Sunday, September 30, 2007

Eschatology: The Ruins After Dark

Incinerated civilian victims of the Allied fire bombing of Hamburg,
which killed as many as 70,000 Germans. [ source ]

No one knew where the homeless stayed,
although lights among the ruins after dark
showed where they had moved in.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Make Your Own Skull

The idea of making my own skull delights me to no end. I'm going to make a bunch of these skulls and hang them around my doorway. Skulls around my doorway. Sounds good. Old blues resonance. From the always inspirational Skull-A-Day:

Cut & Folded Custom Paper Toy. The jaw moves via a tab that sticks out the back.

This papercraft skull is downloadable as a DIY pattern PDF HERE. Make & decorate your own! Just print onto or glue to card stock, then cut, fold, and tape or glue via the directions.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

More Heidegger: Death Mountain in the Black Forest

Patrick Lakey, Heidegger: Hut, Todtnauberg,
Black Forest, Germany, I, 2005.

Excerpts from Leland de la Durantaye's charming account of a pilgrimage - with attendant Heideggarian biography - to Todnauberg. From Cabinet Magazine:

I stood on a steeply sloping hillside deep in the Black Forest, panting, bathed in sweat and covered in mud. A group of llamas had stopped grazing nearby to watch me. After disorientation and fatigue, flying, driving, walking, and running, after springing over an electrified fence and sliding down a wooded slope, after losing my phone, my wife, and my bearings, I had at last found Martin Heidegger’s hut.

... Too intelligent not to make a virtue of necessity, Heidegger cultivated a quaint and bucolic image, wearing to his lectures a traditional outfit that his more metropolitan students dubbed “the ontological suit.”

... And so he retreated to the Black Forest, and on long walks along its wooded paths, in glades and clearings, skiing down its slopes, and in long hours poring over books in his hut, he patiently crafted a special language for his unusual task. One thing was immediately apparent: it wasn’t pretty. German played a role in this. For him, “the forgetting of being,” as he called it, began early: with the translation of Greek texts into Latin. Things did not get any better with the translations from Latin into the burgeoning Romance languages. But German, in its rugged seclusion, had been spared and, what is more, possessed what he saw as an elective affinity with Western philosophy’s native language, Greek. (Once asked about English’s status as a philosophical language he curtly responded that it had ceased being one in 1066.)

... A few hundred yards away was a sign with a photo of the aging Heidegger, looking frankly smug, and a short text with the incipit: “Wer gross denkt, muss gross irren”: “He who will think greatly, must err greatly.”

... Celan continued his hauntingly beautiful explorations of the German language, leading Adorno to retract his declaration that writing poetry after Auschwitz was not possible. In July of 1966, Celan, since grown famous, gave a reading in Freiburg. He had long been an admirer of Heidegger’s writings on poetry, just as Heidegger had long been an admirer of his poetry. Celan accepted Heidegger’s invitation and was driven from Freiburg into the heights of the Black Forest for a meeting at the hut. Celan took a drink from the wooden well outside with the star above it, wrote a few lines in the guestbook, and the two men went for a walk. Heidegger marveled at Celan’s knowledge of the natural world—flowers, plants, trees, animals—and it was the healing powers of this natural world with which Celan began a poem he wrote a week later about his visit. “Todtnauberg,” begins, “Arnica and eyebright,” the first a flower to treat bruises, the other for pained eyes. But the flora of the poem changes as the poet thinks of the book he signed. “Whose name did it record/ before mine — ?” he asks.

... Much disturbed by the experience, Celan returned to this well and its star in the poem he wrote a week later, evoking, as well, “a thinker’s/ word/ to come,/ in the heart”—or, in other words, what so many awaited from Heidegger. That word Celan hoped would come—a word of acknowledgement and apology for his role in the Nazi party—never did and, ever more depressed by so much he recalled from his past and saw in his present, Celan drowned himself in the Seine in 1970.

See also:
Patrick Lakey: German Photographs (1724—2005)
Translation at the Mountain of Death

On Heidegger: This passage being less stercorine

Highly amusing exegesis of a "passage" from Heidegger's On the Way to Language over at the Varieties of Unreligious Experience. The following is Heidegger:

I: What is the Japanese word for “language”?

J: (after further hesitation) It is “Koto ba.”

I: And what does that say?

J: ba means leaves, including and especially the leaves of a blossom-petals [sic]. Think of cherry-blossoms or plum blossoms.

I: And what does Koto say?

J: This is the question most difficult to answer. But it is easier now to attempt an answer because we have ventured to explain Iki: the pure delight of the beckoning stillness. The breath of stillness that makes this beckoning delight come into its own is the reign under which that delight is made to come. But Koto always also names that which in the event gives delight, itself, that which uniquely in each unrepeatable moment comes to radiance in the fullness of its grace.

I: Koto, then, would be the appropriating occurrence of the lightening message of grace [das Ereignis der lichtenden Botschaft der Anmut].

J: Beautifully said!

Following is excerpted exegesis from Varieties of Unreligious Experience:

My bullshit-detectors were, at this point, raging out of control. (I concede the possibility—certainly not the likelihood—of this passage being less stercorine in the original German.)

... Perhaps Heidegger would praise Tezuka's remarks, in his own words, as 'playful thinking that is more compelling than the rigor of science'.

... Heidegger's project, in this book, and this dialogue, is to come to terms with (or at least address) the alterity of Japanese thinking, and consequently of its language.

... But Heidegger's real project is to make strange even Western thinking and language.

... Heidegger here defines iki as 'the pure delight of the beckoning stillness'. Wikipedia articulates the word's meanings with the adjectives 'simple, improvised, straight, restrained, temporary, romantic, ephemeral, original, refined, inconspicuous'. One can only conclude that there are few minds less iki than that of Martin Heidegger.


Grace note: I am reminded of joke that my father used to tell me when I was young (and never understood until years later).

Did you hear about the cannibal who passed his friend in the jungle?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Orson Whales: Moby Dick + Orson Welles + Led Zeppelin

Orson Whales from Alex Itin on Vimeo.

This is more or less a birthday gift to myself. I’ve been drawing it on every page of Moby Dick (using two books to get both sides of each page) for months. The soundtrack is built from searching “moby dick” on You Tube (I was looking for Orson’s Preacher from the the John Huston film), I couldn’t find the preacher, but you find tons of Led Zep and drummers doing Bonzo and a little Orson reading from the Novel for a failed Italian T.V. film…… makes for a nice Melville in the end.

Very much want head return.

UBUWEB: Outsiders: Assorted Street Posters

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

9/11 and the Cult of Death: The Rejection of the Sequitur

The Falling Man - Photograph by Richard Drew

Excerpts from 9/11 and The Cult of Death by Martin Amis:

[ pull quotes mine - marking decontextualized quotation ]

...seems to be slowly dawning...

And what do all the UK jihadis have in common, these brain surgeons and jailbirds, these keen cricketers and footballers, these sex offenders, community workers, former boozers and drug addicts, primary-school teachers, sneak thieves, and fast-food restaurateurs, with their six-litre plastic tubs of hairdressing bleach and nail-polish remover, their crystalline triacetone triperoxide and chapati flour, and their “dockyard confetti” (bolts and nuts and nails)? And the answer to that question seems to be slowly dawning. What they have in common is this: they are all abnormally interested in violent death. organised passion for carnage...

The equivalence line always anticipates the usual counter-argument, which it considers to be an orientalist smear: that the Islamists are fanatics and nihilists who, in their mad quest for world domination, have created a cult of death. With each passing day, however, the counter-argument is sounding like an increasingly sober description of reality. With the 20th century so fresh in our mind, you might think that human beings would be quick to identify an organised passion for carnage. But we aren’t quick to do that – of course we aren’t; we are impeded by a combination of naivete, decency, and a kind of recurrent incredulity. The death cult always benefits, initially at least, from its capacity to astonish and stupefy.

...the illimitable world of insanity and death...

Thanatism derives its real energy, its fever and its magic, from something far more radical. And here we approach a pathology that may in the end be unassimilable to the nonbelieving mind. I mean the rejection of reason – the rejection of the sequitur, of cause and effect, of two plus two. Strikingly, in their written works and their table talk, Hitler and Stalin (and Lenin) seldom let the abstract noun reason go by without assigning a scornful adjective to it: worthless reason, craven reason, cowardly reason. When those sanguinary yokels, the Taleban, chant their slogan, “Throw reason to the dogs”, they are making the same kind of Faustian gamble: crush reason, kill reason, and anything and everything seems possible – the restored Caliphate, for instance, presiding over a planetary empire cleansed of all infidels. To transcend reason is of course to transcend the confines of moral law; it is to enter the illimitable world of insanity and death.

...our numerous Walter Mittys of mass murder...

Sayyid Qutb, like someone relaying a commonplace or even a tautology, often said that it is in the nature of Islam to dominate. Where, though, are its tools and its instruments? The only thing Islamism can dominate, for now, is the evening news. But that is not nothing, in a world of pandemic suggestibility, munition glut, and our numerous Walter Mittys of mass murder. September 11 entrained a moral crash, planet-wide; it also loosened the ground between reality and reverie. So when we speak of it, let’s call it by its proper name; let’s not suggest that our experience of that event, that development, has been frictionlessly absorbed and filed away. It has not. September 11 continues, it goes on, with all its mystery, its instability, and its terrible dynamism.

...loosened the ground between reality and reverie...

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Information Policy for the Library of Babel: One or More of Its Secret Tongues Does Not Hide a Terrible Significance

In another world where no one dies, a blind man is smiling.

A fascinating and delightful Borgesian construct upon a classic essay of Borges, The Library of Babel. Following the abstract is a short excerpt concerning censorship. But I urge you to download the complete "policy".

Information Policy for the Library of Babel

James Grimmelmann, New York Law School


The image of Borges's Library of Babel, which contains all possible books, is haunting and suggestive. This essay asks what we would do if we were advising a Federal Library Commission on how to deal with the Library's vast holdings and overwhelming disorganization. This thought exercise provides a set of sensible principles for information policy in an age of extreme informational abundance.

Censorship is usually irrelevant.

Some of the books in the Library are dangerous in themselves: “There is no combination of characters one can make—dhcmrlchtdj, for example—that the divine Library has not foreseen and that in one or more of its secret tongues does not hide a terrible significance.” Others are dangerous because they divert us from the books we seek: “thousands and thousands of false catalogs . . . the proof of the falsity of the true catalog . . . some perfidious version of his own [Vindication].” In the face of these dangers, some “Purifiers” have turned to censorship:

They would invade the hexagons, show credentials that were not always false, leaf disgustedly through a volume, and condemn entire walls of books. It is to their hygienic, ascetic rage that we lay the senseless loss of millions of volumes.

In the abstract, since every book is meaningful to some possible reader, it might seem that purging a volume is an unpardonable crime. But the same considerations that make individual authorship moot also tend to make individual censorship moot. (Destroying a book is just the mirror image of creating one.) The Library endures far above our poor power to add—or detract. As Borges reminds us, in the vastness of the Library, “any deletion by human hands must be infinitesimal” and for any book “there are always several hundred thousand imperfect facsimiles—books that differ by no more than a single letter, or a comma.” Censors who rip a book from our hands have harmed us, to be sure, as have those who burn down so much of the Library as to make appreciably harder the task of finding shelves with books to read. But on the long view, any one person is so insignificantly small when compared with the treasurehouse that is the Library of Babel that a few depredations here and there do not much affect either the availability of any given information or the average librarian’s search through the galleries. (Indeed, if Borges’s final suspicion is correct, and the Library is “unlimited but periodic,” it contains an infinite number of copies of each book, and censorship is infinitesimally irrelevant even within the Library’s holdings of that precise title.)

[ Via BoingBoing ]

Update: Just found this via the entertainingly erudite Language Hat. Be sure to scroll down through the "vast compendium of beautiful library pictures".

Abbey Library St. Gallen, Switzerland

Librophiliac Love Letter: A Compendium of Beautiful Libraries

Everyone has some kind of place that makes them feel transported to a magical realm. For some people it's castles with their noble history and crumbling towers. For others it's abandoned factories, ivy choked, a sense of foreboding around every corner. For us here at Curious Expeditions, there has always been something about libraries. Row after row, shelf after shelf, there is nothing more magical than a beautiful old library.

We had a chance to see just such a library on our recent visit to Prague. Tucked away on the top of a hill in Prague is the Strahov Monestary, the second oldest monastery in Prague. Inside, divided into two major halls, is a breathtaking library. The amazing Theological Hall contains 18,000 religious texts, and the grand Philosophical Hall has over 42,000 ancient philosophical texts. Both are stunningly gorgeous. Strahov also contains a beautiful cabinet of curiosities, including bits of a Dodo bird, a large 18th century electrostatic device, numerous wonderfully old ocean specimens, and for unclear reasons many glass cases full of waxen fruit. Our delight was manifest.

Shocked into a library induced euphoria, Curious Expeditions has attempted to gather together the world's most beautiful libraries for you starting with our own pictures of Strahov. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do.


Four Babels from the always stimulating Giornale Nuovo
Processes and Causality by John F. Sowa
The Garden of Forking Paths from The Modern Word
The Borgesian Cyclopaedia

Carceri by Piranesi
[ source ]