Wednesday, November 13, 2013

You think that's just water but it's not

It's also everything it touches, you know, like a little bit. Which make us that much closer. 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

What is called Thinking?


I finally figured it out guys.
Background: What is called thinking? is a book that's a transcribed lecture by Heidegger that's actually more like a sermon. In it he repeats at least 10 times maybe more the mantra like sentence: "what is most thought provoking in our thought provoking time is the fact that we are still not thinking." I have been WTFed by this sentenced for going on six maybe seven years now. Here is what I think.

First we had the golden rule from maybe 5000BC. Do to others as you would have them do to you. This idea is basically the theoretical basis for law, and eventually the more perfect form of law: rule of law. 

Philosophy as reinvented by Galileo represents the epistemological breakthrough that the telescope (a synecdoche for empericism) is preferable to the Pope. This is the renaissance of a certain Greek moment.

Empericism as formalized in Aristotle's criterion of 'demonstrability' was the distillation of the Philosophy movement. A philosopher is an identity invented in distinction to sophists. The best way of translating the word sophist, as pejoratively used by philosophers, is "wise-guy". The words that come out of the mouth of a sophist is true because the sophist is a wise-guy, an expert in a field. A philosopher's words are not true because the philosopher is an expert, indeed, a philosopher does not presume that everything he or she says is true. Rather, a philosopher is a normal person who happens to love (philo) knowledge (sophia), which is external to the philosopher. A telescope is to a philo-sopher as credential is to a sophist (or a pope).

Galileo's provocation begged the question: if the church and the telescope disagreed, who's right? 

Rene Descartes believed in numbers and measuring. He thought: let's use a couple of imaginary rulers to measure nothing - the cartesian coordinates. If you can measure nothing, you can measure anything and maybe just maybe learn something about God. Indeed, by using imaginary rulers to measure space itself, Newton invented physics and in extension all of the mathematical sciences. Nowadays, we can measure production, trade, and consumption with imaginary rulers (and manipulable them with mathematical operations) in the unit of money, an imaginary commodity. Try explaining that to Descartes and even he would be flummoxed methinks. With Amartya Sen and the Human Development Index, we now (try to) measure "the capacity to think for one's self". 

Isn't that what philosophy, especially in its moral dimensions comes down to, whether existentialism, phenomenology (deconstruction), queer theories, or anything else. But thinking for yourself is really not that simple.

Think for yourself. Decomposed to: think, you, self.

Think: thinking has to do with the brain, it has to do with knowledge, language, and education.

You: the person as object. What are the forces that act on you? How do others identify you? What do others want to do to you? What do others demand of you? How do all those forces affect thinking?

Self: the person as subject. What are the forces that you exert on others. What do you want to do to other people and things? How do you identify yourself in relation to other people and things? How do your desires, knowledge, and identity (circumstance) affect your thinking?

If YOU and SELF are taken as exogenous variables, defined by the current state of affairs and your person, THINKING becomes the only endogenous variable, aka the dependent variable. Thinking is a function of a person as subject and object. Thinking equilibriates the relationship between person as subject and object. 

Thinking==F(Person-as-subject, Person-as-object);

If all thinking by all persons come to equilibrium, then there would be no more need to law or rule of law (as the function of law would be implicit in thinking-at-equilibrium). 

So yes, the most thought provoking thing in our thought provoking time is that we are still not yet thinking.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Andy Warhol and Steve Jobs


If you still don’t know that money is about belief and perception you weren’t properly intrigued/freaked out by the 2008 financial crisis. You can’t answer the question of what is money without talking about m1, m2, m3, the federal reserve, the interest rate, US Treasury and the US’ hegemonic status, and by extension it’s vast nuclear arsenal. The movie The Avengers proposes the Marvelous vision of cultural cache as an alternative if not supplement to an intergalatic WMD cache. The buzzword is soft power. In any case money is what it is and the values of things are calculable at any given time even if variable by a wink here or there.
Warhol and Apple stand like a twin star system hovering brightly in the sky. Of course one of the twins is much bigger than the other, maybe by 300-500 fold. The value of Warhol painting sold to date is estimated to be over $1.5 Billion to date. Some of the piece are probably resold but it doesn’t matter because it is essentially a new thing every time it is resold since a piece of art is just an idea of value anyway. This puts Warhol as the top performer of a certain type of cultural cache. Apple, on the other hand, is valued at over $600 billion. Where do these values come from? And is it fair to compare them?
Sure it would make more sense to compare Apple with say Viacom as both are large corporations with large supply chains but it is more interesting to use Warhol as an example because he is more representative of cultural cache as opposed to media. Anyway, I got distracted. The question is where do these values come from?
For Warhol, it is the belief that the coolness of Warhol and the Warholness of cool will sustain for some time to come. The value of his paintings, which took almost no money to make, multiplied exponentially through cultural affirmation. Museum presence, media hype, reproduction, and inclusion into educational canons turn a $5 piece of paper into a multi million dollar enchanted artifact. What does it do for us? It gives us a pillar of common understanding, a point of shared reference. It promises a kind of certainty for the future as far as the elusiveness of beauty is concerned. It gives us a peace of mind and a sense of stability to the signification of images. It gives credence to the god in which our almighty dollar trusts.
For Apple, value comes from the massive matrix of people, machines, facilities, ideas, legal/political channels, market ownership, and brand power. Its value comes from the fact that we know people with income will shill out for what the designers and factory workers produce and that these designers and factory workers will always be there. It is also a bit more valuable than just because we also believe that the marketers will keep marketing so that our Apple products won’t become uncool anytime soon.
There is a give an take relationship between the value of the dollar and these entities valued through the dollar. Their futures are in fact as fragile and mortal as any of us but at least we can believe, for now, that they will persist in their state of high esteem and trustworthiness. Now step back the see the greatest product of all, the Nebula they call the United States of America, that $15 trillion gargantuan. What’s America selling? Life (security), Liberty (legal right - “freedom”/due process), and the Pursuit of Happiness (???). Well, isn’t it good to know that freedom is worth a lot of money after all? Maybe say $5-10 trillion? Sorry if this doesn’t make that much sense, but what I want to say is that China should get in on the freedom market too. It’s worth a lot.

Who Killed David Foster Wallace


The woman I love tells me that I talk too much. She is right. I have too many stories to tell. Not all my stories are “worth telling” of course. If they were, maybe she wouldn’t be quite as annoyed but what I can do about it? The older I get, the more stories I tell, the better I get at telling, the more I have to tell them. The thought of “keeping it to myself” is ghastly and sickening. I sympathize with her. She has a million of her own stories fermenting inside cooking up a sort of madness that I cannot imagine.
Why did David Foster Wallace write so much? Why did he write such long novels. Should he have been writing novels? Was that the thing he really wanted to do? What is a novel? What are literary Forms anyway? We trace the concept of the Form to Plato, he who sought to grasp the invisible and unchangeable objects in the world. Do Forms exist? Do they exist in an objective way, as in things that are there there but invisible to the senses? Are forms subjective? Are they subjective yet shared? Perhaps Forms are sharable but still entirely imaginary.
A car has a Form. A chair has a Form. But do they? Does a tire feel a kindred connection to another tire? Or are they just two lumps of particles that happen to be similar? Do words have Form? Can ideas have Form? Can a literary object, a representation of thoughts and feelings, be formalized or are we just imagining it because we think such a notion might mean something? Why didn’t David Foster Wallace just talk or write or tell his stories as stories? Why did he craft them into Forms? Was it satisfying? Was it for the publishers? Was it for the readers? Was it to be socially productive? Did he really prefer writing novels to telling stories? Would he have been happier if he had not written “novels”?
 If I knew the answer I wouldn’t be asking the questions. If I were to imagine an answer I might say that it has to do with the public discourse. To tell stories in a vacuum defeats the point of story telling. Doesn’t it? How would you know if your story is interesting or good or new or meaningful or profound or a piece of shit? How do you make it do something in the world? Does it matter? I am willing to accept that anyone can say anything about anything but to participate in a discourse leads to a meaningful movement. Social bonds are formed, friendship, community, strength, polity, world. Yet to participate in a public discourse means to accept its conventions, assumptions, vocabularies, and perhaps Forms. But how can an idea have a Form? Why is it that a novel is one thing but not another? Does it need to feel like a novel to do the thing that a novel does? Is it that people write novels to tell stories in a way that most people would find enjoyable? If everyone just told stories the way their ideas came to them, the world would be inundated in inconsequential bits and pieces that don’t fit together, aren’t comparable, measurable, sequence-able? 
To tell stories to no one seems like a sad idea indeed. The ramblings of a half senile old man are not as engaging well formed tale that has been preserved in history. We see Forms because we choose to, to separate out the rare and good stories from the common. We choose to see Forms because it is to our advantage. It is a part of the negotiation between the storyteller and the listener. The storyteller agrees to shape the story in a way that is familiar to the listener’s imagination and in return the listener offer attention.
I have too many stories to tell and I want the whole world to hear them. But I don’t know what sort of Forms the world has in mind. I mean the whole world, not just the novel reading world, or movie watching world, or poetry reading world. I don’t know what Form to use to satiate my unreasonable desire. A long novel would leave out too much and include too little. But there are 7 billion of us and the Internet provides an almost eternal venue. So I’m just going to tell my stories as if I didn’t care about Forms. Deep down I do care about Forms and long to utilities their ability to bolster my position vis-a-vis the listener. But how about a trade? Let me tell my story and I will listen to one of yours. That way neither of us will have to work so hard to look for the Forms that are appropriate to the other. Let’s just be Formless for now because if I had to work as hard as David Foster Wallace did trying to tell my stories, which are really just stories of one individual sitting in a room bored and desperately wanting to say stuff, I just might kill myself too.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

herstory


I thought it could have been a murder/suicide mystery story with a detective with the first 40 digits of Pi tattooed on his rock hard abs and his side kick who has to suck him off in order to get any advice through his thick skull and after hacking and rummaging through years of diaries and poetry and strangers and clues they finally come to the conclusion that it was suicide after all (even though she sent a mass text saying "he's gonna kill me". But just like the cops had said, she really did put together that 'tiger-thing' with his fangs on her bloody self-slit throat and a dildo strapped onto the real  tiger pelt stuck half way up her vagina with and the words 'goodbye mom, goodbye dad, I love u China' written on her bare chest). Yet the detectives perhaps a bit sentimentally pronounced the whole world guilty, especially the parents, and oriental conservatism, and the boy-friends who betrayed her, especially the one named Johnny Han who thinks of himself as a poet and experimental psychologist--when psychopath would be a better word--especially after knowing what he said to her on the night of the incident.

As fun as that story would be... the more honest story would merely be a coming of age story with a sad but hopeful ending in rehab: in praise of sex education, drug education, and good-parenting methods. It's a cautionary tale for the lack of essential social institutions and pragmatic educational paradigms for much of the developing world.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Postmodernism


It’s stupid to not call Postmodernism what it really is, silly art. It merely betrays one’s ignorant assumptions to avoid calling silly art silly art because of one’s failure to acknowledge that from time to time silly is preferable to serious. For the most part, so long as our happiness is not under duress, silliness is more likely to be preferable to seriousness, I think. And in our nation of abundance and excess, there is really very little need for seriousness. That is not to say that exploited nations are at all on the same boat as us.
But in the end, who cares, there will always be silliness and seriousness in the world at all times. Who does it benefit to label a “milieu” with an aggregated and averaged sensibility? For one, it benefits marketers preying on undecided consumers who would prefer to buy something that pleases the largest number of others than something that pleases him or her self. Undoubtedly, many consumers myself included cannot tell what we want at any given time so turn to an ism just so we have something to go on. For another, academics and journalists need isms to designate topics of discussion. Thematizing comparative studies of works of art by chronology seems to “make sense” as a sign of thoughtful deliberation and organizational acumen. But wouldn’t it really be more practical to talk about something rather than some time? Refer to meaningful discussions with your friends and family - we live in times when all is such and such vs the merits of chicken or steak. Time has no logic.
Finally, postmodernism makes us feel special. Most of the rest of the world isn’t even modern yet and we’re already post-modern, boy do they have a long way to go to catch up. Really all that will do is ghettoize the labor of a million artists to untranslatability and ultimately insignificance. Who all in the world are shouting LISTEN LISTEN LISTEN!? And who are just blabbing away about nothing?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Toward the Empress Card (2 more poems)

    Nature
The giver that gives till there is none to give
She gently reminds us to conserve.
The trees and brooks towering peaks and seas
Are ornaments for beds of ore, pools of grease.
Tumbling and rumbling as if furiously,
He stays solid beneath my home.
Tearing and breaking and always remaking
The undulation of my soul.
Nature is fat, nature is rich, nature is cruel,
The commodities of nature, the conservation of nature,
The ambiguities of nature and the nature
Upon which I sit, which is not nature but
The poetry of Mr. Olmsted. But poetry
Too is of nature inspired and of nature made.
The law of supply and demand
And the law of conservation of matter and energy
Are corrupted by the animal spirit. She laughs,
He mocks and scorns us pointing laughing,
They shake the heaven in ridicule, chastising,
Haranguing, hoping that one day we’d understand
That there never was ill will nor malicious intent.
That is to say, our vengeance is quite pointless.

    Summer
Summer is the time when poets meet.
Teenagers and middle-agers alike elope
To distant deserts and deserted warehouses;
To faraway star systems and sylvan glens-
Where feet speak better than lips do and
Lips work harder than hands can and hands
Mold faster than a brain can move and
Brains play for no reason other than that they do.
Summer cries for winter’s wither that
Only in the spring was noticed. Spring tried
To unyoke the tired past and rekindle the still
Damp heart. Summer is the time for adventures
And wild picnics, larger the better. For when
Autumn’s cool breeze penetrates your skivvies,
It is time to decide with what or whom to nest.

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