Monday, November 30, 2009

"…It took
two weeks to lead up to this. The stores are quiet now.
I say lie down in it. I already asked Santa about it.
And then, you see, it became part of our cultural history. We can't ignore it
even though we'd like to, it's so mild and hurtless. And you thought
you had it bad, or good. With as many associations as that
to keep thumbing through, one winks at the legal filigrane that penetrates every
page of the mouldering sheaf down to the last one, like a spike
through a door. Somebody dust these ashes off, open
the curtains, get a little light on the subject: the subject
going off on its own again."

— John Ashbery, Flow Chart, 20

Saturday, November 28, 2009

"…Even though you thought
everything you touched was doomed to fall apart or not start, time has
a few surprises up its sleeve and deserves to be spat on for not having more,
or would, if it didn't. Yet it does."

— John Ashbery, Flow Chart, 15

Friday, November 27, 2009

Quote unquote fantastic

A few choice words on Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox over at Not Coming to a Theater Near You.

Dads going digital

My friend Sam has three poems up at the new web magazine Monsters & Dust (which also features work by Cass McCombs). They have a nice autumnal melancholy thing going on. I particularly like "Store Policy."

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Up to something

Good old Michael Wood on Thomas Pynchon's Inherent Vice in the NYRB (from September 2009; I'm a little behind):

"A new gourmet health-food restaurant opens 'off Melrose.' It is called the Price of Wisdom, and located above a seedy bar called Ruby's Lounge. This allows the owners to put up 'a hand-lettered sign reading, THE PRICE OF WISDOM IS ABOVE RUBY'S, JOB 28:18.' Inherent Vice also has a collision and repair shop called Resurrection of the Body. There is something touching about jokes one has to work so hard for, and Pynchon has a special tenderness for the mode, memorably signified, in Gravity's Rainbow, by the Hobbesian law firm of Salitieri, Poore, Nash, De Brutus and Short.

"These gags and allusions are fleeting instances of cultural thought at work, failures of seriousness that are prodigies of connection … No thought is banal if it is up to something, and the novelist's task, and ours, is to watch the thinking as it happens and before it fades, not detach or prejudge the style or the content." (70-71)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Un Cadavre

"Comparison and analysis need only the cadavers on the table; but interpretation is always producing parts of the body from its pockets, and fixing them in place.”

— T.S. Eliot, "The Function of Criticism" (1923)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

You could see the sea out there, if you could see it

Here's a beautiful trailer, put together by Mark Franks, for Not Coming to a Theater Near You's screening of Los Angeles Plays Itself on November 21st at 92Y Tribeca.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Taking history personally

In anticipation of the 92Y Tribeca screening of Los Angeles Plays Itself on Saturday, here's my interview with director Thom Andersen.

Monday, November 16, 2009

my love for you… your love for yoghurt

Frank O'Hara reading "Having a Coke with You" in 1966. My friend Meghann read the same poem at our other friend Lauren's wedding this weekend. Mazel tov Lauren and Jesse!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Spark Plug Notes

Here's Paul Fry on Wolfgang Iser, from the fourth lecture of his Yale course in literary theory (online in its entirety here; thanks to Mike Johnduff for the link):

"'One text is potentially capable of several different realizations, and no reading can ever exhaust the full potential, for each individual reader will fill in the gaps in his own way.' And this, of course, brings us to the issue of gaps and the role that they play in the act of reading as Iser understands it.

"A gap. It's an interesting term. I don't actually know whether Iser — to be Hirschianmeans what I'm about to say about gaps, but plainly a gap is an abyss, it's a distance between two points. But what's really interesting is that we think of spark plugs, we think of 'gapping' a spark plug. I don't know if you know how a spark plug works, but for the electrical current to fly into operation in a spark plug the two points of contact have to be gapped. They have to be forced apart to a certain degree. Too much: there's no spark. Too little: you short out; there's no spark … And it seems to me that that 'a-ha!' effect of reading, the movement back and forth across the gap between the reader and the text, can be understood in terms of a spark — right? — as though the relationship between the reader and the text were the relationship between the two points of a spark plug." (Track 04, 26:18 - 27:57)

Friday, November 13, 2009

If you say so

"The most incredible thing about miracles is that they happen. A few clouds in heaven do come together into the staring shape of one human eye. A tree does stand up in the landscape of a doubtful journey in the exact and deliberate shape of a note of interrogation. I have seen both these things myself within the last few days. Nelson does die in the instant of victory; and a man named Williams does quite accidentally murder a man named Williamson; it sounds like a sort of infanticide. In short, there is in life an element of elfin coincidence which people reckoning on the prosaic may perpetually miss. As it has been well expressed in the paradox of Poe, wisdom should reckon on the unforeseen."

— G.K. Chesterton, "The Blue Cross" in Favorite Father Brown Stories, 3-4

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Friends and advisers

Roger Fry, from his 1926 essay "Art and Commerce":

“What I constate is the fact that advertisement has, in recent times, taken on a new complexion. It is tinged with a new poetry — a new romance. It is no longer the severely practical affair it once was; it brings about a new relation between the public and the great limited liability companies. There is a note of affectionate zeal for the public in their communications. The big companies pose as friends and advisers of the public, they appear filled with concern for their welfare, they would even educate them and show them the way to higher and better things. The Underground tells the slum dweller of the beauties of nature in the country, it reveals the wonders of animal life at the Zoo, it inspires the historical sense by pictures of old London. The great railway combines tell of the glories of provincial England, and inspire an enthusiasm for the grandeur of modern locomotives. In fact, each of these great concerns tries to build up in the public imagination an image of something almost personal — and as such they begin to claim almost the loyalty and allegiance of the public they exploit.”

— from Art and the Market: Roger Fry on Commerce in Art, ed. Craufurd D. Goodwin, 121

On a related note, the season finale of Mad Men was excellent.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Brody, critic and man

My co-interview (with Leo Goldsmith) of Godard biographer Richard Brody is up now at Not Coming to a Theater Near You.

Friday, November 6, 2009

I liked his earlier stuff

before the epistemological break.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Office Party Crashers

Normally this would go on my Latour blog, but it's too good, and too relevant to my daily experience as a scholar, not to record here:

"A project is called innovative if the number of actors that have to be taken into account is not a given from the outset. If that number is known in advance, in contrast, the project can follow quite orderly, hierarchical phases; it can go from office to office, and every office will add the concerns of the actors for which it is responsible. As you proceed along the corridor, the size or degree of reality grows by regular increments. Research projects, on the other hand, do not have such an elegant order: the crowds that were thought to be behind the project disappear without a word; or, conversely, unexpected allies turn up and demand to be taken into account. It's like a reception where the invited guests have failed to show; in their place, a bunch of unruly louts turn up and ruin everything."

Aramis, or the Love of Technology, trans. Catherine Porter, 72

Tuesday, November 3, 2009