kid who does shoot the drunken guy who killed his father also feels off. It's also inexplicable that the other guy having breakfast pulls his rifle on Meyers or that Meyers has a reputation for being bad at that point. Another tonal oddity is the Henry V's St. Crispian's Day motivational speech the Confederate leader gives before the attack on Lawrence. The shot of McGuire and the ex-slave not applauding is utterly conventional, and their silence seems ineffectual since they join in the attack. When we get to the final encounter between McGuire and Meyers, Meyers doesn't really seem all that bad. A bushwhacker had already said going to Lawrence was suicidal, and now Meyers is just doing the same kind of thing only with his death a more certain outcome. McGuire's missing finger--it was a good finger he says--that isn't missed figures the irregularities of hte film. The film sticks with you after you see it. You can't quite digest it.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Movies I saw this weekend

Homocide (dir. David Maet, 1991), on Criterion DVD (2009). A cop procedural whodunnit with a cop who is Jewish but doesn't know if he is a Jew because he doesn't live in Israel and is set up by the Mosad to commit a crime and then be blackmailed to produce a list of names he already entered into evidence. A nice bookend with A Serious Man.

Kapo (dir. Pontecorvo (1959), just out from Criterion.
Very good (very Rossellini--washed out high contrast black and white that has a neorealist, documentary feel)) except for the end (a failed attempt to do a version of the Odessa Steps sequence in Battleship Potemkin, only set in a concentration camp).
One of the most interesting things about the film is the casting of Anne Frank as a Kapo (she pretends not to be a Jew but a thief who died in the camp and whose identity she takes over, first prostituting herslef, then becoming a Kapo), the actress who had played Anne Frank. She says a Hebrew prayer as she dies, after knowingly sacrificing herself so others can escape (they are mostly shot and killed attempting to do so). Kapo could never be made today.
Asquith's The Browning Version last night.

I also watched a film noir by Max Ophuls called The Reckless Moment
starring Joan Bennet and James Mason. Also excellent. The Browning
version has a great interview with Mike Figggis about the film and The
Reckless Moment has a great interview Todd Haynes on the film and how
he stole bits of it fro his film Far from Heaven,

Also recently watched two Frank Borzage films, The Mortal Storm (1940
and Three Comrades. They were recently released by the Warner
Archive. Borzage has a big reputation among cinephiles and I had only
seen one of his silents, which I thought was good but not that good.
The Mortal Storm seemed a like a pretty bad melodrama (the best thing
it has going for it are Jimmy Stewart and Robert Young, but even they
are forced to overact), but there's a concentration camp sequence in
it (the word "Jew" is never said, but Frank Morgan [Wizard of Oz]
plays a "non-Aryan" who is sent to the camps for his scientific theory
that all human blood is the same. There's a remarkable ski chase
near the end that comes out of nowhere--sort of Spellbound with Nazis
in it--and the last two shots are really memorable. Three Comrades
feels like a proto-Douglas Sirk film--kind of a queer film in that
three guys hang out even when one of them marries a woman. It's based on
an Eric Remarque novel. There's an excessiveness about the
acting--very artificial and stylized--that is perhaps what cinephiles
appreciate about it. But the music is pretty awful, in any case.

Last night I also watched The General Dies at Dawn (dir. Lewis Milestone, 1926), with Gary Cooper and Madeleine Carroll. It was fantastic. I'd never seen it before. A great Hollywood gem, with a cool title sequence shot with the titles appearing on sails of various Chinese junks floating on a river, some
innovative split screen work (four corners of the screen open up in
turn to reveal different characters before dissolving into one of the
corners, a kind of comic self-consciousness about the intricacy of the
plot, and a bit near the beginning and the end about a the white ball
used in pool (don't know what to make of that, but it's very cool as a
formal device).

I've also been watching a number of Charlie Chan films with Werner Oland. Totally formulaic
(even the same sets are used, redressed, in different films) but
wonderful. And I watched yesterday the new 30 minute longer version of
Metropolis broadcast in Germany a couple of months ago. A guy in
Munich on a listserv I'm on responded my request for a recording and
sent one to me. The music was performed by a live orchestra at a
screening in Berlin. Very nice effect. The new footage has not been
restored, so it looks pretty scratched up.

I'm now watching Peter Weir's The Wave for the first time since I saw it in theatrical release.  OMG, it still sucks.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Final Destination series versus The Omen series

I watched the execrable remake of The Omen (2006) and came upon a scene that made watching it worth the pain. The film confirmed my point that secular and theological accounts of death in cinema are the condition of the other and thus haunted by each other. If the Final Destination (FD) series is based on the premise of "death's design" (a parody of creationism) the Omen (O) series based on the premise that the anti-Christ has returned (the series is the spawn of Rosemary's Baby, its sequel, as the casting of Mia Farrow in the remake of the Omen as the evil any makes clear) and must be killed. The Omen remake restages the binding of Issac as Abraham's preemptive strike against the Devil the son (as opposed to God the father). The premises of both film turn quickly into their opposites: the guy being interviewed at the start of FD 2 immediately turns out to be as a kooky as an creationist, while the crazy priest in the Omen turns out to be right; moreover, the agency of God is indistinguishable from the agency of the devil--is the lightning strike on the Church a sign of God? Is the closing of the Church doors done by the devil?; images of Jesus on the cross are crosscut with images of the father holding down the son as he is about to stick about eight knives into him as far as they can go in front of the Church altar, inviting us to see a parallel between God and the father (both crazy infanticidal maniacs). Formally, both series share the same sequencing of death and the same assumption that death can be seen reflected in photographs and predicted. Both have relatively episodic plots. The Omen remake looks more butchered than edited. Wholes sequences are inserted with terrible awkwardness between shots that suggest an impossible and illogical continuity between them. The near murder of Mom by stepson is ripped off from The Shining and unbelievably prolonged. But the really telling moment in The Omen remake comes when the photographer is killed, just after asking "what if I'm next?" Running after the knives Liev Schreiber has just discarded in disgust and sounding like a total kook for being willing to kill the boy, the photographer is beheaded by a swinging metal ladder in a sequence straight out of one of the FD films. In cinematic terms, the logic of death turns out to be the same whether the film's premise is that death occurs because of death (there is no God in the FD series) or because of the devil (the Church turns out to be powerless, the space of a psychotic breakdown for the father who fails to murder his evil "son" or where priests are locked out (the Church doors close by the themselves, the same way they do in the FD series), excommunicated and killed by "freak" accident). The horror film genre depends on this dynamic. Carrie is a great film precisely because it internalizes it (Carrie's Christian Mom is evil and crazy but also right about Carrie). A p.s. The final shot of Damien smiling at the viewer is ripped off from the final shot of John Huston smiling at the viewer at the end of William Dieterle's brilliant Devil and Daniel Webster (which is a lot scarier).

Monday, March 29, 2010

Caring for others means not being careful

If you're just being helpful, you're just ingratiating yourself. Caring is not careless but it's not careful either in that it involves resistance.

Monday, March 22, 2010


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Resig-Nation: A Touch of Cheese in Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Diary of a Wimpy Kid is a startling instance of the extent to which cynical reason has now penetrated the pre-teen world of pre-programmed celebrity worship and popularity contests. In a country where the rule of law never applies to the ones who flaunt it the most, where the Supreme Court allows corporations to be persons and buy elections, where injustice may be recognized now and then but justice never meted out to the powerful criminals (Bush, Cheney, Rove, Rumsfeld, Wall Street, and so on), a pre-teen film with the usual loser formulas apparently no longer can be made. In this deeply nightmarish take on middle school, the wimpy kid, who is actual a real jerk, wakes up to find himself an impotent old man (at the beginning of the film, he wakes at 4:00 a.m. a week early to go to school). It's like 1950s sit-coms turned upside down. Now Father Knows Best is Mother Knows Best (the mother is the moral center of the film, the lawgiver; the father is ineffectual, if supportive of his jerky son); Eddie Haskell is now the wimpy kid, while Beaver has morphed into the wimpy kid's best friend (the loser who keeps getting to win because of the jerky things the wimpy kid does to him). A pre-teen Napoleon Dynamite appears as a total nerd, but no one is mean to him, and he seems fine thinking he is actually cool. Lolita has become Humbert Humbert (a pretty and preternaturally articulate girl who wears great outfits and edits the newspaper is first seen hanging out by herself reading Ginsberg's Howl). The ironic and self-conscious literary or rock star loser (Thomas Bernhard or Beck) has no place in this pre-teen narrative in which "wimp" is code for immature, cowardly, selfish, bullied, brat. It's a testament to the film's unflinching and uncynical take on our "resig-nation" to cynical reason that the ending only provides a touch of cheese. When the wimpy kid finally does a brave thing by saying he ate the piece of swiss cheese that's been lying on the playground for months, not his friend who was forced to by teenage bullies, the beyotch on the block girl yells out that he has the "cheese touch," and everyone runs away from him. The newspaper girl approves and he gets his nice friend back. But that's as cheesy as the film gets. Injustice will prevail, bullies will get away, as will older brothers, and neither cowardice nor bravery provides a way out for the wimpy jerk or jerky wimp. At least the film does not wimp out.

Intelligent Dasein and Final Destination 2

The entire Final Destination series is a parody of Creationism and the "proof" offered by "Intelligent Design." Death is the negative theology of Creationism. Just like "G-d" death cannot be represented or even presented, anthropomorphized, personified, or embodied. Clearly, there is only Da-sein, being there, a Heideggerian post-Christian existing toward death to be confronted in these teen pics. There is no priest figure as in A Haunting in Connecticut or The Exorcist. There's just the black guy who works at the funeral home where he creates corpses. Final Destination is the most openly parodic, starting with the TV interview of a guy who has been marginalized who finally gets a chance to talk about "death's design." The guy turns out to be psychotic, as we can see very clearly when he confuses inference with proof, and the TV interviewer calls him on his bad logic. The psychotic's account of death's design is the inverted mirror of the Creationist one. The only difference is that the plot of each film proves the psychotic right. Death always makes a come back. You can't skip over your mourning; you death is pre-planned, and all you can do is da-sein your life unto death, meaning that you are back to Kirkegaard's existentialization, as it were, of Christinaity: lay people face up living out their sickness unto death by taking a flying leap knowing will be no safety net, no safe landing, just falling.

Final Destination No. 2: Don't Ask, Don't Smell

The Final Destination 3D is the only one of the four Final Destination films to have two full on premonition sequences, one at the beginning (like the other three) and also one near the end (unlike the other three)। The fourth installment also redoes the opening title sequence, which cites death scenes form the previous three films, at the end of the film। FD 3D does not depart from the other there so much as it redoubles the uncanny repetitions already operative in the first film, Final Destination. In the first and most significant death sequence, death is liquified, revealing and then hiding itself to the audience through trick and reverse photography while leaving its victim looking like he has committed suicide? But what is the hang up? What is death's victim hung up on? Consider that the death is not a closed case. The victim's friend (who's telepathic reactions are crosscut in this death sequence) is framed as the possible murderer of what only appears to be a suicide. The first death follows from a scene before the premonition sequence, in which the victim tells the survivor visionary they should both go to the bathroom to take a dump before boarding the plane so that the girls they want to date won't smell the smelly left over in the bathroom on the airplane should they use it immediately after either guy has left it. Before they can move a move on either girl, they have to make a movement, together, in an overhead tracking shot showing them in stalls right next to each other. They fail to get the girls to move, to change seats; instead, the survivor moves his so that the girls can sit together, both in the premonition and the dream sequence. After the funeral, the two guys meet up, but the victim to go first after the plane explodes says his parents won't let him hang with his visionary buddy. Why does the friend have to be the first victim? Why do we go from dumping solids as prophylactic against death to liquid shower scene as personification and agent of death? To ask these question is already to see that Final Destination is already the second in a series yet to be, its phantom title being Final Destination No. 2. Even before being blocked by the sapphosocial girls, the possibility of heterosexual coupling in flight leads to homosocial panic attack, a need for reseating (note the later plot development involving a reinterpretation of the meaning of the seating arrangement) as we that see the death drive is a death drift, that sexuality has no telos exept for death, that sexuality cannot be differentiated and sequenced (anal to genital stage, homo to hetero, buddy to f-buddy) but only seralized in (re)in-stallments with only one explosion (the airplane) to be repeated. Final Destination squeezes out this secret just enough for a Romeo and Julian coupling become visible after the funeral and even more through the crosscutting as we see one partner reacting to the death of another partner, giving the film its alternate title, West Suicite Story. Choose either or both titles. Seat yourself. Or flush. In either case, we can see that director has prefigured the FD sequels to follows as segments rather than a series, as pieces of a tootsie roll to be cut off, excreted for theatrical consumption for audiences that already p/resists incorporating their own deaths, much less the death of others (who go unburied and unmourned). Even as it starts, the FD series has already crapped out.

"Maurice Blanchot est Mort"

Did you know that Derrida's essay "Maurice Blanchot est Mort," which he added to the 2003 reedition of Parages will not be included in the forthcoming translation of Parages (Stanford UP, 2011)? And it isn't included in The Work of Mourning either because that book came out in 2001.

The Wound of Mourning

The Wound of Mourning. That's the title that the editors of their collection of Derrida's obits and eulogies, not The Work Mourning. Perhaps The W(h)ine of mourning would work too. Or the (K)Not Working of Mourning. Anything but "work." So Protestant.

The F#@K It List

The F#@K It List. That's the title of my new trade self-help book. The Pitch: instead of making a list of the things you want to do before you kick the bucket (as in the movie The Bucket List), you're better making a "F@#K It list of the things you have been doing but didn't want to do and have managed to stop doing.Like the Book of Proverbs, my book will dispense (with) "wizdumb" in the form of totally contradictory advice. Like "hurry up and die" and "But wait! There's more. . ." By stopping yourself, you manage to grow emotionally and eventually have a better death. Chapters include "Hello, Death, Goodbye Life," "It's YOUR Funeral," "Die Right,""He Did It His Way," Wait for it . . . . ," "Downhill Racer," "Give It a Rest," and "Have a Great Death." Target Demographic: Readers 55 and older.