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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17 Nov '02 02:33:47 AM

One of the minorly disappointing things about listening to music on the bus is that I can almost never take full advantage of the fact that the bus is in motion. It rarely gets going at a good clip for long enough (because of all the stops) to most effectively accompany the music - to match the on-and-on motion of the rhythms.

When it works it's distinctive, too, because sitting-still-yet-moving feels different from moving-by-walking.

17 Nov '02 02:24:35 AM

Best song I heard in a coffeeshop today while grading: Nelly Furtado, "I'm Like a Bird". The girl next to me sang along at the beginning (before I knew what it was, which made me feel a little left out). The whole place seemed happier.

Most unsettling thing I heard in a coffeeshop today while grading: large chunks of both Kid A and Amnesiac. People's interactions became noticeably more subdued, or dropped away entirely. My conviction that this music is fundamentally internal was reinforced tenfold.

15 Nov '02 07:01:59 AM

Three notes on joy:

1. My kitchen floor is slippery, especially in the swank socks my parents bought me. This is especially good for dancing to Charles Mingus. Slip-slide dancing.

2. You know the scene in Rush Hour where the guy's daughter is in the backseat of the car singing to the song on the radio? Yeah, that one. It is the most joyous thing ever in the entire world. Cherish it. (There is something to be said about the fact that the girl may be unknowingly reproducing oppressive norms of heterosexuality and the patriarchy. But at the moment that something is: fuck off.) If this were a contest, the "War" scene would be a finalist receiving a lovely parting ("party") gift.

3. "Or even moonwalk, far as I care, sold Michael Jackson 43 million records, shit everyone had a zipper jacket and half these thugs had the glove to match, ya feel me?" (Missy on dancing in your videos and having fun.)

15 Nov '02 06:08:24 AM

The last three posts (I, II, and III) are from p. 311 of A Thousand Plateaus, the beginning of the eleventh plateau, "1837: Of the Refrain". I put them there just so that I can write about them and think about them later. I don't understand them. I haven't read the entire plateau, but I've read part of it and I didn't really understand it. I know Sterl is sick of hearing about the refrain, but I suppose that prompted me to think more carefully about it, especially since at the moment I feel I have slightly better footing than the last time I took a look at this stuff.

For now, all you need to know is: "These are not three successive movements in an evolution. They are three aspects of a single thing, the Refrain (ritournelle)." I'll write more as I can.

15 Nov '02 06:02:42 AM

I. A child in the dark, gripped with fear, comforts himself by singing under his breath. He walks and halts to his song. Lost, he takes shelter, or orients himself with his little song as best he can. The song is like a rough sketch of a calming and stabilizing, calm and stable, center in the heart of chaos. Perhaps the child skips as he sings, hastens or slows his pace. But the song itself is already a skip: it jumps from chaos to the beginnings of order in chaos and is in danger of breaking apart at any moment. There is always sonority in Ariadne's thread. Or the song of Orpheus.

15 Nov '02 06:00:04 AM

II. Now we are at home. But home does not preexist: it was necessary to draw a circle around that uncertain and fragile center, to organize a limited space. Many, very diverse, components have a part in this, landmarks and marks of all kinds. This was already true of the previous case. But now the components are used for organizing a space, not for the momentary determination of a center. The forces of chaos are kept outside as much as possible, and the interior space protects the germinal forces of a task to fulfill or a deed to do. This involves an activity of selection, elimination and abstraction, in order to prevent the interior forces of the earth from being submerged, to enable them to resist, or even to take something from chaos across the filter or sieve of the space that has been drawn. Sonorous or vocal components are very important: a wall of sound, or at least a wall with some sonic bricks in it. A child hums to summon the strength for the schoolwork she has to hand in. A housewife sings to herself, or listens to the radio, as she marshals the antichaos forces of her work. Radios and television sets are like sound walls around every household and mark territories (the neighbor complains when it gets too loud). For sublime deeds like the foundation of a city or the fabrication of a golem, one draws a circle, or better yet walks in a circle as in a children's dance, combining rhythmic vowels and consonants that correspond to the interior forces of creation as to the differentiated parts of an organism. A mistake in speed, rhythm, or harmony would be catastrophic because it would bring back the forces of chaos, destroying both creator and creation.

15 Nov '02 05:53:12 AM

III. Finally, one opens the circle a crack, opens it all the way, lets someone in, calls someone, or else goes out oneself, launches forth. One opens the circle not on the side where the old forces of chaos press against it but in another region, one created by the circle itself. As though the circle tended on its own to open onto a future, as a function of the working forces it shelters. This time, it is in order to join with the forces of the future, cosmic forces. One launches forth, hazards an improvisation. But to improvise is to join with the World, or meld with it. One ventures from home on the thread of a tune. Along sonorous, gestural, motor lines that mark the customary path of a child and graft themselves onto or begin to bud "lines of drift" with different loops, knots, speeds, movements, gestures, and sonorities.

14 Nov '02 09:05:44 PM

Deleuze from "Whitman" in Essays Critical and Clinical. It suggests loads of things, I think.

With much confidence and tranquility, Whitman states that writing is fragmentary, and that the American writer has to devote himself to writing in fragments. This is precisely what disturbs us - assigning this task to America, as if Europe had not progressed along this same path. But perhaps we should recall the difference Holderlin discovered between the Greeks and the Europeans: what is natal or innate in the first must be acquired or conquered by the second, and vice-versa. In a different manner, this is how things stand with the Europeans and the Americans. Europeans have an innate sense of organic totality, or composition, but they have to acquire the sense of the fragment, and can do so only through a tragic reflection or an experience of disaster. Americans, on the contrary, have a natural sense for the fragment, and what they have to conquer is the feel for the totality, for beautiful composition. The fragment already exists in a nonreflective manner, preceding any effort: we make plans, but when the time comes to act, we "tumble the thing together, letting hurry and crudeness tell the story better than fine work." What is characteristic of America is therefore not the fragmentary, but the spontaneity of the fragmentary: "Spontaneous, fragmentary" says Whitman.

14 Nov '02 07:29:37 AM

I think Alex is probably right: it's not the loved one's fault, either (though perhaps sometimes we end up looking to blame it on them). It's nobody's fault. But still I feel the notion of fault floating around under the surface.