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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15 Nov '04 09:35:23 AM

What I've been reading (in some sustained bursts, some scattered glances, some stolen respites from proper work, some recurrent fascinations):

Stanley Cavell - The Claim of Reason
George Levien and David Leverenz (eds.) - Mindful Pleasures: Essays on Thomas Pynchon
Herman Melville - Moby Dick
Lewis Mumford - The City in History
Hannah Pitkin - Wittgenstein and Justice
Thomas Pynchon - Gravity's Rainbow
Ishmael Reed - The Free-Lance Pallbearers
Max Weber - The Protestant Ethic and the 'Spirit' of Capitalism

Every book I touch makes me wish I could read ten more.

15 Nov '04 09:27:23 AM

That would be, of course, on my iPod. At home, a bit of this and that (Pan Sonic's Kesto, strangely - or not so strangely, I guess - drawing me five or six years toward my past; Charlie Parker doing the same even if I never properly heard his officially approved good stuff before; Mingus from the seventies), but to be honest, I seem to be bent on wearing out my Junior Boys record, even to the point of consciously becoming tired of it and then leaving it repeating anyway, just to see what happens. The other day I dropped back to sleep after waking up, having put the stereo on; by the time I woke up again in the early evening, every song had this amazing texture to it, and at every point it seemed I was hearing something I had never heard before.

15 Nov '04 09:15:05 AM

Songs I've been listening to often in the past few weeks:

Aaliyah - Try Again
AC/DC - Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
David Banner - Cadillac on 22s
David Bowie - Sound and Vision
De La Soul - Shopping Bags (She Got From You)
Dexy's Midnight Runners - I Love You (Listen To This)
Fabolous - Breathe
Sascha Funke - Strassentanz
JT Money feat. Sole - Who Dat
Junior Boys - Under the Sun
Justus Köhncke feat. Meloboy - Frei / Hot Love
R. Kelly - Step in the Name of Love (Remix)
Ludacris feat. Pharrell - Southern Hospitality
Mouse on Mars - Send Me Shivers
Charlie Parker - Koko
The Postal Service - The District Sleeps Alone Tonight
Superpitcher - Happiness
Trick Daddy feat Trey Songz - Ain't a Thug
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Maps
Young Gunz - Friday Night

(Some more often than others.)

15 Nov '04 08:55:52 AM

I had thought I could get through my current (long-suffering, many times changed) Wittgenstein paper, er, uh, Wittgenstein and Cavell (mostly Cavell) paper, without absolutely having to read all of The Claim of Reason. But the further I get in it, the more I doubt that. Tonight I was surprised by how, as he moves from Part One to Part Two, it becomes apparent that the sympathies he has earlier and elsewhere expressed with Freud, mainly, it seems, out of respect for the basic idea of depth psychology (that some of the things we do, we might do for reasons we don't know about, and moreover, reasons that might be covered over, that we might hide from ourselves because of what they reveal) and Freud's basic insight about how to solve depth-psychological problems ('the talking cure') - these sympathies aren't just incidental similarities between psychoanalysis and Cavell's Wittgenstein, but signs of the more pervasive affinity of Cavell's whole line of thought for the basic scheme of depth-psychological work.

This is probably not very intelligible to others, but I felt like I had to note something down for myself. I'm not sure I've put it clearly enough to help myself any, either.

Seeing how much more pervasive this element of Cavell's thought is worries me a little; one might say that it makes The Claim of Reason, in the overall style of its argument, that much more like literary criticism, say, than what many of Cavell's professional colleagues would count as philosophy. Which is to say, it makes it harder to prosecute Cavell's case for him, to take after him (i.e. to steal his ideas). At least, as far as speaking to one's audience is concerned.

15 Nov '04 08:20:41 AM

I'm not so much concerned with foundations per se at the moment as I am with foundations for myself, or as it might be better to put it: a base camp from which to strike out periodically in the future while looking for place to set down some foundations (not to last forever, but to live in). But even that's modest enough for me to attain, it seems.

Or at least, has seemed, for the past couple of weeks.

12 Nov '04 09:00:00 AM

Also: one of the employees at Booksmart, talking to one of the other employees (were the ten employees really necessary?), pronounced 'Wittgenstein' in the naive but perfectly understandable American way, with a 'wuh' sound. This I have grown to accept without disdain; feeling at all better because I knew the 'right' way to say it was really only inescapable when I was, say, 20. And yet: book nerd girl did pronounce it correctly, which I was happy to treat, in my elaborate internal accounting scheme, as a sign of her fated perfect suitability to be mine.

Oh, that's just exaggeration. I know full well that the way I took it was with a momentary flash of that strangely chaste lust that goes along with glasses, awkward haircuts, headphones, and the over-idealized hopes of living out our advanced years in some sort of union of the minds, with dirty nasty fucking conveniently left implicit so as not to ruin the ideality of it all.

There is no internal accounting scheme. Just the passing lusts, dreams.

12 Nov '04 08:49:04 AM

As if the offputting lack of definition regarding newness were not enough, Magers & Quinn puts on the fronts of their books price tags of the sort normally put on the backs of books. Has the whole world gone crazy? Am I the only one who pays attention to the rules anymore?

12 Nov '04 08:44:27 AM

It seems I've been weeks at doing nothing but grading papers; walking to and from various buses and places to be in between the buses; not seeing my friends; making furtive glances at unapproachable baristas between papers. This afternoon, finally, there was what felt like a real gap, so for lack of anything better to do, or the ability to be satisfied with not 'doing' anything, I made my way to uptown and methodically down the row of bookstores on Hennepin. Every bookstore is dissatisfying and disappointing in its own ways. Booksmart has satisfying fiction and poetry sections (well, at least for now - I use up bookstores so that they need time to change and grow before I am able to find interest in them again), but it has a lonely, mercenary quality. Even when full of customers. Also: overpriced. Magers & Quinn is too ambiguous. Even though I find plenty of what I conceive of as 'new books' there (a distinction that has more to do with the contents of the books than their history of use, even if it includes any book written as long ago as I feel like), everything always feels old. The stock changes slowly (though, to be fair: the four copies of Derrida's Glas that were there a few months ago finally moved, somewhere). The Borders in Calhoun Square loses, today, for having no fucking Ishmael Reed in stock, at all. Zzzt. Being that bookstores serve an important function in my ongoing efforts to enjoy the soporific benefits of consumer culture, it is all the more important that they be able to meet my most capricious and fleeting desires and demands. This is not to say that they did not, sort of, tonight. In Booksmart I found a copy of the 1976 Mindful Pleasures: Essays on Thonmas Pynchon, and a slightly too long chat about Pynchon with the cashier, the latter of which was not especially pleasing on a phatic level but which gave me the third reminder this week that I am far more invested in, and conversant with, Gravity's Rainbow than I usually give myself credit for being (which is not to say I don't). In Magers & Quinn I found the Cambridge edition of Nietzsche's Untimely Meditations, Hannah Pitkin's Wittgenstein and Justice (which Stanley Cavell notes, in the preface to The Claim of Reason, 'contains a substantial idea' of that book - Pitkin having enjoyed first publication since she was drawing on Cavell's unpublished dissertation as one of his students), and also: a book nerd girl with an endearing smile that made me feel more confident and cheery than usual, at least for a few minutes after I left the store and stood waiting to cross the street. (Lately I've been thinking a lot about a point Felicity once made to me. She had been idly staring at someone or other during her bar review classes. But she declined to do anything about her mostly insignificant interest in this person (mostly totally down to what she could see, of course) because, as she said, he was serving his purpose perfectly well. Hello, coffeeshop counter girls around the world.) One more thing, too, perhaps even more valuable a find ('find') than the friendly smile: a momentary modicum of financial responsibility - I had two more books (a paperback of Beckett's unpublished first - and I mean first - novel Dream of Fair to Middling Women, and an extra copy of V. that I didn't really need even if mine is old-stiff and vaguely waterlogged, as it was whenever I acquired it) and I put them back. Which is just as well, because in the Borders I picked up Annie Hall and Miller's Crossing. And not the aforementioned fucking Ishmael Reed.

I told myself, a couple of hours ago, self, you're never going to get any of your feelings or thoughts back out here on the screen if you don't let yourself start thinking of this more like a diary again. Fine, diary.

12 Nov '04 06:36:30 AM

'... as a sample goes on an old Public Enemy record you probably never heard'