Tail Ponds #1

November 20, 2013

My weekly sick bag of indigestible cultural items:

Listened to about four or five times every day over the past week christ. Part nostalgia, part it seeming to suit this time of year. The low comforting bass, the fractured vox of alien elation.

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Facts without authenticity, without detail, without control, without value

from The Taming of Chance by Ian Hacking

[phrase is from a report on the winner of the 1835 Montyon Prize. Jean Civiale statistically compared two methods of operation for gallstone removal, to find which had the best survival rate. Four adjudicating mathematicians, including Simon-Denis Poisson (even I’ve heard of Poisson distribution), used the report to talk about the relatively novel application of probability to medicine. Their target, according to Hacking, probably the polemical battle between two opposed doctors FJV Broussais – a blood-letting military doctor and speculative pathologist, who believed all illness could be located in specific organs (and indeed suicide was due to the absence of a ‘stay-alive’ mechanism in one of the major organs) –  and A Miquel, who pointed to rising death rates wherever Broussais was in charge. The debate on both sides was polemical and philosophical, which is where the critical quote comes in.

such battles are part of the forging of the tailing ponds of reality that flow out from the alchemical furnace of the present.

gallstone operations. erk.]

In the West [of Europe] the spirit of positivism made out that all laws were mere regularities. A belief in causes over and above regularities was an illegitimate residue of the metaphysical age. Hence it was quite in order to speak of statistical laws. 

from The Taming of Chance by Ian Hacking

[The 19th Century battle to define the extent and power of the province of statistics and probability over the universe and humans. (as against the ‘German’ approach – myriad little causes, which generate statistical distributions, do not cause those distributions; so the distributions are not laws. But only law could constrain human freedom.) On such philosophical disputes huge edifices of political, personal and social perception are built.]

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GET THE LP.

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A vast yet seemingly invisible presence hovers over the northern suburbs of London. Screened from the consciousness of the city dweller by the pressures of the day-to-day, by self-concern and an inward-looking and anthropocentric culture, the North Middlesex/South Hertfordshire escarpment – or Scarp as I prefer to call it – broods and waits.

from Scarp by Nick Papadimitriou

[Scarp’s a psychologically and stylistically raw, uneven book, but I like the anti-humanist, slightly alien de-anthropocentrised approach, there’s something Ballardian about it.]

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KONSHENS

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She was expecting a dressing room out of some movie musical? What she finds; is a sort of casually upgraded ladies’ toilet, stall partitions and so forth – some, to be sure, with glittery stars taped on the doors – a litter of pint liquor bottles, roaches both smokable and crawling, used Kleenex, not recognizably a Vincente Minnelli set.

Stu Gotz is sitting in his office, with a cigarette in one hand and a paper cup of something ambiguous in the other. Soon teh cigarette will be in the cup. He runs a lengthy O-O. “You want to audition, MILF night is Tuesdays, come back then.”

from Bleeding Edge by Thomas Pynchon

[I’m enjoying Bleeding Edge – here the internal uptalk, the easy use of emoji shorthand, conversation, thought and descriptions full of wide-ranging referents, the fooling about in the playpen of expression, the easy indifference to proprieties. That reminded me of a phrase from Blanchot’s famours Gaze of Orpheus essay:

Il introduit, dans le souci de l’œuvre, le mouvement de l’insouciance où l’oœuvre est sacrifeé : la loi dernière de l’œuvre est enfreinte, l’œuvre est trahie en faveur d’Eurydice, de l’ombre.

(It adds a certain carelessness to creative carefulness – a carelessness that sacrifices the work of art. It infringes the work of art’s most sacred law, betrays the work for Eurydice, for a shade.)]

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well, that faith/soul axis seems a bit fucked right now, but there’s always hope.

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The Usual

November 20, 2013

I was sitting quietly in the corner of an entirely fictional pub the other day and overheard the following conversation at the bar:

‘I’ll tell you something, You never hear of the idiot and the dog these days.’

‘Not these days, no.’

‘I wonder what happened.’

‘The usual I expect.’

‘Yes.’

[They contemplate The Usual]

‘Well, no great hole, and I’m sure and I’ll survive.’

‘Probably.’

Fired by this burst of public enthusiasm, but aware that there was nothing to be done about what they had quite correctly identified as The Usual (horrific, mundane, inescapable), I felt I could at least make some half-hearted attempt to keep the ashes warm…

In fact, I thought, as I munched on my entirely notional bag of dry-roasted peanuts, the act of writing seemed very like the act of trying to light, maintain, and stay warm by, a peat fire. You have a little kindling, which will give the initial flame, and a large amount of damp, old, cheap compressed earth, which will form the substance of the fire. You also have yesterday’s paper, the crossword a scant third completed, and a barely flammable box of matches. By means of these, plus a fuckload of artificial firelighters (placeholder for drink and drugs let’s say), you eventually light the kindling, the flames giving an initial burst of optimism. Once you have got this burning nicely, you put on a large piece of peat, which immediately stifles the flames and creates a deal of smoke. You find more quickly-burning material to throw on it, and through a mixture of cosseting, extreme care and a fuckload more firelighters, eventually get the underside of the peat to start glowing, though it’s clear the outcome of the entire time-consuming enterprise is never anything less than dubious.

If you are lucky, lucky mind, the peat will reach a critical temperature and start, well burning would be too much, smouldering in a way that suggests it is not imminently going to stop. Success. You may place on more peat.

The fire itself will of course never give off any heat, unless you hold your hands very very close to it, – ie can be considered no sort of success in and of itself – and will require almost constant care and attention merely to keep the semblance of it going. Nevertheless it may offer some private pride and a little local warmth.

You have read stories about how families kept the thing going perpetually, the slow-burning nature of peat allowing the fire to lie in abeyance overnight, only to be revived the next morning with the addition of more peat and a little careful blowing. Thus the fire never goes out, and provides a constant source of much-needed warmth and sustenance for the entire household.

Naturally, what you see the next morning is little sustenance and a load of ashes, still somewhat warm yes, but clearly very far from being of any use to anyone or anything, even yourself with your very low threshold of success.

You rake out the grate, make a cup of tea, put on your heaviest jumper and two pairs of socks, and fetch the duvet from the bedroom, before settling to today’s crossword.

Of course, if The Usual is anything, it is an acknowledgement that flames do not burn forever.

So, rather than even attempt anything of worth, I’m going to set the bar low and use this place as a weekly record of Things I Have Liked Or Found Mildly Diverting. Basically youtube embeds and a couple of quotes.

As a USP it might need some polishing. Crowds or even small mildly diverted groups I do not expect.

2012-12-04 20.36.37


THIS IS THE WINTER OF YOUR MIND

November 17, 2013

ah, wonderful and frightening days: Kommandant Mark E Smith and gruppe surveilling London and London people from a jeep. ‘Day 5’ in the Zagreb set of songs (anyone recall what Day/Movement 4 was?), and slap bang in the middle of Smith’s period of fascination with mitteleuropa, a feature of which was his oft-repeated slogan ‘Before the grub, comes the moralist’ (a reversal of Brecht’s dictum, ‘First grub; then moralist’ in the Threepenny Opera):

A song so heavily characterised by Smith’s trademark suffix of ‘uh’ to all but words with it already there that they released a b-side version called Free Ranger.


Euston, We Have a Problem

November 11, 2013

from J.-P. Falret’s 1822 dissertation on hypochondria and suicide, giving the predisposing causes of suicide:

heredity

temperament

age

sex

education

reading novels

music

theatrical productions

climate

seasons

masturbation

idleness