the death of hayden white

thanks to gun:

Chaucer Doth Tweet (@LeVostreGC) tweeted at 5:47 am on Wed, Mar 07, 2018:
RIP Hayden White
historye doth remember

from Hayden White’s essay, “The Burden of History,” of 1966:

Such a conception of historical inquiry [in which the historian and scientist organize facts through tentative metaphoric approximations] and representation would open up the possibility of using contemporary scientific and artistic insights in history without leading to radical relativism… It would permit the plunder of psychoanalysis, cybernetics, game theory, and the rest…. And it would permit historians to conceive of the possibility of using impressionistic, expressionistic, surrealistic, and (perhaps) even actionist modes of representations for dramatizing the significance of data…. [p. 47]

On the contrary, we require a history that will educate us to discontinuity more than ever before; for discontinuity, disruption, and chaos is our lot. If, as Nietzsche said, “we have art in order not to die of the truth,” we also have truth in order to escape the seduction of a world which is nothing but the creation of our longings. History can provide a ground upon which we can seek that “impossible transparency” demanded by Camus for the distracted humanity of our time. Only a chaste historical consciousness can truly challenge the world anew every second, for only history mediates between what is and what men think ought to be with truly humanizing effect. But history can serve to humanize experience only if it remains sensitive to the more general world of thought and action from which it proceeds and to which it returns. And as long as it refuses to use the eyes which both modern art and modern science can give it, it must remain blind – citizen of a world in which “the pallid shades of memory struggle in vain with the life and freedom of the spirit.” [page ?]


sometime circa 2003, i asked hayden if he stilled believed in the words above he wrote so many years earlier, and he said that he did.

this blog is an attempt to test, in very rough, experimental fashion, the historiography he articulated, criticized, and himself experimented with, in 1966 and thereafter.

Poème électronique (English Translation: “Electronic Poem”) is an 8-minute piece of electronic music by composer Edgard Varèse, written for the Philips Pavilion at the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair. The Philips corporation commissioned Le Corbusier to design the pavilion, which was intended as a showcase of their engineering progress. Le Corbusier came up with the title Poème électronique, saying he wanted to create a “poem in a bottle”. Varèse composed the piece with the intention of creating a liberation between sounds and as a result uses noises not usually considered “musical” throughout the piece.

Poème électronique was synchronized to a film of black and white photographs selected by Le Corbusier which touched on vague themes of human existence. Le Corbusier’s original concept called for a pause in the film while his voice was heard, speaking directly to the audience. However, Varèse objected to the idea that Le Corbusier’s voice would be played over his composition, and the idea was abandoned.

the death of hayden white

in preparation for a dinner at B & M’s

the usefulness of this ‘blog’, which really is a journal that has absolutely no thematic direction, by design, is that i can stir up trouble. but only when stirring up such ‘trouble’ has a purpose. or rather, purposes. in this case, it’s to pit two very well prepared sparing partners to achieve there best. there will be two mostly quiet witnesses for the event, not because they seek refuge, or because they don’t have thoughts of their own, but because they don’t wish in any way to dilute the main event.

the stakes are the small issues of ‘modernism’ and ‘art’. because this blog-journal is public, i’ll leave names out it, so readers can be peer reviewers to aid their anonymous judgments blindly, as is the rule of the game in the game of academia. as an anonymous blogger myself, i suspend all judgment as a matter of course.

below, i include images of works by B and L, the two debaters. i also include images by M as a reference point; and for myself, well, this blog-journal offers plenty.

so as not to privilege either the work of B or L, i alternate images  of their sculptural works, that i’ve selected not randomly, and neither have i selected them because i think they are the best works of each artist. i’ve selected them because i think they fairly represent the ‘aesthetic’/’poetic’ orientations and ambitions of both artists, while making a fair comparison.

note 1: B is a sculptor and a painter and thinker; but L, as an artist, [L is also a lacanian psychoanalyst and writer], has only made sculpture. so i will  include only B’s sculptural work.

note 2: in order to not privilege one artist over the other, i’ve not altered the quality of the images below, and i’ve deleted the dates of when the works were created.

this all sounds serious, but in case it’s not obvious, it’s meant in the spirit of irony and jest, in keeping with the spirit of lively debate and friendship. as well as in the spirit of complete seriousness. 🙂



L – untitled




L – untitled


work by M: i’ve not deleted the dates of M’s work because i can’t obscure the dates of my posts. and i have altered the images a bit in terms of brightness and saturation.

Screen Shot 2018-03-07 at 12.57.14 AMScreen Shot 2018-03-07 at 12.57.47 AM



in preparation for a dinner at B & M’s

cleansing the palette… after the previous post… la monte young. it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea… but imagine if ‘you’ had suffered to write what comes before this, in a single sitting, what would cleanse ‘your’ palette? well, i can imagine many things, but, at this particular moment, late in this meridian night, i have only music…

the relentless striking in minimalist fashion of the piano’s lower key register of course! accompanied by the luminosity of the other instrumentality that surrounds, interrupts, gives way to it. the dedication to well-structured improve minimalism, nonstop, for over 2 hours. la monte creates a timespace into which one may go and be absorbed, as many musician do. but because it’s language free, narrative free, yet completely embodied, it’s another kind of pearodox: both zen, yet the opposite of nihilism, for which there is no exact antonym: maybe, self-denial. which is what writing requires. absorption in writing, unlike speaking, is a form of self-denial, and therefore, a form of nihilism. which is why it’s so fucking difficult and painful, except when it flows, which it does sometimes.

for GUN.

writing is often, most often, difficult and painful. even when, especially when, it gives the writer the greatest pleasure… that’s another pearodoxical maxim.

right. in case you might need more than 2 hours to cleanse your palette, here’s a 5 hour work by la monte. 🙂 a demonstration of remarkable embodied zen dedication to anti-nihilist nihilism.

[the question becomes: is the work for the performer, or the listener? or possibly for both? if for the listener as well as the performer, how does that happen? i’ve wondered this about sufi dancing, for which i have immense ‘outsider’ appreciation. and i have immense appreciation of the early sufi philosophers, particularly, ibn arabi. ]




cleansing the palette… after the previous post… la monte young. it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea… but imagine if ‘you’ had suffered to write what comes before this, in a single sitting, what would cleanse ‘your’ palette? well, i can imagine many things, but, at this particular moment, late in this meridian night, i have only music…

War: a very brief cultural history, Marx, and desiring machines: does capitalism = war?

Deleuze and Guattari argue that Richard Lindner’s painting “Boy with Machine” (1954) demonstrates the … the primacy of desire’s social investments over its familial ones: “the turgid little boy has already plugged a desiring-machine into a social machine, short-circuiting the parents.” and that’s pre-computer games and smart phones…

the long view: the last major ‘positive’ sociopolitical shift began with the rise across Europe of representational democratic states, in 1848. these were foreshadowed by revolutions in the US in 1776 and France in 1789. Marx was of course on hand to witness the period of 1848, predicting on that basis his historical materialist theory of class struggle – the struggle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, or the struggle between capitalism and communism. What is often misunderstood about Marx, is that despite his critique of the rise of the bourgeoisie, he considered their rise an evolutionary advancement in the history of human consciousness because it did expand the positives of human allegiances to greater numbers of people, the middle-class, while overcoming the extremes of the feudalist, aristocratic from of political economy. the following passage from the Communist Manifesto, section I, has been misunderstood for a good reason: the characteristics he attributes to the bourgeoisie are couch in a series of negative descriptions: pitilessly tearing asunder; naked self-interest; drowned out; philistine sentimalism; icy water of egostistical calculation; and the like. So it can be difficult to understand that he understands those traits as positive.

to comprehend why Marx thought, despite his negatives, that the bourgeoisie, “historically, has played a most revolutionary part,” it is necessary to understand his use of Hegelian dialectic. in a nutshell, the history of human consciousness proceeds through a series of ‘dialectical phases.’ human consciousness is not a stable, unchanging state of mind: it changes over time. the consciousness of a person from the late 19th century is very different from that of the feudal period that preceded it, because a feudal peasant working the land and subject to an aristocratic Duke lived a daily life that is radically different than a shoemaker of 19th century London who was subject to elected parliament and in charge of his own economy. similarly, from today’s reference point, those who came to consciousness as adults before the rise of the computer and the smart phone, think/feel/act quite differently than those who grew up prior to them. just imagine the difference between yourself and a grandparent, or perhaps between yourself and your child. In many ways, you and your grandparent inhabit radically different worlds because you think/feel/act different than they do or did.

only through the rise of the industrial revolution did people become conscious of what life was/meant under feudalism, but they didn’t understand the couldn’t understand the transformation of their own consciousness because it became the ‘new normal’. we can’t really understand what our own consciousness is/means, because it’s simply ‘normal’, the way thing are. but when we take a historical perspective, looking back in time, when we compare our consciousness, our own ways of thinking/feeling/acting to a previous generation, then we can that consciousness does in fact change significantly. that comparison is what Hegel, and Marx, mean by dialectic. it is only through historical ‘dialogue’, a comparison with a previous historical moment, that we can recognize and understand through contrast that history has moved on, and the form of human consciousness, with it. Marx believes in progress, that as history moves forward, human conditions improve. while that is a questionable assumption, in order to understand the passage that follows, we need to make the same assumption. the bourgeoisie is a positive, progressive, revolutionary, historical class because in it we can recognize just how terrible life under feudalism was: it pitilessly tears asunder the motely feudal ties that bound man to his ‘natural superiors’. thus the negative ways in which he describes the bourgeoisie are actually positives because that make us recognize the bad forms of previous human existence, and if we are sensitive, can come to recognized the negative conditions of our own present historical conditions, and by recognizing them, work to change them for the better. we understand the ways in which Free Trade, while improving on the conditions of feudalism, is still essentially a form of social life that benefits those in control of Free Trade, which is ‘free’ for only those that control it; while oppressing others who make their benefits possible ­– the workers who to the labor for a mere pittance in wages compared to the enormous wealth acquired by the factory owners.

here’s the passage from the Communist Manifesto, 1848:

The bourgeoisie, historically, has played a most revolutionary part.

The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations.

It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his “natural superiors,” and has left no other nexus between man and woman than naked self-interest, than callous “cash payment.” It has drowned out the most heavenly ecstacies of religious fervour, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom—Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation.

The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honoured and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage-labourers.

The bourgeoisie has torn away from the family its sentimental veil, and has reduced the family relation to a mere money relation.

The bourgeoisie has disclosed how it came to pass that the brutal display of vigour in the Middle Ages, which Reactionists so much admire, found its fitting complement in the most slothful indolence. It has been the first to shew what man’s activity can bring about. It has accomplished wonders far surpassing Egyptian pyramids, Roman aqueducts, and Gothic cathedrals; it has conducted expeditions that put in the shade all former Exoduses of nations and crusades.

The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionising the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. Conservation of the old modes of production in unaltered form, was, on the contrary, the first condition of existence for all earlier industrial classes. Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses, his real condition of life, and his relations with his kind.


Vertov’s Kino-Eye


but there are several factors that Marx was unable to foresee: his own scientism and enlightenment rationalism prevented him from putting those two forces under critique; he failed therefore to imagine the consequences of what Sigfried Giedion described in his well known book, Mechanization Takes Command; that as Eric Hobsbaum concluded, enlightenment rationalism’s inevitable fate would lead directly to the mechanization of war in the form of the 30 years war (WWI + WWII – machine guns, tanks, airplanes); that, as Hobsbaum analyzed, put the world in the hands of an administrative, bureaucratic elite that through the ‘total war’ conditions put capitalism on a permanent war economy footing and put an end to participatory, democratic governance, establishing the means of production in the shape of the military-industrial complex as Eisenhower termed it. nor could Marx have predicted the next great shift in political economy that was the direct result of the mechanization of war – the rise of information science and it’s main technology, the computer – and the shape of today’s political economy as the information-military-industrial complex. nor could he have imagined capital’s seemingly limitless wiliness in maintaining and reinforcing its power over consciousness to defeat class conflict and stabilize class boundaries as seemingly ‘natural’ but shifting social positions. Capitalism though the assemblage of several social factors, has successfully eradicated opposition to it time and again through such ideological contracts as Manifest Destiny, the American Dream, the Ideology of Progress, and in particular, the blinding force of the ‘inalienable’ ‘right’ of radical, libertarian individualism that in effect underwrites a moral-economic code that can only be called Social Darwinism – the right of the economic elite to dominate because they are the strongest and fittest naturally selected by the ‘laws’ of capitalism.

Marx also ‘failed’ in his critique because as Nietzsche and Freud and Reich and many others have noted, his scientistic rationalism analyzed the economy in mainly mechanistic terms, and did not account for psychology, for the strength and depth of human desire, unconscious drives, the great elasticity and susceptibility to manipulation of the former, or the great resistance to change, of the latter. he could not have imagined the power of the Spectacle and its Advertising Machine, or as Reich so aptly articulated the paradox that – people desire their own oppression. in, Dialectic of Enlightenment (1944), in their chapter, “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception”, the Marxist philosophers/sociologists attempted to redress Marx’s shortcoming by rethinking capitalism through an analysis that combined the work of Freud with that of Marx. if humans are ‘driven’ to eat, to reproduce, to speak, to make art, if those drives remain relatively constant; the types of food, sex, language, and art, can be determined by those who control what Foucault called disciplinary institutions like law, hospitals, schools, science, the religion, or aesthetic canons – and the various connections between such institutional forces.


similar to Adorno and Horkeimer, but with a radically different critique of Freudian and Lacanian psychology in mind, Deleuze and Guattari describe a human world constituted by productive ‘desiring machines’: social desiring machines that operate in connection with individual desiring machines that co-produce each other:

“There are no desiring-machines that exist outside the social machines that they form on a large scale; and no social machines without the desiring machines that inhabit them on a small scale.”

in other words, advertising and Hollywood cinema are both social desiring machines with which we, as desiring machines, individually are connected and interwoven.

See my post below:

more on war: from vanderbeek to hobsbaum to foucault to black panther

yet, despite all of Marx’s ‘failures’, today, human consciousness is most shaped by the means of late capitalism, now generally called, globalism, the material base of which is the desiring machinery of digital communication. the disparity between classes, the well noted extremes between the ultra rich and the absolute poor, the extremes of inequality in every social register, the rise of a new oligarchy created on the backs of the vast numbers of disenfranchised, is certainly not the same as the sharp division between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat of the 1848, but certainly, in qualitative characteristics, looks very much the same as it was then. the mechanism are very different, and the characteristics of human consciousness are very different, but the material conditions of human life today, are very similar.

as has often been commented on in mathematics and science, ‘the law of large numbers’ suggests that beyond a certain threshold of scale, a significant ‘qualitative’ transformation occurs. In other words, the value of a small number of individual desiring machines will not be the same as a large number of socially aggregated desiring machines. Globalization is qualitatively very different than the early form of 19th century, mercantile capitalism; in part because their respective means of production are radically different, but also because they operate on radically different scales.

for our historical moment, it’s important to understand the two economic forces that have determined a radical break between the desiring machines, both individual and social, of 20th and 21st centuries [not that break can be located at a single historical moment]. loosely put, 20th century capitalism was restricted largely and materially to the confines of the nation state, to, therefore, a bounded geographical territory governed by the state’s particular laws and other forms of social organization, to therefore, the economic trading relations and interactions between states. this was in part because the pragmatics of running large corporations were possible only ‘locally’, where factories and markets and resources were located, and when temporally speaking, communication could only be carried out easily and quickly within primarily, relatively small geographical areas. the development of information technology, digital, computerized technology changed everything radically.


early digital communication was restricted to small groups of scientists, universities, and the military (DARPA) in the US between the 1960s and 1990. That was for two reasons: first, because only those with a knowledge of computer programming languages had access to computers; and second, because at that time computers were still not widely available because of the cost of individual computers, and the knowledge to use them in the 70s and 80s required a level of technical expertise that restricted their popular use. but everything changed radically in 1990 when CERN scientist, Tim Behrens-Lee invented the first Graphical User Interface (GUI), so the widely distributed CERN scientific community could communicate with each other over long distances. 1990 was the year that World Wide Web was born, and then implemented with an astonishing rapidity. the GUI made the need to know technically difficult programming languages unnecessary because it made manipulating digital data possible for everyone willing to learn some easy to use software programs through the manipulation of visual icons, the most famous of which was Apple’s development of the ‘desktop’ and ‘file’ metaphors. my account here is highly oversimplified so i can return the point i’m trying to make here: to understand the radical break between the forms of desiring machines of the 20th and 21st centuries.


thus, the development of, to put it in the loosest of terms, the ‘net’ [WWW], on the basis of gigantic server farms and wiring of the world, and i mean the world, with underground cables, in conjunction with mobile phone satellite networks including the network of geocentric, GPS satellites, etc, which allow for the near instantaneous transmission of vast amounts of data, established the technological infrastructure operating easily by graphic interfaces [like browsers], the vast increase in first home computers, then smart phones, with the uploading and distribution of the data from every home this side of the digital divide [growing smaller by the hour, i.e. the African continent now networked through mobile phones], corporations became transnational and individuals became globalized. the geographical borders of nation states have been drastically eroded, reshaped, perforated, porous, transgressed and easily transgressible, for good and for bad. essentially, the bricks and mortar form of capital has been doubled, supplemented, by the vast, ‘virtual’ desiring machine of the internet and it’s server farm infrastructure.


the second economic force was the decades long process [it began in 1947] of the world’s business elite to lay the groundwork for global trade. this took the form of GATT, the General Agreement of Trade and Tariffs, implemented, signed into international law under the Clinton Administration in April of 1994. GATT is administered by the members of the World Trade Organization [WTO], members of whom consist ONLY of the business elite, who govern global trade with almost complete independence of its 123 nation state signatories. the WTO includes it’s own court whose membership consists not of ‘judges’ in the sense typically used in the courts of nation states, but of corporate elite. cases arbitrated there are meant to resolve conflicts between nations, and its cases are adjudicated in complete secrecy. the WTO court has the power to overrule the laws of any given nation state, if the GATT agreements are interpreted as being contravened by the economic regulations of the nation state. no ‘public’ ever sees these cases, never has a say in them, and they are rarely if ever made pubic.

the consequences and combination of these two economic forces, the digitization of the economy and the GATT/WTO, are too many to recount here. but it isn’t difficult to understand that their combined force had led directly to the mania of neoliberal deregulation since the 1990s, and before that under Reagan/Thatcher, the fist wave, of the nation state, today in the US and elsewhere, in Bannon’s extreme expression, of the ‘deconstruction of the regulatory state’ in full swing under the Trump administration.


what impact has all this had on the constructions of desiring machines? i will sketch, briefly, just a few and only partially:

Family: whose family? those that fit the definition of ‘family values’ articulated in the campaign of George W. Bush = white, strait, patriarchal, in which there is a husband and wife; therefore conservative, racist, sexist, homophobic, christian, identity politics.

Party: constituted by absolute partisanship: left vs right, ‘liberal’ vs. ‘conservative, positions on the migration problem, taxation, social benefits, labor rights, abortion, women’s rights generally, religion, white supremacy, racism, extreme individualism, civil/human/environmental rights, NRA, privacy, annihilation of civic/public duty, etc., etc.

Nation: what constitutes patriotism, identity, nationalism, race, inside/outside parameters, us/them, fear, security, and last but not least, the nationalist ‘right’ to wage war to defend ‘its’ [capitalism’s] own interests. and that now includes ubiquitous spying on everyone anywhere in all media, cyber-warfare across all media, digital, cinematic, print, telephonic, satellite, the subsumption of any form of ‘information’ in any form in ‘defense’ of the ‘state’, where the ‘state’ now = relevant only as instrument with which, and by which, the ‘public’ is deceived in order for ‘war’ = capitalism’ to use trillions and trillions of public money for private gain. the great pearodox = capitalism = socialism for the rich, only.

Peace: no desiring machine on the level of any of the above, exists.

i began this post with this suggestion:

the long view: the last major ‘positive’ sociopolitical shift began with the rise across Europe of representational democratic states, in 1848.

yet today, as we’ve seen, that very form of what Foucault called, ‘governmentality’, has been significantly eroded. as with the rhetoric around climate change, it’s not a matter of being in danger of erosion, but is now, today, very badly damaged, and like climate change, it is here, now, and may already be beyond repair. Only if we come to realize with Marx what an unrestrained capitalism is:

It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom—Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation.

might we, possibly, be:

at last compelled to face with sober senses, [our] real condition of life, and [our] relations with [our] kind.

fact: 8 men today collectively own wealth = to that owned collectively by 50% of the world’s poorest = 3.5 billion people.

if that doesn’t constitute the basis of a radical revolution, why not? people in the wealthy country’s desire their own oppression; while those in poor countries, have no means by which to fight back because their every moment is occupied with subsistence living. and some of those are probably better off…

see for a vision of the past future, the future past, the pluperfect: this work by miru kim:

for a very important historical account of the Communist Manifesto, see

Raoul Peck’s new film: The Young Karl Marx

for Peck’s brilliant account of his work and the history of capital and war, see:

interview with Peck by Amy Goodman: watch at least the first 3 minutes for it’s immediate relevance to this post, the relevance of Marx today, but mainly, for Peck-Goodman’s sweeping dialogue about history and politics today – do take the time to watch it all. it’s important and astonishing as a history lesson: without haiti, the first independent black nation in the world in the early 19th century, that defeated Napoleon the 3rd, causing him to sell the vast track of what’s now the western US, as the Louisiana Purchase, for dirt cheap… there might not be the US as it is today.


War: a very brief cultural history, Marx, and desiring machines: does capitalism = war?

the ‘other’ ‘bob dylan’… john prine, troubadors in another register, and the problem of the music industry, and, the profundity and importance of the ‘amateur’. another meridian evening, thanks to lourdes

i had the great pleasure tonight of being introduced to john prine, by two ‘amateur’ musicians, allen and stanley. listening to them play reminded me of one of my former ‘academic’ inquiries: into a famous book by the former economic minister of france under Mitterand. the book is entitled: Noise: the Political Economy of Music, by Jacques Attali.

Attali recounts in his highly influential book, the history of how ‘music’ began for centuries as a ‘folk art’, made by ‘common people’ who traveled between courts during the so called ‘middle ages’, and performed for kings, like wandering ‘circuses’ today still wander around one country or another. once upon a time, ‘music’ belonged either to the church, or, to the ‘folk’ who developed music by ear, by tradition, by oral and aural culture. there was then, no written music, no music theory, [except in the church, a la rameau, for example]. the wandering minstrels, the troubadours of southern france for example, not to mention the ‘roma’, the ‘gypsies’, and myriad other cultures – tuva singers, african drummers, middle eastern string instrument players. those ‘outside’ europe, but who were known ‘inside’ europe.

but, courts around europe then ‘privatized’ music, by employing the amazing folk composers/musicians/singers, and establishing a musical notation system, like that of rameau, that led over time from setting the gregorian chants of religious monks to written music, which led to the theory of circle of 5ths, to keys and sharps and flats and FACE or EGBDF, with C as the center of it all, that put music onto to its commodifiable path… to musical scores, to genres, to authentic performances according to such written scores, to, today’s music industry. Which led to brilliant music of course – through all musical ages, from the great renaissance composers like dowland, byrd or gibbons, to bach in germany and couperin in france, to eventually the rebellion against that by Bethoven and Mozart, and in early 20th century classical musical, Varesse comes to mind; to the Cage/Boulez debate, to the rise of jazz, blue and rock & roll, in that order, to classical minimalism, to punk, to pop, to rap, etc etc. to frank Zappa… who combined all those forms simultaneously.

thus, as i learned tonight, as i’ve learned before, ‘folk music’ is alive and well. ‘amateur’ music can still be heard and have great effect. by amazing musicians who may or may not be able to ‘read’ music. the EAR is alive and well. great music does NOT require the EYE. or any ability to ‘read’ ‘music’. some exceptional people simply ‘hear’ chords. and can play them. it’s an amazing form of musical knowledge that is registered and recognized by a musician’s body.

tonight, i heard amazing renditions of well know songs by profound, ‘amateur’ musicians whose performances moved me more than than the ‘professional’ studio recording below.


above: stanley and kathy

allen performed both prine songs below:




the ‘other’ ‘bob dylan’… john prine, troubadors in another register, and the problem of the music industry, and, the profundity and importance of the ‘amateur’. another meridian evening, thanks to lourdes

well then? how now? whose ‘voice’ ‘defends’ ‘society’?

and, when? and by what means?

for kathy and stanley

might a pie factory in a remote part of New Mexico do that?

there are at least 2 reasons to make a ‘pilgrimage’ to southwestern New Mexico:

1: to see walter de maria’s lightning field.

2. to go to Pie Town to participate in the Pie Festival

5. to visit sites of the Zuni, not as tourists, but as witnesses

9. because it will help anyone understand that the southwest of the US is extraordinary and troubled, not more than other parts of the US, but because the clash of voices ‘defending’ territory, not society, is so great there.

11. my recommendation is to choose #2.

why? it’s simple. because the Pie Factory is an extraordinary model for bringing people together in the midst of today’s unfortunate anti-societal proclivities. and while there, it’s easy to go to # 1, #5, and # 9.

is a pie a political mechanism by which ‘society’ can be defended? no doubt, because what is more american than apple pie? or pumpkin? or cherry? or any of the hundreds of other varieties served there?

of course, it’s not about ‘pie’. it’s about the festival of pies. hablar nada sobre politicos. just eat pie and mix with those you might never mix with.

and if politics come up, well, speak your slice of the pie. gently. in the form of: well, what i think about that is… and you might disagree, but that’s okay. even if you think it’s not okay. what type of pie are you eating? why? well, i prefer… because…

you’ll have to find your way one bite at a time.

if you think i’m kidding, see: what they serve is a rare thing: societal pleasure in the spirit of what was once, pie-o-neering.





well then? how now? whose ‘voice’ ‘defends’ ‘society’?

so, ‘whose voice’ defends society? and, whose ‘society’? is it your obligation to defend ‘only’ ‘your’ ‘society’? where does one society begin and another end?

A new portrait of President Barack Obama by Kehinde Wiley was unveiled Monday at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.

The commissioned portrait of Michelle Obama, by Amy Sherald.

The Hidden Political Message of Michelle Obama’s Portrait




so, whose ‘voice’? whose ‘society’ needs defending?

i defend the work of an anonymous graffiti artist:

On Feb 21, 2018, at 5:55 AM, Alf wrote:

tell us what you see on the wall

what i see on the wall… at first sight, visually, the artist’s transformation through compositional inclusion of the facade’s areas of fallen plaster. whereby, he’s commented on the cycles of birth and death…. he’s revalued ‘decay’ as a positive and troubling force/event/element. and emphasized the fact that there is NO guarantee that this corn born child will survive. he’s composed the broken plaster areas into a shape that is both a cartoon-like thought bubble, and the typographical symbol of a question mark. which door will the future walk through? this artwork is not a commodity. to those who can read it’s hidden messages, it’s a call to consider that this historical moment hangs by a thread between life and death. the near future of the entire planet is unquestionably in doubt. is there any doubt that this corn-born-child is entering a future, dessicated hell?


see below for more on this previous post.


so, ‘whose voice’ defends society? and, whose ‘society’? is it your obligation to defend ‘only’ ‘your’ ‘society’? where does one society begin and another end?

more on war: Cormac McCarthy’s novel, ‘Blood Meridian’, 1989: a scathing, nonromaticized ‘western’ that gives a poetic-realist account of the US/Mexico/Native American-Mexican ‘wars’ over territory circa ‘Texas’ in the 1850s, based on historical ‘fact’ and archival evidence: the character, Judge Holden’s, ‘philosophy of war’ – and, the current US/Mexico border war – documentary video by the Guardian’s Paul Lewis, in evidence of Foucault and McCarthy

blood meridian apparently has been rated by many sources, including harold bloom and other high end literary theorists, as one of the great works of 20th American Lit. stunning book really. dark, very dark, yet luminously beautiful. the passage below is completely relevant to this warmongering historical moment. the main argument is delivered by a truly extraordinary literary character, ‘judge’ holden. the first pic below is a chance operation – i had set my phone down at random on my work table, just over the 1/4 inch space between it’s boards, so i simply focused and snapped and caught the red title below…


more about Foucault’s prediction of the need to defend society along he lines of race:

more on war: Cormac McCarthy’s novel, ‘Blood Meridian’, 1989: a scathing, nonromaticized ‘western’ that gives a poetic-realist account of the US/Mexico/Native American-Mexican ‘wars’ over territory circa ‘Texas’ in the 1850s, based on historical ‘fact’ and archival evidence: the character, Judge Holden’s, ‘philosophy of war’ – and, the current US/Mexico border war – documentary video by the Guardian’s Paul Lewis, in evidence of Foucault and McCarthy

more on war: from vanderbeek to hobsbaum to foucault to black panther


The above epiikon therefore insists, figuratively and urgently, on the need for a radical re-constitution of technoculture by means of a double articulation – a hermaphroditic information-suit must also be a “Bill of Rights” suit. He understood that new technologies must be paired with new politics in order for art and life to be justly and democratically served beyond the new sociopolitical frontiers he recognized were being put systemically in place during the 1960’s and 1970’s. This view, found throughout both writings and films, has been corroborated in its most damning terms by British social historian, Eric Hobsbawm. He has called the “short twentieth century [1914-1991], the age of massacre.” Hobsbawm is relevant here for his diagnosis of the radical transformation of the social psychology of humanity itself: the brutality of total war, he claims, leads inexorably to the brutality of politics, considered until then as the enlightenment “art” of social equality. His history of extremes determines that this brutalist politics was the direct consequence of the technological necessities of the Thirty Year War (WW I and II). It put in place the vast bureaucratic systems necessary to defeat fascism and effectively, as many have commented, simultaneously defeated democracy. Hobsbawm diagnoses the moment when a broad ethical normativity was lost; mechanization did indeed take command on a global scale that put politics and the whole of mankind, on a vast, militaristic, bureaucratic footing. It became the global, regulatory principle of society. [i] What we must add to Hobsbawm’s analysis, is that the industrial-military-complex was, at the moment Vanderbeek emerged, assuming a new form, reconstituting its mechanistic pouvoir-savoir as a telecom-military-complex. It is Hobsbaum’s pairing of the problem of ethics with the problem of cybernetics that I want to stress here, as the axes that determined Vanderbeeks’s historical vantage, and is one of the most crucial sources of his political and aesthetic orientations. (He turned 18 in January of 1945.) No other artist of the period comprehended and attempted to struggle with this context, as did Vanderbeek.

By the late 1960’s, he had already anticipated the impacts of the evanescing space between “experience” and “information,” between their gendered interpretations, and clearly understood the implications this had for the re-constitution of both social thought, and the social contract.[ii] However, he could not put his faith in the social movements in the US. His skepticism in this regard aligns him with Abbie Hoffman, Bob Dylon and Theodore Adorno, each of whom expressed, in very different ways, their alienation from the activist political strategies of the time. Vanderbeek felt that the efforts of the SDS and the activist video collectives were both too narrowly engaged in social terms, or what comes to be the same thing, too poorly organized, naïve, and inexperienced. Just as he took McLuhan as one point of critical resistance, social movements were another.

Ban-the-bomb types, peaceniks, hippies, flower children and pacifists represent the fist mass stirrings of the psychosocial movement away from the heritage of the past…. On the campuses at the moment, The Boston Tea Party is taking place. The real revolution will soon begin in earnest.[iii]

[i] “In short, 1914 opens the age of massacre.” Eric Hobsbaum, The Age of Extremes, New York: Vintage Books, 1996, p. 24. His explanation of the shortness of the 20th century may be found on p. 5. My comments are taken primarily from the first chapter, “Total War,” pp. 20-53.

[ii] This is reflected in the titles of many of his works such as, “When in the Course of,” “O Say Can You See O,” “The Birth of the Flag,” all of which take as their theme major symbols of the democratic social contract. Vanderbeek’s many expressions of urgency about social conditions should be understood in this context, as part of the revolutionary movement of the global spread of Pensée 68. For one historical reference for the certitude that the period, 1968-1972, should be interpreted as effectively revolutionary, even if short lived, see Immanuel Wallerstein, “The Curve of American Power,” New Left Review 40, July/August 2006.

[iii] “How Can We Predict the Present Much Less the Future,” unpublished script for “Violence Sonata,” simulcast extravaganza, WGBH, Boston, January 12, 1970. I am beholden to Gerry O’Grady for supplying me with this document, among many, many others. Hereafter cited as GOG archive.

Foucault gave year long lecture series entitled: Les Anormaus: Cours au College de France (1974-5); trans. Graham Burchell as Abnormal: Lectures at the College de France 1974-5, London: Verso, 2003] The last lecture of that series suggested that his next course would be called: ‘Society Must Be Defended’. Today, it’s clear that society has NOT been defended, as exemplified by the rise to power of an extreme far right through Europe, the UK, and of course in the US, where Trump and Co are now at the helm of disassembling, ‘deconstructing’ in Bannons words, the regulatory state.

I won’t discuss here Foucault’s well know essay, ‘Society Must Be Defended’, but only cite Stuart Elden’s summary of some the points made in his lectures on the Abnormal.


… the first two lectures [of Abnormal] discuss power relations in some detail and oppose models of understanding power on the basis of possessive right and the productive relations (liberal and Marxist), to those that seek to understand it on the basis of repression (Hegel, Freud, and Reich are cited), and models based on war. Carl von Clausewitz’s famous dictum is quoted, and then reversed – ‘politics is war pursued by other means’. Foucault’s focus for the courses is, therefore, war. He wants to examine how the clash of forces, or the question of struggle, is the ‘foundation of civil society, at the same time the principle and the motor of the exercise of political power… where power has the role of defending society’… He wants to examine ‘the theory of war as an historical principle of the function of power, around the problem of race, since it is racial binarism that led – for the first time in the West – to the possibility of analysing political power as war’. The historical struggle between races, and the struggle between classes that follows it, are ‘the two grand schemes by which we ccan map the phenonmena of war and the relations of force in the interior of political society’ [‘Il faut defendre la society’: Cours au College de France (1975-7); trans. David Morely as ‘Soceity Must Be Defended’, London: Allen Lane, 2003.


Well, those readers of this blog not equipped with the specialized vocabulary of philosophy, need not think they don’t understand either Elden’s summary or Foucault’s comments embedded in it. They need only read newspapers like the Guardian, or even the New York Times, of Amy Goodman’s brilliant TV program, Democracy Now, to comprehend what Foucault is about here, in Elden’s summary. T-rump’s rise is all about race, undoing everything with genuine vengeance, everything the Obama administration attempted to achieve; the rise of white supremacy in the US and across the EU, and to site only two examples, the rise of the ‘defenders of society’ – Black Lives Matter, and, the wide variety of organizations defending immigrant rights. The list could go on of course, and would include Common Cause currently helmed by former Clinton Labor secretary, economist Robert Reich, the rise of high schools against the NRA after the recent massacre in Florida, the Electronic Frontier Foundation defending telecom/internet rights, and in popular terms, even the block buster film, Black Panther.

for debate about the later see:

more on war: from vanderbeek to hobsbaum to foucault to black panther