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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5 Jan '05 10:21:33 AM

Nine things I thought about today:

1. not caring
2. calling asking about jobs they don't have
3. no help for my malfunctioning computer

4. the submarine scene in Life Aquatic
5. a playlist worth coming back to a few more times [1]
6. 'pays off for the hungry investor'

7. staying asleep tempting more and more
8. salsa band
9. hermeneutics from the point of view of the verbum interius

[1]: That playlist:
1. Richard Hell & the Voidoids - (I Belong To The) Blank Generation
2. Ghostface - Beat The Clock
3. Rex Garvin - Sock It To 'Em J.B. - Part 1
4. Diamanda Galas - At The Dark End Of The Street
5. DJ Koze - Brutalga Square
6. DMX feat. Sean Paul and Mr. Vegas - Top Shotter
7. Goodie Mob feat. Mystikal - Dirty South (Remix)
8. The Ex - In The Event
9. The Specials - A Message To You Rudy
10. Duke Ellington - My Little Brown Book
11. Spiritualized - Lord, Can You Hear Me?

The 'J.B.' refers to James Bond, the titles of whose movies they shout out during the song, not James Brown. The Spiritualized song is the giant-ass version.

3 Jan '05 09:51:37 AM

With some friends I have always supposed that I would run into them again and again as the years passed. With some in particular I hoped that these recurring meetings would be a chance for the easy familiarity of intellectual affinity to deepen.

I apologize. I wanted to write something better here, but I can't get it to come out right. With some friends, not very close friends but friends nonetheless, I looked forward to those meetings because I knew that intellectual life is special: the weakest seed can stay alive in its soil.

Matt Cvijanovich died of acute pancreatitis today. He was maybe five years younger than me at most. I last saw him when he was choosing a graduate school. I thought I would surely see him again, no matter where he went. He didn't come here.

3 Jan '05 04:00:32 AM


31 Dec '04 07:49:50 AM

Art and the criticism of it are still just beginning to come under the democratic impulse.

29 Dec '04 11:40:09 PM


29 Dec '04 09:12:59 AM

Though it must be noted that often it's something the characters take to be very significant - usually the fear of breaking some sort of code whose maintenance is really only secondary to the actual ethical problem they would like to address - that holds them back.

29 Dec '04 09:06:25 AM

In many ways problems in The Romantic and The Anarchist seem to derive from the pernicious effects of unvoiced thoughts; forthcoming conversations and speech (especially the everyday sort) would give those thoughts a chance to show themselves for what they are.

29 Dec '04 09:01:10 AM

The appearance of extended (on the page) dialogue that I mentioned is more frequent than I thought, but it's still all for the same purpose, to showcase climactic or otherwise significant conversations. I suppose this means either that Esch the anarchist has more important conversations than Pasenow the Romantic's Elisabeth does (she's involved in more of them than Pasenow is), or that perhaps their orientation toward the world allows for that difference. The Anarchist certainly does feel less closed-off in certain respects. For one thing, the advance of the prose is tied more closely to the advance of time, whereas in The Romantic I often felt adrift, wondering if it mattered how long it took to for the story to move from one section to the next. There is little doubt here as the circumstances of one section are usually clearly related in some way to those of the previous one.

What's more, Esch is just more intelligible to me (always keeping in mind caveats about not having been as receptive as possible to Pasenow, or to that part of the book at the particular time I read it) when Broch puts him through his various contortions and conflicts. In both books it eventually becomes clear that what the characters think about their situation and the others around them is not totally appropriate or reasonable; they misreact, they take things the wrong way - not just by making mistakes, but by being misled, or malformed, by their emotions and beliefs. They act on them in ways which are just as disjoint, such that they do not always anticipate what they are about to do, or admit that they are doing it. In both cases this (to me, at least - I'm not sure I'm being sympathetic enough) tends to make them come off as insane, to some degree, depending on the situation. But it's easier for me to see the ways in which Esch's self-defeating (self-enacted) misprisions derive from his expressed (by Broch) beliefs and from the situations he finds himself in. The moments of truth in the untruth, say.

The people-leaving-on-a-boat section is the first that has taken me by the throat.

29 Dec '04 08:05:58 AM

An effect on consciousness is at base an effect in time. Think of Wittgenstein's reference to Augustine on time - it's something we think we know, until somebody asks us about it. One sort of tactic of Wittgenstein's in response to the pull to make time substantive is to redirect lines of questioning so that they're aimed not at figuring out what time is, exactly, or which thing, where, we might call 'time', but at uncovering the role that time plays in various ways of talking about it. Maybe this is helpful to remember when presented with the temptation to start locating certain effects in consciousness. I am thinking in particular of the sort of thing mentioned by Ron's questioner here - any kind of recalcitrant artwork for which an explanation in terms of simulation or stimulation of consciousness is supposed to satisfy people who are unsure what exactly the work is good for, or what it means, or how to tell whether it's any good or not. (Think of a reaction to drone music that Tom had, however many years ago - 'how can I tell whether I'm listening to something that's good or not'?) Some of these are suggestive because we can see plainly that they lend themselves to unusual conscious experiences, like music that's at all entrancing, or even maybe the much-vaunted similarity between impressionist painting and 'the way people really see things'. The suggestion of explanations in terms of consciousness is exciting - as a clue to a mistake, for me - in the case of literature just because the relatively less temporal (less directly temporal) character of the medium makes it easier to see that one might just as well look to other ways that an experience of time shows itself - different scales on which it shows itself.

- motion, as Silliman mentions
- interaction with others
- change in general
- history and the historical

In particular the reader may change in unforeseen ways that only show themselves with time, which is to say, when other things have had the chance to change, either with the person or with the circumstances. Ordinary experiences may acumulate so that a phrase like 'exploding honey' sticks out in a way it never did to Silliman. This might be in relation to other texts, new texts, old texts, or no texts at all, but rather just: life. Reading a certain text (hearing a certain piece of music, experiencing a painting a certain way) may lead a person to find that they can do things a different way for themselves, that they can see other things.

This may seem to leave the object itself in the background, having only indirect effect; it may be hard to see how to divine the object's secrets, to elucidate it, to decode it, explain it, pin it down. Yes, and?