1. sometimesitmakesyou:

    "The limbs of these figures are foreshortened, like the logic of a child’s idea of the human figure tailored into literalized form. An arm becomes a tool, a weapon, or an alternative mode of communication. Torsos are long, heavy, stout, hardy. Our shadows are, in most cases, an exaggerated (or outright improvement) of our physical realities. Brisson-Darveau’s shadow figures, in contrast, seem to exaggerate the inward-turning autonomy of shadows which have become independent of bodies. For the most part, hands and feet are missing, as are heads; absent, they have lost their primary positions of authority and gravity, no longer at foremost poles of figurative clarity."

  2. I read Frances Stark's writing on Mark E. Smith last night in 'Contra Mundum I-VII' (2010), having found out about it just recently and having a freak-out because the idea of Frances Stark + The Fall was too odd and amazing not to order a copy immediately.

    In her essay ‘The Sycophancy of the Contemporary Artist and the Impossibility of Reaching Out to Mark E. Smith’, Stark is milking her self-proclaimed lack of expertise in anything she is invited to write about, but soon gets down to business,  meaning digression, hyperbole, and a stream-of-consciousness method of laying out a personal history of a topic.

    Stark brings to the reader’s attention the following significant personal sightings of The Fall’s Mark E. Smith: Smith’s comments in a youtube-available documentary on The Fall (he states that he thinks his singing has really improved; Smith isn’t a singer, says Paul Morley), the crossover of the idea of The Fall performing for her opening at Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven in 2007 (“it underscored for me this incredible disconnect between the world that I function in and the world that I consume, and hence this sycophancy of the contemporary artist, where I just felt like to ask for some kind of seeming cohabitation was just too absurd”; at this point Stark gives the reader a studied intro to her work by re-quoting Witold Gombrowicz’s digression in 'Ferdydurke', the quoting which also makes up her piece I must explain, specify, rationalize, classify, etc.), and Michael Bracewell’s failure to interview Mark E. Smith at length (read an interesting article on Smith by Bracewell here). Stark then shifts into the failures people like Bracewell have had when trying to “legitimize and contextualize” artists (she quotes from the famous Bob Dylan interview in 1965, which I will now forever link to Cate Blanchett), who refuse to take part. Stark then talks about a horrible experience she had in when she ended up in a TV documentary when a lecture she was giving coincided with the documentary, and she hilariously describes the humiliation of being told to stage her artist ‘persona’ for the camera for footage and editing purposes.

    Stark then refuses to make a smooth transition to her next link, and simply says “I’m going to read something now”, and gives a long quote from Jacques Ranciere’s ‘The Ignorant Schoolmaster’ on relationships of inequality between teachers and their students. Stark inserts herself into the quote strategically to ask whether we’re getting it, then helpfully breaks it down for us; her uninvited helpful checking is both funny and welcome. This quote ends her essay on Mark E. Smith, as an open-ended point on the ridiculousness of trying to “legitimize and contextualize” the Mark E. Smiths of the world, and perhaps also that, and I’ll add my own quote here from Deleuze’s ‘A Conversation: What is it? What is it For?’, instead of an interview, the point is to co-author a digression:

    "It is very hard to ‘explain oneself’ - an interview, a dialogue, a conversation…Questions are invented, like anything else. If you aren’t allowed to invent your questions, with elements from all over the place, from never mind where, if people ‘pose’ them to you, you haven’t much to say. The art of constructing a problem is very important: you invent a problem, a problem-position, before finding a solution. None of this happens in an interview, a conversation, a discussion. Even reflection, whether it’s alone, or between two or more, is not enough…Objections have never contributed anything. It’s the same when I am asked a general question. The aim is not to answer questions, it’s to get out, to get out of it….Movement always happens behind the thinker’s back, or in the moment when he blinks. Getting out is already achieved, or else it never will be…There are only inexact words to designate something exactly. Let us create extraordinary words, on condition that they be put to the most ordinary use and that the entity they designate be made to exist in the same way as the most common object."

    When Stark talks about the weirdness of actually meeting Smith or involving him directly in her work, she is implicitly talking about the distance she requires to exist between herself and the person/text/music/idea; the distance which allows for a collaboration (in this case between Stark and the text), and thus the creation of something which belongs to neither Stark nor to Smith, but is:

    "instead collective assemblages of enunciation; there are no specificities but instead populations, music-writing-sciences-audio-visual, with their relays, their echoes, their working interactions." (Deleuze)

  4. I found some old 2008 and 2009 posts on my love for The Fall, filled with great found quotes, some of the best being:

    "The starting point for wrestling with the Fall, though, is Smith’s voice, even more than his words. Robert Shelton’s 1961 review of Bob Dylan described his voice as “anything but pretty”; Smith’s voice is anything but pleasant. His relationship with melody is strained at the best of times, and usually overtly hostile; he prefers, generally, to hector and sneer, to orate, to rant, and to whine the bits of his lyrics that are attached to notes as if he’s putting them in sarcastic quotation marks. In the early years, he had a squeal that particularly emphatic words would erupt into, and his overenunciation of final consonants is the stuff of a thousand parodies: “The man-uh! Whose head! Ex-PANded-uh! Was corrupted-uh! By Mr. Sociological Memory!”" ('The Believer' on The Peel Sessions)

    "The erratic Mr. Smith has been chronicling his own experiene of a provincial landscape since the late 70s and has pursued a wilful outsider’s role (when it has suited him) in contemporary British music…there’s a sense of his rolling language around the tongue, a love of the sounds of words - even when those words are second-hand and passed to him through the channels of power. Smith though is openly insolent with his refashioning of those words and his own experiences of bungling cops, wide boys, cloying nostalgia and the idiotic vagaries of fashion washing up in his native Salford. Insolant - and insular"

    "Smith informs us helpfully."

  5. I’ve enjoyed re-reading Laura Bennett’s review of Tina Fey’s memoir ‘Bossypants’ because of the way Bennett precisely identifies many of the tell-tale signals of the kind of schtick which is “benign and mainly cosmetic”, standing in for a lack of any sign of sticky human details. For FUN, I’ll list some of the loudest signals:

    -describing extreme emotions with cartoony lack of depth; “terror burps”

    -“pseudo-self-flagellation” using readymade, vacuous promises to entertain with “lurid tales of anxiety and cowardice”, using sing-song platitudes like “this has all been a wonderful misunderstanding.”

    -“In her account of herself, however, Fey is distilled into a mild current of anxious energy, perfectly likable and inoffensive”

    -Fey “preempts any probing into real frailties and flaws”, wherein what she says is “designed to disarm”, but this means the book is “fueled by reflexive self-deprecation instead of real reflection.”

    -neurosis which “feels mostly rhetorical”, shutting down external questioning

    -“the book is more brand extension than memoir”

    Read the entirety of ‘The Neurosis Racket’ by Laura Bennett.

  6. Related to a post I have in storage on a love of blogging and writing; the two things together make one accountable for what they write; two found quotes:

    on facebook:

    "creativity is forever procrastinated as it’s nickeled and dimed to death eeking itself out in status updates and blurbs instead of being channeled into carefully crafted prose"

    from larval subjects:

    "Distributed cognition enriches thought with perpetual contingency, surmounting the solipsism of thought as it takes place in writing and the brain, exposing thought to the endless hazard of an alterity that sets it unfolding along unexpected vectors of becoming. In this regard, authorship becomes something different. Authorship no longer refers to the intentions animating a particular brain-body, but rather refers to a topo-geographical site where a number of elements or entities are gathered together"

  8. thief note flickr conversation


    via thief note at the online project @theobjectproject.

  9. I’ve always been interested in performers who refuse to ‘perform’, and look pained and resigned, their voices and bodies registering the heaviness of such a horrible burden. Watch this video of an early-80s band called The Surburban Lawns perform the song ‘Janitor’. A few things are happening here. The lame host, trying too hard, and the rapid blurt of the band’s name in that annoying cliche “how to introduce new wavey punk bands” way, and later the ‘interview’ where one of the band members is too cool to reply so someone else takes over. This first introduction to the band through the song ‘Janitor’ seals my fascination. Here we have the teenagey lead singer, Su Tissue, looking like Jennifer Connelly from 'Phenomena' in early 80s long skirt and pale-yellow blouse. She stands completely slack, absolutely no desire or need to dance or move around. When she starts to sing, she uses a silly voice more like the kind that a kid would use when trying to sound like a stuffy adult. The voice changes to a classic cartoony squeak, but not as shrill as, say, Betty Boop. The cartoony voices should be tempered by Su Tissue’s slack, grimacing face, but they’re not. They’re independent. They’re disembodied. She’s not exactly channeling something but she may as well be. She clenches and churns the role of ‘singer’ into sounds with quiet disgust, which is the whole point.

  10. I was wondering about how much of a fan I really was/am of David Sedaris. I was getting suspicious off and on of being someone who says to people “I love ALL of his work.” What if his stories start to congeal, or become the kind of things people endorse with blanket support, dutifully, without revealing a set of human thoughts or feelings behind the endorsement? What if the work changes, and I’m forced to become a fan of intense crap, like television, in order to superficially bond with other humans? So the best thing to do is to continue to test the fan-ness with occasional or regular exposure, to test whether or not the stories still hold true to the particular reasons why I became a fan of Sedaris’s work. In addition to the books, the stories in the New Yorker, This American Life podcasts, I could finally get to the next level of the testing by going to a live reading earlier this evening.

    David started off his reading with a story about flies reminiscing and flirting over fresh vomit. The story led into faeces and blisters. The next story was about a married dog couple, one partner remembering a neighbor’s feeding his removed tonsils to his Weinereimer. And then letting his thoughts wander to his partner, who had just had a hysterectomy, wondering what a fresh uterus would taste like. David let us hear a few minutes of an upcoming audio book wherein he’d asked guest readers to read his stories. The few minutes we heard were from Elaine Stritch. Elaine Stritch!! During the Q&A, David elaborated on a question about what he was “most surprised by living in France”, and he described his wonderful medical and dental coverage, including a gum and teeth scraping, particularly how it felt and smelled.

    By extension, seeing, hearing, and smelling these stories and all the bodily experiences of David Sedaris are exactly the reasons why, to me, his stories continue to escape the horrible congeal of being blanket-endorsed. People can generalize and plug and gush, but when it comes down to it, Sedaris is not lecturing the reader the way a lot of contemporary short stories do which try to be true to life and anti-heroic. Many contemporary short stories, by trying to be true to life and anti-heroic, come off as being the exact kind of gimmicky they constantly state they’re trying to avoid, and by not admitting an inherent gimmicky nature, the stories have the tone of someone projecting a constant self-denial through grating and presumptuous moralism. Sedaris’s stories are gimmicky and they know it, but they lack the pretentious ‘humanism’ of writing which presumes to tell the reader how to Really Be Themselves. Being petty and judgemental is what David Sedaris is, and what his stories are, and what I often am. Sedaris’s stories seem not to care if you’re a fan or not, if you take responsibility for yourself or not. They have the tone of someone who genuinely enjoys seeing and hearing about what people do, no matter how irresponsible or mindless. It’s exhausting having to read stories from people who are constantly nagging at themselves to be responsible citizens while at the same time wanting to be true to their petty and judgemental natures. David’s nonlinear, stream-of-conscious writing is true to its petty and judgemental nature, while being unfazed by those who are constantly nagging at themselves to be responsible citizens.

    And David will write a very believable, empathetic story about two flies meeting casually over fresh vomit.

  11. Mr. Enderby by Anthony Burgess

    While casting around for a blog title I thought of a definite favorite book of mine throughout my teens and 20s; the book is one of four by Anthony Burgess (Joseph Kell was a pen name), author of ‘A Clockwork Orange’. For me, the ideal subject of a series of books turned out to be Mr. Enderby, “a dyspeptic, privacy-craving poet who likes to compose while seated on the toilet, using an unused bathtub as a catch-all filing cabinet”, writes Tim Conway on Burgess. He continues: “Enderby’s trials and tribulations are great comedies of anxiety. The adventures with publishing, plagiarism, and pushy women plunge Enderby into levels of introspection where even his verse does not take him, and the series as a whole represents Burgess’s own fascination with the social construction called “an author.”” What I admired most about these books were the unflinching descriptions of bodily failures of all kinds alongside the interior vulnerability and incredible use of neologisms, multi-dialect and multi-language slang, all in the midst of a pseudo-70s British exterior which reads like Science Fiction. Enderby is plagued by complexes often triggered by a deceased stepmother whose health and habits definitively introduce the books’ ongoing theme of bodily horror. Poor Enderby, yet anti-heroic heroic in a way that is still so refreshing in comparison to the typical sadsack yet photogenic and sexy filmic anti-hero.

    "In the opening chapter he is visited by a party from the future, a teacher and pupils come to gaze on the poet as he sleeps: in time to come, we learn, there is to be a Harvard edition of his work; he will be spoken of in the same breath as Shakespeare, his digestive troubles thought of with Johnson’s scrofula or Keats’s consumption. The students are encouraged to draw lessons in philosophy from the contrast between the squalor of his surroundings (and his person) and the wealth of his spirit. (So Inside Mr. Enderby is an example of disguised science-fiction - SF that most readers don’t even register is SF: cf. Cold Comfort Farm)." (Zoo in the head)

    Here is an excerpt from the first chapter of ’Inside Mr. Enderby’:

    A posterior riposte from Mr Enderby. Do not touch, Priscilla. Mr Enderby is not a thing to be prodded; he is a great poet sleeping. Your grubby finger out of his mouth, please, Alberta. His mouth is open for no amateur dental inspection but to the end that he may breathe. That nose is, at forty-five, past its best as an organ, the black twitching caverns - each with its miniature armpit - stuffed and obtuse. The world of smell is visited by his early poems, remember (pages 1 to 17 of the Harvard University Press selection which is your set book). There we have washed hair, pickles, gorse, bath-salts, skin, pencil-shavings, tinned peaches, post offices, Mrs Lazenby at the corner-shop in his native slum, cloves, diabetes. But it has no existence in his maturer work; the twin ports are closed for ever. That gentle noise, Harold, is snoring. That is so, Christine; his teeth, both upper and lower, are removable: they have been removed to that plastic night-jar there. Child, child, you have spilt denture-fluid on to Mr Enderby’s landlady’s carpet. No, Robin, the carpet is neither beautiful nor rare, but it is Mrs Meldrum’s property. Yes, Mr Enderby himself is our property, the world’s property, but his carpet is his landlady’s. Mrs Meldrum’s. 

    Now. His hair goes a daily journey from head to brush, squad by tiny squad on a one-way ticket. Here on the dressing-table are the imitation-silver-backed brushes bequeathed by his father, the tobacconist. The bristles are indeed dirty, Mavis, but great poets have other things to do than attend to the calls of hygiene. See how the bristles have trapped their day’s quota of Mr Enderby’s few remaining hairs. Holy relics, children. Do not rush. One each for everybody. There. Keep it safe, each of you, in your little diary of posterity’s present year. Shed hairs, Henry, become the property of the picker. They are of no use to Mr Enderby, but they are already fetching, at classical auction-rooms, a pound or so each if nicely mounted. It is not proper, Audrey, that you should try to pick your hair alive. Such a rough tug at the scalp is enough to wake Mr Enderby.


    You see? He’s disturbed. Let him settle as one lets churned water settle. Right. A better view of Mr Enderby, you will agree, children, as he flops on his back cruciform and sends the bedclothes sliding and plopping to the floor. His belly bulges in two gentle hills, one on either side of the cutting pyjama-cord. There is a wealth of hair, see. It is one of the abominable ironies of middle age that hair should march down from the noble summit, the eagle’s lodge, to leave that bare as an eagle, in order that the camps and barracks and garrisons of the warm vulgar body be crammed with a growth that is neither useful nor pretty. The flabby chest too, see. Rich in hair, aflame with whorls and tendrils of it. And for good measure, chin and jowls bristling. Horrent, Milton might say.

    Yes, Janice, I am constrained to agree that Mr Enderby does not make a pretty sight when sleeping, even in total darkness. Yes, we all remark the scant hair, the toothless jaws, the ample folds of flesh rising and falling. But what has prettiness to do with greatness, eh? There is something for you all to ponder on. You would not like to have been married to him, Alberta? Might not the reverse also have applied, even more so, you stupid giggling silly thing? Who are you to think that you would ever be meet to mate with a great poet?

    The extremities. The feet that trod Parnassus. Callosities on the intricate map of the sole, see. Torn toenails, though that of the great toe too rocky to be tearable. They could both do with a long sudsy soaking, agreed. The outstretched right hand, like a beggar’s, really a king’s. Gaze with reverence on those fingers that rest now from writing. Tomorrow they will write again, continuing the poem that he considers to be his masterpiece. Ah, what these fingers have produced! Each of you kiss the hand, more gently, though, than a fly crawling. I realize that the act of kissing needs an effort of will to overcome a certain natural revulsion. Here, however, is a little lesson for you in scholastic philosophy.

    It has hardly disturbed him at all. He scratches it gently in his sleep, the tickle of a questing alighting moth. Listen. In his sleep he is going to say something. Your kiss has prodded a sleeping inspiration. Listen. 

    My bedmate deep 

    In the heavy labour of unrequited sleep. 

    "There’s just something inexplicably appealing about an overweight, balding, aging, flatulent literary superhero. There’s hope for us all, in a way." (E.B.M., Jr.)

  12. I don’t remember exactly when I first laughed involuntarily while reading ‘Catcher In The Rye’, but it was on a trip somewhere, probably early maybe earlier, and that book was badly needed. I had never read anything like it before. It was one of the books which changed my fiction-reading standards to the point of renouncing the merest formulaic hair, or at least what I thought to be the merest formulaic hair at the time. And its language existed as proof of something beyond any immediate and endless claustrophobia. I lived in the book and I did not want to leave. Most fierce supporters of a favorite writer will deeply mistrust anyone else’s version of what makes the writing so great, and I think particularly with Salinger, this intense protectiveness is always welcome and encouraged by the very Salinger that exists in his stories, in the constant re-reading of them, and the personal reading voice of the reading brain and body. The stories are full of impossibly self-aware youth perhaps, but with enough fragility and slapstick coarseness to give every obssessed speech the greasy smear of bad skin, the cold numbness of a cut palm, the sting and acrid smell of a crammed medicine cabinet, the drunk sweat of heat-exhausted guests in a tiny living room, the greying crud of shaving scum, the moldy smell of a bumpy chest, the flakey existence of sad messes, the prosthetic impotence of false eyelashes, the nausea of others’ violence and true apathy, the existence of which is all part of the breath and hair and toenails of every line.

    excerpts from ‘Seymour An Introduction’:

    There are, however, readers who seriously require only the most restrained, most classical, and possibly deftest method of having their attention drawn and I suggest – as honestly as a writer can suggest this sort of thing - that they leave now, while, I can imagine, the leaving’s good and easy. I’ll probably continue to point out available exits as we move along, but I’m not sure I’ll pretend to put my heart into it again.

    But on this occasion I’m anything but a short-story writer where my brother is concerned. What I am, I think, is a thesaurus of undetached prefatory remarks about him. I believe I essentially remain what I’ve almost always been – a narrator, but one with extremely pressing personal needs. I want to introduce, I want to describe, I want to distribute mementos, amulets, I want to break out my wallet and pass around snapshots, I want to follow my nose. In this mood, I don’t dare go anywhere near the short-story form. It eats up fat little undetached writers like me whole.…when I read my new short stories aloud to him it was his unwavering custom, once in every story, to interrupt me in the middle of a line of dialogue to ask me if I knew that I had a Good Ear for the Rhythms and Cadences of Colloquial Speech.


    And again, an excerpt from a letter Salinger once wrote as a reply to the idea of filming ‘Catcher In The Rye’:


    There are readymade “scenes” - only a fool would deny that - but, for me, the weight of the book is in the narrator’s voice, the non-stop peculiarities of it, his personal, extremely discriminating attitude to his reader-listener, his asides about gasoline rainbows in street puddles, his philosophy or way of looking at cowhide suitcases and empty toothpaste cartons - in a word, his thoughts. He can’t legitimately be separated from his own first-person technique. True, if the separation is forcibly made, there is enough material left over for something called an Exciting (or maybe just Interesting) Evening in the Theater. But I find that idea if not odious, at least odious enough to keep me from selling the rights. There are many of his thoughts, of course, that could be labored into dialogue - or into some sort of stream-of-consciousness loud-speaker device - but labored is exactly the right word. What he thinks and does so naturally in his solitude in the novel, on the stage could at best only be pseudo-simulated, if there is such a word (and I hope not). Not to mention, God help us all, the immeasurably risky business of using actors. Have you ever seen a child actress sitting crosslegged on a bed and looking right? I’m sure not. And Holden Caulfield himself, in my undoubtedly super-biassed opinion, is essentially unactable. A Sensitive, Intelligent, Talented Young Actor in a Reversible Coat wouldn’t nearly be enough. It would take someone with X to bring it off, and no very young man even if he has X quite knows what to do with it. And, I might add, I don’t think any director can tell him.


    from other writers:


    "I am in awe of the strange and not so subtle way we have carried this quiet sagacious lion with us like some beloved, worn stuffed animal and have woven his words, his way of thinking, inexorably into our DNA—we are all his characters, we are all Holden Caulfield, Seymour Glass, and the whole Glass family.”


    "But what struck me most was how wounded they were—if you could be wounded, exquisitely—with what seemed all the thorny emotion of life, of the world. I hadn’t quite understood life to be like that, until Salinger. And I realized then that I had grown up a little."


    "Salinger was probably weary of people wanting to claim him, which may be one reason that he stopped publishing."


    "The secret to Holden’s authority as a narrator is that he never lets anything stand by itself. He always tells you what to think. He has everyone pegged. That’s why he’s so funny. But The New Yorker’s editors were right: Holden isn’t an ordinary teen-ager—he’s a prodigy. He seems (and this is why his character can be so addictive) to have something that few people ever consistently attain: an attitude toward life."


    "Holden, after all, isn’t unhappy because he sees that people are phonies; he sees that people are phonies because he is unhappy. What makes his view of other people so cutting and his disappointment so unappeasable is the same thing that makes Hamlet’s feelings so cutting and unappeasable: his grief. Holden is meant, it’s true, to be a kind of intuitive moral genius. (So, presumably, is Hamlet.) But his sense that everything is worthless is just the normal feeling people have when someone they love dies. Life starts to seem a pathetically transparent attempt to trick them into forgetting about death; they lose their taste for it."


    "emotional without being sentimental, dramatic without being melodramatic, and honest without simply being obscene."


    "The honesty and sincerity that Holden cannot seem to find in others he tries to maintain within himself. Holden often makes a point of using the word “really” to assert the fact that something is really so, to prove to the reader that he had not become a phony himself. Holden is distressed often by the occasional realization that he too, must be phony to exist in the adult world. With regard to the insincere “Glad to’ve met you” formula, he comments that “if you want to stay alive, you have to say that stuff, though”."


    "His problem is one of communication: as a teenager, he simply cannot get through to the adult world which surrounds him; as a sensitive teenager, he cannot get through to others of his own age."


    "the bathroom scene in “Zooey” is perhaps the consummate example of this hermeticity. As if the space of the bathroom was still not small enough, there is a space-within-a-space formed by the shower curtain drawn around the tub in which Zooey sits with a lit cigarette parked on the soapdish. The scene is one of the most remarkable mother-and-son scenes in literature."


    "For Salinger, failures of language advance the horror, vacuity, and despair of modern life"


    "Nowhere else in Salinger’s fiction does he more intensely present the paradox and dilemma of modern man: to speak is not to express; to employ forms of expression is often to evade the difficulties of significant communication""his realization of the essential obscenity of life itself"


    "escaping from other-directed mass society by learning to perceive reality from the inside, by learning how to find meaning from within"

  13. I don’t know if you’ve listened to any radio stories from either TAL or Radiolab, but you may have noticed the huge cavernous difference between the two approaches to storytelling. Halfway through the Radiolab episode ‘Choices’, I felt the same thing I felt when I’d listened (and stopped listening) about a year ago.

    This positive review of Radiolab lists what it feels are its great qualities, but the list can also be used to mention its terrible qualities. The reviewer begins by assuming, “When somebody comes on the air to shore up a story or drone through a puzzle that they’ve already solved, we usually tune out. Especially in our fast-paced information society”. I wouldn’t say this is true for every listener. The two radio hosts on Radiolab ‘discuss’ the progress of each story before it ever really gets a chance to flesh out. The reviewer says, “It’s like two guys at a coffee table, but every time they turn their heads to one side or another…a little thought bubble pops out and then ‘Poof!’ there’s a scientist.” The hosts treat the storytellers like parlour tricks. The hosts explain “It’s very much about the journey of going through and bumping into stuff and being like, ‘Oh, look at this!’ or ‘Look at that!’”

    Another reviewer said simply “Generally, I really like RadioLab, although I find the production reminiscent of “short attention span theater”, e.g. Bill Nye the Science Guy. Sound effects aren’t for everyone.”

    TAL’s host Ira Glass wrote “Some stories definitely aren’t worth pursuing. These are stories where everything reminds you too much of other stories you’ve already heard, and stories where there’s no sympathetic character (it’s hard for the story to carry much feeling if there’s no one in the story to relate to), and stories where everything kind of works out as you’d sort of expect. Surprise is important.” I think part of the reason why Radiolab doesn’t work for me is the lack of sympathetic storyteller, or the constant interruption and editing of those who might be.

    TAL lets people tell their stories. There are no sound effects apart from usually a non-abrasive piece of music in the background. There is no arrogant, condescending banter. The show believes in the power of the story without having to force it to move along, make it faster and snappier, or give it special effects in order to make it more listenable. TAL trusts its storytellers and respects the intelligence of its listeners.

    November 29, 2008

  14. A friend and I co-hosted a reading/discussion group in 2008 focused on Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s 'Phenomenology of Perception'. At the first meeting, while deciding how to divide up the reading over about ten meetings, we all sort of found out why and how we were interested in phenomenology, and in a discussion about film, some very particular sensibilities and ideas came up from various people, creating the kind of situation where principles that seem given are suddenly thrown back, and trying to explain them is like this horribly new situation. Also, right away people were coming up with ideas on how to make the meetings into extended critiques, more like the idea of relating the discussions to each person’s interests and practice in a more direct way.

    Associated from this, and because I like reading about personal strategies of coping with noise, here are some thoughts from “Sounding Out the City : Personal Stereos & the Management of Everyday Life" (which is a book my old Anthropology instructor would appreciate for its straight-forward, earnest descriptions and conclusions on something so everyday):

    "A phonograph seduces doubly every time: it fulfils its little nasal function and roots me in reality as I cannot imagine. It reproduces and it symbolises, the one with the other, the one inside the other, inseparable … A machine corresponds necessarily to a call of the imaginary … a machine corresponds to what the user expects of it but also provides him with an unprecedented, unformulated response of which itself is the idea." (Grivel 1992, p. 35)

    "throughout the modern era, the quest of the individual is for his self, for a fixed and unambiguous point of reference. He needs such a fixed point more and more urgently in view of the unprecedented expansion of theoretical and practical perspectives and the complication of life, and the related fact that he can no longer find it anywhere outside himself." (Simmel 1971a, p. 175)

    "Living bodies, the bodies of ‘users’ - are caught up not only in the toils of parcelised space, but also in the web of what philosophers call ‘analgons’; images, signs, symbols. These bodies are transported out of themselves and emptied out, as it were, via the eyes; every kind of appeal, incitement and seduction is mobilised to tempt them with doubles of themselves in prettified, smiling and happy poses; this campaign to void them succeeds exactly to the degree that the images proposed correspond to the ‘needs’ that those same images have helped fashion. So it is that a massive influx of information, of messages, runs head into an inverse flow constituted by the evacuation from the innermost body of all life and desire. Even cars may fulfil the function of analgons, for they are at once extensions of the body and mobile homes, so to speak, fully equipped to receive these wandering bodies." (Lefebvre 1991b, p. 99)

    "Even in the cafe, where one wants to roll up into a ball like a porcupine and become aware on one’s insignificance, an imposing loudspeaker effaces every trace of private existence. The announcements it blares forth dominate the space of the concert intermissions, and the waiters (who are listening to it themselves) indignantly refuse the unreasonable request to get rid of this gramophone mimicry." (Kracauer 1995, p. 333)

    "the railroad, bus and underground became places of gaze rather than scenes of discourse. The verbal connections between strangers in the modern city are difficult to sustain, the impulses of sympathy which individuals may feel in the city looking at the scene around become in turn momentary - a second of response looking at snapshots of life … ours is a purely visual agora." (Sennett 1994, p. 358)

    "Personal stereos are multifaceted transformative devices for users. Their use may give an added physical presence to a subject’s sense of interiority often achieved through the very physicality of the music…" (Bull, Michael. Sounding Out the City… p 22.)

    "Personal-stereo users often describe habitation in terms of an imaginary communion with the source of communication." (Bull, Michael. Sounding Out the City… p 31.)