Archive for January 2005
A highly selective anthology of passages from reviews of Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11:
In this peaceable kingdom,
according to Moore’s flabbergasting
choice of film shots, children are flying little kites, shoppers are smiling in
the sunshine, and the gentle rhythms of life are undisturbed. Then—wham! From
the night sky come the terror weapons of American imperialism. Watching the
clips Moore uses, and recalling
them well, I can recognize various Saddam palaces and military and police
centers getting the treatment. But these sites are not identified as such. In
fact, I don’t think Al Jazeera would,
on a bad day, have transmitted anything so utterly propagandistic. You would
also be led to think that the term "civilian casualty" had not even
been in the Iraqi vocabulary until March 2003.
But he’s Michael Moore, after all,
and sometimes he goes too far. His prewar portrait of Iraq as a garden spot of happy families and kids flying kites would no doubt strike
thousands of former Iraqi prisoners and their families as risible, if not
The most offensive sequence in “Fahrenheit 9/11“‘s long two hours lasts
only a few minutes. It’s Moore’s file-footage depiction of happy Iraq
before the Americans began their supposedly pointless invasion. You see
men sitting in cafes, kids flying kites, women shopping. Cut to bombs
exploding at night.
What Moore presumably doesn’t know, or simply doesn’t care about, is
that the building you see being blown up is the Iraqi Ministry of
Defense in Baghdad. Not many children flew kites there. It was in a
part of the city that ordinary Iraqis weren’t allowed to visit — on
pain of death.
And if Moore weren’t a (left-wing) version of the fat, bigoted,
ignorant Americans his European friends love to mock, he’d know that
prewar Iraq was ruled by a regime that had forced a sixth of its
population into fearful exile, that hanged dissidents (real dissidents,
not people like Susan Sontag and Tim Robbins) from meathooks and
tortured them with blowtorches, and filled thousands of mass graves
with the bodies of its massacred citizens.
Yes, children played, women shopped and men sat in cafes while that
stuff went on — just as people did all those normal things in Somoza’s
Nicaragua, Duvalier’s Haiti and for that matter Nazi Germany, and as
they do just about everywhere, including in Iraq today.
We can anticipate the response. (There will be no response). The particular, the deviant – not so much a deviation from the norm (in which, we know, the norm always plays puppet-master) but something from outside the system altogether. The "work of a solitary individual" or at least "individuals." Orders ignored, or there was at least a problem in transmission. Authorities are investigating the problem – the crime.
The whole thing balanced on the ability to make a he and a he and a he into a they, but to keep our we uncontaminated, know that this particular he (or he or he) is never we. Certainly never I.
With the photograph, the they slips closer to the he. The you. But not, apparently, close enough. Or too close, and thus the captions, which push the images back to the range of someone else’s joke.
Was dis my head?
that was one hell of a speed bump
splater’s worsethen hitting a cow at 50 in a 72′ pickup
ok im not cleaning hat up
And what do I do but post this? Seriously?
The link will be closed down in a few days and then everything will be OK, OK?
Promise I will start posting regularly again once I either get a job or don’t get a job. I will find out in a week or so…
It’s a psychologically complex profession, academia. The up side is so up and the down side is so down with very little to stand on in between…
Headlines in today’s Financial Times:
1) "Congress targets Iran for Regime Change"
2) "White House remains wary as neocons turn their attention to Iran"
3) Pentagon hits at Tehran claims
Headlines that mention Iran in today’s NY Times:
Hmm… News black out. Weird that I first saw the word "Iran" this week on the cover of one the free dailies they hand out at subway stations here in NYC. Someone was reading the paper on the train. Then checked the tabloids at the bodega. "Iran" and "Iran." But the paper of record, no dice.
Have they cut us out of the loop on this one? Has it already started?
From Peter Osborne’s fantastic The Politics of Time: Modernity and Avant-Garde, pp. 164-5.
“Marx and Engel’s error was to see in this
process an ultimately linear tendency towards the elimination of every social
bond ‘other than naked self-interest… callous “cash payment”’: a drowning of
‘the heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of
philistine sentimentalism, in the icy waters of egotistical calculation’. To
the contrary, it has turned out to involve, not their elimination, but their transformation and contradictory reintegration into the fabric of social relations in
capitalist societies. As Balibar has argued, the history of capitalist
societies is best viewed as ‘a history of the reactions of the complex of ‘non-economic’ social relations, which
are the binding agent of a historical collectivity of individuals, to the
de-structuring with which the expansion of the value form threatens them. This
applies as much to those Marx cites (religion, occupational status, family,
nation, age and sex) as to those he omits (race, ethnicity). Indeed, one might
even go so far as to say that it is the contested articulation of these
relations with those of the production and circulation of capital which
constitutes the political process in capitalist societies. The historical
articulation of temporal form is one of the main things at stake in such
All this in the course of defining Heidegger as a "conservative revolutionary" or "reactionary modernist." Seems to me to be a provocative re-framing of the termes de la lutte. I tend toward erring on the side of "going through" rather than "going back," so all this appeals to me. And further, provokes one to try to figure out how these terms work out vis a vis current political dynamics at home… Who’s on the side of what – who’s "conservative" in this game, and who’s not?
And then try to put all this about conservative modernism in contact with the great passage on Charlotte Street today, and where are you now?
Oh, and almost forgot the Bonus Question:
Is (or, what would it mean to think of) literature (or Literature) as one of "reactions of the complex of ‘non-economic’ social relations," one of those "binding agents"?
Sorry if I’ve been light on the posting lately. What’s been sucking my life away for the past, um, seven months has in the last burst into a full-time gig. Academic job getting. There’s been the preparing the applications, mailing the applications out, prep for the MLA interviews, the MLA interviews themselves, job talk preparation, and now we’re in the Month of Call Backs.
This are going well, I think. We’ll see… At any rate, everything will be over in a week or so. At least on my end. And then I just wait to hear if / where I’m moving…
So I’ve been doing the flyback circuit lately – feeling a little bit like weird sort of consultant with my suit from Men’s Wearhouse (but it’s the Chelsea Men’s Wearhouse, a little different than the one dad would have shopped at) and my roller bag. Mini-bars seem more affordable in the wake of a job well done. Or at least done…
We’ll see. But sorry about the light posting. I’ll be back on the ball in a week or so…
From D.H. Lawrence, “Why the Novel Matters” (1936):
Let us learn from the novel. In the novel, the characters
can do nothing but live. If they keep
on being good, according to pattern, or bad, according to pattern, or even
volatile, according to pattern, they cease to live, and the novel falls dead. A
character in a novel has got to live, or it is nothing.
On the one hand, the novel as a struggle against the cliché,
the idée reçue, in play here just as
it has been directly thematized all the way back through Joyce and Flaubert and
Sterne and Cervantes. The essence of the novel is its staging (embodiment?) of
the resistance to the pattern. And further, without escaping the pattern, DHL
implies that a novel’s not a novel. Why not? It’s imbedded in its very name,
(Transitional question: Who would have thought that merely living would be so difficult that
it would take such a heroic, nay, impossible struggle as this?)
On the other hand, what about this “can do nothing but” part
of the first line? “In the novel, the characters can do nothing but live.” Who puts in place this law, and
who enforces it?
I sense a jutting turn between the first sentence of the
passage and what follows. A retreat… The novel is the form in which the
character can do nothing but live…
Interesting that the piece begins with the dissolution of the mind-body
distinction as well.