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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24 Nov '03 06:44:12 AM

And, contra Jess, I'm happy to say '99 Problems' is the best track on the new Jay-Z. Its relative simplicity (blown-out 'live' beat + buzzzz + 99 problems - bitch) makes it relatively refreshing, but I'm a little worried the chorus, too. Why is it that I can sing along with such relish? I do in truth have 99 problems, and a bitch ain't one, but when I say 'a bitch ain't one', regarding my problems, it just sounds factual. I don't mean to opt in to Jay's second-nature misogyny when I say it. But. I can feel it rising up, unbidden. The phrase is so compact, flawlessly efficient: 'ain't one' dismisses her, and 'bitch' makes it clear why. She can't even be a problem - she's only a bitch. And 'a' bitch is the same as any other one, so it doesn't matter which one. None of them are problems. In fact, 'bitch' in this sense is so virulent that it encompasses every woman, resulting in the casual one-line syllogism: women = bitches = not problems. No wonder the misogyny comes on so easily. The phrase reduces more than half the world to almost nothing in four words. I want that to be the reason that it's so easy for me to sing with a momentary suspension of - or maybe even reversal of - character. The power is so easy to assume, to slip into, to enjoy, since it's not raw physicality, but something far more powerful: a priori indifference to the ineffectual, the unimportant, the powerless. Could it be that, perversely, there's something that feels liberating about denying the power of others so effortlessly?

I'm reminded of Wittgenstein's cloud, condensed into a drop of grammar. Ironically, I feel especially transfixed by a grammatical picture, the ever-persistent inside-my-head-or-out-there-in-the-world, I think because I want an easy explanation, somewhere convenient to dump the problem that absolves me of any malice. So, preferably out-there-in-the-world, which is where 'bitch' was before it and its cloud got into my head.

24 Nov '03 04:27:19 AM

'Writing means JACK SHIT in the face of someone hating you.'

24 Nov '03 04:13:54 AM

Wu-Tang are a lot more potent when you're already anxious and jittery, but then the words all blur by.

23 Nov '03 06:35:26 PM

I spent ten minutes in front of the mirror last night, making faces. I make good faces. With practice, though, I could make great faces.

23 Nov '03 05:45:50 AM

'he on some now you see me now you don't, you know what I'm sayin?'

18 Nov '03 07:34:00 AM

'Every profound thinker is more afraid of being understood than of being misunderstood. The latter might hurt his vanity; but the former hurts his heart and his sympathy which always says: "Oh, why do you want things to be as hard for you as they are for me?"'

18 Nov '03 07:32:42 AM

'In a hermit's writings, you can always hear something of the echo of the desert, something of the whisper and the timid sideways glance of solitude. A new and more dangerous type of silence, of concealment, rings out in his strongest words, even in his cries. Anyone who has sat alone with his soul in intimate dispute and dialogue, year in, and year out, day and night, anyone who has become a cave bear or treasure hunter or treasure guard and dragon in his cave (which might be a labyrinth but also a gold mine): his very concepts will come to acquire their own twilight color, the smell of depth just as much as of mildew, something uncommunicative and reluctant that blows a chill on everything going past. The hermit does not believe that a philosopher - given that a philosopher was always a hermit first - has ever expressed his actual and final opinions in books: don't people write books precisely to keep what they hide to themselves? In fact, he will doubt whether a philosopher could even have "final and actual" opinions, whether for a philosopher every cave does not have, must not have, an even deeper cave behind it - a more extensive, stranger, richer world above the surface, an abyss behind every ground, under every "groundwork." Every philosophy is a foreground philosophy - that is a hermit's judgment: "There is something arbitrary in his stopping here, looking back, looking around, in his not digging any deeper here, and putting his spade away - there is also something suspicious about it." Every philosophy conceals a philosophy too: every opinion is also a hiding place, every word is also a mask.'

18 Nov '03 07:24:42 AM

'With hard people, intimacy is a source of shame - and something precious.'

14 Nov '03 06:22:39 AM

'That this could happen in the midst of the traditions of philosophy, of art, and of the enlightening sciences says more than that these traditions and their spirit lacked the power to take hold of men and work a change in them. There is untruth in those fields themselves, in the autarky that is emphatically claimed for them. All post-Auschwitz culture, including its urgent critique, is garbage. In restoring itself after the things that happened without resistance in its own countryside, culture has turned entirely into the ideology it had been potentially - had been ever since it presumed, in opposition to material existence, to inspire that existence with the light denied it by the separation of the mind from manual labor. Whoever pleads for the maintenance of this radically culpable and shabby culture becomes its accomplice, while the man who says no to culture is directly furthering the barbarism which our culture showed itself to be.

Not even silence gets us out of the circle. In silence we simply use the state of objective truth to rationalize our subjective incapacity, once more degrading truth into a lie. When countries of the East, for all their drivel to the contrary, abolished culture or transformed it into rubbish as a mere means of control, the culture that moans about it is getting what it deserves, and what on its part, in the name of people's democratic right to their own likeness, it is zealously heading for. The only difference is that when the apparatchiks over there acclaim their administrative barbarism as culture and guard its mischief as an inalienable heritage, they convict its reality, the infrastructure, of being as barbarian as the superstructure they are dismantling by taking it under their management. In the West, at least, one is allowed to say so.'