Return Maximization

Before I write, I pull a small lump of metal, no larger than a thimble, melted and dimpled and deformed, from the windowsill. According to the Sedona Crystal Vortex shop in Sedona, AZ it’s a meteorite, capable of activating Kundalini energy plus simulating the third eye and/or crown chakras. I rub it between my fingers, feeling its weight, its material strangeness. I don’t believe in the New Age but I like the idea that this thing  may or may not be from outer space, that I could have been scammed and it doesn’t even matter, that everything’s from outer space if we’re being technical and it’s the sort of technicality that mocks any attempt at de-vagueifying the unshapen. Continue reading “Return Maximization”

Chloë Sevigny is Not the Coolest Girl in the World

From a February 10, 2017 profile of Chloë in the New York Times Magazine:

It’s difficult to fathom how, exactly, this quaint Connecticut upbringing gave rise to the downtown It Girl and eventual indie actress the novelist Jay McInerney dubbed, in a now-infamous 1994 New Yorker profile, “the coolest girl in the world.”

As “now-infamous” suggests, that descriptor of Sevigny caught on. It haunts Downtown culture, is echoed club-side in mixtures of envy and admiration. April 10 2017, Nylon: We’re now 23 years into Sevigny’s Condé-sanctioned reign as “the coolest girl in the world.” Except McInerney, nor the Condé Nast-funded New Yorker, never bestowed that title upon her. Here’s the original 1994 piece, alleged quotation nowhere in site. Continue reading “Chloë Sevigny is Not the Coolest Girl in the World”

The Mind-Expanding Ideas of Andy Clark

The New Yorker finally got around to predictive processing with Larissa MacFarquhar’s profile of Andy Clark. Clark is the author of Surfing Uncertainty, the premier book on the subject.

Perception did not, then, simply work from the bottom up; it worked first from the top down. What you saw was not just a signal from the eye, say, but a combination of that signal and the brain’s own ideas about what it expected to see… Continue reading “The Mind-Expanding Ideas of Andy Clark”

New Fiction is Psychic Occupation

Fiction—or more generally, longform narrative text—has long been the handyman of society and culture, serving whatever functions are most needed at a historical moment. The Greek oral tradition, famously, functioned in part to preserve cultural histories and customs—hence the sprawling lists of names and figures, or lengthy descriptions of hospitality, in Homer. Arabic maqamas synthesized and preserved the collected wisdom of the medieval Iberian peninsula through proverbs and fables. Victorian novels provided an escapist entertainment for members of the aristocracy, while the Bible, Quran, and Mahābhārata operated as normative unifiers.

We no longer need literature to provide heavily plotted absorption: drug-like escapism, the loss of ego, more easily come from other mediums. Likewise, our encyclopedias, our etiquette guides, our microfiche handle our cultural historiography just fine. Television, film, non-fiction, and the Internet spent the 20th century eating away at literature’s territory, forcing the discipline to transform from generalist to specialist. The best literature of the modern day does what only literature can do—allow readers to squat and inhabit other minds, other worldviews, other consciousnesses. Continue reading “New Fiction is Psychic Occupation”

Art as the Antithesis of Design

From the footnotes of an upcoming piece examining predictive processing and Alva Nöe’s 2015 work on aesthetics, Strange Tools:

Nöe makes [his] argument through exclusion: art practices which are not interrogative, which do not challenge existing structures and practices are not, technically speaking, art. Pop songs, to Nöe, aren’t musical art, they’re a first-level human practice (or “organized activity”) called “song-making.” Choreography can be art, but “dancing” as practiced by amateurs and many professionals is an organized activity. Continue reading “Art as the Antithesis of Design”

On the Erotics of Intepretation

by Suspended Reason w/ James Wood

In Antonioni’s film L’eclisse, the luminous Monica Vitti visits the Rome stock exchange, where her fiance, played by Alain Delon, works. Delon points out a fat man who has just lost 50 million lire. Intrigued, she follows the man. He orders a drink at a bar, barely touches it, then goes to a cafe, where he orders an acqua minerale, which he again barely touches. He is writing something on a piece of paper, and leaves it on the table. We imagine that it must be a set of furious, melancholy figures. Vitti approaches the table, and sees that it is a drawing of a flower. Continue reading “On the Erotics of Intepretation”

Origins of “Future Nausea”

1966, Susan Sontag, “Anthropologist as Hero” in Against Interpretation:

“The felt unreliability of human experience brought about by the inhuman acceleration of historical change has led every sensitive modern mind to the recording of some kind of nausea, of intellectual vertigo.”

(also, 1999, William Gibson, No Maps for These Territories, 15:00 in:

“I think we all have these moments that are vertiginous and terribly exciting and very frightening in which we realize the contemporary absolutely, and I think it induces terror and ecstasy, and we retreat from it because we can’t stay in that state of panic.”)

Girls, Broad City, and Over-the-Topness

“By their power of intimate close-up, movies reveal the subtleties of facial expression and the ambiguities of mood and motivation.” (Paglia)

 

I recently re-watched Girls, and then off a recommendation, chased it with half a season of Broad City. The latter struck me as artless and also socially valueless in comparison with Dunham’s HBO series, and I’ve been trying to articulate why. Continue reading “Girls, Broad City, and Over-the-Topness”