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