Wednesday, September 28, 2005

This is going to be a sloppier post than I would like, but trying to get some thoughts together -- curious on reading a couple of articles by Jonathan Sterne, who guest lectured the Critical Studies of New Media class I'm taking, who basically does (or did) what he calls a post-structuralist approach to audio -- basically the pieces we looked at were the results of his research into the introduction of new technologies such as Morse code or the telephone or phonograph into society, and how these may have, uh, amplified certain assumptions, or reimagined them, and so on. You know, you can analyze certain assumptions about class, gender, or notions of privacy by the marketing and development going on.

What probably interested me most were two things, one being Sterne's term "mediality," which refers to interactions and communications through media -- he prefers the term because it (instead of a term like "mediation") doesn't have such a presupposition of an almost Edenic notion of face-to-face interaction being the only basis of 'real' interaction. You know, more of a sense of media being a vital aspect of human interaction as opposed to being the means of a diminished reality of interaction; his idea seems to be that almost every human media from writing to painting to radio doesn't necessarily privilege face-to-face interaction to such a degree as critiques or discussions of those media do, which will criticize say a work of writing not so much as a work of writing created as such, but instead will criticize it as not living up to some possibly unrealistic ideal of direct face-to-face communication between corporeal entities and will regard diversions from that face-to-face ideal not as positive evidence of aspects unique to the writing as a unique medium but as evidence of its failure.

I still feel much less like an academic than a poet going undercover into academia to dig this stuff out -- that's part of my reason for putting things up here on the blog from my classes, you know, a sort of bootlegging. I'm also trying to impress you a little. But anyway, his discussion of mediality crystallized a bit for me some things swirling around my head in terms of how poetry is discussed, criticized, etc. My beef with something like, say, New Sincerity, or at least with my strawman idea of it (it's not like I'm doing research into what Tony, Joe, etc are/were getting at), has always been a feeling that discussion of something like sincerity in the way I'm taking they're meaning (sincerity in the communication of emotions from a poet to a reader) situates itself in a circle of assumptions that I don't really share -- that's what makes it difficult to talk constructively about differences I may have, because it could be taken as privileging something like theory or intellect over emotion. I like emotion in poetry too, but I just don't think emotions necessarily occur in poems in the same way that they do in face-to-face talking; many of the poems I find particularly moving (like Ronald Johnson or Gertrude Stein's) don't evoke emotion in me in any way that resembles an un-mediated manner.

I think to that notion of mediality -- I don't think I'm particularly interested in regarding poems as though they were the same thing as face-to-face, or even a Personism-ish telephone-to-telephone, occurrence. It seems like this is a Houlihan type of trick: take a piece of writing, and then ask "Do people you know talk like this?" Well, no, people I know do write like this. Though they share many, many similarities, interpersonal vocal communication and writing don't exist in the same way or with the same assumptions or materials, and I don't think are usually approached in the same way when created or received (though for some reason we often pretend to approach a poem as though it were a talking human and not something written down on paper/in cyberspace/on the pin of a needle).

Fairly obvious the above, but that obviousness seems to be skimmed over sometimes. Carl Martin posted something very interesting (for me) a few weeks ago on the Lucipo listserv, when there was discussion of whether poets were trying to communicate with an audience or not, and Carl's remarks were that while he was aware of audience and wanted an audience/reader to feel welcome, that the focus of his communication was with poetry itself as an art form. This I think is closer to my orientation not just as writer but reader of things. Hopefully also this informs discussions I might have about a poem, or the expectations I have of a poem; I don't think they should be interchangeable with expectations I would have with a person (I'm not speaking of my New Sincerity beef here, or saying this is what they might do; I'm just talking about the tendency to critique artifacts under some sort of face-to-face interpersonal umbrella). Certainly poems can express funny, sincere, sad emotions in a similar manner I guess as a person, or at least provoke similar reactions in a reader that a person does (laughter, joy, sorrow, comfort), but it's inaccurate I think to assert or assume that that is the only, or major, realm in which poems exist: as simulations of face-to-face interactions. I mean, there's a lot of people out there, more than ever. Lots of opporunities for funny/sincere/sexy/etc. interactions. (This is pretty counter I think to some of my assumptions even several years ago--probably has a large part to do with not feeling alone in the world anymore . . .)

The second aspect of Sterne's articles that I found particularly interesting was the notion that when all these new sound media were introduced to the public, the content carried within them initially, in the demonstration stage, was uniformly familiar and/or cliched -- Mary had a little lamb, to be or not to be, etc. Sterne's states that the reason for this is simple: the people demonstrating the new media needed to demonstrate that the media worked, and it was easier to do this if the content presented was familiar, if the audience in fact knew it beforehand and then just simply had to recognize what was familiar.

In this way people were helping out the machines, and also in this way the message wasn't that Mary once had a little lamb (since the audience already knew that) but just simply that the medium was functional. Instead of The Medium Is the Message, it was more like 'The Medium Can Work' Is the Message. Earlier this semester we saw examples of machinema (machine + cinema), which are films made from computer game modules: apparently people go in an manipulate the databases of images and sounds in a computer game to make films. The examples we saw I think were equivalents to Mary Had a Little Lamb -- a short film illustrating Shelley's Ozymandias, a Blade Runner sci noir knockoff, etc. The point of the films weren't exactly the films or their characters or plots, but just that the medium could work. Which I guess fits into I think McLuhan's idea that every time new media are introduced, they contain old media: films start off looking like plays, etc.

I'm plenty interested in how the Internet and poetry are co-existing -- my essay that got me into the Ph.D. program was on how Flarf re-imagines the social interaction between the poet, poem and reader (a revised, shortened version of that essay is in the first issue of Fascicle). Almost two years ago I wrote a series of letters to Typo (check it out here) about how the Internet was a chance to re-imagine how to edit and function in the poetry biz. These are still pretty much the two ways in which I think the Internet is altering the poetry world -- well, and blogs. I think we're in the middle of a paradigm shift in poetry that won't be evident for maybe 15 years, because most of us now spouting off on poetry blogs and with books and magazines came of age when poetry was almost exclusively a print culture, controlled by big and small presses, and mostly through universities (at least for a rural cat like me). So we've adjusted to the new landscape, are now creating it, but didn't get our fundamental notion of the 'lay of the land' in anything resembling the way undergrads just now coming to poetry are. I think this possible 'new way' is good, if only because the online world is still pretty de-centralized. (Even blogs, which get pigeon-holed as narcissistic monologues, can be decentralized: you have me spouting this off, but half the time the comments to anything of substance I might say are more interesting and gets followed more closely than what I write: plus if people think I'm full of it, they'll say so in the comments or on their blogs.)

And it seems clear the online poetry world swings very heavily towards the post-avant. You know, Mark Strand, Louise Gluck, Robert Hass, Tony Hoagland: these people don't have blogs, don't edit online magazines, don't really publish online. Ron Silliman, Nick Piombino, Barrett Watten, Juliana Spahr, Lisa Jarnot: these people do.

The fact that a majority of the online journals, blogs and sites lean 'post avant' might seem just like a possibly curious fact to some of us, but I think this fact will actually enact a fundamental shift when those who are now just coming to poetry (at least those doing it partly or mostly online) become more established and start throwing their weight around in terms who they read, publish, teach, etc. Will that be better for poetry? Who knows. I think it will be interesting, and I think it will happen. Poetry can get all the money it wants and it won't have a third of the impact as a good online journal. Who cares about who David Lehman asks to edit the Best American Poetry, or who that person picks? If I was coming into poetry, what would have more of an impact: who gets put in a random thing like BAP, or who gets discussed passionately by someone like Kasey Mohammad or Laura Carter? Print probably has more prestige still than online, even for journals: it probably always will because it will always have the feeling of money and institutional power behind it.

But I think there's the possibility that the trade-off for that prestige is a lack of impact and influence at the fundamental level of how the next generation of readers and writers view the poetry world. I probably sound a little evangelical on this, but it just seems so clear to me. That's why it is so vital I think to think about my assumptions in editing Fascicle -- I don't want to blow the opportunity to possibly shape future writers' views the way that Jacket shaped mine when I was drowning in MFAland (or to be more exact and less presumptuous: I don't want to blow the opportunity to contribute to a view of poetry that will possibly shape future writers' views the way Jacket and EPC shaped mine). Which is why I wanted to address the 'boy's club' issue because that's the last thing I want to do, create some kind of 'insiders' atmosphere. With Fascicle I wanted to shift my attention into spheres (the local and global, and historical) that it seems a lot of print and/or institutionally-based journals and presses ignore -- to critique in some way the assumption that a person in say Chapel Hill's view of poetry is dominated by what's going on from a 'contemporary American' point of view, as opposed to a global and/or local and/or historical one. I was so obsessed with this that gender didn't even enter into my brain -- happily, it looks like issue two will have much less of a sausage party feel.

Anyway, so in that one way, I think it is interesting to think about whether online journals are trying to say 'hey, the medium works' and recreate familiar formats, or are they trying to explore how the new medium can alter editing and publishing techniques -- I need to acknowledge that No Tell Motel and Unpleasant Event Schedule are doing the latter in an interesting way -- I think I was so 'nose-to-nose' so to speak to my Fascicle obsessions that I was viewing (read: measuring) all journals through my ideas and not just looking at them for what they were.

I'm getting tired, but imagine I also wrote a couple of paragraphs on why Flarf is interesting to me because: Andre Leroi-Gourhan argues that technics are externalization of internal processes, Bernard Stiegler revises him to say that the technical (external) and internal co-evolve, and that I think Flarf is one of the first instances I see of this possibility in the poetry world because Google-sculpting is not only a unique process (that while similar to earlier artistic processes, there is no real exact equivalent that I can think of) that is unique to the new medium, but: the act of Google-sculpting will likely become well known at least in the poetry world, and then will become a possible map or model for the writing process in general, or for the psyche/imagination/etc. in general, and will therefore cause unforeseen changes in the writing process/poetic psyche/imagination etc. in general.

Who knows, could happen.

Also imagine that I threw in a paragraph how this isn't technological determinism, but rather some kind of co-instrumentality between the technos and logos.

I can't believe I just wrote that above sentence. I blame Blogger.

Happy holy week this week because I'm in possession of the first six issues of Eugene Jolas' transition journals from the 1920s-30s for ten days. transition is probably best known for publishing much of Finnegans Wake (as Work in Progress) issue to issue, and also for its consistent patronage for Gertrude Stein, as well as many other ex-patriate writers, plus tons of translations, poetry from HD, WCW, Zuk and so on, paintings by Miro, Picasso.

Great to begin digging in. Favorites so far include a bunch of Laura Riding poems, and a longish prose piece by Breton. No Abraham Lincoln Gillespie yet, I guess he doesn't show up until later issues (Duke's library I think has the entire run).

Have also been checking out Eugene Jolas' first book, I Have Seen Demons and Angels. Brilliant, filled with neologisms and tri-lingual pieces, automatic writings, wild mystical stuff . . . they've also got Harry Crosby's books in the rare books library, so that's next on my list. Rumor is they also have Kathy Acker's papers . . .

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Oddly, after watching the killer Dylan documentary on PBS, it's making me miss my Arkansas friends. There's a new website for the art work of my general Arkansas crowd here.

A sampling of genius:

Wasted at the Beach with Pets

By John Mark Boling

Pick up the new issue of New American Painting (the Southern issue) to check out paintings by Lloyd Benjamin, who has played in some of my favorite bands, including The Stranger Steals, Affection and The Looks.

Working on a piece called "The Medium / The Mattress." Feeling like a rock star with my headphones and bottle of wine, stuck in Juarez. In the rain. And it's Easter time, too.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Too busy to note anything than Jordan's too busy to note anything other than that he's digging into Fascicle & Circumference's translations. I'm noting this cuz 1) I'm always curious what strikes Jordan's taste-buds, and 2) it gives me a chance to suggest that you all check out Circumference if you haven't yet. All translations, and some great ones.

The big highlight in this issue is Jan Baetens and Michael Kasper's translation of Louis Scutenaire's "My Accounts."

Also, for those of you keeping track at home, Eugene Jolas and Abraham Lincoln Gillespie have officially entered my pantheon of personal favorites, where they get to roam the halls with Ronald Johnson, Lorine Niedecker, Hannah Wiener, Allen Grossman, Frank Stanford and Frank Samperi, among others.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Free first book title for anyone who wants it: Some More Trees. Money in the bank, people.

Jordan talks about poems editors can point to to make a claim for their journal.

Here's the beginning of a partial list from the first Fascicle. These are among my personal favorite pieces from the first issue:

"What I Propose Is An Alchemy for the Masses," Tim Van Dyke

"Vesting Order No. 261 . . ." Judith Goldman

"Baptismal Phospherences," Peter O'Leary

"from Hyperglossia," Stacy Szymaszek

"Beyond Another Ocean," Fernando Pessoa (tr. Chris Daniels)

"from The Moonseamed Birch," Geof Huth

"from Venetian Epigrams," Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (tr. Jerome Rothenberg)

"Emit," Rob Stanton

"On the Halcyon Shores of Lake Climax," Lara Glenum

"Jargons 1," Ulf Stolterfoht (tr. Rosmarie Waldrop)

"from Irresponsibility," Chris Vitiello

"The Artist," Nguyen Dang Thuong (tr. Linh Dinh)

"Mad Lib Elegy," Ben Lerner

"Abduction's Query," Mary Margaret Sloan

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Off to my Methodologies of Art History class, and then afterwards to see Dungen at Cat's Cradle. !.

Here's my summary of a section of our Kant reading this week, presented for the enjoyment and edification of Butch and the general amusement of Thomas.

An Attempt to Begin to Summarize Kant’s Dialectic of Aesthetic Judgment

It is not necessarily the object itself but the presentation of the object to the subject’s a priori powers which Kant claims to be in play. He assumes a purposiveness in the reception (of either art or nature); that purposiveness involves our powers of judgment: reason has a pure concept of the supersensible that underlies the object, its presentation to our powers, and our powers of both apprehending and reflecting on this: when these harmonize, a feeling of pleasure arises. This feeling of pleasure is the basis for a claim of beauty for the object. This claim can’t be proven by a concept, and in fact is not adequate for our cognitive powers: this is to be contrasted with a sense of aesthetic “perfection,” which can be derived from how an object fits a model for it. Though the claim of beauty cannot be proven by a concept, Kant writes that it is based on a concept.

To clarify, Kant claims that “[a] judgment of taste is not based on determinate concepts” and he also claims that “[a] judgment of taste is indeed based on a concept, but on an indeterminate one (namely, that of the supersensible substrate of appearances).” There is no apparent contradiction between these two statements, and their consistency can be compared to the apparent antinomy earlier in the chapter between statements that 1) a judgment of taste has no basis in concepts (that’s why there’s no disputing taste), and that 2) a judgment of taste does have basis in concepts, otherwise there would be no quarreling about it (because if it was just due to privately subjective validity, no one could reasonably ask another to agree with one’s self).

By supersensible, Kant means that to claim something is beautiful we must go beyond just what we find agreeable to our senses, and also beyond just what appeals to our reason in terms of its moral purpose or perfection: the supersensible underlies our a priori powers; it is also where they can be reconciled. To understand Kant’s claims, we need to understand the difference between transcendental (rational) and aesthetic (immanent) ideas. Aesthetic, or immanent, ideas are unexpoundable, for they are “intuitions (of the imagination) for which an adequate concept can never be found.” Transcendental, or rational, ideas are indemonstrable for they “can never become cognition because [they] contain a concept (of the supersensible) for which no adequate intuition can ever be given.”

To help frame these terms, we can say that a concept of understanding derives from immanent concepts, for they can be supplied with an experience that corresponds intuitively. Kant’s example is the concept of magnitude: the thought can be exhibited in an example. In contrast, “the rational concept of the supersensible substrate of all appearances generally” (our concept of the supersensible that underlies our apprehensions and choices made among them, “transcendental freedom”) cannot be exhibited the way that magnitude can be: experience does not provide us even with an analogy for the concept of the supersensible. There is a basic gap between the imagination’s intuitions (which can’t be completely presented to cognition as a concept), and understanding’s concepts (which never are fully realized to one’s intuition). But, I believe Kant claims, the supersensible substrate underlies both imagination and understanding, though we can’t provide proofs for imagination’s aesthetic intuition, nor sensory examples of understanding’s rational concepts.

Genius in many ways can be discussed in similar terms as nature since genius is not deliberate, it in fact “receives its rule from nature.” We judge a work of genius not by concepts, or by its moral or practical purpose, but rather by how it purposively attunes our imagination in such a way that it reconciles it with the “power of concepts.” This attunement can’t be legislated by rules, since it creates harmony between not a single sensible object and a single rational concept, but rather creates a purposive harmony: a harmony between the powers of imagination of the subject and the “power of concepts,” neither of which understanding can fully grasp. This purposiveness is that which the judgment of taste reflects upon and critiques; since the arena of this purposiveness encompasses all of a subject’s powers (powers one assumes are held in common), and the supersensible substrate underlying them, judgment of taste cannot be based on an objective principle, but is instead based “on a principle that is subjective and yet universally valid.”

The principles that inform taste should not be merely sensory (or empiricist), for then the beautiful would be indistinguishable from the agreeable (that which the senses like immediately upon apprehension). Similarly, the principles that inform taste should not be merely rational, for without the interplay of intuition the beautiful would be indistinguishable from the good (that which is conceptually agreeable), and would place the claim of beauty solely on the object itself; this would contradict what we have already proven, that for the claim of beautiful to be universal and not merely private the critique must focus not merely on the object but on its purposive attunement of the powers of understanding and of concepts in the subject.

Kant clarifies that this purposiveness can be either realistic or idealistic. A realistic purposiveness assumes that nature or art pursues an intentional harmony between the powers of understanding and of reason. An idealistic purposiveness places the pursuit of this harmony only with the subject, “manifesting itself on its own, contingently and without a purpose.” While the multiple beauties of nature that we find (such as snowflakes) appear to have no other purpose than to attune mankind’s powers in such a way to prescribe claims of beauty, Kant feels that the purposiveness is in fact ideal: his reason is that when we judge in terms of beauty the standards which we utilize are those that are “a priori in ourselves,” for what is in play in considering beauty is not the objects themselves but the manner in which a subject receives them. If in fact the purposiveness was realistic, then in the realm of art beauty could be accomplished through determination and scientific knowledge, which we know to be untrue.

Kant’s last major focus is on beauty as being a symbol of, or analogous to, morality. Symbols are not the opposite of intuitive exhibitions, but are a type of such an exhibition. Schematic demonstrations are another type, and can be encountered directly. Symbolic demonstrations however are encountered indirectly. For instance, our cognitions of God are symbolic, since they do not lay out a schema for direct intuition. Kant maintains “that the beautiful is the symbol of the morally good.” A well-tuned judgment of taste (what we like directly based on disinterested reflective intuition, freedom of imagination in harmony with laws of understanding, and universal subjective principles not knowable through concepts) is not the same as an attuned moral sense (what we like based on interest in it as a concept, freedom of will in harmony with laws of reason, and universal knowable concepts), but is analogous to it, and the distance from one to the other is not, to use Kant’s words, “too violent a leap.”

Kant Nuggets, from Critique of Aesthetic Judgment

"Any taste remains barbaric if its liking requires that charms and emotions be mingled in, let alone if it makes these the standard of its approval."

"[N]othing that can be an object of the senses is to be called sublime. [What happens is that] our imagination strives to progress toward infinity, while our reason demands absolute totality as a real idea, and so [the imagination,] our power of estimating the magnitude of things in the world of sense, is inadequate to that idea. yet this inadequacy itself is the arousal in us of the feeling that we have within us a supersensible power; and what is absolutely large is not an object of sense, but is the use that judgment makes naturally of certain objects so as to [arouse] this (feeling), and in contrast with that use any other use is small. Hence what is to be called sublime is not the object, but the attunement that the intellect [gets] through a certain presentation that occupies reflective judgment."

"We linger in our contemplation of the beautiful, because this contemplation reinforces and reproduces itself."

Friday, September 16, 2005

As of this hour, the ten greatest artistic achievements in the genre of rock y roll records:

10) Another Green World, Brian Eno
9) Tonight's the Night, Neil Young
8) Bringing It All Back Home, Bob Dylan
7) The White Album, The Beatles
6) Veedon Fleece, Van Morrison
5) The Band, The Band
4) Alien Lanes, Guided By Voices
3) There's a Riot Going On, Sly & the Family Stone
2) Ege Bamyasi, Can
1) Exile on Main Street, The Rolling Stones

Will change by the time I finish eating this banana, of course.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Can't wait to hear two of my favorite poets read this weekend. Finished with Margery Kempe, Plato, Bernard Stiegler and Andre Leroi-Gourhan. Now on to Kant, Meditations on the Life of Christ, Alberto Manguel, Foucault, Charles Sanders Peirce and Brian Rotman.

Random notes from Leroi-Gourhan's Speech and Gesture (most are paraphrasings):

A fact in evolution: the ability to express thought in material symbols.

Connection between writing and figurative art are ill-defined.

Two functioning pairs joined throughout the evolution of technics: hands/tools, face/mouth.

“motor function determines expression in the techniques and language . . . in the figurative language reflection determines graphism”

Graphism did not begin with naïve representations of reality but with abstractions.

When Upper Paleolithic art first discovered, so did the notion of a ‘naïve’ artistic state, a spontaneous need to represent reality – it was later discovered that this art was a relatively late development (8000 BC when the earliest traces are 30000 BC). The cause of the art was then taken to be magical-religious.

Signs originally represented rhythms instead of forms.

Figurative art was originally much more concerned with language, and closer to writing.

Symbolic transposition, not copying reality.

Distance between bison-sign and bison itself the same as between word and tool.

Earliest paintings are graphic building blocks without any descriptive binder.

Paleolithic art provides a way of seeing the development of figurative art and writing. What looked like two stories is one. “Symbolic expression reaches its highest level soon after its beginning in the Aurignacian. Art splits away from writing, and follows a trajectory that begins in abstraction, establishes conventions of form and movement, achieves realism and eventually collapses” This is the general cycle of development.

Abstraction is the source of graphic expression.

In Upper Paleolithic, reflective thought was capable of representation, so humans could deal with reality, and not only in the present.

Two languages sprung into existence, of the ear and of the eye.

“The invention of writing, through the device of lineation, completely subordinated graphic to phonetic expression, but even today the relationship between language and graphic expression is one of coordination rather than subordination.”

A picture can trigger recitation of myth, but is not tied to it.

In primal cultures, less mythology than mythography.

The forms of thought that existed during the longest periods of our evolution are strange to us today, though they underlie much of our behavior.

“the reason why art is so closely connected with religion is that graphic expression restores to language the dimension of the inexpressible—the possibility of multiplying the dimensions of a fact”

Writing did not happen in a void, as neither did agriculture – the stages beforehand must be taken into account.

Chinese ideograms: the rhythm of the words is counterbalanced by the subtle interplay of the lines. Juxtaposes images not to make sentences but meaningful groups of images.

In primates the actions of the hands are in balance with the actions of the face. In early humans a divorce takes place between hands and face. Graphic representation re-introduces a balance: figures drawn, words spoken. Then, at the writing stage, the hand written word (phonetic and linear in space) becomes subordinate to the spoken (phonetic and linear in time).

The transition from mythological to rational thinking was a very gradual shift synchronous with the development of urban socializations and of metallurgy.

Discontinuity begins with the imposition of a cosmic image that pivots upon the image of a city; writing occurs at this time; there was previously a unity/continuum between the individual and the environment.

Agricultural peoples conceive time and space radiating from a single point of reference: omphalos. Around this the heavens circulate and distances are marked. Pre-alphabetic thinking was radial.

The technical efficacy of language today is directly related to its loss of a halo of associative meanings. This leads to an impoverishment of means to non-rational expression.

If we have complete confidence in settled agriculture and its consequences, we should be happy with the constriction of language to linear, rational expression. If on the other hand we think mankind would benefit from a more balanced contact with the whole of reality, perhaps the regimented form of writing is a step short of the optimum.

Loss of imagination (symbol making) results in a loss of range of action.

Elite group as digestive organ, the masses as assimilating organ.

The impoverishment is not in the themes but in the loss of personal imaginative visions.

Language had divorced itself from the human in writing, is consummating this break by entrusting media to handling the intimate functions of phonetics and sight.

Since 18th century, philosophers have assumed a divide between the mental and material, between man and animal: man is either like animal, or not like animal. Aborigines and Euro fairy tales both assume a continuity between human and animal: both possess the same intelligence, can speak, etc.

Radical separation between human and animal in countering intellect and instinct.

In myth, human and animal constructed of the same essence, but behave differently when clothed as human, bear, bird. A sociological difference, as opposed to an essential one.

Both ant and human groups survive via memory in which behaviors are stored.

Instinct and intelligence should not be regarded as causes, but as effects.

We must realize that the presence of individual genius is genetically normal in humans, but that progress is less about genius than of a favorable collective environment.

In Christianity, aptitude doesn’t break through into eternity: the saint is not a great thinker or virtuoso but one who breaks free of the operating cycles. Reflects a liberation from the genetic link.

Marxist or pragmatic societies emphasize the genetic link; gifted heroes of labor, a linear hierarchy based on the efficacy of its inhabitants.

In many situations, language doesn’t intervene for we perform actions in a twilight state not that different from animals.

Freedom of behavior is attainable only at the level of symbols.

Humans are free to create their own situations, even if they are symbolic situations; other animals can’t do this.

The human brain is capable of thinking anything; it is also virtually empty at birth.

Human evolution did not begin with the brain but with the feet.

Language: our unique ability to transfer memory to a social organism outside ourselves.

Did the presence of a thumb necessitate capitalism?

The human hand is human because of what it makes, not because of what it is.

With tools, the hand stopped being the tool and became the driving force.

Wind and water were mastered for centuries, early in historic time: the big leap was until late in the 19th century, when steam power was harnessed. Then there was a massive change of scale in human relation to nature; the externalization of muscle power.

What if humans exhaust all the possibilities of externalizing their internal processes?
Random Notes (mostly paraphrasings) from Bernard Stiegler's Technics and Time, 1: the Fault of Epimetheus:

The evolutional drift is so slow it is hard to imagine the human as the inventing agent.

The history of technics is the history of the pursuit of evolution of the living by means other than life.

We are considering a passage to what is called human; its birth, if there was one; since Hegel, its end.

The possibility that we are already post-human.

Dialogue w/ Derrida about the concept of difference, describing the human as a singular case of being alive, but only a case.

Not emptying the human of all specificity but challenging borders between human and animal.


1) if the privilege given linear writing by Hegel and Rouseau is logocentric
2) if metaphysics is logocentric and vice versa
3) if all metaphysics is humanist and vice versa
4) then all humanisms are logocentric

To privilege alphabetic writing is to privilege man.

To oppose speech to writing is to oppose man to animal by in the same stroke opposing him to the technical.

Leroi-Gourhan: the exeriorization of memory, a process which is always larger than its trace. His anthropology is not anthro-centric, doesn’t assume the same divide between animal and human.

The invention of the human as object as well as subject; the technical inventing the human, vice versa.

Gramme: consciousness?

The passage of the genetic to the non-genetic is the appearance of a new kind of gramme and/or program.

Cultural codes pick up the relay from where genetic codes leave off. (Paul Ricouer)

The first man to have died, or to have been believed to be dead, is the man of the first present, the first temporal ecstasis of the present, past and future; a past that was never present links to a present linking onto no past present.

Differance means both differentiation and deferral. It is neither the who nor the what but their co-possibility.

The interior and exterior are essentially the same if the man (interior) is defined by the technic (exterior).

Flint is the first reflective memory, the first mirror.

Technology as a singular zoological reality.

The human is not a spiritual miracle grafted onto an already given body; the human does not descend from the monkey; even at the earliest stages, the human body had specific traits that lend themselves to/create/is the psychic.

Darwin: humans can only be understood as part of a terrestrial totality.

Zinjanthropian, discovered in 1959: tiny brain; the implication is that brain was secondary development, after the feet.

Erect posture creates a new system of relations. Freeing the hand during locomotion frees the mouth from carrying objects.

Tools for the hand and language for the face are twin poles of the same apparatus.

Language becomes indissociable from technics and prosthetics; their mutual essence.

Technics, the synthesis of the different criteria of humanity, can only be understood in a zoological perspective.

Leroi-Gourhan: mobility is the significant trait in the evolution towards the human.

Mobility, not intelligence, is the distinguishing feature, unless intelligence is taken as a kind of mobility.

Mobilization = liberation = exteriorization

Leroi-Gourhan: the development of the nervous system follows that of body structure (erect posture before developed brains)

Evolution continues by rupture and not by fulfillment.

A prosthesis does not supplement or replace, it adds. Not a means for the human, but its end.

Reflexivity, the affectation of self as a return to self (gesture).

Differentation possible when memory of the group is external; but when external, becomes not only specific to the group, for it becomes technological (technical and logical).

“The already-there is the pre-given horizon of time, the past that is mine but that I have nevertheless not lived.”

“It is clear that the spiritual only comes after the technical, just like the grave.”

Reflective intelligence was not added to technical, it was already its ground.

Prehominid language does not contain the possibility of idiomatic divergence.

A particular form of memory for each tradition.

Leroi-Gourhan: Tradition is as important to human survival as genetic codes are for insects.

There was never a concrete language; to express a situation is to abstract it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Questions for Plato

As the Republic is concerned primarily with political and social situations, it might be pertinent to ask some general political and social questions (that are applicable to art and its roles).

Are there risks involved in The Republic’s idealizing of the rational?

Is your brilliantly interwoven structure an answer to questions about primal impulses and drives, or is it a suppression of these questions?

Is the relationship you posit between the individual and the city tenable, and why do you think art will alter this relationship?

In other words, is your emphasis on the city’s happiness an emphasis on collective good, or is it also a technique by which to control possible subversions?

Likewise, is the emptying of domestic chores and parenthood an alleviation of a burden, or is it also a means to eradicate a tool of subversion (the family, or the small collective)?

Even if your discussion of putting together a city is merely theoretical, what are we to make of your inherent assumptions of a static city (and static power dynamics)?

The anthropologist Stanley Diamond writes “the attempt to weaken or sever the ties between the generations is also a typical utopian and quasi-revolutionary aim.”

Is the exclusion of all non-state sponsored art from the Republic also a means of doing this, of banishing not only poets and artists but also the media by which cultural memory and possibly non-state sanctioned values are stored?

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

On edge lately, so I've been restraining from communicating. Feels like it's lightening up some. Remind me never again to go from launching the first issue of a big magazine to starting a Ph.D. program in the span of 48 or so hours.

Midst of some great readings: Bernard Stiegler, Andre Leroi-Gourhan.

Ordered some new books last night for the first time in a long time. Judith Goldman, Andrew Joron, Craig Watson.

Back to reading.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Oh, and the new Word For/Word is up! I have a poem in there, one that is not in one of my 'usual modes.' Read it here.

Word For/Word for me took a huge leap forward with its 7th issue, which is maybe the best issue of a magazine I've read in the last year. Number 8 is pretty terrific as well. It's undoubtedly one of the best magazines running.

Monday, September 05, 2005

If anyone has email addresses for Cecilia Vicuna or Gale Nelson, could you backchannel them to me? (tonytost AT yahoo DOT com)


Sunday, September 04, 2005

Julian Semilian just sent a link to this collection of photos from New Orleans.
Among the good places to donate money, one is here.

Another one is here.

First week as a Ph.D. student. Glad I waited til I was 30, because I don't know if I had the focus/discipline before to really do this well, or to feel confident enough in my abilities to jump into classes in which I have no expertise (all three of my classes). Exciting stuff. Alternating reading McLuhan, Plato, William Langland and Margery Kempe, while working on the next Fascicle, which is going to have an archival portfolio that I'm really excited about, and is already building up a really solid set of translations. I think I'm going to try my hand at translation for this issue -- there's a Passus that I'm especially fond of.

Almost no energy or time for anything social -- this blog post will do as my social interaction for now.

Any word on Alex Chilton? (who is apparently missing in New Orleans)