Thursday, 15 November 2018

Timothy Morton: Being Ecological

Arguments for the radical cognitive change required to fix ecological catastrophe.

The idea of sustainability implies that the system we now have is worth sustaining... There is a lack of attention to what is being efficiently sustained.

Bataille gave a name to this smooth functioning myth: the restricted economy. A restricted economy is one in which the dominant theme is efficiency: minimum energy throughput. The Earth is finite, and economic flows must be restricted to its finite size and capacities. So much ecological ethics, politics, and aesthetics is based on the economy of restriction.

Things are mysterious, in a radical and irreducible way.

Being ecological includes a sense of my weird inclusion in what I’m experiencing.

We’ve been thinking that we are on top of things, outside of things or beyond things, able to look down and decide exactly what to do, in all sorts of ways for about 12,000 years.

Monday, 12 November 2018

Kenneth Cook: Wake in Fright

Urban school teacher trapped in rural hell, strongly reminiscent of Joseph Roth's Legend of the Holy Drinker.

"First time in The Yabba?"

In the remote towns of the west there are few of the amenities of civilization; there is no sewerage, there are no hospitals, rarely a doctor; the food is dreary and flavourless from long carrying, the water is bad; electricity is for the few who can afford their own plant, roads are mostly non-existent; there are no theatres, no picture shows and few dance halls; and the people are saved from stark insanity by the one strong principle of progress that is ingrained for a thousand miles east, north, south and west of the Dead Heart - the beer is always cold.

Peculiar trait of the western people, thought Grant, that you could sleep with their wives, despoil their daughters, sponge on them, defraud them, do almost anything that would mean at least ostracism in normal society, and they would barely seem to notice it. But refuse to drink with them and you immediately became a mortal enemy. What the hell? He didn’t even want to think about the west or its people and their peculiarities. Let them be. Once he was in Sydney, who knew, he might never come back.

When you travel by road in the west you travel with a cohort of dust which streams up from your tyres and rolls away in a disintegrating funnel, defining the currents of air your vehicle sets in motion … And the heat is unthinkable, no matter how widely the windows are open, and the sweat streams off your body and into your socks, and if there are a number of people in the car their body stenches mingle disagreeably.

Grant felt a little conspicuous in his safari jacket.

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Karl Ove Knausgaard: The End

Final chapter in Knausgaard's exploration of contemporary biographical fiction, mixing the quotidian with deep psychological probings and a lengthy analysis of Hitler and Nazism.

Perhaps because I have always had such a weak ego, always felt myself inferior to all others, in every situation … I am inferior to the female assistant in the shoe shop when I go in to buy shoes, she has me in her hands, so to speak, full of an authority to which I yield. But the worst for me are waiters, since their role is so obviously to serve and be there to please.

‘The clown wasn’t there, daddy!’ Vanja said. ‘He didn’t go to his own birthday party.’

The children had each been given a party hat and sat around a table drawing a picture for the clown’s birthday. They were then given a glass of pop and a hot dog and a piece of cake, which they ate in silence. They asked the staff when the clown was coming, he would be there soon, they were told. Then they played for a while, without the clown or any great enthusiasm as they didn’t know one another and despite encouragement from the staff. Vanja didn’t want to join in, she sat on Linda’s lap and kept asking when the clown would be coming and why he wasn’t there already. Finally the party was over, they trooped out, over to the stage where all the other children were sitting waiting for the clown, who did finally make an appearance, performing his standard routine with one exception, he collected the drawings from the children who had been at his party.

Vanja didn’t understand this. How could the clown not turn up for his own birthday party?

We couldn’t of course tell her the truth – that the bloody tour operators didn’t give a shit about the kids and didn’t want to waste resources on them – so we said that Coco, which was the clown’s name, had been pleased with the drawings, and the cake had been good, hadn’t it?

Junzo Shono: Evening Clouds

Quotidian episodes of family life in the outskirts of Tokyo.

"There's no telling what you can learn by keeping your ears open"

"Of all the things we come to know in this world, there is ultimately nothing that does not pass on."

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

David Toop: Ocean of Sound: Ambient sound and radical listening in the age of communication

Seminal work from Wire-mainstay Toop exploring the free-form 'ambient' turn in music since Debussy.

"There's an experiment I did. Since I did it, I started to think it was quite a good exercice that I would recommend to other people. I had taken a DAT recorder to Hyde Park and near Bayswater I recorded a period of whatever sound was there: cars going by, dogs, people. I thought nothing much of it and I was sitting at home listening to it on my player. I suddenly had this idea. What about if I take a section of this -a three and a half minute section, the length of a single- and I tried to learn it?"

“So that's what I did. I put it in SoundTools and I made fade-up, let it run for three and a half minutes and fade it out. I started listening to this thing, over and over. Whenever I was sitting there working, I would have this thing on. I printed it on a DAT twenty times or something, so it just kept running over and over. I tried learn it, exactly as one would a piece of music: oh yeah, that car, accelerates the engine, the revs in the engine go up and then that dog barks, and then you hear that pigeon off to the side there. This was an extremely interesting exercice to do, first of all because I found that you can learn it. Something that is as completely arbitrary and disconnected as that, with sufficient listenings, becomes highly connected. You can really imagine that this thing was constructed somehow: “Right, he puts this bit there and that pattern's just at the exact same moment as this happening. Brillant!" Since I've done that, I can listen to lots of things in quite a different way. It's like putting oneself in the role of an art perceiver, just deciding, now I'm playing that role.”
- Brian Eno

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Helen Weinzweig: Basic Black With Pearls

Feminist derive-ations around Toronto recalling French nouveau roman writers.

We solitaries came towards one another, passed; other came up from behind and passed me; at times we walked side by side for a few paces. Soon I got a sense of common activity: I thought, I would like nothing better than to link my arm through yours and we would walk along together. Acts of fellowship, I reflected sadly, take place only during bombings and public hangings. Under normal conditions strangers must avoid the other's strangeness.

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Leslie Jamison: The Recovering: Intoxication and its Aftermath

A homage to AA and alcoholic American writers by a young alcoholic American writer.

Nights out turned into endless calculations: How many glasses of wine has each person at this table had? What's the most of anyone? How much can I take, of what's left, without taking too much? How many people can I pour for, and how much can I pour for them, and still have enough left to pour for myself? How long until the waiter comes back and how likely is it someone else will ask him for another bottle?

Certain parts of Peter began to repel me: his insecurities about our relationship and about himself, his hunger for my reassurance. These parts of him echoed the parts of me that had been hungry for reassurance all my life; that was probably why they disgusted me. But I couldn't see that then. I could only see that he'd gotten the same lip balm I'd gotten; he hadn't even been able to choose his own brand.

There was a little voice in me that considered the possibility that perhaps there were people who didn't spend hours every day trying to decide if their desperate desire to drink had preceded recovery meetings or been created by them. But it irritated me, that voice. I tried not to listen to it.

I am precisely the kind of nice upper-middle-class white girl whose relationship to substances has been treated as benign or pitiable - a cause for concern, or a shrug, rather than punishment. No one has ever called me a leper or a psychopath. No doctor has ever pointed a gun at me. No cop has ever shot me at an intersection while I was reaching for my wallet, for that matter, or even pulled me over for drunk driving, something I've done more times than I could count. My skin is the right color to permit my intoxication. When it comes to addiction, the abstraction of privilege is ultimately a question of what type of story gets told about your body: Do you need to be shielded from harm, or prevented from causing it? My body has been understood as something to be protected, rather than something to be protected from.