Pop n Lock it

Brainstorming ideas for next post:

Last week I had a Renaissance Moment with Remix culture in a big way. I see great merit, value, and excitement in music remix culture, but, on occasion, I just find it difficult to listen to. For some reason, I think this is changing.



For a long time, I used to go to bed early. Sometimes, when I had put out my light, my eyes would close so quickly that I had not even time to say to myself: "I'm falling asleep." And half an hour later the thought that it was time to go to sleep would awaken me; I would make as if to put away the book which I imagined was still in my hands, and to turn out the light; I had gone on thinking, while I was asleep, about what I had just been reading, but these thoughts had taken a rather peculiar turn; it seemed to me that I myself was the immediate subject of my book. This impression would persist for some moments after I awoke; it did not offend my reason, but lay like scales upon my eyes and prevented them from registering the fact that the light was no longer on.


showing true grid

every creative work is a manifestation of the character of the artist. it is a reflection of his knowledge, his ability, and his mentality.

i read that somewhere.



To those who would say there is nothing "secret" about the publicly available Oxford English Dictionary (or, if you're lookin to impress someone, as I nearly always am, "the OED"), and to those that would say that nonchalantly browsing the website for an hour does not count as "non-fiction" or "educational" reading, I say to you: dog's bollocks.

Wedged discretely between the classic "dog and bone" (n.) and the more contemporary and colloquial-sounding "dog-sit" (v.), lies the perplexing and innocuous entry for "dog's bollocks." Citing usage from 1949, the OED (see link below) defines dog's bollock as:

dog's bollocks n. (also dog's ballocks) Brit. coarse slang (a) Typogr. a colon followed by a dash, regarded as forming a shape resembling the male sexual organs (see quot. 1949) (rare); (b) (with the) the very best, the acme of excellence; cf. the cat's whiskers at CAT n.1 13l, bee's knee n. (b) at BEE n.1 5b.

This is why I like being a student. It not only presents me with ample time to waste scrounging around the linguistic heap that is the OED (maybe get a little credit for it? maybe a 1 c.r. here, or a little thesis proposal there?), but it also automatically entitles me to a free subscription to the OED online, without which it would be impossible for me to purposefully, nevermind casually, come across this little bit of gold for myself. And by gold I mean "vulgar, 60- year old emoticons."




oh hey

Zizek on the Lacanian term "lamella:

"...the mythic creature called by Lacan 'lamella' can vaguely be translated as 'manlet,' a condensation of 'man' and 'omelet'..."


current status: craving a frittata.



I Love Lamp

A little while ago (I guess a bit more than that, actually), I saw David Byrne live in concert. I had a couple of "take-aways" from the concert to which I can honestly ascribe any sort of coherence. 1) David Byrne is, and will always will be, the only adult male I have ever encountered who can make pretenses at profundity while wearing an all - white, windbreaker, pant-suit. 2) I don't actually really know anything about modern, lyrical dance and choreography.

As both of these realizations are probably of little- to- no interest for anyone who is not my mom, I felt the need to do a bit of "youtube digging" in order to remind myself why I personally originally found meaning in Byrne's various performance-based intellectual inquiries. For this reason, and through some direction offered to me by a friend of mine, I draw your attention to an interview Byrne held sometime in the 1980's. (You should be able to find it at the end of this piece).

While this interview is chock- full of alternating sweet and savoury kernels of goodness, one of the quotes that particularly struck me is when the interviewer (Byrne the Interviewer) asks Byrne the Musician something like "Hey man. Why don't you write more love- songs?" To which Byrne replies, slowly, "Well, love is a rather big topic. I like to write songs about smaller things. Like tables. Or this lamp. That's why I wrote a love song. To a lamp." I'm paraphrasing, and certainly incorrectly, but I think you get the idea.

I like that. I wish it didn't take a whole paragraph of my insulting David Byrne in order for me to be able to even get to my point, but at least I remember why I keep going. Back to Byrne.

So here we go. Dealing with big ideas as opposed to small ideas in order to feel some level of closure when you finish dealing with them (ugh, I don't even want to read that sentence, it sounded ugly even in my head). Moving on. Big Ideas are beautiful, but, at the end of the day, it's important to feel as though you have done justice to the idea you are presenting to the world. Hence the reason why musicians practice the same scales and arpeggios hours and hours a day for years and years- to master one small technique. The beauty comes when that one small technique can be applied to a great many purposes. Hence the reason why algebra is the intellectual basis for the Calculus. Hence the reason why, in order to attempt to begin to understand the rather overwhelming topic of "Love," with a capital "L," one might begin by writing a love serenade for something rather "small" and domestic and, seemingly, the opposite of "romantic"- say, a lamp.

The generalities of this minor conclusion could be profound, or they could be like advice from old people- you don't really know what they are talking about, but you trust that whatever they are saying is coming from a place of experience and basically good intentions. It appears that Byrne's stated propensity to seek out and address smaller, more "manageable" (dare we say- domesticized?) topics is perhaps less simpleminded or straightforward than one might think.

Originally hearing the quotation, I took it at face value. I took it at face value, meaning that I assumed that there is such a thing as "smaller" or "bigger" ideas, and that the level of sophistication and complexity required to address such ideas must be therefore proportionate to the enormity of the question, or the idea, at hand. Simply put, the bigger the idea being dealt with, the more complicated it is going to be to break it down and master it. Regardless of whether or not this concept is even true, which I obviously don't know, I don't even know if I agree with it. And this is the gaping abyss, or the 'old people advice,' that Byrne opens up to us as he casually tosses up that (small) nugget of sticky - sweet goodness in his interview. But it's only a beginning.

And with that beginning to a small thought abruptly ended, this is the end of the beginning...


The Context of Culture

In a filmed interview, Federico Fellini once recounted a dream he had had about meeting Picasso.

"In a moment of deep depression," he began, "at the start of a film I didn't want to make anymore, I dreamed that I was invited to a small hut where Picasso lived. He welcomed me, made me an omelette with 12 eggs, cooked it himself, then he told me to be seated. Gave me a napkin so I wouldn't stain myself. He said, 'Never make any stains!' Then we shared this delicious omelette. I remember that in the dream, all night long, he talked to me without stopping, as if to an old friend. It happened twice. The second time," Fellini continued on, wagging his finger at the camera, "there was no omelette... I've never felt that I was influenced, or even tried to insert, a 'Picassian' vision into my films. I don't think so. But Picasso, as a source of creativity, radiating strength, stimulating, urging me on, encouraging me..."

I guess it goes without saying that we are all, in some way, a byproduct of our environments. This too goes for cultural heritage. All writers, artists, creators of any kind, operate under a level of realization that they continue, in some manner, a cultural heritage, many various strains of cultural heritage, that have been set down before them- an inheritance (tax free?) of sorts. That we are not alone in continuing this cultural heritage, and that we are oftentimes working in conjunction with, in the presence of, or at the very least in the wake of greatness, as well as smallness.

Harold Bloom, when considering this sense of awareness and hyper-self-consciousness within the specific context of poetry, called it the "Anxiety of Influence." It has been my experience that most writers, authors, etc, consider themselves to be particularly influenced by other authors. A lot of times it seems as though that claim to influence is, interestingly enough, more of a product of wishful thinking than of anything else. How can we know who we are influenced by?

Proust seems to be an advocate of the opinion that the best way to know who we are as artists, and who we have thus been influenced by, is by knowing who we have NOT been influenced by. He's certainly not the first person to have suggested such a thought, and he definitely won't be the last, but I'm just taking him as an example of this notion- this notion that we can only strive to know who we are by knowing who we want to be, and we can only know who we want to be by knowing whom we have not, at least consciously, sought to emulate.

In seeking to understand the origins of our own individual context of culture, it is oftentimes more helpful to attain an understanding of who, or perhaps what, represents, in our own opinion, an epitome of contrast and juxtaposition. Maybe I can say it's like seeing negative of a photograph, or of a roll of photographs, before one is actually developed.

While this was perhaps all just wishful thinking on Proust's part to try and solidly establish himself outside of a Bergsonian, neoplatonic tradition, it is thought-provoking to me nonetheless. I'm thinking about this on both an artistic and pragmatic level, although the two need not be mutually exclusive. How, in fact, do we ever "know" ourselves? Casting aside the complicated discipline of identity (to the wolves I cast you!), it is clear that, living in a concrete world, we learn and know concrete things, about ourselves and about others, through processes of the scientific method: hypothesis and experiment- trial and error. Why should not the same process apply to attaining an understanding of our own cultural inheritance? While in the end, it could still come down to a kind of "wishful thinking" that I earlier derided, doesn't it seem intuitive that a deductive mode of inquiry into cultural inheritance would make at least a slightly larger dent in our comprehension than an inductive mode, starting randomly in a point in the infinite abyss? And yet that very inductive mode is what Fellini speaks of- Picasso as a source of creativity, a point of reference from which emanates the energy and strength that he himself, Fellini, felt a part of... These are convoluted questions I am presenting, and I don't know the answers.

Wouldn't it just be easier for me to say that I think this hazy cloud of references and quotations offers a rather pretty background (a point of reference? a source of creativity?) at least, to the short story I just wrote.

Take it, thus, as my wishful thinking (my omelette?), my having seen James Joyce as a wellspring of creativity, a source for others such as myself to ponder.



The legal concept of copyright was invented in Britain in the eighteenth century. The Oxford English Dictionary traces its etymology to the first official use of the noun, "copyright," in Parliament in 1735:

1735 Parl. Coll., House of Lords 6 May (H.L.R.O.), The Editions and Impressions of such Books made and published as well in Great Britain as in Ireland and Scotland by persons who have paid no considerations for the Copy-right of such Books.

The foundational establishing of the legal concept of "copyright" had, and certainly still does have, widespread implications in economic, social, and political realms- just to name a few. One of the most profound implications of this legal concept was (and is) the formal organization of the notion that one can "own" ideas. This notion that ideas can be "owned" was, and still is, an extremely powerful one. Among those implications was simply the beginning of a regulated discourse around the question: can a text be "original"? Can it be "inauthentic"? If a text could be "owned" or "attributed" to a single author, then the ideas within them could likewise be "owned." In this way came about the founding and the establishing of a direct, one-way street between the ideas of a text and their reader. Some people have called this connection between idea and text "intention." As audiences, authors, and publishers alike have grown increasingly concerned with these notions of 'authenticity' and 'intention,' so too, likewise, we have become more and more concerned with this concept of the 'edition.' Take for example, the arguments that have raged for quite some time over which printed folio of Shakespeare's King Lear is the "original"- it seems a natural route to seek out the 'intentions' of such an infamous author by looking to those texts that might be termed 'his originals.' While various scholars may disagree with this tactic, no one is confused by it- and we will not be surprised to continue to witness these arguments rage on for quite some time. However, as this brief, over-generalized introduction has endeavored to show, while believing in 'authenticity' and 'intention' has become a part of our everyday discourse surrounding literature (both contemporary and not), I remain skeptical as to whether or not the questions of 'authenticity' and 'originality' are in fact timeless, or eternal questions. While copyright laws have been bound up intricately with the history of the book, it remains nevertheless valuable to question the ways in which our ingrained understanding of the history of books and the history of ideas of books has perhaps influenced our perception of errors within books- editorial errors, textual errors, typos, and the like.



"People, as they go about their pleasures, do not normally stop to think, if certain moderating and weakening influences should happen to be suspended, the proliferation of infusoria would attain its maximum theoretical rate and after a very few days the organisms that might have been contained in a cubic millimetre would take a leap of many millions of miles and become a mass a million times greater than the sun, having in the process destroyed all our oxygen and all the substances on which we live, so that there would exist neither humanity nor animals on earth, nor do they reflect that an irremediable and by no means improbable catastrophe may one day be generated in the ether by the incessant and frenzied activity which lies behind the apparent immutability of the sun; they busy themselves with their own affairs without thinking about these two worlds, the one too small, the other too large for us to be aware of the cosmic menaces with which they envelop us..."

- Marcel Proust, p. 796, Time Regained


"Now within a nation the individual, if he is truly part of the nation, is simply a cell of the nation individual. It is ridiculous to talk about the power of propaganda. Had the Frenchman been told that they were going to be beaten [in the great war], no single Frenchman would have given way to despair any more than he would if he had been told that he was going to be killed by the Berthas. The real propaganda is what- if we are genuinely a living member of a nation- we tell ourselves because we have hope, hope being a symbol of a nation's instinct of self- prerservation. To remain blind to the unjustnes of the cause of the individual 'Germany,' to recognise at every moment the justness of the cause of the individual 'France,' the surest way was not for a German to be without judgment, or for a Frenchman to possess it, it was, both for the one and for the other, to be possessed of patriotism..."

- Marcel Proust, p. 798, Time Regained



To avoid that dreaded categorization of "mediocre woman," I find myself compelled (I wish I could say by some inertia completely exterior to myself, but I know for a fact that that is altogether untrue) to endeavor an elucidation upon the ambiguously symbolic title of my log... Ego Nego. Why, hello there!

"Ego Nego," as I understand it, is a term that refers generally to artistic creation. Specifically, I believe, it refers to Joyce's aesthetic notion, as it is presented in the first chapter of Stephen Hero and Portrait of the Artist, that the artistic ego postures delusions of grandeur, righteousness, and elitism. While he may be offensive in posturing such delusions of righteousness and "ownership," the artist's ego does redeem him or herself (or Stephen's self, in the case of Joyce) by being unable, ultimately, to resist giving away all that he has been given, or has created, himself... be it translated into the form of art, words, or music.

Thus you have the ego, or the "spendthrift," who selfishly believes in his own capacities and individuality as something important. And thus you also have the nego, or "saint," who, in nurturing what is important in his character or talent, ultimately seeks to create, and in doing so, can't help but give everything of himself away. We needn't get carried away and extend the metaphor to "martyrdom," and, albeit the hegemonic Christianity of the reference, I think the point still holds.

If we break down the notion of the "spendthrift saint" into the two basic parts of "Saint" and "Spendthrift," I can't help but notice that it is almost like an addition equation of Lacanian and Miltonian notions of artistic creation. Rabaté talks about Lacan's sinthomme-- the ascetic saint who is able to "own, condense, and redeem the essential value of the world by excluding himself from it." Stuart Curran has written much on John Milton's Economy of Sin-"pernicious casuistry," or "felix culpa"-- Adam and Eve's "happy fall" from Paradise-- that fall from grace that established mankind's vulnerability to Sin and Death, while simultaneously offering man the opportunity to work, to create, to show the true extent of his capacity and dedication to God. Even Joyce's atheistic equation of negation can't escape it- religion and God, in literature, as the ultimate, emblematic signified and signifiers of artistic creation. At least Joyce, in his own ironic syllogism, sets Milton's piety in equilibrium to Lacan's perversion: Spendthrift=saint.

Spendthrift saint. Sinthomme. Cycles of creation and negation. Cycles of Sainthood. Cycles of Sin. Economic Cycles. Perhaps you can imagine the question that finds itself, at this moment, inevitably, on the tip of my tongue... how is it possible that Lacan, Milton, and Joyce forget about the most important cycle of all?

OK... I lost myself in that argument. I won't even pretend like I'm going to go back to it later to untangle those woven threads. "Oh, what tangled webs we weave/ When first we practice to deceive." (Sidenote: I've found this quote to be oftentimes mistakenly attributed to Shakespeare, when it was in fact written by good ol Sir Walter Scott.)

Oh well, what do I expect when I write at 12:30 on a Saturday night but a plateful of lameness. Lame is the new early, as someone nondescript once said.




Love. Violence. Mysterious Signs. Deception and Wasted time. No, it isn't the new Steven Spielberg movie. It's the book by Gilles Deleuze that I have been reading non-stop recently: Proust and Signs, the complete text.

The book takes a close look, or "reading" of ... yep, you got it, signs and semiotics in Proust's À la Recherche du temps perdu (In search of lost time). There's a lot of talk about love, time, memories, sleep, and above all, how all these things relate to the interpretation of signs.

Love and Signs. How the two are interrelated. Take a look at what Deleuze says on the topic:

"... what a profound and intelligent man says has value in itself, by its manifest content, by its explicit, objective, and elaborated signification ; but we shall derive little enough for it, nothing but abstract possibilities, if we have not been able to reach other truths by other paths. These paths are precisely those of the sign. Now a mediocre or stupid person, once we love that person, is richer in signs than the most profound intelligence. The more limited a woman is, the more she compensates by signs, which sometimes betray her and give away a lie, her incapacity to formulate intelligent judgments or sustain coherent thoughts."

Proust says on intellectuals: "The mediocre woman one was amazed to find them loving, enriched their universe much more than any intelligent woman could have done."

Deleuze again: "With the beloved mediocre woman, we return to the origins of humanity, that is, to the moments when signs prevailed over explicit content and hieroglyphs over letter: this woman 'communicates' nothing to us, but unceasingly produces signs that must be deciphered."

Who knew that love, the origins of humanity, and the history of interpretation of signs could all be unified within the brackets of one individual: the mediocre woman.

As a beloved, mediocre woman in my own right, I shall leave this post as a sign to be interpreted by those who, perhaps, won't betray me for my simple lies.



Sentence structure: try as you may, you can't run from it.



Robin and Sofie have decided to start a literary magazine. They asked me to write something on Joyce for them... and maybe some other random musings that relate to the printed word. Ah. The printed word. I'm excited at the prospect of this project, and will be posting some potential submissions for the journal in the meantime. They've also asked me to contribute my extensive SPELLING skills (abc 123) to the journal's editing cause. I can't remember what they called it, but it's something akin to "Special Sauce," without sounding quite so "American Pie."

Anywhoos, in the meantime, I shall reflect on other printed words in my life. I have just started Proust's "A remembrance of things past" for Jean- Michel Rabatés graduate seminar. Last night I tried to read it when I got home, even though I rarely have much luck reading at 2 in the morning. I woke up, unsurprisingly, this morning, with the book lying on my stomach open to page one. I didn't achieve much except managing to bend the cover already, which is a new record for me. The amazing part, though, (and yeah- there is one) is that Proust's overture to the novel is a kind of dream sequence itself that weaves together memories the narrator has of falling asleep, reading, at a young age. Jonny mentioned in passing today that when he opened to the first page of a Remembrance, what struck him most was the incredible sentence structure the Proust uses. The first page is basically two sentences, but it doesn't feel heavy or breathless. Instead it reaffirms the airy, dreamlike quality that the narrator initially proposes.... Words oftentimes can seem heavy, exuding weight naturally, even mass. Long, elaborate sentence structures, much of the time, can appear confusing and convoluted, thereby emphasizing this characteristic. Cheers to you, Proust, and your ability to use vocabulary and syntax to weave a fine and dreamy veil before our very eyes.

More on this later when I have actually read more than just one page.