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.