Empty Days

Saturday, July 03, 2004



spazz out. (past spazzed out, past participle spazzed out, present participle spazz ing out, 3rd person present singular spazz es out) or spaz out (past spazzed out, past participle spazzed out, present participle spazz ing out, 3rd person present singular spazz es out)

intransitive verb

an offensive term meaning to be too nervous or overwhelmed to be able to deal with something competently

[Late 20th century. From spastic, because the nervous twitches of the agitated person are reminiscent of spasms.]




Sex.

I wish I gave it a bit more thought than I normally do. Like I said, sex is closely associated with social life - you can't get one without the other and vice-versa. I do wish in a way that it were otherwise. Seriously. If I could have something going with another human without letting myself be nagged be the attending worldly pleasures and burdens, it'd be just the perfect thing. But in such isolation people either literally swallow each other or there is this permanent servitude to intimacy that is created. In other words, it is impossible to remain unattached while one-on-one and having nothing else to take away the burden or distract. In fact, plenty of couples live in such isolation - but what's happening inside such a couple is precisely this servitude. I prefer solitude, by far.

There is no question whatsoever that if I were of the male sex I'd readily resort to professional services by now. It would probably constitute a good incentive to make some serious cash, though I am not sure that many men are motivated enough by pure lust to undergo all the burdens of having a job and all that shit. I am not motivated, that's for sure - but then my libido is low enough, I don't run around getting hopeless erections and oggling every bod in sight. Jesus.

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Friday, July 02, 2004



Headaches.

As usual with new endeavors, my french blog soon required a french spell-checking service of which I could find no trace online (there is none, nowhere, it doesn't exist) so I finally unearthed some GNU creature that I had the hardest time configuring but it was worth it in the end - I just make too many mistakes, especially with accents, and it's actually unforgivable since the french are so snotty and I get snotty myself when I write their language. The effort of writing is hard but also pleasant because the language is so rich in possibilities - I suppose english can be too but not in its american variant which is the one I happen to use (having no deeper grasp of it than the standard newspaper vocabulary, and forget Milton and Carlyle and who else was there). I know Brits are a whole notch more advanced even in their everyday use, but I can't learn from them since I absolutely do not live in UK. There is of course a bastardization of the english language that is naturally occuring around the planet due to its current international vernacular status (of which I am but an humble example), and I am speaking of the american variant of course. I believe India still has more of a british english which is why they usually speak it better as they move to Amerika to grab all those IT jobs (haha) despite a huge accent and a deceptive third-world appearance. In fact, it would seem americans themselves are more third-world in many ways than their indian employees - but I may be exaggerating.

***

In other news I've been having tremendous tooth-aches since my last visit to the dentist (guess why I hate those guys - what mercantile butchers they are indeed) so I guess I will have to make another surprise visit and raise some hell though it's probably useless because the bastards are still masters of their crappy world - which is my very own mouth but they still rule it unempeached.

Goddam crooks. I don't consider dentists to be doctors - in fact, they're just small-time businessmen who learn a dubiously obscure skill to scam as many people as possible with their malpractices and for a hefty price too. Chiropractors are less nocious, by far.

***

Despite the tooth-aches I've been advancing through Houellebecq's Plateforme but still without as much glee as I would have liked. The author is currently engrossed in a protracted description of upper management in the travelling business - I can't say it's fascinating. It's a boring world and he describes the boringness well but I could dispense with so much detail. People make money, then they go home and have sex, then they die. That's pretty much the picture. Very close to reality, I know, but I happen to hate this reality - I wish he'd shoot it with a power-rifle for once.

It could be said that the violence in Hollywood movies is a direct result of the general boredom of everyday life most people experience in this wonderfully comfortable world of ours. If we had bears eating our small children every now and then, we'd have less violence in the movies, I tell you. Unfortunately bears and most such hasards are banned from our city-streets and occasional wholesale massacres by individual loonies are televised as a prime example of what we usually *do not* have to deal with.

So let's just say that Hollywood is not doing anything wrong - it's us, not them.

Thursday, July 01, 2004



Plateforme.

I am not really having such a great time with Houellebecq's latest - Plateforme. It is much less varied and inventive than Les Particules and there is almost no crazy philosophy which is what I particularly liked in his earlier output. It feels like a tired book. I suspect it's all this fame and the boring necessity to continuously talk on tv and to journalists that sucked the life out of poor Houellebecq - he's a pretty fragile guy, not at all adapted to the pressures of media-scrutiny. I wonder if it's at all possible for authors today to avoid messing with the media - or maybe publishing contracts require one to undergo a number of promotional engagements. It's probably pretty much impossible to hide if you're anything like a popular writer.

So let's just say that I won't be expecting anything major from this author in the near future. Perhaps if he survives long enough to write better books away from the media-glare, then we'll see. But for now this is pretty much out of the question. Celebrity is a killer, folks.

***

[ some time later that night ]

I revised my notion further on into the book. Houellebecq should perhaps learn to start his books earlier on. I had the same problem with Extension du domaine de la lutte: the first 1/3 of the novel seemed interminable and interminably pointless - only to explode half way through into pure rage and fireworks of what I affectionally call Houellebecq's "crazy philosophy" - which is also the reason I am in awe with this guy because, let's face it, much of the rest of it is pretty banal and closely ressembles second-rate pornography wiritings in some magazines on your local newsstand.

The effort of having started Les Particules differently and with full-rage attending must have been too exhausting - so lets just say Houell is back to his lazier style with this one.

Is there such a thing as "sociological rage"? Now there is.




My cat terrified - thunderbolts, massive rain, mayhem. Even the computer blacked out for a second, out of sheer electrical terror no doubt. I also lost my latest post so this one will act as a replacement.




French mind.

I have to confess that I started a french blog, which means I spend less time with this one. It's the first time I get busy with two outlets all at once, and the result is that I can't really split my mind in two - I can't think french & english at the same time, curiously it's not just a matter of language per se but the fact that I don't think the same thoughts in these two languages. Maybe that's because I use this blog here as a diary and the other one just to exercise my french-mind and thus the mood is different there, much less personal in fact. My french-mind is not really very close to me - it's abstract and when I am in it, I feel like I am on the top floor of some high-rise building and I can't really open the windows because I might fall out and break my neck or something.

All in all, I am fairly content that I don't live in France and only in Quebec where I am at liberty not to ever even speak french. The area I live in is mostly english and I rarely deal with actual quebecquers. And when I do, I barely ever remember these encounters, it's too fleeting and formal, basically I make no connection between my french-mind and my locus habitandi - which is absurd in a way but that's just the reality of it.

In fact the only real linguistic connection here is the fact that I can get all the french books I want in libraries and the fact that I get to listen to french on tv and on the radio - in other words, the connection is entirely passive, and maybe that explains the abstract quality of my french-mind.

Besides, I never liked Quebec very much. I clearly hated it when I had to work in a purely local environment, I had the hardest time finding anything in common with the sort of folks I had to deal with, and felt much more at ease (well, relatively speaking) when I finally found a job in an english-speaking company where locals were under-represented and entirely bilingual - it made them less self-centered, to say the least.

For people who want to come to Quebec for various mistaken reasons, I might just add the caution that they won't find a very welcoming place here - in fact, they won't find any place at all unless they stick to their respective communities and let the world around them exist on its own. I can't say Quebecquers are xenophobic - they're not. They're just not worth bothering about, with their private tics and insider jokes dating to Jacques Cartier and Champlain or I don't know what. A local culture is a local culture - when it gets too local it starts to look like a small village lost in the centuries and I am not sure that all small villages are really worth bothering about. I know some people are eager to integrate any society they come to, but in the case of Quebec the price is a bit high - leave all you've got at the door and get on with their little thing. Well, damn it, move to Texas then and pretend you're a cowboy. That's pretty much what it's worth and what it's like. I could care less.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004



The Wall.

I am out of gas on account of too many sleepless nights lately that my organism is trying to compensate by making me fall off my chair around 7pm and continue until noon next day. Over-sleep and no-sleep are both extremely taxing. As a result I have nothing much to say except that I finally got my hands on Houellebecq's Plateforme which, I am afraid, won't be as savagely satisfying as Les Particules - but you can't ask for perfection all the time, can you.

I wrote to my cousin in Moscow to ask her for an invitation (because you can't go to that stupid country unless you've got an insider there to act as a host - otherwise you can still get a tourist visa, but then you'll be forced to stay in expensive hotels - in short, they kept all the old soviet-style policies towards foreigners there). Somehow or other I can feel that this is not a welcome development and I am not going to get that invitation in the end. Which is too bad - I was essentially prepared to bust my credit card limit with this one without so much as the slightest regard for ever paying it back, because it's really the first time in decades that I am experiencing any willingness to even visit that place again. And something tells me that if I don't grab the moment and act on this sudden and inexplicable desire, it won't arise again - and I'll never go there in my remaining lifetime. This is probably somehow related to the fact that I don't expect this lifetime to last very long in any case - which is a new perspective on things and probably creates some urgency that wasn't there before. Of course I can't really explain such subtleties to my cousin - she's much too scared of suicide-talk, the poor creature. She thinks I'll be around forever yet, since I am still only in my mid-30's. Right - vive la machine.

But viewed from this point in time, the future that is waiting for me closely ressembles a long dark tunnel without any emergencies doors and a slick thick wall at the far end - which I still can't quite see, only suspect, given the darkness and improbable distances. My last day has been 4 years long and I am beginning to tire of all this immortality.

A pretty keen guy once determined my condition as follows: "that's because you have nothing to live for." Brilliantly short and exact formulation. Indeed, everything I do and don't do takes the form it takes pretty much "because I have nothing to live for." That's the general background I am performing against - the spectacle of life I am putting out is somewhat poor in color and low on colories, but that's the best I can do in the circumstances. Of course, there is no doubt that if I really made an effort and set my sight on the simple objective of surviving to the very limit of my bodily duration, I could indeed go on and on for years - haphazardly and without much point, but I'd put a lot of calendar-dates behind my belt that way.

The wonderful "gift of life" - please...

On the other hand, it is never all that simple. For one thing you have to learn to think different - overcome a number of very deep, almost instinctual prejudices, and the strongest of those (surprisingly) is not the celebrated "survival instinct". This particular instinct only kicks in with full force when somebody or something is about to cause you bodily injury or take your bodily life away, usually both. Which is why suicide by violent means is really the last resort of the desperate - your mental pain has to be literally 10 times greater than the pain of fear caused by the survival instinct. In short - you better be at the end of your wits or in a state of near-madness.

But in the case of lifeless life, the survival instinct is not the main enemy. Here things are never entirely out of hand, reason presides over actions, and it is in your cognitive formulae that you have to create a breach: which is what I mean by learning to think different. In simple terms - you must overturn your whole view of the world, life and death included, create a new approach to reality, think yourself out of the flat old philosophy that holds so many cant things sacred and so many fears unsurmountable. All this has to go down the drain. It is not at all an easy task - it's always easier to let yourself go unthinkingly, without ever challenging "what is" - nevermind that "what is" only "is" in your head.

In short, I could very well open a clinic operating on a cognitive-psychology approach designed to let people out of their fear of the act of death - the very opposite of what trained psychologists normally do with the same method. It is sad that they never question the real reasons behind their specific use of such methods - which is perhaps why most of these professionals are such bad psychologists indeed. Hyppocrate's oath is not the only thing out there.

A fair use of cognitive psychology would normally allow you to discover what you hold veritably true and what you can't stand and for which intrinsic reasons. The result could be anything - you might discover that you don't want to go on living, for example, though it could be the very opposite as well: and this is what psychology is supposed to figure out, instead of forcing you to adapt "life-friendly" attitudes. Given all the taboos professional psychologists are subject to, it is better not to mess with them and just do it yourself - though it might take longer and prove somewhat awkward for lack of precise method.

I am quite aware that I am only really beginning on this road, having spent an inordinately long time trying to live up to absurd clichés this world and my head are regularly filled with. Some might call it a road to madness - I prefer to think it is the road to clarity. We'll see - I can't be sure where it will take me in the end.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004



Readers and Readings in the Electronic Age

How does one read on-screen? Does the change in the support of texts mean that the contents of texts will change as well? What are the texts that will still be called 'books' once they are made available through the unified medium of screens?
Speaker - Roger Chartier
Adobe eBook (Mac/PC)) | Microsoft Reader (for PC only)
_____________


Well, my only comment is that so far onscreen-reading has been associated with a lot of ass pain - since you have to spend incredible amounts of time in front of your huge monitor (on your sorry ass) to do any decent reading.

As to palm-readers and all those fancy portable gadgets, my guess is that these things are way too fragile and way too expensive to bother about. So the ass is still the seat of knowledge in the internet age so far.

It's not content - it's that ass again...

Monday, June 28, 2004



The gnome and the chair.

I vaguely remember writing those college essays of many pages and many footnotes - and the ever-attending feeling of pulling a big joke on somebody: probably my very own self. I could also compare this to standing on your tip-toes to reach a high-shelf - the better method would have been to jump on a chair and save yourself some of those equilibrium problems and all that pathetic stretching of mental limbs.

This is also the feeling I experience every time I get to read some such essays (or articles, or papers) by others - the constraint and over-reaching are immediately apparent in the unnaturally objective over-assertive style, in the evidently laborious waving of ideas, in the overwhelming seriousness of purpose stated as the inevitable goal of the writing. This of course is peculiar to most academic essays - a mixture of self-effacing banality and a supposedly earnest effort to "reflect" or "comment" or "elucidate". But what for? For the seriousness of writing an academic paper first, for an effort of understanding last. The form that results is a murder of everything genuine and remotely valuable. For the writer of suchlike articles may indeed have something to say - except that under such premises he will never let himself quite say it.

Grab a chair already, dude...




Meantime in Iraq...

I am not watching closely these days but today they handed over sovereignty:
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - The U.S.-led coalition transferred sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government two days early Monday in a surprise move that apparently caught insurgents off guard, averting a feared campaign of attacks to sabotage the historic step toward self-rule.

Legal documents transferring sovereignty were handed over by U.S. governor L. Paul Bremer to chief justice Midhat al-Mahmood in a small ceremony in the heavily guarded Green Zone. Bremer took charge in Iraq about a year ago.
I think a few of the council officials got killed in the past month. So let's say it's a bunker government for the moment. Bremer must be really happy to finally get out of there.
The response in Baghdad was mixed.

"Iraqis are happy inside, but their happiness is marred by fear and melancholy,'' said artist Qassim al-Sabti. "Of course I feel I'm still occupied. You can't find anywhere in the world people who would accept occupation. America these days, is like death. Nobody can escape from it.''
Quite. And let's be fair - it's not just America, it's the West as a whole: nobody can escape from it. We're your dream - here we come.




Houellebecq is a full-blown cult-writer in Germany (a quick search on waypath shows a whooping 80% german-language blogs mentioning M.H. as opposed to "all the rest of the world"). This is probably an important symptom though I am not sure I can really appreciate all the implications as I am not informed enough of what's really happening in that sad country. But it must be something bad - because Houellebecq is really a perfect barometer of existing rot.




Houellebecq and beyond.

I can't quite get into Thomas Mann at this time after all. Still too taken with Houellebecq and it's properly a world apart. So tomorrow will make a fast run to the library to get Plateforme - and after that it will be over because he's only written three novels so far in any case.

Well, actually it won't be over - because the natural "extension" of this particular marathon implies having a sense of what Michel Foucault had to say and what Aldous Huxley had to say. And I haven't read either (I did say I was "well-read"). So I guess Thomas Mann will have to wait for a long while still. The thing with Houellebecq is that he really instigates a pretty huge socio-philosophical debate in his books - it's a wild dialogue with a whole host of other big heads out there and remaining ignorant of that dimension would be something like a wilful denial of the deeper purpose of his discourse. I can't stop mid-way - I am getting carried away, in every sense of the word. I suppose some people are quite capable of reading his books exclusively for their dubiously erotic content, but this is quite reductive - and, let's say it, as a writer of pure erotics Houellebecq is really not in the top ten out there. Like I said - Sade is much better. If you want rich and wild erotic content, the divine Marquis is still your best bet, not Houellebecq.

***

As I am typing this in pure bliss of silence and inner quiet, I realize for the n-th time what a blessing this one month has been - for having no neighbours upstairs. In only a few days the bliss will end - new people will move in and I will be once again entirely deprived of the only thing I really crave and that makes me almost permanently happy: SILENCE and PRIVACY.

Fuck. Is this too much to ask? Yes it is.

[PS. Btw, if you don't believe this is so necessary to some crazy people, remember Kafka - the man suffered from noise pretty much all his life - one could even say that his main quest in ordinary life has been the ever-hopeless search for a really *quiet* lodgings. That simple. ]




Canada - federal election day.

So I went to vote. The poll-station happened to be situated pretty much across the street from my front-door - in that very same synagogue-cum-disco where all the rich people go to parties and make horrible noise until 3am while poor folks in the hen-houses all around are trying to get a night's sleep. Anyway - it was so close-nearby that not to go would have been a statement of civic disobedience.

The dancing hall where the polls were installed looked nice indeed (though I somehow felt like smashing the windows), there were plenty of very old seniors (I went before noon) and it was all so very orderly and comfortable that I naturally thought of similar poll-stations in some of those many disturbed countries where you can get shot while trying to cast a bulletin. Nice.

So I firmly put a fat cross in the circle saying "Liberal", and got rid of the ticket with the help of a very affable and kindly black guy who couldn't remember when the last election was either. We had a laugh and I left to buy some bread. The end of my election campaign.

Now typing this, I somehow feel a tinge of regret that I didn't vote for that nice left-wing environmentally-minded candidate with a hilterian moustache and smashingly white teeth who promised "no one left behind" and a garden in every backyard - but then again, if I didn't vote Liberal some determined revolutionary would have voted Conservative... and then what? That's the truth of our anglo-saxon elections - there are always really only two parties worth bothering about, the rest are there to make mayhem mostly. A garden in every backyard... perhaps not after all.

The slow trickle of humanity continues in the street below and will continue all day long in that same orderly manner. A police car is waiting at the corner (I suppose because it's all in a synagogue - but they're exaggerating: who would want to bomb a poll-station in such a nice country as ours?). I've been thinking about what I wrote yesterday concerning leftism. NGO's and the fight for water-resources in Africa are the face of charity. I have nothing to say against NGO's and the humanitarian vibe. But I do not believe there is any place for a truly ideological stance here: it is a charitable instinct and should be seen as such - nothing more.

Sunday, June 27, 2004



Houellebecq and I.

It is easy to see on the other hand how a lot of people may find my kind of opinions marginal and contradictory. I can't know how I would think if my circumstances were different, if I were socially well-adjusted, if I belonged to an active social circle. But perhaps the reason I am neither well-adjusted nor belong to any such circle is because I can't quite tolerate certain types of thinking (here I recall with amusement my various encounters with leftist intellectuals, fringe anarchists, and the older flower-power types - couldn't stick with any of those). There is always a good reason why one prefers to stand aside rather than happily espouse mainstream ideas and goals - perhaps even at the price of some personal well-being. I can't say why I must think and behave the way I do. What I know on the other hand, is that nothing in the world can tempt me into accepting what a lot of those around me hold to be right and true.

In Houellebecq I unexpectedly found a kindred spirit - what he says largely reflects what I see myself, notwithstanding all his idyosyncrasies and novelistic exaggerations. Why is that? He's French - and I went pretty much through the same brand of French schooling that he did. Perhaps he is simply speaking for my generation, or at least a very large part of it (the absurd truth is that my teenage years were spent in a circle 10 years my senior). But in fact I think it is more than that - the world he describes is not just French, it is the Western World that I know and have such a hard time dealing with - it is a world I never wanted to live in but must endure despite myself. The fact that he bashes it with such cruelty and precision is what appeals to me - I could never have found such words and certainly would never have dared to mount such a critique. Is it skewed? Is it off-mark? Neither. The exaggerations function as special-effects - for better discernment rather than out of error.

In interviews Houellebecq frequently insists: "I am telling the truth." And he's damn right - what he sees is what I see and many others beside. The question is rather: how come that there are so many out there who see it differently, who find his whole discourse unfounded, to whom everything seems fine and dandy? What does it say of them? Or what does it say of "us"? And what is this divide really about?

I guess the question of ideological and non-ideological thinking is paramount here.




Wars of ideas.

Meantime, while rummaging through the internet, stepped right into something extremely Houellebecquian - by which I mean "transmutated to form barely recognizable".

Apparently there is some movement in UK called Living Marxism that militates against the established leftist ideology of the elites by espousing an extreme form of liberalism (apparently the origine of the group goes back to 1970's trotskyism, which later transmutated to Radical Communist Party, only to end-up as a far-far-left (far-right?) ultra-libertarian formation with catholic connections - don't ask me how, I am confused myself). It is so virulent and iconoclastically unleftist (once again, I am confused) that it promotes techno-industrial progress over environmentalism, local resolution of international conflicts instead of intervention by the West (Bosnia, Rwanda) going as far as to blatantly deny any major causes for humanitarian worries in these particular cases, and promotes genetic cloning over amelioration of Third World conditions, as well as complete liberty of speech to all including vocal racist groups, Holocaust-deniers, and neo-Nazis.

Nice list :-0

What is interesting in all of this - to my mind - is the virulence of reaction to current "progressive" ideologies dominating public discourse in the West. While I got the above list-of-crimes from a clearly leftist site dedicated to policing precisely this kind of iconoclasm in the public domaine (LobbyWatch), it is hard to figure out from this very negative (and very likely quite skewed) portrayal what the real impetus of such a group might be - the properly insane mixture of ultra-marxist Cultural Revolution origines and Catholic Church affiliations today is really too strange to fathom.

I would gather the impetus for this wild mixture is something like a whole-sale rejection of censure in all its forms - especially in the highly moralizing, politically-correct form currently prevailing in the public scene. And this is indeed a perfect illustration to Houellebecq's message: people are looking for a way out of an ideological dead-end, and the ways they are choosing are oftentimes as pathetic as they are chaotic. But what else is there?

Indeed - leftism is very hard to argue against, with its high humanist ground of which it made a public tyranny; and its militant utopism (or a sort of one-dimensional, forced idealism) perpetually fighting for a universal full-stomach in all corners of the world for lack of better ideals. The inherent pessimism implied in this ardent struggle for universal (and universally impossible) comfort is enough to cause bizarre extrapollations of dissent and somewhat inarticulate protest. What promising new ideas may one offer for a society predicated on nothing but increased comforts and increased consumption? Living Marxism is still a clearly leftist outgrowth for it puts all its hopes in science-progress-technology as the highest expression of western civilization - preferring to forget the shadier sides of this glorious monster (hence full support of current industrial societies without regard to any constraints). But this ideal is as paltry and limited as the one that gave it rise - that of universal social progress (or let's put it frankly: paradise) which is inherent to all leftist ideologies. Far-right, libertarian, catholic? Who cares - as long as at least science may be hoped in.

As Houellebecq sharply remarked (and this is pretty much the corner-stone of his outlook): "We have created a system in which it has simply become impossible to live, and what's more, we continue to export it."

In regards to which, here's a quote from a leftist article militating for precisely this utopian export:
Consumption

The 'North' (or first world or the western world) comprises only 25% of the world's population, yet consumes around 75% of global resources. Pre-existing political and economic structures, the legacy of more than 500 years of European colonialism, have resulted in a situation where the Northern countries, through the activity of Northern based companies and individual lifestyles of people in those countries, draw vast levels of resources from Southern countries. This drain of basic commodity resources and raw materials has greatly undermined the capacity of Southern countries to feed themselves. We are also witnessing a lowering of work conditions as more businesses locate 'offshore' into the Southern countries.

If the consumption levels of the Southern countries equalled that of the industrialised North, the demand for natural resources would triple, even with zero population growth. Research shows that 'if everyone were to adopt the lifestyle of a typical North American, we would need at least two more planets to produce the resources, absorb the wastes and maintain the life-support systems' (Friends of the Earth Sustainable Societies Program: Beyond Slogans in Action on Sustainable Societies: the FoE Experience, June 1997). The solution to this dilemma is to increase consumption in the South while simultaneously reducing it in the North, as too immoral to afford different consumption levels on different groups of people. Local control of development and effective technology transfer is fundamental to achieving this. As almost all current technology transfer occurs for the purpose of profit, the results of current initiatives will only enforce current inequity. Even in the North, where there is a growing gap between rich and poor (and hence environmental impact), inequity in consumption is a key social issue. Enclaves of high consumers in the Southern countries means that there is global commonality between 'haves' and 'have nots'. In effect, consumption is determined by class. Against Nature, supposedly coming from a left-wing analysis, does not address this issue.

A number of environmental groups do target 'population' as a key issue in the environmental debate. This has sometimes lead to them adopting problematic positions on immigration, population control and social justice. FoE reiterates that the issues of population cannot be addressed in isolation, and doing so will lead to flawed solutions.
That's a brilliantly clear article and it is a brilliant illustration of what kind of ideology the idea of social justice is predicated upon - consumption. Yes, consumption and nothing else. The impossible yet shining ideal is in fact "the lifestyle of a typical North American to all" (there can be no question about it - everyone drools over this ideal all over the world; or do they?... see - you can't even ask the question, dude!)

But what is this magical universally desired "lifestyle"? It's simple - it's capitalism, consumption, production, industry, capitalism, full-stomach, consumption, comforts, capitalism, production... Globalization and Leftism are not at odds, this is what should be remembered. They both spring from the same source, are both children of the same world. The system of comforts - the one in which it has become impossible to live for it has nothing else to offer but full-stomach ad nauseum. Have and have-not's are both calculated according to this shiningly hollow ideal. This is also the limit and the dead-end of all "progressive" thinking today.

Can this be stopped? Is there an end to the ever-growing emptiness and emptying-out? Of course not. The idea of universal balancing-out of distribution of wealth and resources is absurd - a pure, unadulterated utopia. Self-constraint, limiting of "local development" in industrialized countries is absurd - it won't happen for the sheer drive of markets and the inherent ever-accelerating competition to increase wealth. For the ideal that is behind this monstruous, essentially purposeless, acceleration is the very same driving the "moral leftist" up the wall and right into the pit of his "typical lifestyle": comforts, full-stomach, consumption.

In the end it is the maddeningly self-serving Living Marxism with its optimistico-isolationist take on the realities of our world that is closer to truth (and sheer madness) than the ever-bleeding hollow heart of the "typical North American leftist" wrapped in his universalist moral cushions. What do we really have to offer to those slaves of ours on whose brown limbs, jungles, mountains and oceans we prey unrestrained - except a small piece of our flat fattening pie?

Yes, there's a crisis of leftist ideologies waiting around the corner - and strangely enough it is not Bush and his tanks that heralds it.

***

PS. Also found a french essay on Houellebecq that actually tackles the very heart of his problematic - which is not sex (unfortunately it's not that simple) but the predicting power of his sheer sociological insight. Case in point: description of Islamico-fundamentalist carnage portrayed in his Platform (haven't read this one yet) which later effectively took place in Bali - in precisely the same settings and for the same reasons.

PPS. I guess it's important to add that while one can look straight at what's happening, it's not exactly possible to just ditch the whole thing and pretend you know better. I don't know better. All I know is that countries that throw themselves into the wide-open arms of natural capitalism (the so-called "democracy" in today's parlance) are immediately bagged like cats-in-the-bag into the same purposeless system of sheer wealth-acquisition that starts by destroying human ties in cities (I've seen that up close) and ends by relegating non-urban populations to the dogs (Russia, Eastern Europe, China). No alternative to this purely materialistic outlook currently exists anywhere except in tightly ideological islamist circles and the poorest corners of the Third World - where urbanisation has not yet spread the cult of western comforts and people are still backwards enough to believe in all sorts of things except tv's and computers (and I am afraid I am idealizing).

This is why I so loath those "universalist" grob-trotters full of travel-cheques and wanton curiosity - they spread the virus into the farthest recesses. Sex-tourism bad? I say backpacking is just as bad if not worse. But what can you do? Exactly - nothing. So let's just quit whining about that colonization guilt already, shall we - can't you see you perpetuate the same pattern... (but of course you can't).




The circle of ideas.

In a way it has been a bitter blessing of my life that the currents of destiny pulled me out of a certain self-contented circle of humanity where I would have prospered and no doubt flourished to my small potential. I can easily envision myself blissfully polluting the printed page with artfully self-absorbed confidences of the "intimate", in the naive myopic confidence of the ever-indulged. This frequently happens to literati - knowing not what they're doing is the very hallmark of these witty idlers.

The human circle one belongs to determines one's vision of the world and shapes ideas - faithfully replicated from one individual to another. The outsider is the one who brings trouble and new blood - while insiders perpetually wallow in the same stale concepts.

I know this well and I also know that I never had any particular incentive to overcome these peacefully tepid certainties - why would I, if I am no longer subject to their ebbing influence? With me these are simply old toys, somehow dear for their use and warm memories, something like comforting relics I keep under glass and pull to view from time to time - the closet of history personal.

The destruction one endures by losing hold on life is perhaps the best school of uncertainty one could dream of. Sometimes I think of my former friends who are still faithfully executing the mental motions of their natural milieu - and I wonder at the comic security these familiar convictions do indeed bring into one's life. It is a calumny to say that people do not like to think for themselves - in fact, people should not think, unless a dire and ineluctable need arises and abysses of annihilation are laid bare. Otherwise it is perfectly human and, I would add, highly humane to dispense with too much intellectual independence - it is tortuous and it brings nothing but ruin and chaos in a world well-made and roundly familiar.

Rebels should be chased away - and so they are indeed.




I rarely ever speak in my own voice - perhaps because I do not really have a voice of my own. It is as if the act of speaking (in writing at least) were yet another subterfuge to hide from what is - from what I am, or would like not to be.

I am not sure this should bother me - after all it is only a characteristic of sorts.




Masolino - Adam and Eve in Eden.






Tree of life.

I had a moment of despair upon waking - the usual time for me, when I am open to the realities of my inner mind, defenseless against its never-ending conversation. And then I had a moment of relief.

There is a tree of life growing over my balcony and every day its sun-lit maze is filled with animals and birds - squarrels come to play in its branches and starlings and sparrows and even woodpeckers and red crested cardinals with their wonderously melodious chant. My cat actively participates in this swarming of life by chasing squarrels along the edge of the balcony and purring at the birds and jumping and meowing at all the excitement. But at this time it too was simply gazing at the tree from its corner in the arm-chair, content and at peace, while the squirrel sat motionless under the hot morning sun, among the busy-body birds, and stared back at us - me and my cat - with the distracted curiosity of the wild. And as I laid in my bed looking at all these comings and goings of various species withing a few steps it appeared to me that I too, the amorphous shape in my darkly artificial retreat, was somehow part of this same small circle of sun, tree, animals, life - I too, the big thinking ape motionless and observing.

The feeling reminded me of those familiar Renaissance paintings of the garden of paradise where, in a small frame, animals and the jungle-like nature are represented as the primeval abode of man and woman - and the two lone naked people in the paintings are always so closely surrounded by this contemplative diversity of species, a family of sorts. Including the snake - and the bright red apples, always within a hand-reach.


[PS. I couldn't find the painting I had in mind - it's in one of the Berlin museums, right across the State Library, I used to go look at it quite often then - can't even remember the artist's name. ]




Albrecht Durer.

Durer is without doubt one of those few in my special pantheon of drawing-masters - whom I also consider to be foremost philosophers in the pictorial realm. I know what drawing is about since I myself once developed an instinctive propensity to it - I know what tremendous inner difference there exists between those working with pencil and ink and the painter and his oils. Even in his oils and watercolors Durer remains a master-draughtsman, never a painter. I would say that drawing is, by its qualities, the intermediary art between painting and sculpture (by way of engraving and the hard work of the carver). The intensity of the line and chiaro-obscuro creates the same relation to the object as exists in sculpture (and architecture) - except that the tri-dimensional nature of objects is represented in a two-dimensional medium. In painting color prims over space - and thus the object is represented as a color-construct, which is perhaps what eventually led to such things as impressionism and all those later unknown splashes on the canvas.


Albrecht Durer, St. Jerome In His Study , 1514. engraving. German.


Durer is both sensual and mathematical in his approach - the precision is never wanton. With him, it is never a mere feat of similitude but an intent attempt to understand how the world is made. The drawing-master reconstructs the world in representing his perception. The sensual quality of the artist creates that properly philosophical attitude which gives a spiritual element to his work - there is no philosophy without a keen attachment to the formal intricacies of the world, a desire to work through the mystery of the apparent. Durer's uncanny imagination is the language of his understanding - the somber, tortuous, yet all-enduring marvelling at the struggles of the mind in a world of mute things. Not a lyrical artist, but a true philosopher.

[See also his so-called large turf of grass - and perhaps think of what Van Gogh did of the same subject. Or look at his amazing portrait of J. Kleberger. ]




Un-world.

It is uncanny - I never realized it was Saturday yesterday: all day long, despite staring at the date on the blog, I remained firmly convinced that it was actually Sunday :-0

This is not the first time that mental constructs override reality with me, so I am not really surprised. It's just that it's shocking to realize to just what extent I am unable to notice what stares me practically in the face. This has been the story of my life - I live in a world that does not exist.

However, now that I am back on track, it turns out that tomorrow is the day of federal elections here in Canada. I never intended to go vote. However, it appears that the liberals will likely get kicked out of the office if I don't move my ass. So, latest polls being what they are, I guess I will have to change my highly cultured plans for tomorrow and go to the booth. I don't think I ever voted in a federal election before. At least I absolutely can't remember when that would have been - if it was 10 years ago, I was probably either depressed or on a trip to Europe. This is a blessed somewhat sleepy country where politics barely ever intrude on people's lives. It's a "go with the flow" country. Being such small fish, I will swim with the currents tomorrow. Amen.





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