Lazy rascals, spending their substance, and more, in riotous living

“The sibylline books of publicité”

“In general the close connection between advertising and the cosmic awaits analysis” wrote Benjamin (Arcades, 175). Indeed, and the connection would only become closer in the 50s; when, meanwhile, the phalanstery was finally conquered for the suburbs.A 1956 advert reads:


A happy coincidence that Infinite Thought should tag me with this meme when I’ve just finished grading a stack of papers and so been thinking a bit about what I’m doing when I’m teaching. This semester I’ve been teaching an introductory writing course, which is apparently a fixture of American universities, but is perhaps particularly important somewhere like Berkeley, where new students have such a wide range of writing abilities. There are, of course, structural reasons for this, including the fairly large number of students who don’t speak English at home (but who may never have received formal education in any other language), and the appalling underfunding of California’s public schools; but it’s  interesting to see how these structures manifest themselves, because they don’t simply appear as an absence. That is, it’s not, strictly speaking, that those students who struggle haven’t been taught to write; they’ve all, or almost all, attended school for 13 years, after all. But during those 13 years, they have been taught to write badly. It seems like it would be an interesting research project in the sociology of knowledge to figure out how this happens. Everyone in the world knows that the five-paragraph-essay structure is stupid and harmful, yet students still get taught it. It’s aggravating; students would come to my office hours with incredibly interesting and insightful responses to the stuff we’d read, but be completely incapable of expressing themselves on paper (and, if it’s aggravating for me, it must be many times worse for them).

A Library After an Air Rair, London, 1940 On with the meme. Read more↴

Vision Magazine never disappoints

Just when I was beginning to get bored of their mindless, ever-so-slightly reactionary new-ageism, they go for some good old fashioned, properly reactionary, sexism.

Vision Magazine pleasingly chose to illustrate their \

INTERPOL: incompetent or corrupt?

I may be missing something, but INTERPOL seem to have “verified” the data that the Colombian government claim proves a connection between Venezuela and FARC by checking the timestamps of the files. Just as well there’s no way the Colombian government could have changed those timestamps then, eh?

How Lacanian

A wholly splendid article by Raymond Geuss on Richard Rorty, including a defense of internationalism which culminates in:

The reason [for the fact that the Pope always turned out to be Italian] most commonly cited by these nuns was that, as Bishop of Rome, the Pope had to live in the “Eternal City,” but only an Italian could stand to live in Rome: it was hot, noisy, and overcrowded, and the people there ate spaghetti for dinner everyday rather than proper food, i.e., potatoes, so it would be too great a sacrifice to expect someone who had not grown up in Italy to tolerate life there. I clearly remember being unconvinced by this argument, thinking it set inappropriately low standards of self-sacrifice for the higher clergy; a genuinely saintly character should be able to put up even with pasta for lunch and dinner every day. I have since myself adopted this diet for long periods of time without thinking it gave me any claim on the Papacy (via).

I have very fond memories of Geuss’s lectures at Cambridge, particularly (and I think I’ve told this story to more-or-less everyone I’ve ever met), Read more↴

Some quotes from Marx

A couple of quotes I happened to stumble across:

The attitude of the General Council in regard to the “Religious Idea” is clearly shown by the following incident: — One of the Swiss branches of the Alliance, founded by Michael Bakunin, and calling itself Section des athées Socialistes, requested its admission to the International from the General Council, but got the reply: “Already in the case of the Young Men’s Christian Association the Council has declared that it recognizes no theological sections” (Mr. George Howell’s History of the International Working-Men’s Association).

Which is interesting a) because I never realized the YMCA tried to join the First International (presumably we can now claim the Village People song as a communist anthem) and b) because the First International rejected a group for being explicitly atheist, which sheds some interesting light on debates about whether Marx was a secularist. Also:

We have no compassion and we ask no compassion from you. When our turn comes, we shall not make excuses for the terror. But the royal terrorists, the terrorists by the grace of God and the law, are in practice brutal, disdainful, and mean, in theory cowardly, secretive, and deceitful, and in both respects disreputable (“Suppression of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung).

Which is presumably the source of Negri’s celebrated line “No pity for our enemies.”