Sunday, August 24, 2008

Less and Less Human, O Savage Spirit

It is the human that is the alien,
The human that has no cousin in the moon.

It is the human that demands his speech
From beasts or from the the incommunicable mass.

If there must be a god in the house, let him be one
That will not hear us when we speak: a coolness

A vermillioned nothingness, any stick of the mass
Of which we are too distantly a part.

"Less and Less Human, O Savage Spirit," Wallace Stevens


A child has no choice but to accept the immediate experiences of his life at face value. He isn't moving on, he simply is. Children agonize over an overdue library book or an accidentally broken gas meter with all the emotion that an adult experiences at the threat of prison.

Stop-Time, Frank Conroy

Thursday, August 21, 2008


Children are in the curious position of having to do what people tell them, whether they want to or not. A child knows that he must do what he's told. It matters little whether a command is just or unjust since the child has no confidence in his ability to distinguish the difference. Justice for children is not the same as justice for adults. In effect all commands are morally neutral to a child. Yet because almost every child is consistently bullied by older people he quickly learns that if some higher frame of reference all command are equally just, they are not equally easy to carry out. Some fill him with joy, others, so obviously unfair that he must paralyze himself to keep from recognizing their quality, strike him instantly deaf, blind, and dumb. Faced with an order they sense is unfair children simply stall. They wait for more information, for some elaboration that will take away the seeming unfairness.

Stop-Time, Frank Conroy

New Consensus for Old

What we got instead was a fatal double irony: academic radicalism became functionally indistinguishable from free market theory at exactly the historical moment when capitalist managers decided it was time to start referring to themselves as "radicals," to understand consumption itself as democracy.

New Consensus for Old: Cultural Studies from Left to Right, Thomas Frank

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Two from The Emperor

It is because man is by nature a bad creature who takes damning pleasure out of giving in to temptations, especially the temptations of disobedience, possessiveness, and licentiousness. Two lusts breed in the soul of man: the lust for aggression, and the lust for telling lies. If one will not allow himself to wrong others, he will wrong himself. If he doesn't come across anyone to lie to, he will lie to himself in his own thoughts. Sweet to man is the bread of untruths, says the Book of Proverbs, and then with sand his mouth is filled up.


Mediocrity is dangerous: when it feels itself threatened, it becomes ruthless.

The Emperor, Ryszard Kapuscinski

Wired with Brian Eno

Q: If I could give you a black box that could do anything, what would you have it do?

A: I would love to have a box onto which I could offload choice making. A thing that makes choices about its outputs, and says to itself: this is a good output, reinforce that, or replay it, or feed it back in. I would love for this machine to stand for me. I could program this box to be my particular taste and interest in things.

Q: Why would you want to do that? You have you.

A: Yes, I have me. But I want to be able to sell systems for making my music as well as selling pieces of music. In the future, you won't buy artists' works; you'll buy software that makes original pieces of 'their' works, or that recreates their way of looking at things. You could buy a Shostakovich box, or you could buy a Brahms box. You might want some Shostakovich slow-movement-like music to be generated. So then you would use that box. Or you could buy a Brian Eno box. So then I would need to put in this box a device that represents my taste for choosing pieces.

Q: I guess the only thing weirder that hearing your own music broadcast on the radios of strangers is hearing music you might have written being broadcast!

A: Yes, music that I might have written but didn't.

Wired Interview of Brian Eno, by Kevin Kelly
May 1995

Saturday, August 9, 2008

After Photography

Undoubtedly some would welcome filmmaker Wim Wender's vision of the future as deliverance: "The digitized picture has broken the relationship between picture and reality once and for all. We are entering an era when no one will be able to say whether a picture is true or false. They are all becoming beautiful and extraordinary, and with each passing day they belong increasingly to the world of advertising. Their beauty, like their truth, is slipping away from us. Soon, they will really end up making us blind."

After Photography, Fred Ritchin

The Emperor

And how could we save ourselves from suspicion? There is no deliverance from suspicion! Every way of behaving, every action, only deepens the suspicions and sinks us the more. If we begin to justify ourselves, alas! Immediately we hear the questions, "Why, son, are you rushing to justify yourself? There must be something on your conscience, something you would rather hide, that makes you want to justify yourself." Or if we decide to show an active attitude and goodwill, again we hear the comments, "Why is he showing off so much? He must want to hide his villainy, his shameful deeds. He's out to lie in ambush." Again it's bad, maybe worse. And, as I said, we were all under suspicion, all slandered, even though His Most Gracious Majesty said nothing directly or openly, not a word -- but the accusation showed so in his eyes and his way of looking at his subjects that everyone crouched, fell to the ground, and thought in fear, "I am accused." The air became heavy, thick, the pressure low, discouraging, disabling, as if one's wings had been clipped, as if something had broken inside.

The Emperor, Ryszard Kapuscinski