Archive for August, 2022

Etymology of Capitalism

August 31, 2022

Looked up Samuel Coleridge. Had died in his early seventies. Had been prescribed laudanum first for chronic ill health…. I had meant just to check how old Coleridge had been when he died but am now reading the full biography, and now reading the poem Kubla Khan, and now looking up Mount Abora, which is mentioned in Kubla Khan, and which doesn’t appear to have been a real mountain, though there is one with a similar sounding name at the border of the Central African Republic and what is now South Sudan. (I guess I didn’t realize the C.A.R bordered South Sudan, which seems very far east to be “central.”) And now looking up spelling of koan. (You are incorrigible, I suddenly recall my mother having said, but can’t recall what prompted her remark or what prompted my having recalled it — a “random thought.”)

Pondered: that my blog was not a thing but an anti-thing. Not only was it without positive value but was being used to serve the nefarious ends of Russian mobsters or some other gang. Indonesian click farms, Kenyan scammers. Like all things of non-positive value — with substance but no real presence– it was being exploited by Evil Powers. (Spinoza counsels us to try and form “clear and distinct ideas” of our passions to alleviate their influence. Did I have a clear and distinct idea about blogging? That was something I should do.) A more abstruse question: how did Spinoza’s “clear and distinct idea” relate to a poetic notion of the inner existence of things? (When one saw the inner existence of a thing one was passionate about what did that mean for the clear and distinct idea of ones passion?)

Looked up etymology of Capitalism. (Right-wingish Customer had said it was a Marxist term and that no true supporter of free markets would call the belief in free markets that, and I wished to investigate the claim.) My source said it dated from the French Revolution, though one could imagine it having been popularized by Marx. “Marx was also a terrible person,” had said the customer. “That’s said of a lot of figures with that kind of significance,” I replied, but looking up Marx in Wikipedia now I do find the entry itself rather suspiciously exculpating Marx of behaviors it doesn’t fully disclose. An irascible temperament brought on by chronic health problems exacerbated by immoderate alcohol and tobacco use, it mentioned. (Customer had alleged wife beating.)

The enduring koan of what to do with one’s blog. That koan to which the only response can be — stop thinking of this koan.

August 29, 2022

Looking up at the clouds, I tried to have an Idea of them, but the only Idea that occurred to me was of the clouds of the previous day — “upside down mossbed” — which I hadn’t thought to call them then. All cirrus clouds in blue skies evoke plains, beaches, deserts above, I then thought. (Though not necessarily “upside down” because “you seem to see them from within an airplane.”)

Had read Apollinaire the previous night. Description of the flares overhead, which I recall because I am looking overhead, but I can’t recall the French word for “flares” presently. I can’t even recall the French word for “above.”

The word Category

August 28, 2022

Now I’m thinking of categories, specifically an alternate spelling of it with two ‘ts’. Categories such as “Infrastructure and Cracks”, “Pedestrians and Drivers”, “Buildings and Signage”, “Wild life and Trash.” “My Thoughts and My Feelings”…. With the aid of such categories — an extraordinary mental technology, it is to be admitted — I might easily get to the bottom of this experience of walking and of this time of life!

The word Category from Greek to accuse I think (why?) Heidegger somewhere discusses this (being & time), you look at the Greek word(kata — agora) and wonder if it could almost mean “according to group.” It is the Agora or even the Polis of a kind of thing. Pedestrians in this town, cracks in that city. Bushes live in this city, squirrels gather in that agora.  A box, you accuse two things of being like and put them in a box, a penalty box.

That is not a tree but a sign, that is not a car but a post, and this lamppost here is more like the one down the street, which they only just put in place, than it is like the tree that is growing up right beside it and has been doing so for years. Though this tree and that post have been neighbors (“dwelling near”) so long, they are not in the same category.

“Mausoleum of all hope and desire”

August 26, 2022

Looked at the watch which had entered his life at almost the same time as the sunglasses had; thought “mausoleum, desire, time” then “mausoleum, desire, time or hope?” and looked again at the “mausoleum” — hard to say how much the seconds counter had advanced between the two downward glances, though the feeling was of just one second — the “Ironman Mausoleum (by Timex)” — and wondered what that phrase, that “time was a mausoleum” (or that the watch was Time’s mausoleum) may have meant.

(Dried fallen leaf on a branch shadow of the pavement. Cold togocuplid in the shadowofatrunk / Shadow of a fat trunk

It now reads 18:08 — using its stopwatch function — 18 minutes of having walked, 18 minutes from home, 32 minutes before entering through the service door and squeezing behind the small Korean wife at the desk, exchanging greetings and heading to his locker in the back.

Phrase was Faulkner’s, that a watch was “the mausoleum of all hope and desire”, (and not the mausoleum of time as I had initially had it, because looking at the watch Time had seemed to be in it, an arabian night, could have been the idea, a tiny mule “whose centrifugal straining pushed the gears of our own synchronicity”), “of our own savage synchronicity“, I’d wanted to say. He thought the phrase meant that only those who are mortal, and who thus have finite time, as represented by the watch, can have an attachment to the world, and thus also have a desire for and hope about the world and what’s in it.

Tried to remember a phrase of Shakespeare: that Time was the sack where all good deeds go (or something — perhaps from one of the histories. A search is not producing it)  To look at the watch and see not “Timex” nor “watch” but Time Itself, was thought (and Timex suddenly seemed like Latinx, which I’m always mispronouncing in inadvertent parody as laTINKS) — to see one’s vanished desire and its objects, ones unaccomplished hopes.

One was old, you knew what that meant now — and what was the etymology of Time anyway? And another question: of what was the computer, and the cellphone, the mausoleum, if the watch was the one that held desire? (of Wisdom, of Justice, of Knowledge) … (The Computer was the Federal, and the cellphone was the State, Prison of Time.) And of what were these sunglasses the mausoleum? (“Of myself,” from the one side and “of the world”  from the other.) And if you include this cap I’m wearing, I’ve got a whole Cheopian pyramid over myself practically, the perfect buffer and disguise.

Not genius but a broader ecosystem of the arts seemed more under threat today.

August 24, 2022

Needing to kill a few minutes I arbitrarily pulled something from my shelves, which turned out to be Henry Miller’s book on Rimbaud, The Time of The Assassins. How this brought back to me ideas I’d entertained twenty and thirty years ago! There was no useful place in the world for the genius. The genius was too unique and inventive to be employed in any bourgeois labor. The genius had to do the work of a dishwasher, of a stevedore, to get by, roaming the earth on an empty stomach… sort of thing.

What did I think of such ideas now? That perhaps the world had changed somewhat since Miller had written this book: it had grown better at identifying and supporting geniuses — those people in the top one percent of their field — but now tended disproportionately to neglect the artists of the top ten or twenty percent, those who were very talented and/or hard-working but not of the very first rank. Not genius but a broader ecosystem of the arts seemed to struggle with excessive hurdles today, was my opinion. (Though it was also somewhat paradoxically true that the world seemed less interested in Genius today than it was in making sure everyone’s point of view was represented.)

I notice in my book that my younger self has underlined the word recidivist and written in the margins “one who relapses.” And I think to myself that this might be the stuff of a good Legend of Sisyphus remake: in which over the course of a man’s life he knows the meaning of the word recidivist right up until the very moment that he reads it or hears it in conversation, whereupon all knowledge of it totally vanishes — he may even think it means revanchist for a while — and he has to look it up again. After he has looked it up, he knows it until the next time he needs it, at which point the cycle repeats. But this only occurs for forty years, let’s say, — no need to drag it out through eternity.

August 22, 2022

Customer worked in real estate assessment for the County. Attendant: the word on you guys was that properties routinely sold for much higher than you’d assessed, how do you respond? Answer: property valuations have been consistently rising. We evaluate at the beginning of a year, and by the end of the year they’re much higher.

Customer, buttoning her overcoat and advancing toward attendant seemed almost to have the power to pass through the intervening countertop, it was done with such poise and presence. (Attendant’s “personal space” felt invaded though she was no nearer than most persons approaching the counter, such was her confident stride.)

Customer would only go to certain places to inflate her car’s tires: you had to go to the ones where the pump itself measured the air pressure so you didn’t have to have your own gauge.

That Climate Change is like Hector / The origin of Thought and of Books

August 20, 2022

Idea that climate change is the anti-technology or its representative, ying-zig to technology’s yang-zag, and that whatever efficiencies Technology creates today, the Anti-Technology will undue over time…. We don’t realize it’s Technology telling us this, but there is no greater evil, according to New Technology, than Old Technology.

(Counterpoint: Climate change is an anti-technology like Hector is anti-hero, destined to fail against the divine Achilles of Human Know-How, which is to have its own, more unexpected source of demise.)

Idea that origin of thinking lies in our realization of having made a false equivalence… Equivalence is somehow not thought about and seems, if not a state of nature, then something we’d naturally expect… while realizing we’ve falsely equated something to another causes us to step back in thought and ask what the real relationship may be.

Just as we assume fairness, and perceptions of unfairness are the origin of violence and war, so we assume equivalence, and misperceptions of equivalence are the source of thought and books?

Wood and iron circles

August 18, 2022

A tree stump and manhole cover in close proximity, then another such pair, both on 36th, inviting a comparison between their wood and iron circles — unblemished and scuffed respectively — and the two pairs of such wood and iron circles.

Two banana peels, first on the first hill: “black with corruption”, but still with its bright blue sticker adhering. Second on Edgewood a good mile and a half off: half yellow, it’s blue sticker stuck on the adjacent black asphalt.

A day that is a large careful book

August 13, 2022

Looked up un nuit blanche, French for “a sleepless night.” Adduced arguments in defense of my use of paper towels: (a) “we choose our battles,” (b) I have had, for a long time, quite a low carbon footprint for a U.S. Citizen, (c) “nothing beats a good paper towel”; (d) your real sin with respect to the environment is water consumption. (True and the real problem, which is obfuscated by this towel). Looked up “degraded curiosity rovers wheels.”(Consider: They say “why don’t you get out there and show them” but then he gets out there and shows them that showing anyone wasn’t necessarily the best idea… So instead why don’t I “stay in here and do nothing”? Why don’t I “show” no one?)

Looked up 2 Peter 3:8, interesting: to God not only is a thousand years as a day but a day is as a thousand years — a thousand pages — Ulysses. A day that lasts a thousand years qua a day that is a large careful book.

INSIGHT, is an interesting word: seems to have started out meaning “mental vision”, the sight one has in the mind — imagination, I suppose — later came to mean the mind’s penetrating understanding of things exterior to it.

August 11, 2022

I was so happy in contemplating these beautiful landscapes/ and the triumphal arch of Aosta/ that I had but one wish to make,/ that this life would last forever.
— Stendhal

J’étais si heureux en contemplant ces beaux paysages
et l’arc de triomphe d’Aoste
que je n’avais qu’un vœu à former
c’était que cette vie durât toujours.

Miming the movements of one’s own body

August 8, 2022

Being that will perform a mime or dance of the working of his own internal organs: starting with his heart, which he does with his hands. He begins by clasping his hands, pushing the palms together in a steady beat, then waving the arms, now all of him is moving…

Then he “mimes” his blood, which he does by wriggling all about. How does one imitate the movement of one’s own blood? thinks the mime. Then he closes his eyes and wriggles all about.

And now how does he try to resemble his own eyes? The mime doesn’t extend his arms and beat his outstretched hands together, to represent blinking, but instead crouches and makes himself as small as he can, to represent that kernel of an image seen deep and small within the mind.

His portrayal of the kidneys and liver is so graphic that many in the audience are moved to tears, but it is his portrayal of his brain that most gets people talking, a long interim of terrified shouts, self-pitying groans, and calm equations, which are the only sounds in his performance.