Although Avatar will be rememberd for its technical breakthroughs, it would have been nice if the writers had not borrowed so heavily from other sourc...moreAlthough Avatar will be rememberd for its technical breakthroughs, it would have been nice if the writers had not borrowed so heavily from other sources, particularly Princess Mononoke and and La Jetee (by Chris Marker). If you are wondering why I am writing about this here, it has been proven that book reviews on this site need say nothing subastantive about the book "under discussion."
Some viewers of No Country for Old Men will remember it as a film they didn't want to yield to, but couldn't resist; a similar current of emotions kep...moreSome viewers of No Country for Old Men will remember it as a film they didn't want to yield to, but couldn't resist; a similar current of emotions kept me clawing through the pages of Pluto, Animal Lover. More wry satire than sober psychological portrait, the more you want to rise above it, the more deeply it pulls you under. You find yourself feeling guilty for laughing at Pluto's perversities. I have long admired this debut by a hilariouly wicked talent pecking her way into the literary preening order, and have long wondered what kind of mind could have hatched it. The book's greatest perversity is that Pluto's evil plots are so well intended, fueled as they are by a species of idealism as strategic as it is naïve, a breed of cold-blooded compassion fearfully symmetrical with that of characters such as Julian Assange and his ilk. But there's more at work here than that: what really creeps one out are the moments of self-recogniton one feels with Pluto and with the bemused-goddess psyche of his creator. This leads to flashes of self-recognition like one in the Yeats poem "The Grey Rock," just after the spirit Aoife (cool name), trembling with passion in the banquet hall of the gods, overflows with grief and rage that her lover, a mortal, has forsaken her divine protection and has thus been slain upon the battlefield.
She cast herself upon the ground And rent her clothes and made her moan: 'Why are they faithless when their might Is from the holy shades that rove The grey rock and the windy light? Why should the faithfullest heart most love The bitter sweetness of false faces? Why must the lasting love what passes, Why are the gods by men betrayed?'
But thereon every god stood up With a slow smile and without sound, And stretching forth his arm and cup To where she moaned upon the ground, Suddenly drenched her to the skin; And she with Goban's wine adrip, No more remembering what had been. Stared at the gods with laughing lip.
If Pluto has a moral, it's in the direction of lectio divina, of a reading that opens to a sense of divine detachment. As Yeats wrote of this poem, "The moral's yours because it's mine." That sense of bemused detachment was, for the poet, one of our deepest responsibilities.
The Archdruid being a snide appelation a mega-developer gave David Brower, founder of the Sierra Club. For decades he was a one-man environmental move...moreThe Archdruid being a snide appelation a mega-developer gave David Brower, founder of the Sierra Club. For decades he was a one-man environmental movement. McPhee, a longtime contributor to the New Yorker, takes the reader into the vortices of three of Brower's major battles.(less)
In the Spring of every year, Krishnamurti would come speak under a large oak in a quiet grove near Ojai, California. We would take a blanket, spread i...moreIn the Spring of every year, Krishnamurti would come speak under a large oak in a quiet grove near Ojai, California. We would take a blanket, spread it out on the grass, and listen. This book will give readers an idea of his thinking, but it was his silence that really penetrated and made us intrigued to know what he was saying.(less)
"I have never once in my life seen a fanatic with a sense of humor, nor have I ever seen a person with a sense of humor become a fanatic,...morepages 88-99:
"I have never once in my life seen a fanatic with a sense of humor, nor have I ever seen a person with a sense of humor become a fanatic, unless he or she has lost that sense of humor. Fanatics are often sarcastic. Some of them have a very pointed sense of sarcasm, but no humor. Humor contains the ability to laugh at ourselves. Humor is relativism, humor is the ability to see yourself as others may see you, humor is the capacity to realize that no matter how righteous you are and how terribly wronged you have been, there is a certain side to life that is always a bit funny. The more right you are, the funnier you become."
While American feminists were attempting to nail down equal pay and maternity leave, French feminists were advancing theory into the realms of psychoa...moreWhile American feminists were attempting to nail down equal pay and maternity leave, French feminists were advancing theory into the realms of psychoanalysis, linguistics, and the politics of language. For Julia Kristeva, all of signification can be located on a continuum, with the semiotic occupying one pole and the symbolic the other.
The semiotic is closely associated with the infant's babbling state, with our pre-Oedipal union with the maternal body, with our bodily drives, urges, rhythms, tones, and movements as these interact or merge with those of the maternal form and her movements, rhythms, tones, urges and drives.
At the other end of the spectrum of signification looms the symbolic, associated with grammar and, more fundamentally, with denotation. The symbolic makes all reference, denotative meaning, possible. It thus facilitates fixed meanings, reification, even totalitarianism.
If we are opposed to totalitarianism, we may find ourselves on the far semiotic pole of the spectrum, thrusting our hips while chanting "O baby, O baby." At the other end of the spectum we may find non-emotive legislation allowing the extermination of, say, Jews or polar bears or instituting a ten-year prison sentence for spitting on the street. [If there are no small crimes there will be no big crimes wrote Lord Shang (商君书), one of China's first totalitarians.]
All signification involves some degree of both the semiotic and the symbolic. Without the symbolic, all signification would not proceed beyond the babblings of an infant or a psychotic. Without the semiotic, all signification might be mathematically exact but humanly empty.
The realm of signification we enter upon opening Laren Stover's Bohemian Manifesto is an artistic one, a world of painters, sculptors, magicians and musicians at play in an embrace breaking down the fixed significations of culture and of artistic cliché, an embrace where formlessness and form eternally find themselves fornicating with one another, a reversion back to our absolute union with the voluptuous, nude, nuturing, fecund and warm mass of the maternal form, babbling our hours-long songs of ourselves, babbling in the sense that long, bop apocalyptic sax flights and starving, hysterical, naked howls and heavenly connections of mantras dissolving into light-body forms of the Goddess are babblings.
So, Stover, though writing about Bohemian style, is not writing about imitation, but about living out that cool, white-hot moment of soul jizz.
Reading Stover brings to mind another volume about artists: The Captive Mind, by Czeslaw Milosz, his brilliant exposé of the Balkanized psyches of state-sponsored poets and novelists. Like Stover's gang of artists, his, when carefree college youth in Vilnius, were Hell bent on defying artistic clichés. However, then came the Russians, the Germans, and then the Russians again, and those of his peers who survived the war often found themselves in the role of artist sponsored by a bureau of the totalitarian state. Suddenly, their souls and art were defined by the oppressive weight of political conformity they must constantly press up against in order to feel free, all the while maintaing a careful balancing act between artistic urges and the propaganda needs of the state. Many of them resorted to suicide.
It would be unimaginable to think of any of Stover's bohemians pulling the plug. They are having too much fun. One might disappear behind a door in a stage set of A Midsummer Night's Dream only to pop up behind a magician's cloak on another stage. Reading the two books together offers the reader insight into Kristeva's understanding of the politics of language and of how the psychology and role of the artist changes in relation to the weight of oppression. One begins to wonder if Stover's American artists, some of whom define themelves by drinking absinthe, are not also held captive, shackled by a sense of freedom their Balkan predecessors, the very ones who did themselves in after having defined themselves by having survived Auschwitz, might find too liberating.
Some God-intoxicated souls become so zoned they cannot function in the world. Actually, the subject of this volume, Meher Baba, experienced a similar...more
Some God-intoxicated souls become so zoned they cannot function in the world. Actually, the subject of this volume, Meher Baba, experienced a similar state in his life for a few months after an elderly Muslim saint, who was living beneath a neem tree at the side of the road, kissed him on the forehead.
This is the story of Meher Baba's work with some 20,000 of such souls, who are called masts in Persian.
Self-revealing and fascinating to read alongside Erik Erikson's at-a-distance psychoanalysis of the saint, Gandhi's Truth (1960). The autobiography is...moreSelf-revealing and fascinating to read alongside Erik Erikson's at-a-distance psychoanalysis of the saint, Gandhi's Truth (1960). The autobiography is full of surprises: At one point in his youth, Gandhi became convinced that India was behind the times because of vegetarianism, so he vowed to convert all of his homeland to carnivorious wisdom. Perhaps the only vow he did not keep.
Would that his teachings on non-violent resistance (satyagraha) were more widely applied. Detractors argue, however, that this strategy could really work only in India, where it appeals to such deeply ingrained cultural foundations as Patanjali's ahimsa (non-violence), itself a Hindu appropriation of a Jainist principle.
If, for a just cause, one goes on a hunger strike in India, one is appealing to a long tradition of fasting associated with saintlyness and right action. In some other cultures, where those associations do not exist, nobody would much notice or care.(less)
Plateaus is required reading for Assange fans and enemies, as well as those who don't give a fig but carry a Master or Visa card or just have a partic...morePlateaus is required reading for Assange fans and enemies, as well as those who don't give a fig but carry a Master or Visa card or just have a particular bent for Continental theory.
According to Deleuze and Guattari Western thought is dominated by a structure of knowledge they call aboresence. This way of knowing is tree-like, vertical, and centralized. For instance, in biology, we have Linnean taxonomies. In chemistry, we have Porphyrian trees. In linguistics we have Chomskyan sentence trees.
Did they say Western? In China we have centralized, hierarchical government and Internet censorship.
Such trees show up worldwide, not only in the fields of biology, botany, linguistics, and anatomy, but also in philosophy, where we find metaphysical trees, theological treess, gnostic trees, The World Tree . . .
Such trees are hierarchical, imposing limited and regulated connections between their components. All such trees spread out like many branches, stemming from a single trunk--each radiating out from an original oneness or unity.
And don't forget Plato, who stands as the central trunk in Western thought--or his Ideal Forms: Doberman pinschers, German shepherds, collies, and poodles are all material manifestations of an immaterial Essence--an Ideal Form of what Plato might call Dogginess. Dogginess is the single Platonic Origin--the Trunk--of the tree of dogs.
Opposed to the vertical, tree-like structure of knowledge, Deleuze and Guattari proclaim a rhizomatic, radically horizontal, crabgrass-like way of knowing. Crabgrass, for instance, is a plant. But instead of having one central root, a rhizome (such as crabgrass or the Internet) has zillions of roots, none of which is central--and each offshoot interconnects in random, unregulated networks in which any node can interconnect with any other node. Whereas the tree seeks to establish itself and say "I am," the rhizome is always rearranging interconnections, providing lines of flight, ranging nomadically saying "and, and, and. . ."
Thus the tree is concerned with origins, foundations, ontologies, beginnings and endings--with roots. The rhizome is concerned with surface connections, lines of flight, with the "and."
For D & G, Kafka's work is rhizomatic. One might expect a novel named The Trial to have something to do with the law. But Deleuze and G. find that Justice in the novel is not legal but erotic, for the process of justice is really a process of desiring. Thus, Kafka's protagonist, K., encounters obscene drawings in the courthouse; an attorney equates being accused with being attractive; a series of suggestive encounters with sex, antifamilial women; and a painting of Justice as winged, and evasive. K., lost in the and, and, and, of the judicial process, ever desiring Justice, never reaches Justice. "She" is never psesent, but always one room away from him in the rhizomatic, rat tunnel of the courthouse with its crazy corridors and perversely connected passageways through which K. is led by eroticized women. Thus, Justice, like the courthouse and desire, is rhizomatic, never reaching conclusion. We will see how this plays out in the Assange case.
The Internet, like a rhizome, is non-hierarchical, horizontal. Its nodes intersect in random, unregulated networks in which any node can interconnect with any other node.
D & G's notions of rhizome and nomadics inform much of the thought of the loose confederation of info-activists of which Assange is but one nomadic node -- to mix metaphors.
Plateaus lays out the underlying grammar of our postmodern info-wars, which, as the example below shows, are all about power. If info-activists have a Bible, Deleuzean theory may be it, which many of these activists have swallowed hook-line and sinker as prescriptive rather than as descriptive of postmodern realities.
Notice, in the example quoted below, the heterotopian vision coming from an avowed member of a loose confederation of thinkers who claim to have disavowed metanarratives.
One must not forget, however, that although rhizomes are a trend, trees are not obsolete. The human nervous system is one such tree. If it operated like a rhizome, it would be operating without a brain.
Deleuze committed suicide by jumping from atop a tall, vertical structure--a building. We will someday see if Assange has been flirting with a legal system that is rhizomatic or vertical. So far he is folling in K's footsteps--to a t.
A central theme of Deleuzean anti-centrists is the deconstruction of the Oedipal myth, which involves exploding the central image of the father into many, and thus distributing anti-authoritarian ire towards an array of other targets. For instance, in Kafka's "Letter to His Father," he inflates his father to laughably absurd, dreamlike dimensions, until his father's singular Fatherness ballons so huge that it pops--exploding into a vast rhizomatic network of father-like social connections represented by judges, commissioners, bureaucrats.
The following is an example of the info-topian mind-set, of strictly orthodox rhizomism, in which the author hearalds a major victory in the ifo-wars:
"Patrick Lichty on December 11, 2010 2:39 pm Digital Anarchy and Wikileaks. Or, Skynet doesn’t look anything like we thought it did.
"This is the first time I’ve posted in a while, but I think we’re in significant times. Assange and the whole Wikileaks phenomenon is so important that it needs a little theory.
"To recap for those who have been unaware of the news, Wikileaks is an online Wikipedia-like database that “whistle-blows” against governmental/corporate wrongdoing by releasing controlled/classified documents. As of December 2010 they have been releasing huge numbers of cables relating to US foreign policy, which has the First World, especially the US State Department in a panic. Why? Because the leaks show the US in any number of gaffes, like calling Russia a “mafia state”, disclosing precarious mentions of Middle Eastern leaders. In addition, other undisclosed information, such as revealing transfers of weapons technology from North Korea to Iran, US drug companies targeting African politicians, and so on. This disclosure has sent the First World into diplomatic chaos, with geopolitical politics reconfiguring itself like a planet-sized Rubik’s Cube.
"First World power has been bitten by its own child, or its own emergent system as typified in popular science fiction franchises, like the Matrix and Terminator. Infopower has begun to become autonomous of its material (atomic) roots. Instead of the robots, it is merely the infosphere that is asserting itself. In The Porcelain Workshop, Antonio Negri asserts that one of the three major shifts into the postmodern is the primacy of informatics/cognitive capital as central to the new order. As such, it is focusing of society on this flow of capital which has relocated the foundations of power in the new millennium.
"The Internet was conceived by the US military (DARPA) as a decentralized network for the sharing and redundant storage of information in multiple locations in case of nuclear attack. In such a case, one node can be destroyed, and the network can still function despite their loss. It is for this reason that I believe that material/conventional power should be termed as “atomic”, as nuclear weapons are the ultimate extension of the nation-state, and as metaphor for material society, we can also double that this power situates in the world of atoms. However, this extension of conventional/”atomic” power has grown into a concurrent, distributed, heterogenous field of power that I will call the Infostate, that includes the Web, E-mail, and all functions of networked communications. Although the functionaries of conventional power have restructured themselves in terms of the informational milieu, the latter is not necessarily congruent with the former. The Internet spans most physical states, yet resides in no single one.
"Despite this, there are zones which the nation state has tried to territorialize and limit the flow of cognitive capital, such as Turkey and China, but the firewalls remain porous and slippery. This deterritiorialization of the Infostate creates an asymmetrical power relation which, due to its amorphous nature, is problematic for the conventional nation-state to engage. Conventional power requires a face upon which to focus fear and hatred upon, such as Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden. Infopower is mercuric and morphogenic, and when confronted by the centralized, hierarchical nature of conventional power, it merely splits, morphs or replicates, sidestepping the metaphorical “army & general”. This relationship signals the new balance of power between the nation-state and the Infostate as Krokerian Panic dialectic, in which the ability of the one to relate in terms of the other implodes.
"With the bleeding of information from the material to the infomatic rhizome through Wikileaks (i.e. the US diplomatic cable leaks), the Infostate has created an asymmetrical insurgency against conventional power. Negri’s conception of cognitive capital as locus of power asymmetrically challenges that of material capital. This is analogous to previous mention of events as told in the movie, The Matrix, and the artificial (informatic) being overriding/supercedes embodied conventional power. As Deleuze, then Agamben assert that power is the separation of the subject from potentiality, and as such mitigates dissent, the nation-state is trying to exert power by separating the means of support and the figurehead from Wikileaks, but distributed, asymmetrical cyberwarfare by the net.community has already disrupted banks, credit, and networked sites. It has even awakened the amorphous hacker subculture of “Anonymous” which was last known for its mass protests against the Church of Scientology to rise against the opponents of Wikileaks. The Net, as child of the military (conventional power) has begun to turn on its masters, with expected reflexive responses.
"This knee-jerk reaction of the nation-state to asymmetrical power versus conventional power became evident in the case of 2001, where decentralized “cellular” physical social networks circumvented centralized power. Although the previous statement says decentralized physical power, this is merely an intermediary step to the development of asymmetrical distributed infopower. The centralized, hierarchical nature of the material corporate nation-state has been unable to contain the decentralized flow of cellular power, which has become infopower, created by the emergency of distributed networks. This is seen as we look again at Matrix Reloaded, where in, as in The Matrix Trilogy, the informatic body/state (Agent Smith) reacts to the intervention of conventional human power (Neo, or “The One”) by asymmetry in massively replicating Wikileaks sites (“The Many”). Conventional power now has a cloud of moving, replicating targets rather than one to aim at.
"The First World then reacts to being challenged by expediting material/physical diplomacy that would take months, days, or weeks by arresting Assange and possibly for extraditing him to the United States, his locus of challenge. But although the “head”, (the object of leverage of conventional power) is in custody, the “body” of Wikileaks and the rest of its “computational cloud of dissent” stated on December 7th (incidentally, the day of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor), that it will continue to release information through the WikiLeaks network. Like the anthropomorphization of centralizing identity/placing a single “face” on challenges to hegemony (as in the Queens of the movies Aliens and The Borg in Star Trek), the true face of asymmetry is that of facelessness and morphogenic dissent. It is like trying to hold mercury, because as the Critical Art Ensemble states, decentralized dissent can only be addressed through decentralized means, and this is not the structure of conventional power.
"In Electronic Civil Disobedience, The Critical Art Ensemble also states that in the age of informatic power, physical resistance is severely limited in its potential for effect, if not useless, as the physical protester is corralled or elided entirely by authority. The real interventionists, CAE states, are the 20-something year-old hackers who punch through the firewalls and reroute flows of information, creating irruptions of redirection, disruption, and detournement of infocapital at will. The case of Ricardo Dominguez and the Electronic Disturbance Theatre’s virtual sit-in against the University of California was a relatively benign case of the disruption of data as political act. But the intervention in infocapital is explicated on a larger scale by Chinese governbmental hackers’ compromise of Google (as revealed by Wikileaks), as well as the infiltration of an Iranian reactor by hakers. All of these illustrate Negri’s idea that postmodern power/capital has shifted to that of the informatics and cognitive fields, and signal a primary shift of the balance power in the First World, if not globally.
"In light of this redistribution of power, what would the solution for converntional/”atomic” power’s reassertion of hegemony? This would be to contain the rise of informatic power by containing its means of distribution. This would be by the means of national firewalling, and trunk-line disconnection or limited Internet disabling, disrupting infopower, but also crippling the flow of digitized material capital as well. This is problematic at best, as conventional power and informatic power are in symbiotic, the latter being more nimble and a step ahead of the former, and to attack a symbiote always means to cripple its partner as well. The logical result of such actions would be the elimination of net neutrality (the free and open flow of data across the Internet) or even the severance of typologies and flows of information across the networks. The symbiotic effect is that conventional power/capital is also hobbled, as the physical is dependent on the same flows of information across the distributed nets, disabling itself in the process. It is for this reason that it cannot engage in this means of retaliation, as it would be the digital suicide of the First World nation-state.
"This is the brilliance of Wikileaks – its use of infrastructure upon which conventional power relies as site of anarchic resistance proves the potentiality of infomatic power rendering conventional power impotent. In this case, bits trump atoms in the milieu of the Net. As nuclear detente created an “aesthetics of uselessness” in the ridiculously high numbers of times the world’s nuclear stockpiles could destroy the Earth, this potential reduction of the “atomic/atomic” to aesthetic nullity arises as the Infostate merely shuts down the control systems of the bunker. I nation of nuclear gophers, lifeless in their burrows.
"Power is reconfiguring in light of informational vs. conventional power, and this is why the rise of Wikileaks is significant, and why the geopolitical panic-site it creates is a singular event. It suggests that decentralized power renders hierarchical conventional power impotent, signaling the beginning of the 21st Century paradigm. In The Coming Insurrection, the French anarchist group, The Invisible Committee, posits a Communo-Anarchic insurgency to overthrow the conventional nation-state. What would replace it is the creation of a cybernetic proto-industrial model of networked communes with high tech microproduction that would be established during and after a mass armed insurrection. There is another view on this. The insurrection, as CAE states, will not be with guns, but with bytes. This is in line with Negri’s assertion that capital in the postmodern has shifted to information/cognitive capital, and that conventional power merely marginalizes material (atomic) dissent. The real theatre of engagement is the infosphere, and Wikileaks has realized info-insurgency as real power first world/digital society has become informatic. Anarchy in its most powerful form is now in the disruption and release of data withheld by the nation-state."
(end of long quote)
So, does the future go to the oaks or the crabgrass? You can find the answer just by gazing up at the clouds. The lizard part of your brain will instantly begin searching for--and finding--familiar forms within those billowing canvasses. It's the same centric anxiety reflex that causes humans to look for leaders: lizards do push ups for the same reason guys do, to show they are the alpha iguana. Iguana babes may rally around such ass-kicking males, who in turn may be no match for a virus. Centrism and rhizome-ism are both embedded in nature. It's their interplay that helps drive evolution--and thickens the plot.
Pico's ever-mirthful mom was my first Sanskrit teacher, from whom he inherited his bemused eyes and a certain lilt of the voice. So, I was destined, p...morePico's ever-mirthful mom was my first Sanskrit teacher, from whom he inherited his bemused eyes and a certain lilt of the voice. So, I was destined, perhaps, to read all his works. However, the primary reason I read this book is because, like Pico, I too became serious about a Japanese woman.
Yet, like Pico, I had, in the course of my studies of Japanese classics, become filled with many romanticized and (to contemporary Japanese tastes) quaint images and assumptions concerning Japan. Like Pico, one learns that if one attempts to impress most contemporary Japanese with the degree to which one is steeped in their classics, their eyes will begin to glaze over--although very politely, and they will say something like, "O! You are more Japanese than I am!" They will typically be more interested in Disney characters or American rock.
Pico's characteristic attention to the ironic ways in which Japanese realities explode romanticised images provides valuable lessons not only in cross-cultural (mis)understandings, but more specifically, in cross-cultural relationships. (less)
In the wake of WW II many French intellectuals were enamored of Communism. Milosz, then the cultural attachee of the Polish embassy in Paris, knew bet...moreIn the wake of WW II many French intellectuals were enamored of Communism. Milosz, then the cultural attachee of the Polish embassy in Paris, knew better, having survived the "liberation" of Lithuania by the Russians, under which sixty percent of the intelligentsia disappeared in the direction of Siberian labor camps.
However, Milosz's main fascination is not with those of his colleagues who simply vanished, but with his fellow writers and artists cunning enough to have gained state support. This work depicts the psychology of artists when their work is controlled by a totalitarian regime. If you enjoyed The Unbearable Lightness of Being or the film The Lives of Others, you will probably be taken by this still-important book--a stunning expose of the totalitarian mind. (less)