Visual art — representational imagery — begins somewhere between fifty and one-hundred thousand years ago, overlapping with the Upper Paleolithic Transition. The period consists of rapid gains in tool technologies alongside the beginnings of modern symbolic thought, with human societies developing currency systems, dispersed social organizations, and increasingly sophisticated religious belief.
To Alva Nöe, writing in 2015’s Strange Tools: Art and Human Nature, the religious and social practices which began in this era, such as funerary rites, rites of passage, religious ceremony, symbolic adornment, and complex linguistic interactions, are examples of organized activities, “evolving patterns of organization” within which humans are embedded. Modern examples include driving a car in a highway system or navigating the complexities of workplace protocol — both being situations where we act improvisationally, within sets of constraints, and using established scripts, pre-determined by the situation’s structural context. Continue reading “Predictive Processing & Art as Cognitive Remodeling”
James Nulick’s Valencia opens with an HIV diagnosis. Nulick, protagonist, is dying. He has traveled to the southern coast of Spain to stay at the hotel which gives the novel its name. He has traveled there to hasten his death, to preempt the prolonged and painful corporal vulnerability which immunodeficiency entails. Continue reading “Valencia/Rectify/Film/Television/Literature”
I do not watch baseball, though many of my favorite passages and anecdotes are inspired by the sport. There is DeLillo, of course, in his prologue to the monumental Underworld, whose opening line — He speaks in your voice, American, and there's a shine in his eye that's halfway hopeful. — remains one of the best ever written.¹ Continue reading “Alva Noë & Baseball”
I wrote this in Mexico City, after an experience with the image above. It came while wandering around the city square over the course of a day, and was first put down on the pages of a small Liturgy & Pastoral book bought for 11 pesos from a church gift shop.
The mask stares out, eyes appalled, black and glassy. He is anonymous and intensely personal; he sees the opiate addicts and the basement dwellers, the alienated-enfranchised; all the darkness of the developed world, so that it dominates his view and is reflected in his eyes and slowly suffuses his corneas. From here it overtakes him; the pressure causes pockmarks in his face like lunar craters; dead skin sloughs off at an accelerating rate; and soon it will destroy him entirely, infiltrating the calcite of his skeletal system. Continue reading “Liturgy & Pastoral”
Roberto Bolano I detecti e slevaggi
John Nerst of Everything Studies, whose essays include "Partial Derivatives and Partial Narratives,""What is Erisology?" and a statistical analysis of Black Mirror, has contributed to this essay in Section II. His contribution here is especially authoritative, as the governing theme of Everything Studies is the self-coined "erisology" — the study of disagreement. Continue reading “Information Cycles & Erisology”
“To pilgrims and many expats, it is a temple of techno, a consecrated space, a source of enchantment and wonder.”
Nick Paumgarten, “Berlin Nights”
Is ritual still possible in contemporary society? This essay is one in a series which will examine those spaces which facilitate ephemeral and loosely structured (rather than repeated, highly structured, and strictly observed) events. Such spaces are communal but not socially mandatory; they are spiritual but derive transcendence from ecstasy instead of trial or mundanity.
Continue reading “Post-Ritual Space: Berghain”
“He looked at the cattle, blurred in silver heat. Silvered powdered olive trees. Quiet long days: pruning ripening. Olives are packed in jars, eh? I have a few left from Andrews…
A cloud began to cover the sun wholly slowly wholly. Grey. Far. No, not like that. A barren land, bare waste. Vulcanic lake, the dead sea… Brimstone they called it raining down: the cities of the plain.”
— Ulysses, 4.200-221
An introduction to this text can be found here.
The mobilization of Ulysses and Earnest is purposefully audacious and inevitably missteps. The overarching tone, and parts of the analysis, I would characterize as “understandably wrong.”
Continue reading “Ulysses, Wilde, and a Theory of Literary Compression”
I’ve been set free and I’ve been bound
To the memories of yesterday’s clouds
I’ve been set free and I’ve been bound
And now I’m set free
I’m set free to find a new illusion
— “I’m Set Free,” The Velvet Underground
“As time goes on… the universe becomes more and more what experience has revealed, less and less what imagination has created, and hence, since it was not designed to suit man’s needs, less and less what he would have it be. With increasing knowledge his power to manipulate his physical environment increases, but in gaining the knowledge which enables him to do so he surrenders insensibly the power which in his ignorance he had to mold the universe.”
— Joseph Wood Krutch
Continue reading “Text, Telos, and Ritual”
“This makes the pop song an indispensable mirror: The way in which a listener imposes himself upon the text, or transforms the text from generic to specific, shows that listener something about himself. He learns his yearnings, his sadnesses, his loves; he recognizes an emotional life which is otherwise elusive, and solidifies in time an emotional state which is otherwise ephemeral.”
Continue reading “Generic Fit”
I filled in a long-standing gap in my cultural knowledge recently and watched Lynch’s 2001 noir masterpiece Mulholland Drive. That’s the sensation, right? Where listening to records or watching films in an era of unprecedented access begins to feel a bit like doing homework.
Except Mulholland Drive is, itself, an almost unprecedently interesting film, one capable of arousing sensations in the viewer which he was previously unaware existed.”Uncanny” is used frequently to describe a Lynchean landscape, a place where things are simultaneously banal and extraordinary, both incredibly familiar and unnervingly off.
There’s a scene in the film during which one of its central protagonists, a successful Hollywood director, auditions lead actresses for his screenplay. Shadowy organizations are pulling strings behind the scenes so that the casting decision is essentially out of his hands, but he cycles through the motions regardless, asking several of the actresses to perform different 50s pop hits in a mock-up recording studio. One of these (diegetically) auditioned actresses is played by (real life) Melissa George, singing the rendition of “I’ve Told Every Little Star” shown in the footage below.
Continue reading “Every Little Star”