Someone’s in the Kitchen

Lucille told me not to come in the kitchen.  In my young days when I wanted to watch her slice vegetables and pluck chickens, she warned: “This is no place for the likes of you.  I’m telling you, standing next to me at this counter won’t get you nowhere at all.  As good as looking a blind cat in the eye.  And you know you don’t want to do that.”

But I did.  I wanted to see that blind cat all the way through, into her milky eyes and beyond.  Sacred it was, that kitchen: the shiny surface near the sink covered in blood, the gizzards and neck put aside to be fried later and eaten—Lucille’s special delicacy—and her tidying up after the mess of flour and butter, her thick batter where she rolled chicken breasts and thighs before frying them in the skillet at dinnertime for the “white folks.”  That’s what she used to say, with a grin and a nod, adding:  “But we get the good parts.”

Read more

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Tumblr

Notes from the Resistance

We are on the side of the species’ eternal Life, our enemies are on the side of eternal Death. And Life will swallow them up, by synthesizing the two terms of the antithesis within the reality of communism.–Amadeo Bordiga
 

I

The night Trump was elected, there were celebrations on the streets of Juba, South Sudan.

Orson, a thirty year-old State Department employee, groped for a word from the nauseous pit of his groin–a groin inhabited by a succubus of pure fear–and found (implausibly, for an unconscious child of the Sokal Affair) “lumpen.”

Lumpen: a Marxist word, more or less.
 

Read more

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Tumblr

Into the Summer Sea

Bob Dylan’s nod in his Nobel prize acceptance speech to Shakespeare was in tune with Charles O’Brien’s musing on the dailiness of genius in his pre-millennial take-down of George Steiner (which is posted below).

I know I just dropped too many names on you, but please allow me to introduce one more. I was reminded of O’Brien’s music again recently when I came across a Steiner quote in the introduction to a reprint of an early work by the Marxist polymath Max Raphael. The intro’s author cited this bit of Steiner in wannabe mandarin mode–”not only the humanities, but humane and critical intelligence itself resides in the always threatened keeping of the very few”–to sum up assumptions about Mind that Raphael instinctively resisted. Like Raphael back in the day, O’Brien has always been repelled by the yen to equate humanism with prerogatives of “traditionally delimited professional circles.”

Read more

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Tumblr

Max Raphael: A Creative Life in Struggle

Some fight because they hate what confronts them, others because they have taken the measure of their lives and wish to give meaning to their existence. The latter are likely to struggle more persistently.  Max Raphael was a very pure example of the second type.

That’s the opening passage of John Berger’s tribute to Raphael whose Marxist scholarship and theories on the practice of art made him, in Berger’s estimation, the “greatest mind yet applied to the subject.”

Read more

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Tumblr

Bibliotherapy

Angry Young Men—today the concept in its simplicity seems quaint, almost charming. Among millennials, there’s an underground subset of young males wrecked amidst the storms of self-creation and signification. The internet is now nearly the exclusive domain of social and cultural life. For many born without memory of life before the web, there burn weird heart-fires of grievance and resentment, imbued with the alien green hue of nocturnal computer monitors. How to forge an identity out of an endless succession of ironic poses?

Read more

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Tumblr

Merry Christmas from Kevin Durant and Draymond Green

The monetary and the military
They get together
Whenever it’s necessary
They’re making the planet into a cemetery.
—Gil Scott-Heron

Christmas Day, and did I need a gift!  Feeling—ever since Elektion Day as if I am living somewhere between under a dark cloud and in a ratcheting-up concentration camp, I thought maybe I could still derive some pleasure—if not solace—from the long-anticipated NBA Finals “re-match” between Cleveland and Golden State.

Read more

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Tumblr

Two Joes and a Jill

On December 12, 1942, The New Yorker published a 7000-word profile, entitled “Professor Seagull,” by Joseph Mitchell.  The subject was Joe Gould, a 53-year-old Greenwich Village eccentric, who was said to be writing an “Oral History of Our Times,” consisting of a record of conversations he had overheard over the last decades and essays related to these conversations. It was, Gould claimed, several times the length of the Bible and, most likely, the longest book ever written. 

Read more

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Tumblr

Irrevocable

During the last years of her life, Diane Arbus visited institutions for the mentally ill to photograph the residents, people often physically as well as mentally disabled. I remember being repelled by these photographs, and gathered that Arbus had by now crossed a line in her own mental state, becoming engulfed by a spiritual/emotional darkness from which she would never recover. She committed suicide by slitting her wrists in 1971 at the age of 48.

I happened to come across a French edition of the photographs while I was reading Diane Arbus: A Chronology 1923-1971 and they didn’t look the same. Arbus writes in A Chronology of the gossamer quality of the light in these images, which were taken mostly outdoors at sunset, and the photographs now seemed suffused with the deepest tenderness. It’s as if Arbus is photographing the soft underside of the human psyche — the pre-rational child that can scarcely navigate. It isn’t a pretty picture except that it looked now like only another natural part of the whole operating system of reality, including the light in which she finds it.

Read more

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Tumblr

Love in the Western World

“I have a confession,” he said to his wife. The children were watching something in the other room. A cooking show. A cooking show about cupcakes. “I am besieged with artifacts and associations and they are cluttering my mind to the point of not being able to function.”

“Does that mean you are ready to throw them out? Because they are cluttering the house.”

“Let me tell you about one of them, ok? An artifact in my head. One example. Then we can see.”

Read more

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Tumblr

Like, A Prayer

“To the victor belong the spoils!” That was Camille Paglia’s reaction, reported in a May Salon article, to what she referred to as “the sexiest picture published in the mainstream media in years”—a photo showing a besuited Donald Trump looming possessively over his seated date at a banquet in the early 90s, his pendulous necktie practically tracing the word “phallus” in the air for the benefit of all easily impressed onlookers. Paglia apparently being one of them, although she wasn’t invited to the banquet—for her, the tie is a “phallic tongue” and Trump resembles “a triumphant dragon,” his “spoils” worthy of Rita Hayworth comparisons.

Read more

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Tumblr

Overkill

Hard to argue with lefty sportswriter Dave Zirin’s point that players should be free to determine their own venues, but Kevin Durant’s move to the Warriors strikes at the heart of what makes professional sports interesting; dare I say “worthwhile”? Competitive balance and team cohesiveness.

Read more

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Tumblr

His Blood-stained Hands

In the moments before Donald Trump announced his choice of running mate, Vox’s Ezra Klein told us, reporters found themselves staring at “an empty podium and the Rolling Stones blasting through the speakers.” What was the song chosen for this momentous occasion? “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” The song has been background noise for Trump’s rallies for months, even though the Stones asked the candidate to cease and desist back in February. What is it doing there?

Read more

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Tumblr