the rigorous m

bits and bobs, quotes and catching up

Archive for November, 2014

on the underblows

Posted by rigorousm on November 28, 2014

I have been asked what “underblows” means. The word is not in my dictionary, but still I know. It means something like the hold of a ship, a cellerage, a secret room behind the brain and the heart, a room inhabited by dreams, visions, and another personage — a ghost. The ghost in the underblows is an eternal traveling companion, an abecedary in the highest as well as the lowest schools, and the fellow who knows the most about death, sleep and love; the one, too, who is strongest in battle, and the most courageous swimmer after the drowning soul.

— Larry Powell, introduction to Al Fisher’s The Ghost in the Underblows, 1938.


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MFK Fisher’s snobbish disregard for small-town cafes

Posted by rigorousm on November 26, 2014

I think now, willy-nilly, of the most dismal restaurant in the American world, to my mind, the small-town coffee shop. I have been in hundreds of them, and I firmly believe that until their windows grow steamy and the waitress lets her hair fall vaguely out of place and the coffee machine sends off little pops of extra steam which the cafe manager frown on because of Waste, they are just about the most horrid holes ever invented for such a decent ceremony as that of nourishing our poor tired puzzled bodies.

There are slabs of bad pie behind a piece of smeared plate glass. There are used dishes in a streamlined and doubtless antiseptic sink beneath the counter. There are tables complete with paper napkins in chromed dispensers and with tasteless pepper and medicated salt in inadequate shakers. There are chairs that rattle against the hard sanitary floors. There is, perhaps, canned music from a jukebox, dependent upon desperately cheerful diners or five-cent profligacy of the manager. Such hellholes of gastronomy need a lot of steam on the windows, a very healthy fine-pated waitress, and a really energetic coffee machine, to make them anything but hell.

It is understandable that many of us, tossed onto the endless roads of this continent, head in our wanderings for the low-brow diners, rather than these so-called coffee shops– the kind Heminway and many a lesser giant have written about, the long, narrow real-or-imitation railroad cars, warm, bright, easy to enter and leave, redolent of other people’s cigarettes and rain-flecked jackets, of coffee and hot soup. Where else can a hungry traveler go, once having spurned the “shops,” but to these metamorphosed cars?

— M F K Fisher, “If this were my place,” Atlantic Monthly, 1950.

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Marion Woodman on the fear as the origin of compulsion

Posted by rigorousm on November 25, 2014

The underlying fear of life and fear of abandonment is only minimally concealed and the frightened ego is in constant danger of being swamped by the unknown forces that may sweep in from outside or from the unconscious. On that weak foundation is constructed a rigid superstructure based on collective values — discipline, efficiency,duty. The energy that wants to flow into creating, living, playing, is forced to find its outlet in blind compulsions.

— Marion Woodman, “Ascent to the Goddess,” Addiction to Perfect: the still unravished bride, p 85.

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Marion Woodman on metaphorical metallurgy, mind-body connections

Posted by rigorousm on November 25, 2014

The bodies, as Donne says, must yield “their forces, sense, to us.” Analyst and analysand must recognize those forces as not “dross to us, but allay.”

Donne’s image of bodily sense as allay (alloy) rather than dross is taken from metallurgy, which has behind it the history of alchemy. Dross is an impurity which weakens metal; allay is an impurity which strengthens it. The soul, like gold, if too refined or pure becomes soft so that it can harden into an identifiable form. If the soul thinks it is above all identity, being to pure to have a form…, then it will experience the alloy of the body as dross. The woman’s task is to persevere with the body until she recognizes that it is not dross but alloy. And the way to do this is to allow the body to play, to give it space and allow it to make whatever movements it wants to make.

— Marion Woodman, “Ascent to the Goddess,” Addiction to Perfection: the still unravished goddess, p 78.

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Marion Woodman on perfection, obsession, fixation

Posted by rigorousm on November 25, 2014

Driven to do our best at school, on the job, in our relationships– in every corner of our lives– we try to make ourselves into works of art. Working so hard to create our own perfect we forget that we are human beings. (10)

It is in seeking perfection by isolating and exaggerating parts of ourselves that we become neurotic.

The chief sign of the pursuit of perfection is obsession. … Obsession is always a fixation — a freezing-over of the personality so that it becomes not a living being but something fixed, like a piece of sculpture, locked into a complex. There is always something catatonic about it, behind which is fear that can accelerate into blind terror so that the person may become like a wild animal caught in the glare of headlights, unable to move. (52)

— Marion Woodman, Addiction to Perfection: the still unravished bride.

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marion woodman on ritual rebirth

Posted by rigorousm on November 25, 2014

Ritual provides a certain aesthetic distance. It also provides the certainty that the god who suffers and dies will rise again.

— Marion Woodman, Addiction to Perfection: the still unravished woman, p 49.

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Posted by rigorousm on November 24, 2014


he just left — when he leaves I never know when I’ll see him again — always
chance encounters — or nearly — today I asked myself what little errors
we’ve let come between us — I don’t know yet — I can barely guess —
why such tenderness in his gestures — after — where there is usually
distance —
don’t be taken in by tenderness — protect yourself from it — I’m sucked in
too easily — his presence I already live too much in these days — not enough
resistance now — or irony —

Danielle Collobert, translated by Norma Cole, hosted by ASU.

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porpentine on social failure and trauma

Posted by rigorousm on November 24, 2014

The concept for the game is tremendously simple. A number counter is set to zero, with plus and minus buttons beneath it to make the number bigger or smaller. “I counted this high,” it begins, and then the game is just that: counting up, though the purpose of doing so isn’t clear at first. I’ve played it four or five times now and never made it all the way through without crying.

Sometimes, nothing happens when you click to the next number; other times, words appear like stray thoughts. “Who would you miss if they were gone for a day?” it asks at one point. Keep clicking, and the word “day” is replaced by “month,” then by “year” and finally “forever.” Sometimes it asks you questions. Sometimes it tells you stories. At one point it quotes from the suicide note of a Czech student who killed himself by self-immolation, later from a news report about a woman who committed suicide after being raped. “This is the game,” it says.

The numbers start to feel like days, and the rhythm of clicking feels like passing time, like checking off days on a calendar. It isn’t always “fun,” per se; sometimes, when you click 10 or 15 times in a row and see nothing but an empty screen, a little part of you wonders when it’s going to end. But you keep on clicking. After all, what other choice do you have? It feels like surviving.

But somewhere around the number 300, the game decides to throw you for a loop. Click the wrong link — or the right one? — and it catapults you suddenly into the tens of millions. The moment you see it, your guts twist with panic; the space between where you were and where you are becomes a vast numeric desert, and the idea of clicking millions of times to get back seems impossible. You won’t be able to do it, you think for a moment — you’ll just have to quit the game. Then you remember you’re playing a game about suicide.

“That’s what it feels like to wake up insane or with trauma,” Porpentine said. “It’s like, Oh, God, how do I get back there? It feels like it’ll take a million days to get back, a million steps. That is the crisis. ‘Will I ever be the same again?’ And you won’t.”

On “Everything You Swallow Will One Day Come Up Like a Stone”, a game about suicide.

— “Twine, the Video-Game Technology for All” interview with Porpentine by Lara Hudson for the New York Times. (link to article)

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stephen nachmanovitch on creative practice, exercise

Posted by rigorousm on November 24, 2014

You don’t have to practice boring exercises, but you do have to practice something. If you find the practice boring, don’t run away from it, but don’t tolerate it either. Transform it into something that suits you. If you are bored playing a scale, play the same eight tones but change the order. Then change the rhythm. Then change the tone color. You have just improvised. If you don’t think the result is very good, you have the power to change it– now there is both a supply of raw material and some judgment to feed back into the process. This is especially effective with classically trained musicians who think they can’t play without a score, or can’t develop technique without exact repetition of some exercise in a book…. In any art we can take the most basic and simple technique, shift it around and personalize it unless it becomes something that engages us.

Exercise of technique is not boring or interesting in and of itself; it is we who manufacture the boredom. “Boredom,” “fascination,” “play,” “drudgery,” “high drama,” “seduction” — all are names of contexts that we place on what we do and how we perceive it.

— Stephen Nachmanovitch, “Practice,”  Free Play p 68-69

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marion woodman and jung on complacent suffering

Posted by rigorousm on November 24, 2014

The agony of their suffering is caused by hubris, which Jung describes as “the overweening pride of individual consciousness which must necessarily lead to catastrophic destruction. The suffering itself can easily become gilt-edged, self dramatized…. To sympathize with that suffering in ourselves or in others beyond a certain point to condone the arrogance and to condone the arrogance is to paralyze the sufferer.

— Marion Woodman, “Rape and the Demon Lover,” Addiction to Perfection: The Still Unravished Bride p 134.

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