Month: August 2019


GOING AFTER THEORY MARSHALL BROWN   The only genuine critical theory is that of no-theory, the only applicable abstraction the rejection of abstraction. (McGilchrist 1982: 13-14) Theory’s day is dying; the hour is late; and the only thing left for a theorist to do is to say so. (“Consequences,” Fish 1990: 341) One does one’s work first and theorises about it afterwards. (Conrad 1924: vii)   To go after a thing is to follow it, to seek it out, or to hunt it down. Going after theory typically starts with going against theory, but never ends there. Ultimately going...

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Funny Careers: “A Star Is Born” in 2018

The most successful career must show a waste of strength that might have removed mountains, and the most unsuccessful is not that of the man who is taken unprepared, but of him who has prepared and is never taken. –E. M. Forster, Howards End (1910) [1] Funny business, a woman’s career. –Joseph L. Mankiewicz, All About Eve (1950) [2] A post-Grammys “Music Issue” of The New York Times Magazine (March 10, 2019) offers an ambitious guide to the present, with “The 25 Songs That Matter Right Now.” Wesley Morris’ apologia for Lady Gaga’s “Why Did You Do That?”, from...

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Trump, the Attempted Cure

To say that Trump’s tweets on Epstein’s death are demented is to suggest that he’s suffering from a disease.  He’s not, and to say so is to dignify his cretinous behavior.  This so-called man has been peddling conspiracy theories all his life.     Which is to say he’s been bullshitting, in the technical sense, all his life. As Harry Frankfurt, the expert on the subject, would say, the liar knows the truth and countermands it for a specific purpose, whereas the bullshitter is actually incapable of acknowledging any reality external to his own utterance.      Conspiracy theories thrive on a tragic scheme of motives that, as Kenneth Burke explained, bend toward both the supernatural (vertical) and the utilitarian (horizontal).  The inscrutable Gods up there have convened, and so have the international bankers (the Jews, of course) down here–there’s no way to identify them, nor their purposes, but they are so fundamentally causative that their effects are everywhere.  The conspiracy theorist has faith in the sense that Paul the Apostle, formerly known as Saul of Tarsus, described it: “the conviction of things unseen.”    Trump the bullshitter has entertained a lot of conspiracy theories in the course of his so-called career, most importantly the “birther” business about Obama, which made him the president of the United States, dedicated to undoing everything his African-American predecessor had accomplished.  His political capital, like...

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Something Darker than Farce: the Spanish Left Again Turns Victory to Defeat

“Hegel remarks somewhere that all great, world-historical facts and personages occur, as it were, twice. He has forgotten to add: the first time as tragedy, the second as farce.” Karl Marx, the Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte Late in July, a full three months after the April 28th national elections, the effort to forge a broad government of the left once again failed decisively in Spain. As in 2016, so in 2019, the stage was set for cooperation and victory, but the two progressive parties in a position to form a government could not close the deal. Their failure,...

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I Can Smell Death

I’m a turkey vulture, Cathartes aurain scientific ornithology.  I’m an ugly old bird, just about dead, but that name matters to me.  It’s from the Greek katharsis, which means to purify or cleanse.  To transform, anyway.  I don’t fly a lot these days because when I spread my wings, to 8 feet, it scares the shit out of everybody, including the morons with guns down below.  They think I’m coming for them.  I am, of course, but later, when they’re dead.  One of them tagged me today, almost blew off my left wing. I guess that’s why I walked these blocks up from the park, why I’m pecking at this mess on Donaldson Street.  A dog got run over.   Sure, it’s gross, you think vultures like what they have to for for a living?  Not anymore than you do.  We do it because we have to.  We’re not equipped to hunt animals down. We’re parasites, like you.  We wait on your demise and decomposition–although it’s true, we prefer fresh carrion, and some of us have attacked small mammals. I eat anything that is, in fact, dead.  That’s what vultures do, it’s our brand, you could say, speaking without permission of the species—the comrades, I should say–I’m just thinking out loud.  But remember this, what sets us apart from all other birds is that we can smell death, even while...

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