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Flamethrowers III: Watching It Burn

I don’t think of myself as a contrarian critic, but as soon as I read Andreas and Joshua’s agreeing with my generally negative take on the middle of Kushner’s novel, I started liking the book better, including the structural flaws that anyone could point to, and I only got tetchy at the very end, or in some sense after the very end.  Arguably this is because in the last four chapters Reno is portrayed as being on (what I deem to be) the Right Side of History, and of art history; or rather, as the time-line of the novel gets a bit gnarled, Reno finally gets to be on the same side of history that Kushner herself seems to be on.

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July 15, 2018 Posted by | boredom | | Leave a comment

Flamethrowers II: Just like the ’60s, Only with Less Hope

This post is late, almost two-and-a-half days late.  If you inferred from that that I have been sick, a copy of Kushner on the bed table while I lay trying to get more than four hours of sleep with a heavy perpetual cough, you would have been right, for the first few days.  But I got better, and yet I still couldn’t make reading the book a priority.  So my apologies, as the person who chose this book, because I am more and more realizing that this book is not “for me.” (I think some of you felt that way last time around with The Flame Alphabet.) Some of my comments and topics for discussion will probably seem dutiful, though not I hope perfunctory, and I hope to keep from being a party poop if you’re enjoying it more than I am. Continue reading

July 10, 2018 Posted by | boredom | | 10 Comments

Kushner, The Flamethrowers I: Topics of Interest?

Now that I’ve finished reading chs. 1-7 of Rachel Kushner’s The Flamethrowers, I can hope to start asking questions about it, up to and including the most global questions –why do we still read fiction in 2018?, why do we read fiction at all?, why does anybody read anything?– down through the more specific questions of why this book?, what kind of book is it?, how does it address us?, what are its goals?.  When you pick a book to read not entirely at random but only by reputation, as we did three years ago with Ben Marcus’s The Flame Alphabet and Tom McCarthy’s C, we risk that the answers to these questions might disappoint. Continue reading

July 1, 2018 Posted by | boredom | | 6 Comments

Summer 2018 Reading: Rachel Kushner, The Flamethrowers; José Donoso, The Obscene Bird of Night

(For what remains of) This summer, I invite you all to read along with me two books, and comment on them with me here on WordPress/Heteronymy.  The first book is a great roller-coaster of a novel I meant to read back when it came out in 2013, Rachel Kushner’s THE FLAMETHROWERS, which is about New York in the 1970s, a topic of fascination to people who were too young to remember it in real life (and to people like me, who whooshed off to college and barely saw it in real life).  The other book is a bizarre quasi-Surrealist take on a crumbling family and society in Chile in the 1960s, José Donoso’s THE OBSCENE BIRD OF NIGHT (1970), a novel overshadowed by more user-friendly and sentimental Great Big Novels of the Latin American Boom by García Márquez, Fuentes, and Cortázar, but just as great and big.  I’ve never read the Kushner novel; I have only read the Donoso novel in translation, thirty years ago, and am looking forward to giving it the real reading that it deserves.

As we did three years ago when we read David Marcus and Tom McCarthy, we’ll give ourselves page targets and try to get it all done before my semester starts in Oberlin.  Given page lengths, I think that means three weeks for Kushner (383pp.) and four weeks for Donoso (440pp.).  While Todo México was glued to the TV screen this morning I was at the Strand and have purchased my copy of The Flamethrowers.  It looks as though we should aim thusly:
Week One (blog comments on Sun July 1):  Chaps 1-7 (–> p.110)
Week Two (blog comments on Sun July 8):  Chaps 8-14 (–>p.263)
Week Three (blog comments on Sun July 15): finish.
I hope this will intrigue, and of course delight and instruct.

June 23, 2018 Posted by | boredom | , | Leave a comment

Thursday Take-Down of “Our Education”

Studying is essentially still this: converting stuff in books to stuff in brains. In order to do well in school you have to have a large storage and excellent read/write access to it. Very much as if processor, programming and sensitivity to context do not matter. It is like our education system is stuck in not caring about anything but our memory capacity. And so it produces the new standard uniform class of power people who have muscled memory, and the disciplined balls that go with it. I’ll try to explain why this is as unnecessary as it is bad and why it’s nevertheless unlikely to change.

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January 18, 2018 Posted by | boredom | | Comments Off on Thursday Take-Down of “Our Education”

Three Measures to unblind capitalism (2)

Continued from here.

The right to die after a life of laziness profiting from other people’s sweat:

You can have hundreds of measures to counteract all the immoral outcomes of capitalism. None will succeed if they don’t touch the heart of the matter: putting matter before mind. The three most important achievements in keeping morality as primary are threatened by the constant erosion from capitalism’s constant competition. Whether it is social security, access to education or human rights, there’s no Western election that can’t be won by people challenging it all as politically correct and endangering economic productivity.

Fragmenting human rights by expanding them into minute details is not the right way to go. It just makes for a pathetic left wing defensiveness that appeals only to the converted while alienating those bearing the brunt of capitalism. I propose three measures that – in my view – will guarantee that the issues are dealt with at the root. On this basis, it won’t be necessary to overly stipulate specific policies as they’ll evolve automatically as a matter of public discourse. I realize that it’s not possible to realize them as a big bang and that incremental development towards them will be required. I’ll come back to that later. For now the problem is not how to achieve this but whether, if achieved, it will suffice to capitalize on capitalism without bleeding out from its blindness.

Measure 1: universal and unqualified right to die

It is not odd to start with a basic personal right given what has been said above. I realize that this measure is the most contentious one, precisely because this ultimate individual self-determination is directly at odds with the delusion of original sin (and hence original responsibility). It shows that we don’t live to redeem ourselves or to repay some original debt. If we feel we don’t derive any value from our existence, it is our right to terminate it. Full stop. Sure, there are qualifications but these are of process, not of right. Continue reading

December 5, 2016 Posted by | boredom, Thursday Take Down, Tuesday Hatred, Tuesday Quought | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Tuesday Hatred: I am as much one of us as I am one of them

There is only one thing more stupid still than computers are: people who believe that algorithms can outsmart people. They may even see contradiction lurking in the previous sentence. That is what a lack of imagination can do to us. It makes us ignore the data and see everything bigly (probably how a pig would see it). The stress in artificial intelligence is on artificial, where intelligence itself is one and all art.
We should feel very strongly about this because it’s about us. The modern shamanism of technology has it that analytics can be predictive where it obviously can only be reactive. Algorithms do not create a single quark of novelty except by introducing the haphazard. They do not listen but just repeat so you eat your own cake over and over again until your mind is fat and lazy – zero hazard involved.
Once they stuffed us full of our own bigotry, Facebook and Google will wash their hands in innocence. It’s our stupidity, not theirs. That’s right. Wing it, you evangelists of superior complexity, who make us horny on bits, byting into the Apple of money. Wing it, by being right in creating a prophecy we can’t but fulfill playing back our stupidity until we think we are smarter than they are. Trump us up into hell.

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November 22, 2016 Posted by | boredom, innovative technologies that shape our lives, Tuesday Hatred, waking up in a cold sweat | , , | Comments Off on Tuesday Hatred: I am as much one of us as I am one of them

Friday Afternoon Confessional: Going Crazy

The most important thing is this: never – never ever – leave a space at the end of a line. Fill it to the end even if you have to type ghjtrgk. Or something. Never mind whjkjkljere.

O.

You may leave space after an O.

Or an Aha.

They don’t mean anything like. They’re not important. Ghdhjk. Like me? I don’t. Well, I like the other me and he dislikes this me. Dis mie ning. Strike that. Stricken. Always correct yourself. Try that with a jkjkjk space. Should have been spspspp. Too late. Always too late to correct your self. Why write, anyway? It is not like someone will read it (except me, I’m here writing it, don’t have a choice, never hadt; even not  in parentheses). What a relief, not to have to be understandable; kind of explains why you’re not not – a random string replaced by a less random still meaningless one – not not not understood.

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October 28, 2016 Posted by | boredom | Comments Off on Friday Afternoon Confessional: Going Crazy

Friday Afternoon Confesional: I’m a quitter

I mean, I was planning to write this on Friday but I felt a bit off and wound up watching the tennis. Tennis is such an unimaginative sport: the same people win in the same way all of the time. I vaguely remember that some 30 years ago there were occasional outbursts that seemed to indicate this was a sport of man rather than machine. Now, only one thing is for sure: successful tennis players are no quitters. Whatever, I watched it feeling every ounce of energy being drawn from me, knowing full well I should have followed through with my plan but still giving into the fascination for nothingness which is my true addiction.

In other words: I’m a quitter.

I would normally not feel inclined to see this as a confession were it not for the blatant fact that quitting is, societally, seen as the pinnacle of anti-social behavior. Perseverance, now that is something we should all have. Whether it is the passionate entrepreneur who, after 300 pitches says to herself “I just have to change this and try harder” or the artist who has eaten dirt for decades without faltering in his single-focused follies, it is the transpiration that is admired. The patient exercise of impatience to keep on going on because the reward is worth the effort of clinging on even if is  uncut misery topped with pure humiliation.

The quitter’s take: I’m rich enough to behave spoiled, so let that be my quiet rebellion.

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June 5, 2016 Posted by | boredom, Friday Afternoon Confessional | | Comments Off on Friday Afternoon Confesional: I’m a quitter

40.1.1: Pavel reporting

Fritz and Sandra grew closer; feeling irresistibly attracted, to him. I was their alibi allowing them to resist the urge to get up just as they had learned when they were young puppies in social life wanting to be distinguished dogs. The urge overcome, Fritz released their tension by laughing. It sounded like a pig grunting. “Tu t’appelles Pavel.”, he repeated in an attempt to make the joke his own – adding hesitatingly: “Nius has had his best times, don’t you think?”. “No.”, I answered, “Or rather. I couldn’t compare his times.” “I meant, …”, he went on, but I did not muster the attention span to hear his no doubt masterly retort.
Sandra just sat there and didn’t listen either. She was showing every sign of puppy love and, braless, this was accentuated twice in a way that did capture my attention. What Fritz meant will remain a mystery. Nipples are, most of the times, more fascinating than meanings. Her nipples pointed in the same direction of her gaze, which made me also look at Guido who, meanwhile, was greeting his hostess in the garden. She dismissed those paid to inform the peoples with a lordly gesture. Money she had abundantly, but no money could buy her the benefit of being a host making refined gestures. Guido kissed her hand. The flashing mob came to a final orgasm after which they were chased up the stairs and out of the house by those paid – hand on ear – by, little, Aurelia Bensone. A brief electric moment underlined the exclusivity now acutely felt by those selected by invite. Guido put one foot forward to gently almost-genuflect and kiss Aurelia’s hand until the flashes died out. Then he grinned and stood up, tall, opening his arms for her to jump in. Some isolated flashes were made in full retreat. Together they made a half turn, his rough coal-shovel hands unashamedly groping her thighs. Another flash. Another. From the house photographer, no doubt. A last one. Looks became serious again. Back to business as usual. Feet on the ground. Over to the order of the night.

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May 27, 2016 Posted by | boredom | Comments Off on 40.1.1: Pavel reporting