josh blog

Ordinary language is all right.

One could divide humanity into two classes:
those who master a metaphor, and those who hold by a formula.
Those with a bent for both are too few, they do not comprise a class.

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13 Jan '05 02:27:23 PM

You just go ahead and get your mouse and hilight those quotes and see where the breaks between characters are.

13 Jan '05 02:25:46 PM

Speaking of Elisabeth Röhm, if you are watching the show properly then it will never have occurred to you that she is a bad actress, unless you are already watching the show properly and have mistakenly decided to stake out a place in the camp from which to decry her robotic demeanor while thinking that you are at that moment out on the highway of TV realism and not still on the campgrounds. Perhaps it is that, even as on the show one has the 'interview' and the 'crime' and the 'lawyer' and the 'breakdown on the witness stand', with Ms. Röhm one has (not had, because she will never go away now, just like Angie Harmon will always be there) the twice-quoted ''interview'' and ''lawyer'' and ''argument'' and ''exhibiting personal emotion''. I suppose if one here objects that the problem is that Ms. Röhm is not trying to do that, or er 'that', and what's more that she is not trying to do ''that'', one is running into the camp-analogue to the intentional fallacy, about which there could be just as much pointless runaround debate: camp is what you make it, er what one makes it, not what they make it (even though it is - sort of).

13 Jan '05 02:14:15 PM

Speaking of camp, I did not get to see the one where they ousted Elisabeth Röhm last night (though I will of course get to see it six hundred times throughout the course of my life in reruns). This is an added disappointment because I would like to have seen every episode where a character enters or leaves the show. In fact, I think I ought to make a list of the ones I have seen.

13 Jan '05 02:11:39 PM

I miss the time at which I could expect anyone and everyone who was anyone that I wanted to know to know pointless minor details about The Simpsons. Law and Order is saturated enough in my home demographic that it could serve that role now, but I doubt, sadly, that it does, or will. But I bet that if its camp-hilarity were acknowledged in full, it would.

13 Jan '05 02:02:14 PM

I dream occasionally of writing a book after Deleuze and Guattari's study of Kafka - think of the part early on where they take all these little things as signs, like the bent neck - of the interviews of the law part of the show, which is to say the order part of the show, where the detectives do little more than nudge along (even with yelly interviews and threats of obstruction of justice charges, really) the workings of ethical commitments on the smallest levels across a broad range of types, roles, and levels of intimacy. First I would have to read Deleuze and Guattari's book on Kafka properly though, and there's too much TV to watch for that to happen.

13 Jan '05 01:55:54 PM

You might also, or instead, if you like, appreciate (love) it as baseball. As if baseball. Like baseball, its monotone procedural regularity is the backdrop for its interest, not its standout virtue.

It might have to be baseball-camp.

Which is different from baseball camp.

13 Jan '05 01:45:17 PM

If you are not now appreciating (loving) Law and Order and late additions as camp then you are not appreciating (loving) it, really. Your love will be only partial. With camp you can have it all. Then there will be an unending wash of the most minute details to observe, nonstop hilarity both bitter and warmhearted (well mostly bitter), overwrought sentimentality denial of which is in the ballpark of aloof stony appraisal of the failures of the lowest pop music, shifting, flickering allegiances and affinities as you are part of the machine of society and happy about it and against it and knowing that you are better than it because you know somehow, miserable empty fucking addiction to hour after hour, winky knowing in-jokes, also Jerry Orbach a lot.

13 Jan '05 10:11:50 AM

The reason the situation near the end of the last entry interests me - the urge to turn to obviously important features of a work that are taken to be just as obvious reasons for not getting it - is that for some works, the features of that sort are let's say obvious only in a prearticulate way. What I'm really working on is a description of the problems that beset attempts to talk about Wittgenstein's poetics, and not just talk about them, but make something of them when trying to understand Wittgenstein 'just' philosophically. You can hardly do that justice without talking about his style of writing in short remarks. But even people who I think know where Wittgenstein's coming from tend to get by on unspoken intuitions as to the effect of that style, which makes it seem like a slightly unwarranted place to start in situations of dispute as above. They are not in the business or practice of addressing things like style and form centrally, which strangely enough seems to mean that they do not even do it when a work's style is so obviously significant. (Compare the Investigations to a million and a half pieces of modernist literature.)

13 Jan '05 09:57:43 AM

In the lectures and conversations on aesthetics that we have from Wittgenstein, he refers to the phenomenon in which an argument about art ends in disagreement because the things one person can say to another, say to try to get them to see a painting or understand a poem a different way (to get them to come around, you might say, or to open their eyes), are by their nature not compelling in the way reasons concerning other matters might be (this very difference makes one uncomfortable calling the things said in the former case 'reasons', though they serve an analogous purpose). So some disputes remain unresolved because those involved give up, either at trying to persuade or to be brought around. (At times the ones who sees it may find themselves ending up cornered, or exasperated, or with no other resort than 'don't you see?!'.) But since the reasons are not compelling, that is, since they do not compel assent from everyone who can see plainly and think as well as anyone else is supposed to be able to, it doesn't necessarily reflect poorly on either party when a dispute ends this way. Necessarily: but it may matter from circumstance to circumstance whether you can get through. A person who seems out of reach may be written off, or less trustworthy, or just that much harder to fathom.

(Wittgenstein is obviously not saying anything new by noting this. This is merely the locus for certain talk about justification of judgments about art that I'm working on, in particular from Cavell.)

Attempts at justification - putting it that way already sets the terms of the discussion a bit too much - of this sort are often described as ways of bringing something about an artwork to another person's attention. Sometimes they're made out to be just that, nothing else. This accords well with the sense the one person has of seeing say a painting in a certain way, and of not having anything else to do but try to point to aspects or features of it that seem to be important in making them think it's good, or that seem to support whatever they say about it. It has to be the painting, if they're saying something that they can get the other person to come to see. And so there's a lot of talk about finer features, things a person might understandably overlook or not see with their proper importance, perhaps because the painting is noticeably different in some more obvious way that blinds them to the smaller details that might set things right for them. Wittgenstein gives an example of reading the poet Klopstock with a slightly different accentuation, and having everything fall into place.

It's tempting to take this as a model for how any sort of successful resolution of disagreements about art must go. The details seem like they have to be minor - hard to see, easy to overlook or misinterpret or forget about. And so they seem like the source of the whole problem, so that failed attempts at resolution are failures to get straight on the details.

I'm not sure if they could be said to be the same phenomenon, but the case where one person points out some features of a work to another, but eventually gives up, is something like the case where the disagreement is total from the outset, and everybody gives up without trying. Say, if I tell you this house track is really great, and you can't get past the beat, and that's that. Often something of central importance like that is the first thing pointed to by the advocate, and the reason the argument can go on is that it's just as much a basis (or at least is marshalled as one) for the other person's disagreement, so that the advocate is forced to look for other things to point to, possibly finer things (maybe just so that the other person can't use their reasons on those things anymore). When the argument goes on, what happens to the apparent importance of the original thing the advocate pointed to? In my own experience with music I've found that it's something that's tolerated, or accomodated somehow with songs or other works that are less like that, until somehow some time down the road (if the person makes the right efforts) that feature is recognized as the centrally significant thing it was made out to be in the first place. What's frustrating about this is that as a person trying to get other people to love what you love - or to be able to love what you love, to put it less manipulatively - you want to be able to point to those things that really do seem to matter. It's even worse if you see the regular practice of trying to be indirect about it as harmful to the whole endeavor in some way - contributing directly to tokenism and related ills.

If you've read Wittgenstein the remark in the Investigations about facts of a very general character (so general that they seem obvious, or beyond mentioning, or so general that we forget that we are even observant of their importance), might come to mind now.

I suppose it's unsurprising that the way to win over a recalcitrant viewer or listener is by the details, and not by the general qualities, or large-scale ones. The latter will tend to be things that they can see for themselves but are not seeing in the way you want. (Ignoring them would be one way of 'seeing' them, I suppose.)

There's something to make of that, but I'm hesitant to choose something. Everything I can think of to say seems to involve characterizing their way of misinterpreting the whole in a particular way, and those ways are all screamingly premature. (But when I say 'whole', I do intend the hermeneutic overtone.)