Saturday, 25 July 2009

Writing As Exposure

"Schreiben als Form des Gebets" – there is always someone to read you better than you do. Why else would you write, anyway?

An oblique reference to St. Augustine.

* * *
An oblique reference, mutatis mutandis, to Augustine's question "Why we confess what God already knows," cur confitemur deo scienti.

Cur confitemur deo scienti, the phrase cited by Derrida in his Circonfession, is the title added to The Confessions, Book XI, Chapter I:
XI.I. Cur confitemur deo scienti.

Numquid, domine, cum tua sit aeternitas, ignoras, quae tibi dico, aut ad tempus vides quod fit in tempore? Cur ergo tibi tot rerum narrationes digero? Non utique ut per me noveris ea, sed affectum meum excito in te et eorum, qui haec legunt, ut dicamus omnes: magnus dominus et laudabilis valde. Iam dixi et dicam: amore amoris tui facio istuc. Nam et oramus, et tamen veritas ait: Novit pater vester quid vobis opus sit, priusquam petatis ab eo. Affectum ergo nostrum patefacimus in te confitendo tibi miserias nostras et misericordias tuas super nos, ut liberes nos omnino, quoniam coepisti, ut desinamus esse miseri in nobis et beatificemur in te, quoniam vocasti nos, ut simus pauperes spiritu et mites et lugentes et esurientes ac sitientes iustitiam et misericordes et mundicordes et pacifici. Ecce narravi tibi multa, quae potui et quae volui, quoniam tu prior voluisti, ut confiterer tibi, domino deo meo, quoniam bonus es, quoniam in saeculum misericordia tua.

Trans. Edward P. Pusey:

Lord, since eternity is Thine, art Thou ignorant of what I say to Thee? or dost Thou see in time, what passeth in time? Why then do I lay in order before Thee so many relations? Not, of a truth, that Thou mightest learn them through me, but to stir up mine own and my readers’ devotions towards Thee, that we may all say, Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised. I have said already; and again will say, for love of Thy love do I this. For we pray also, and yet Truth hath laid, Your Father knoweth what you have need of, before you ask. It is then our affections which we lay open unto Thee, confessing our own miseries, and Thy mercies upon us, that Thou mayest free us wholly, since Thou hast begun, that we may cease to be wretched in ourselves, and be blessed in Thee; seeing Thou hast called us, to become poor in spirit, and meek, and mourners, and hungering and athirst after righteousness, and merciful, and pure in heart, and peace-makers. See, I have told Thee many things, as I could and as I would, because Thou first wouldest that I should confess unto Thee, my Lord God. For Thou art good, for Thy mercy endureth for ever.
See also Book X, Ch. 2:
Neque enim dico recti aliquid hominibus, quod non a me tu prius audieris, aut etiam tu aliquid tale audis a me, quod non mihi tu prius dixeris.

Trans. Edward P. Pusey:

For neither do I utter any thing right unto men, which Thou hast not before heard from me; nor dost Thou hear any such thing from me, which Thou hast not first said unto me.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

"Multiple Choice" is an Insult Against Multiplicity

Every multiple choice questionnaire should quote a song title by Frank Zappa as the last option of each question: "None of the Above."

Otherwise the questionnaire will not pay heed to singularity, reluctance, and the possibility of its own failure.

Through such an addition, most multiple choice questionnaires would not become any worse than they already are, even if it would make them useless in case of the respondent's reluctance to submit to the ready-made anticipations.


  • Yes
  • No
  • None of the above

"My Life According to Frank Zappa"

Quoting my own Facebook self and "The Song Title Game" a.k.a. "My Life According to ...":

Using only song names from ONE ARTIST, cleverly answer these questions. Pass it on to 10 people or more (if you have time and want to do this) and include me. Try not to repeat a song title. Enjoy!

Pick Your Artist:
Frank Zappa
Are you male or female:
Man With the Woman Head
Describe yourself:
Jolly Good Fellow
How do you feel about yourself:
Harry, You’re a Beast
Describe where you currently live:
Motorhead's Midnight Ranch
If you could go anywhere you wanted to go:
The Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbecue
Your favorite form of transportation:
Space Boogers
Your best friend is:
Lonesome Electric Turkey
Your favorite color is:
White Ugliness
Favorite time of day:
What Will This Morning Bring Me This Evening?
If your life were a TV show, what would it be called:
You’re Probably Wondering Why I’m Here
What is life to you:
Aerobics in Bondage
What is the best advice you have to give:
Eat That Question
If you could change your name, what would it be:
Cletus Awreetus-Awrightus
Thought for the Day:
Jesus Thinks You’re a Jerk
How I would like to die:
G-Spot Tornado
My soul's present condition:
Prelude to the Afternoon of a Sexually Aroused Gas Mask
My motto:
None of the Above

One of My Theses on Irony

Anyone who thinks he or she is using irony may be in danger of being used by it. You don't impose irony, you expose yourself to it. Especially when you make statements concerning irony.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

A Couple of My Favourite Text Samples, No. 1

A footnote in Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Essai sur l'origine des langues, towards the end of chapter V:

Punctuation, which does not have this defect, would be the best of such means if it were more complete. Why, for example, do we not have a vocative mark? The question mark, which we have, would be much less necessary, since a question is recognizable from its structure alone, at least in our language. Venez-vous and vous venez are not the same. But how is one to distinguish, in writing, between a man one mentions and a man one addresses. There really is an equivocation which would be eliminated by a vocative mark. The same equivocation is found in irony, when it is not made manifest by accent. (Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Essay on the Origin of Languages, trans. John H. Moran)
Le meilleur de ces moyens [qu’on prend, dans la langue écrit, pour suppléer à une langue accentuée], et qui n’aurait pas ce défaut, serait la ponctuation, si on l’eût laissée moins imparfaite. Pourquoi par exemple n’avons-nous pas ce point vocatif ? Le point interrogeant que nous avons était beaucoup moins nécessaire, car par la seule construction, on voit si l’on interroge ou si l’on n’interroge pas, au moins dans notre langue. « Venez-vous » et « vous venez » ne sont pas la même chose. Mais comment distinguer par écrit un homme qu’on nomme d’un homme qu’on appelle ? C’est là au moins une équivoque qu’eût levée le point vocatif. La même équivoque se trouve dans l’ironie quand l’accent ne se fait pas sentir.

Rousseau, whose use of irony is very delicate – infinitely more delicate than Voltaire's, as you must notice if you read their famous correspondence on Rousseau's apparently naïve idea of the "return to nature" – must be aware of the fact that irony, the only irony worthy of its name, is the one that is not immediately recognizable as such, i.e. qui ne se fait pas sentir. Therefore the only plausible way to read the footnote, and especially its final sentence, is to suspect irony in it (only to "suspect", because there is no way to confirm the presence of irony, inasmuch as it is true irony and not just mockery).


Internal link / Cross reference

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Caricature as Portraying Singularity

In order that a snapshot can have the quality of portrait, it must have something of the nature of caricature. Caricature is precisely the anti-snapshot, capturing something that is not simply momentary or even ephemeral, but characteristic: something that stays the same in different observations of a person's movements and gestures and facial expressions.

Yet, the singularity – the one that we strangely feel that we can observe – can be such that it can only be captured in a fleeting moment, drawn in a quick sketch or captured in a snapshot.

The object of our observation, the model herself, might not recognize the enduring nature of that observation, however. It might be alien to her own self-image or rather self-experience, even when everybody else, nous autres hommes, would confirm its vraisemblance.

– – –

Exposure time might be the question.

A case in point, or perhaps an antitype (an exception to prove the rule, as outlined above), the famous daguerreotype of Edgar Allan Poe, by W.S. Hartshorn (1848):

Some pictures make caricatures futile.

Tode ti – a quick note

Taking a shower, I thought I should write this down...

Singularity is, in temporal terms, not always the same as uniqueness. The singular (tode ti, in Aristotelian terms, "the this" or rather "some this") is the undefinable, beyond species or particular forms (eide) and their differentiae specificae (diaphorai). It is that which resists the temporal changes as well as universality. It is their support (subject, substratum, hypokeimenon), the guarantee of presence as beingness or "thingness" (ousia, translatable as essentia), but at the same time, beyond the presence of particulars and universals.

Thus, the Aristotelian notion of presence both supports the "metaphysics of presence" and points beyond it, to the undefinable singularity – which could be also ephemeral and not necessarily eternal.

Yet, this does not contradict the fact that Aristotle's quest is one for permanence, permanent presence as a guarantee of being.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Oh! you slogan-blogan you!

"The music is out there – just listen."


Wannabe copywriter? Roby critter, creepy rotter, crappy rutter, woppy crater? Copybe wannawriter? Wannawry copybeater? Copywanna writerbe? Bewanna crottywiper?

Oh! you slogan-blogan you!

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Listening Lessons

Musique concrète is, among other things, a school of listening, and of phenomenology in concreto.

Xenakis Concret PH - Watch more Videos at Vodpod.

(The composition is "Concret PH" [1958] by Iannis Xenakis. I guess the clever picture montage for the YouTube video was made by unholy1988 – not sure about that, though.)

Learning to listen to the music of the world is not completely different from recognizing the originarily poetic nature of real-life encounters: "Every real encounter is also a remembrance of the secret of the poem [jede wirkliche Begegnung [ist] auch Erinnerung an das Geheimnis des Gedichts]" (Paul Celan). The poem refers to the "real life" experience only since "real life" encounters themselves bear reference to "the secret of the poem".

The music is out there – just listen.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Staccato & legato

My Heart Leaps Up When I Behold

by William Wordsworth

My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began,
So is it now I am a man,
So be it when I shall grow old
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man:
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.
Cf. one variant of Celan's quote of Malebranche through Benjamin's essay on Kafka:
Aufmerksamkeit ist das natürliche Frömmigkeit der Seele.
Here, Frömmigkeit instead of Gebet, piety instead of prayer: "Attention is the natural piety of the soul."*

* The variant is quoted in my Counter-figures, p. 177, note 364; Wordsworth's poem is copied from

Sat on the balcony...

... and listened to the swifts' wings beating as they dove near enough, in their endless quest for the aerial plankton.

Only that and nothing more?

Struggling not to lose the contiguity between heart beat and wing beat.

And the ear drum.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Saturnian Indigestion Revisited

"Faith No More", July 7th, 2009, Tehran Bureau:
No matter how much you abhor the acts of a mass of young people 30 years ago, their resilience and strength was admirable. They withstood years of persecution and brutal confrontations. We must both learn from them, and outsmart them because they already know all the rules.
The ambivalence of the new "mass of young people", another generation, towards the revolutionary legacy ("abhor [...] admirable [...] learn from them, and outsmart them"), should wipe out the outsider's possible cynicism concerning the history, present and future of the Iranian revolution – as a revolution of revolutions, hopefully a movement towards democracy.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Saturnian Indigestion

Quoting Dantons Tod via Wikiquote (Findagains Wake, indeed):
"Die Revolution ist wie Saturn, sie frißt ihre eignen Kinder." - Dantons Tod, 1. Akt, 5. Szene / Danton. Der diesem Zitat zugrunde liegende Ausspruch stammt von Pierre Vergniaud
"The revolution is like Saturn, it devours its own children." But reading this quote, we must remember what actually happened to Saturn – or Kronos (Cronus), a name with the famous assonance with Chronos – and his children. They did not stay too long in his stomach. What revolves tends to return (see my post right below – the previous or the next one, depending on whether you look at it from a weblog writer's or a reader's perspective).
... and he vomited up first the stone which he had swallowed last. (Hesiod, Theogony 453, trans. Evelyn-White)
Just imagine the pyrosis. The heartburn when you have a heart of stone.

Return of the Repressed

The revolution may always eat its children, but what revolves tends to return.

Read from TehranBureau the article ending with the following:
While the outcome is unpredictable, what is certain is that the 70% of Iranian citizens under the age of 30 are children of the revolution; the experience is in their blood. I recall a quote from a protester outside London’s Iranian Embassy:

‘As children of the revolution we have been conditioned to be revolutionaries. We grew up with the glorification of revolutionary songs, slogans, political graffiti, and stories of fearless characters standing up to the Shah’s army to topple the regime. While these were fed to us as propaganda of the Islamic regime, what they don’t realize is that they’ve trained us to revolt for what we believe in and now we’re putting all those years of revolutionary fervour into practice. The fearlessness Iranians now show towards the police, the slogans and perseverance in pursuing their cause, are all building towards something — we can’t go back from here, only forward.’

Copyright © 2009 Tehran Bureau

A "video comment" of sorts: