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Archive for June 15th, 2006

the telescopic sublime / criticism in 3D

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As I work on my “real” writing, I increasingly find myself looking to embed images within my text, just like when I’m tapping away at adswithoutproducts. (Obviously, I could insert images – like, I know how to do that in Word – but I work in a field, literature, that doesn’t let you get away with gratuitous illustration.

And then there’s the burgeoning world of video. No one gets to put that in their book…

For instance, I am working today on this famous passage from A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man:

He turned to the flyleaf of the geography and read what he had written there: himself, his name and where he was.

Stephen Dedalus

Class of Elements

Clongwoes Wood College


County Kildare



The World

The Universe

That was in his writing: and Fleming one night for a cod had written on the opposite page:

Stephen Dedalus is my name,

Ireland is my nation.

Clongwoes is my dwellingplace

And heaven my expectation.

He read the verses backwards but then they were not poetry.

And at one point as I worked on it, I found myself momentarily thinking that I would embed this into my text ((Via here):

But of course I did not, I could not. I will have to make do with a footnote and a link that will assuredly look strange to anyone who is not a blogreader. Blogreaders, I think, would get the not quite non-sequitur-ness of the gesture.

Now see, if was writing for an appropriately electronic medium, a freeform one that’s not, say, just a repository of print-type articles, the stub of a new book might have grown out of this right-angle point of contact with my first. The Joyce material might have proceeded along down the page while a new line of thought, taking up the topic of these particularly modern anti-narrative narratives like Stephen’s list, like the Eames’s film, these synchronic stories which gesture at a new fictionality both impossible and absolutely necessary, dictated by changing world conditions, the erosion of forms, technological emergences, etc…

Perhaps I would have dropped what I’ve been doing with the work that includes the Joyce chapter and taken up this new line. Or maybe both at once. Working in this fashion – a fashion that’s a bit closer to blogging than the academic mongraph, or perhaps would be a hybrid of both, would give a whole new meaning to the notion of scholarly oeuvre. One work per life time, branching 2 dimensionally, and then 3, and so on. And it would end up – or start out – looking something like this:

(which is a visualization of adswithoutproducts, from here, via here)

So while this might sound like a circa mid-1990s paean to the radical new possibilities of HTML for criticism and imaginative works, it’s not. That has all been said before, many, many times. Rather for me this youtube epiphany makes me realize that the technology is already getting old – we are getting used to it, it’s becoming second nature. And it’s starting to show, as is bound to happen, in the way that I work, but more importantly the way that I think.

UPDATE: It dawned on me only after posting this that the issue I’m working through with the Joyce quote above actually has quite a lot to do with the issues I’m working through in this post. The subtle registration of the important question very young Stephen has asked about the “poem,” the experiment that he has conducted, and what his author’s ultimate answer to that question will be… Stephen’s question is about the limits of conventional form and the conventional temporalities that these forms drag along with them…

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June 15, 2006 at 11:12 pm

Posted in blogs, design, joyce, meta

a total perspective on life

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A young Tony Blair on Marxism, Socialism, Michael Foot’s Debts of Honour. From the New Statesman:

The young Blair continues: “In this I can’t help feeling the continual association of Marxism with Socialism is in part to blame. Like many middle-class people I came to Socialism through Marxism (to be more specific through Deutscher’s biography of Trotsky). The trouble with Marxism is that it is fine if you make it your political servant but terrible if it becomes your political master. I actually did trouble to read Marx first hand. I found it illuminating in so many ways; in particular, my perception of the relationship between people and the society in which they live was irreversibly altered. But ultimately it was stifling because it sought to embrace in its philosophy every facet of existence. That, of course, is its attraction to many. It gives them a total perspective on life. But that can simply become an excuse to stop searching for the truth. Political thought didn’t begin nor should it end with Marx. Yet it is impossible to understand the 20-40 age group in today’s Labour Party without understanding the pervasiveness of Marxist teaching. For me at university, left-wing politics was Marx and the liberal tradition was either scorned or analysed only in terms of its influence on Marx. It is so abundantly plain to me when I read D of H that there is a treasure trove of ideas that I never imagined existed. We need to recover the searching radicalism of these people.”

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June 15, 2006 at 9:05 am

Posted in socialism

à une passante

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What began as a shocking development, as unsettling as it was enlivening –

La rue assourdissante autour de moi hurlait.

Longue, mince, en grand deuil, douleur majestueuse,

Une femme passa, d’une main fastueuse

Soulevant, balançant le feston et l’ourlet;

Agile et noble, avec sa jambe de statue.

Moi, je buvais, crispé comme un extravagant,

Dans son oeil, ciel livide où germe l’ouragan,

La douceur qui fascine et le plaisir qui tue.

Un éclair… puis la nuit! — Fugitive beauté

Dont le regard m’a fait soudainement renaître,

Ne te verrai-je plus que dans l’éternité?

Ailleurs, bien loin d’ici! trop tard! jamais peut-être!

Car j’ignore où tu fuis, tu ne sais où je vais,

Ô toi que j’eusse aimée, ô toi qui le savais! (translations)

– becomes the fix that we missed, what we’ll move mountains and monuments to have again. We’ll pay handsomely for it, this love at last sight. We will, we say, plan contingency into our plans.

Diventity: Identity, Density and Diversity

I propose one simple caveat urban design should strive to implement:

“Good urban space optimises Diventity” *.

Diventity is a concept that links diversity, density, and identity, and I define it as such:

Diventity allows identity to recursively emerge from the density of diversity, when that density reaches a critical mass.

A city is much more than its stones, a city is memories and relationships and friendships and fears and ambitions; it is stories and histories interacting in the society-space-time continuum.

We form these subjectivities only if the city provides us the right opportunities, because a city is first and foremost our memory-forming medium. We remember our first kiss through who we kissed and when and where we were when we kissed.


A place with enough differentiated identities (spatial, social, etc), distributed in the right proximity (or density) to allow them to interact without obliterating one another, might create enough such moments to allow for identity-shaping memories to emerge. We can say that such a place has Diventity.

It is worth remembering that Les fleurs du mal was published during the early years of Haussmann’s transformation of Paris. An anti-“diventity” plan if there ever was one…

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June 15, 2006 at 12:04 am