the rigorous m

bits and bobs, quotes and catching up

Archive for December, 2009

fantastic elsewhere

Posted by rigorousm on December 30, 2009

two concepts that might have been overused in social theory of 2009: the “always already” and “elsewhere.”


  • “Genderbending at the Madhattered” by Kameron Hurley at Strange Horizons. (here)
  • Abigail Nussbaum on Maureen McHugh’s “Mothers and Other Monsters.” (here)
  • “born on the edge of an adjective” by Christopher Barzak at Fantastic Metropolis. (here)
  • “god in a basement flat” by Rhys Hughes at Fantastic Metropolis. (here)
  • “Cinderella in Autumn” by Hilary Mantel at the (here)
  • James Wagner on the “Metabolic Dark City” at Design Observer. (here)

The essence of Metabolism was that built environments should not be static, but should be capable of undergoing constant change. Rather than thinking in terms of fixed form and function, these architects wanted to build system of parts that could continuously evolve.

  • Kelly Link interview extravaganza: with Stephany Aulenback (here), with Gwenda Bond (here), with Lynne Jamneck (here), with One Story (here), with KCRW (here). On the geometry of Kelly Link (here).

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poetry & life (what it feels like, in Oakland)

Posted by rigorousm on December 25, 2009

When I am with you,
I feel like we are in a subtitled movie
driving down a remote European highway
in a Ferrari,
or maybe
in something small, deadly and German.

The shape of your mouth is not
rounding in synch
with the sounds of your emotions.
“A” is “W,”
or sometimes “Y.”
“U” comes out as
two “K’s” and a silent “B.”
My smile
foreshadows an
an international
assassination plot,
and our kiss is the signal
for hordes of Mongols to
leave the hills
shop haute couture in Paris.

The confusion
is charming,
but still confusing.

What are we saying?

What I am saying?

I know
when I take the gun
from the hands of the dead fashionista,
and shoot you in the left eye,

when I spit on your favorite.
picture of your last stepmother.

when I count backward from ten,
in decimal points.

Do you know what I am saying?

The words are at the bottom of the screen in
dirty, yellow print,
but no one is paying attention.
The audience is too busy trying not to
grab each other’s hands in the popcorn bucket,
fearful of falling in love.

Marie Lecrivain – Subtitled

Listening: Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Beyonce’s “Videophone” feat. Lady Gaga, Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” feat. Beyonce.

Watching: Julie & Julia.

Reading: The LTI Korea ‘New Writing From Korea’ vol. 2, Milan Simecka’s letters from prison.

Doing: Mask making, flower gathering.

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Posted by rigorousm on December 16, 2009

“What I like in anthropology was its inexhaustible facuity of negation, its relentless definition of man, as though he were no better than God, in terms of what he is not. But my ideas on this subject were always horribly confused, for my knowledge of men was scant and the meaning of being beyond me. Oh I’ve tried everything.”

– Samuel Beckett, Molloy, pp. 39.

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voyeuristic living in portland

Posted by rigorousm on December 11, 2009

Picking at the remains of a salad and thinking about nothing in particular, one might become aware of how much private lives (threaten to) enter into the scene of the cafe. A journal fills up with secret desires and hatreds; at the next table, someone furtively sends emails off to an unknown destination. A woman sits by the door, almost blocked by laptop and cellphone. She is listening to some bad news and she slowly, quietly, starts to cry. Still crying, she packs up, wipes off her face (futile effort), gets into her car and drives away.

Twice in the past year, I have been this woman.

Part of the Effect of the Public
Scene Is to Importune the
Passing Viewer

walking past the Ritz a girl may be sitting on the last step crying
as if alone and you notice, even in this cocktail-hour light, the
little rips and shreds of her chapped lips and that she has no
Kleenex and no one stops to offer one and you feel damned if you
do or don’t, not wanting to intrude, as a man is standing maybe
only three feet away, his profile approximating a little shame,
some discomfort, but mostly a sphinx-like composure, or
boredom, perhaps, indicating they are together, together in that
way you’re not completely sure you’ll ever want to know about
again and you’re ashamed, too, with nothing to offer but to gaze
intently at the fascinating street lamp as you walk by.

public or private, at a bar or in a strange apartment, when
suddenly you became conscious of the drama, of the real pleasure
in your tears, the catharsis of the wail and rage, the screams, the
“trashing of the joint,” because that’s what’s next, snipping up
his Liberty of London ties, ripping off her nightgown, pushing
her out naked on the patio for the neighbors’ judgment who are
there, to be sure, either by accident or rubbernecked design,
keeping score or scared for their own property. Or instead you’ve
been the impetus, unfaithful, deceitful, maybe only the hapless
object of some other person’s desire thinking that, for all their
protestations of love, you might as well be a bathroom fixture or
bookend. in either case.

as all scenes peter out in awkward ways. Someone’s left thinking
of the perfect remark, a remark that’ll sink like an ax blade, the
kind that are never on hand when needed, so that you end up
shouting, spluttering Oh yeah?! Oh yeah?! Oh Yeah?! like a moron,
like a damn fool, crying on the last step, in front of strangers,
without a Kleenex.

– “Part of the Effect of the Public Scene Is to Importune the Passing Viewer” by Erin Belieu

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Posted by rigorousm on December 10, 2009

“Recruited to the state-machine of surveillance, physiognomy bears an intimate relationship to the dog’s nose, large or small. “Of all the senses,” write the authors of The Dialectic of Englightenment, “that of smell– which is attracted without objectifying– bears clearest witness to the urge to lose oneself in and become the ‘other.'” If true, this would make smell, not vision, the most effective weapon in the physiognomic arsenal. How misguided the physiognomists were! Looking for the look, when all along it was the nose that could do the job, thanks to a truly Dionysian immersion in the body, albeit the body of the Other. Getting to really know the Insides. So much so, you lose yourself in them. The only knowledge worth knowing.
So, while vision thrives upon reality as a two-layered entity with a surface and a behind, thereby attaching more importance and mystery to the unseen than to the scene, smell qualifies as a “Nietzchean knowing”; depth gone, surface gone too, decks ablaze, mainmast down, and nowhere to put your feet. Smell mocks the scene of the screen.” – Michael Taussig, “Sacrilege” in Defacement: Public Secrecy and the Labor of the Negative, pp. 19.

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two notes about living in circles

Posted by rigorousm on December 4, 2009

In Hemon’s story, there are many other examples of what one might call a looping tendency: the snake as island pest extraordinaire is replaced by the mongoose with the intimation that the dog might well replace it; a childhood acquaintance turns out to be less dead than expected; the dictator turns into a bogeyman that can be used as a threat but also remains a historical if now somewhat spectral figure of incredible violence. Things return, uncannily.

30. This was what Uncle Julius told us:

“When I was a young student in Moscow, in the thirties, I saw the oldest man in the world. I was in a biology class, it was in a gigantic amphitheater, hundreds of rows, thousands of students. They brought in an old man who couldn’t walk, so two comrades carried him and he had his arms over their shoulders. His feet were dangling between them, but he was all curled up like a baby. They said he was a hundred and fifty-eight years old and from somewhere in the  Caucasus. They put him sideways on the desk and he started crying like a baby, so they gave him a stuffed toy– a cat, I think, but I can’t be certain, because I was sitting all the way up in one of the last aisles. I was looking at him as if through the wrong side of a telescope. And the teacher told us that the old man cried all the time, ate only liquid foods, and couldn’t bear being separated from his favorite toy. The teacher said that he slept a lot, didn’t know his name and had no memories. He could say only a couple of words, like water, poo-poo and such. I figured out then that life is a circle, you get right back to where you started if you get to be a hundred and fifty-eight years old. It’s like a dog chasing its own tail, all is for naught. We live and live, and in the end we’re just like this boy [he pointed at me], knowing nothing, remembering nothing. You might as well stop living now, my son. You might as well stop, for nothing will change.”

– Aleksander Hemon, “Islands,” The Question of Bruno, pp. 19.

And a more light perspective on things: “being a catalogue of my relationships with music by age” by Russell Davies (here).

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Posted by rigorousm on December 4, 2009

The red and green pattern mottling the shell
is the sea’s hope, the sea’s,
that has seethed alone for thousands of years.

The flowers that unfold till the branches crack
are the wind’s hope, the wind’s,
that comes and whispers here day after day.

Ah! The revolution now spreading like a flood
Across our land with its crimson servitude
Is truly heaven’s own long-kept hope.

– So Chongju, after Korea’s Liberation.

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naptime is not optional

Posted by rigorousm on December 4, 2009

A sentence
Her skirt was a perfunctory gesture toward modesty.

Observations without seeing
The library at crunchtime seethes. It is better without seeing, particularly without making oneself subject to the ubiquitous fluorescent lights. With eyes closed it is: tripping up and down stairs, squeaky doors, typing in surround-sound, sniffles and the disconcertingly-near smell of bread, or maybe something burning.

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footnote 59

Posted by rigorousm on December 2, 2009

“In 1919, Sorge wrote a poem which began with the line: “Eternally a stranger, fleeing from himself” and read it in the Gerlach’s salon before the audience of leftist university professors, Christiane, and Kurt himself. Gerlach mercileslly mocked Sorge’s poetic instincts: “‘Fleeing from himself’ — bah! Where would you go/ That’s bourgeois gibberish, Ika. Man is a product of social relations– formed in history by history– not a self, not an essence horaded in the center of the metaphysical fluff. ‘Eternally a stranger’– bah!” Sorge burned the sheet with his poem and made no literary attempts (his confession notwithstanding) for the rest of his life.”
– Aleksander Hemon, “The Sorge Spy Ring,” The Question of Bruno, pp. 82-83.

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