Wednesday, 28 February 2007

Writing about music

Watching the audience at a any large enough concert—a hundred thousand people all bouncing up and down in a near-unison that creates ripples and waves like the wind in a wheatfield—gives the lie to the idea that ‘dancing about architecture’ is in any sense an inappropriate way of thinking about music. The solidity of music, manifested in its pervasive, unshakeable, rooted and massy Fanbase, is precisely architectural.

Tuesday, 27 February 2007

The North

The north draws everything.

Monday, 26 February 2007


That translation, or currency of exchange, from other people's praise of you into your own self-esteem. How many hundreds of pounds of the former buy how few euros of the latter?

Sunday, 25 February 2007


A tap is running, and when you place your hand under it you are not sure, for the moment, whether it is very hot or very cold. This is how good and evil manifest, in the world, more often than not. It might be an act of courage and virtue to invade Iraq; it might be an act of great wickedness; at first, you can't be sure which it is ...

Saturday, 24 February 2007


As far as human beings are concerned, there is no such thing as a refiner's fire. That which does not kill us will probably leave us weak and broken.

Friday, 23 February 2007


Cruelty, from bullying to erotic sadism, finds its rationale exposed in this passage from As I Lay Dying:

I would look forward to the times when they faulted, so I could whip them. When the switch fell, I could feel it upon my flesh; when it welted and ridged it was my blood that ran, and I would think with each blow of the switch: Now you are aware of me!

Now you are aware of me!--the howl from the violator's fantasy. The irony is that what most victims are mostly aware of is their own suffering; they're aware of the person inflicting it only in a shadowy sense. But that's hardly going to stop the sadist.

Thursday, 22 February 2007


A new word for the dissemination of vitality through the network: emailgration.

Wednesday, 21 February 2007


We tend to conceptualise sleep as a variant form of waking (dreams ‘work through’ the issues of the day, they provide coded expressions of waking anxieties, and so on). But the sleeping life is radically different to the waking life. The narcolept does not ‘work through’ his experience of conscious living.

Tuesday, 20 February 2007

Globalisation, Marxism.

The working-class European must work to overthrow the oppression of the ruling class. But from the point of view of the 'third world', all Europeans are the ruling class, and distinguishing between this one and that one is as irrelevant as aristocrats squabbling about, or proletarians fretting over, the priority of a Duke over a Marquis or vice versa.

Monday, 19 February 2007


Our first apperception is that things are not the way they seem. Later we may finesse this into a grounding belief that 'we are being lied to', or perhaps to a metaphysics (what does Adorno say? "The whole is untrue.")

Nothing so comforting as paranoia. Nothing so heartening as depression. Imagine what it would be like if things were the way they seem.

Sunday, 18 February 2007


Of 'the system' Lyotard says ‘the interest of humans is subordinate to that of the survival of complexity’ [7]. It seems to me that this is the awkwardness at the heart of The Inhuman, because, surely, complexity is also constitutive of the human; both in the sense that there are levels of complexity below which we do not recognise humanity, and also in the sense that humanity as a becoming is a process of heuristic complexification. But I guess this is to make the obvious point about Lyotard's 'inhumanity', that although it presents itself in opposition to a valorised 'humanity' in fact humanity is predicated upon a mode of inhumanity, and vice versa--inhumanity, that is, not unhumanity. Idhumanity, perhaps.

Saturday, 17 February 2007

Everything done

Everything that is done in the world is done by a desire to avoid depression or boredom, two states of mind that are, of course, versions of one another.

Friday, 16 February 2007

Black dog

Churchill's term for his depression. It makes a curious kind of sense, I suppose; but what does it imply? Not only that depression is dogged, and dark, but that depression is loyal, playful, a pack creature, that it smells and hears and touches its environment rather than seeing it, that is can be tamed and trained, that it must be exercised and (in some cases) neutered. All these things, is turns out, are true after all.

Thursday, 15 February 2007


I want to write about failure, but naturally I want to do so successfully--which is to say, not just with aesthetic success, but with commercial success. Of course I run the risk thereby of poisoning the well of my inspiration, but (oddly) this doesn't seem to bother me.

And another oddity. Although D W Winnicott was quite correct to say that 'health is much more difficult to deal with than disease,' it is nevertheless the case that failure is much more difficult to write about than success. It's almost as if 'health' and 'success', and 'disease' and 'failure', do not constitute two pairs of synonyms. Almost as if, indeed, success correlates with disease, failure with health. The very idea!

Wednesday, 14 February 2007


Auden wrote 'the dead we miss are easier/to talk to than the living'. But this isn't right, or else it's right as a deliberate hyper-correctness, that we miss the dead when we direct words at them. That's not talking; it's monologuing; of course they cannot reply. And its not the dead to whom we talk; it's ourselves, of course, of course.

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

The mysteries of the English tongue

We can say, of the weather, either 'it is raining' or 'it is rainy'. But when it comes to sun, we can only say 'it is sunny'. Why not 'sunning'?

Personally, I like the sound of that: an active process, implied by the present participle, or indeed by the gerundive. I might start a petition.

Monday, 12 February 2007


The adult's imagination, though probably more rounded and potentially more detailed, is less committed than the child's. And commitment is the key quality as far as imagination is concerned.

Sunday, 11 February 2007


We misunderstand the motivations of the bully. We assume he (or she, but let's go with he) delights in his sheer will-to-dominate, that there is a feeling of power and concomitant jouissance (Hobbes's 'suddaine glory') in bullying others. But this is almost never the case. The vast majority of bullies feel themselves to be the ones picked upon, feel that they have been thwarted or treated unfairly, and bully others either in the service of some notion of equality of suffering, or justice, or in pursuit of some other motivation that dilutes what might otherwise be the bliss of the motiveless malignancy.

Take, for example, that subset of bullying we call racism. The racist does not soar freely in his own mind over the representative of the 'inferior' race; he already starts from a position where he is the one discriminated against, and acts with the belief that, should he ever be called to account his accusers will at least understand his mitigating circumstances. The fact that, actually, no such mitigating circumstances exist, that the victim of bullying neither knows nor ought to be care why the bully bullies, does not occur to the bully. Being a concentration camp guard feels to the guard like work, a chore, a duty, a self-sacrifice; and most racists and bullies feel the same way about their bullying. This is especially true of online bullying.

Saturday, 10 February 2007

Singularity poem

You think of the star as somehow hung
from an invisible cord. Not so.
It blasts up and down, it spins-out blast, it

beams and burns through every ideal line.

White is the colour of everything
Black is the colour of nothing
The black hole swallows the whiteness

The sentence of light and its final punctus.

Friday, 9 February 2007


The majority is often wrong. Fortunately, since questions of how 'rightness' and 'wrongness' are judged are, at the last, a matter of consensus, this is a problem that solves itself.

Thursday, 8 February 2007


The war in the Pacific. The bearless Arctic. The unmapped Atlantic. The black album.

Wednesday, 7 February 2007

Lessons from the history of love

The man says to the woman: 'I yearn to devote myself to giving you what you want.' But it so happens that what this woman wants most is a man who doesn't expend all his energies on trying to please her.

Tuesday, 6 February 2007


The first experience of smoking is, we might say, a weak form of a loss of virginity. There is a alveolar hymen that must be rasped, lungs to be uncomfortably penetrated by the long shafts of smoke. But the second time, and then the third, is more focused on only the pleasure--a sensual pleasure that adults enjoy, tinged with a trangressive excitement. The difference, of course, is that it is a self-oriented, selfish self-pleasuring rather than a conjoining. But we love out lungs precisely because they are gender-universal organs of pleasurable penetration.

Monday, 5 February 2007


They were the people who valued the cactus for its luscious interior. We are the people who value the cactus for its dry and prickly exterior. Are we so different? The look and the feel people, rather than the taste and the sustenance people.

Sunday, 4 February 2007


The knife doesn't cut. The knife always tears. Some knives, it is true, tear relatively neatly, but that's not the same as a cut. The cut implies an ideal and perfect separation. But, however much we yearn for that, there's no such thing.

Saturday, 3 February 2007

As others see us

And what if some Power the gift could give us to see ourselves as others see us? What a monstrous game of emotional Russian roulette that would entail! It might, conceivably, flatter, more likely destroy us.

Burns continues that 'it wad frae monie a blunder free us,/An' foolish notion', but this seems an odd thing to say. Unless we want to define freedom as 'the exchange of our foolish notions for the foolish notions of others.' But then perhaps this is the very definition of altruism: a belief that other people's foolishness is less, and less delusive, than our own. A belief, above all, that the way other people see us is not motivated by a kind of immanent, low-level ill-will.

Friday, 2 February 2007


Taking ethics as prior, and grounding ethics in the encounter with the face, as Levinas does: interesting, and compelling, but does it not entail a refusal to kill anything with a face? An ethical imperative not only not to kill baby seals--not to kill any animals? Is Levinas's philosophy a vegetarian philosophy?

Thursday, 1 February 2007

Dark glass

Through a glass darkly ... I suppose I'd always assumed that the reference was to those smoked glass sheets through which people are advised to view eclipses; to, in other words, the necessary and protective occlusion of the childish imagination. To prevent (say) our wits being blinded or blasted by the unaccommodated nuclear glare of Reality. The dazzle that produces dervishes and fanatics.

Of course it's mirror; and though there's something nicely uncanny in the idea that the Reality we observe is in fact through a mirror, yet I feel a little sorry to have to let go my childish darkened understanding of what the phrase means.