Inficted [chronicles of Dis/Infection, Apr2018]

 

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It’s all about baby steps and trying to figure out how to slowly, elegantly become an adult. – Selena Gomez

I have a certain thick, cubic quantum of respect for people who go about the business of living seriously and straightforward. It awes me to behold these special specimen of the human species who do not care to resort to irony or fiction because, whatever it is they are doing, it is serious enough to hold their attention, to hold its own weight. No bullshit that needs rhetorical or emotional camouflage.

These people are magnificiently rare – I think.

It doesn’t meant they have to operate in this mode (serious, fiction-free) all the time. But that is their main – what is it – momentum, vector of impulse….brunt. I want to say brunt. Their lives are interesting to them, what other people tell them matters deeply, going to the cafe on the corner, drinking a Cappuccino or even a tea and watching the crowd, all of this no netflix series can compete with in a million million years. Never mind cellphones. People with two sets of names, one before and one behind the camera? These serious, adult-grade peeps don’t care. There is no conceivable need for the satirical remark, the imaginary lives, the complex cosm of make-believe, what happens daily to these stern hominids and their significant others is all that matters. Just come home and think about what happened today and what they should do the next day. Like: The taste of life is in the living.

I wish to be more like that, less subservient to fiction, to “I didn’t really mean it”.

Someone on the other end of the world, on the other end of time, scribbles a few pages and here I am, reality-jaded, reading it. Like it’s the most important bloody thing – friends and relatives somewhere on the backburner.

Come on! Get out! Converse!

Because how many times can you be sitting in a living room peering into another living room without getting stuck in the middle? Whatever that means.

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Ferrante选择 [chronicles of disinfection/消毒编年史 2018]

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There is a glaring, elementary and demotivating difficulty, I think, in writing non-fiction. That is, to pick a subject one truly has something to write about and with which one wishes to engage with at, at least, a subcutaneous level. Posed like this, the problematic issue appears to be nearly identical with any self-motivated writing, fiction or science, poem or diary. The page is white in the beginning, open to billions & billions of topics, formats, narratives, metaphors, ideas and sequences of arranging the alphabet’s letters, spaces and punctuation marks – no pressure, one is doing this under one’s own volition. You can, at any moment, bugger off and do something else. Netflix’s Ozark and Crash Course (CC Philosophy, but I’m considering that series on movies) seem particularly germane, not to mention that pile of books out of which the silent letters Bolano and Barthes and Brandon mock one’s every attempt to even string together half a paragraph. A Google Drive’s Untitled document, no stress, comrade. Or maybe all the 压力/pressure in the world taking the innocent guise of a white page asking a primordial question to the soi-se-pensant/考虑一下自己 writer: Is anybody home, cognitively speaking? And if so: Got anything interesting to say?

So why would non-fiction make the original problem of choice any more difficult (in my equivocating opinion)? Because it implies that you get to choose from (see title!) two fundamentally different but totally interconnected topics to write about: yourself or the world, subject or object, 精神或世界, consciousness or matter, becoming or being. In good old post-Kantian Western epistemology these are, of course, as mutually exclusive as it gets. Though I hasten to say that Speculative Realism and OOO have taught us that there exist entirely different philosophical approaches to reality than that poor old Königsbergian dichotomy.

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Still, being only the layest of philosophers and my dire little brain being  overtaxed by the idea of what the being-like-somethingness of a neutrino or table might be like, I go back to the initial bifurcation: world or self.

Dispatches from the realm of the latter, to me, are shaded in  many hues of egocentrism, hedonism, navel-gazing and all those other unpleasant activities stereotypically associated with the selfie-generation so that, as best as yours truly can, one might try to steer clear of it. Even if all the “I”s in a text show what a hash one/I has/have made of it. To be honest, there is another option, the entirely acceptable diary form [significant sequential daily events combined with brief contemplations] but I have never been able to muster enough discipline to put down the words that matter every day.

Ahhhh, lovely diaries, dear diarists…. For some idiosyncratic, fuzzy reason, I can’t diss/count diaries as strictly automaniac; there’s too much of the historian and serious self-psychoanalyst in them to be purely a hedonic project.

So what remains is only the world/世界, which is, as we’ve known for quite a while not enough. Wordplay aside, it is in considerable excess of enough. Still, the same might be said of ideas for a story that can pop into one’s head in the course of a week….how is this non-fic global affairs situation any different? Why would choosing in this case be any more challenging? Exactly because of that, “affairs“, the natural-seeming importance of the bread-and-butter reality, grand everybody-afflicting shenanigans of the 21st century…. as soon as I start thinking about these matters….. hmmmm…… the exterior state of affairs, the world at large, I come under the pressure-cooker impression that there is something at stake. It matters, flying f###s are generously dispensed. What? It’s not a matter of  lives, nor even government funds or nuclear warfare, nothing as realpolitikaly dramatic, but quite simply relevance itself. There is, in me, a normative perception that I should, if at all possible, try to select something of contemporary relevance. This criterium of writing about issues that matter, topics close to the heart is not so as to lure an unsuspecting reader with clickbait, nor to demonstrate that I am fashionably coxa [i.e. hip ….anatomical, haha] but so as to connect, in a meaningful way, with what I believe to be sorta relevant….out there.

The implied risk is that I choose incorrectly; but this notions is in itself absurd because the act of choosing to write, putting pen to paper, digit to key, is already a decision. A decision that one will write what one chooses to write, which the reader can only refute by being a not-reader. The free choice of writing follows George W. Bush‘s timeless dictum “…but I’m the decider. And I decide what’s best…”

Even if I happen to scribble about something that might strike a zeitgeist’s nerve or is in tune with my pyramid of writerly needs then the next obligation is that the text being created, apart from its speculative passages and flights of hypothetical fancy, aligns factually with what is in fact out there. I don’t believe we are in the post-factual era at all; perhaps falsehoods and badly researched texts have become easier to spread and are, in certain circles, more readily accepted but there exist perfectly intact scientific and journalistic standards for what constitutes facts, theory, plausibility. The fact that they are provisional, as is everything else, does not mean they cannot be put to serious scrutiny by experts. And this necessity for truthfulness is quite scary. Wikipedia or no, the idea of adhering closely to facts and truths in my writing spooks me; not simply because I’m not any good at in-depth research but also because my mind, as best as I can tell, heavily favors confabulation, fantasy, the fastest possible flight from reality, as soon as it sets down on these here empty pages. Digression too, evidently. Following a trajectory is hard.

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So then, given the, i think, patent, basic and demotivating difficulty of non-fic, I was very surprised when I began reading the Ferrante  Guardian blog this weekend and saw how easily this luminary of the written word handles the matter. As far as I can tell, she is a fiendish genius when it comes to mixing the “real” of personal biography with fictionalized stories into a blend in which one cannot be arsed to parse out one from the other (if there were even the slightest benefit in that; unless, of course, you’re an Oral Historian [dude, don’t look at me, that’s what they bloody call them] of 20th century Napoli). However, the blog texts are anchored solidly in the conventionally real – Ferrante recalls personal episodes and then contemplates their relevance in terms of fiction, language and, at times, philosophy. She makes her arguments dance like those elaborate Bali shadow puppets, telling the story of the point within the space of four or five paragraphs. And even while she is animating her argument by means of the laser-cut, baroque, long-limbed, supple figures, she manages to splice in her hallmark lyricism. (It rises from the page like a hot day on the dusty alleys of Naples, dreaming up a new design for a pair of leather shoes.) Seemingly effortless. To describe it without quoting Ferrante is a helpless undertaking….but her concise, elegant strides across a topic are captivating indeed.

 

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2018一月/frag02

Bildergebnis für nuclear button

 

Your unclear button is bigger than mine. And more paradoxical.

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2018一月/frag001

Bildergebnis für nature, smartphone

 

Once upon a time, nature was the smartphone.

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NoNoNoNovember [chronicles of Dis/Infection nov2017]

In October, a maple tree before your window lights up your room like a great lamp. Even on cloudy days, its presence helps to dispel the gloom. John Burroughs

So many topics in the headlines lately have been howling at me like wolves out of the wilderness, or singing like whales from the bathypelagic zones, tempting one to write about them, to get worked up and spew tightly or loosely argued invective. The tricks of the political sphere, the popcultural sublayer, the sports gulag, the self-defeating misadventures of the local grapevine, you probably know them, how they pull you in, make you lose your energies on empty circles that begin where they end: a caustic remark about last night’s victory (or loss), an equally stale observation concerning Gagagugu (I think this name would be even more befitting), a wordplain admixing The Paradise Papers and bumf. A 1.3 terra load on the loaded, all the dirt in one enormous pile. And if you’re honestly wondering how we got here, you can certainly read it up on Wiki.  

Not this time though, I’m thinking, not these times.

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Let me instead describe the early November light outside my window, the aqueous quality with which it slithers from the sky and the lurking suspicion that it comes down specifically for me, to slosh away all that good mood that was so easy to store up on in suntastic October. Especially for an October child. What’s that saying? All men were created equal but the best were born in October. I think Roger Federer said that, or if not him (he doesn’t go in for that kind of off the cuff megalomania; whatever scandalous humdinger RF has in the cards, he’s saving it for his late sixties or seventies, e.g. Mirka telepathically controlled my body during every Grand Slam Final, technically it still was me but I, my mind I mean, was just sort-of leaning back, watching the show. I f###ing love her, I do. etc.)….if not the great FedEx then some other celebrity born in October (P-Diddy, now gaka Love immediately elbows his way to mind; g equals grudgingly), some other not-particularly-super-not-particularly-star with no lack of self-confidence and a clod-hopping notion of wit. If I were famous I would’ve probably been the first to say it, quite frankly. But I am not so I didn’t. Then again, hey, look here, little me, all out of fame and yet coming up with this gem of a saying. The kind of bon mot that makes me almost, almost but not actually, forget, the sneaky, deprogenic ways of November drizzle.

Novemba. Typical of this bastard month who obviously is struggling with some issues being stuck between beloved, cozy, economy-invigorating December and the point-blank genius of October, couldn’t even give you straight rain, instead this gelid, too early in the morning, thinned out version of proper showers. And fog and clouds like that were the new thing: myspace, facebook, instagramm, november mist. Fog is the new black.   

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    I am at least trying to fool myself because: How can one resist the wolf-call of the headlines, the pack in pursuit of philosophical prey, resist writing about the intellectual travesty parading around as cultural appropriation?

People with a low melanin count should not wear dreadlocks (a hairstyle in which the hair is washed but not combed and twisted while wet into tight braids or ringlets hanging down on all sides). Is that really the standpoint, the new top-flight theoretical brainchild of crypto-multiculturalism? Postcolonialism turnt and gone toxically sour? Some woke post-ebonic mutant of good ol’ Rassenlehre? Because what exact racial criteria would one have to fulfill to be permitted entry into the hallowed ethnic fields of Dreadlockistan? And could one ever even add a more nefarious twist to that first half of the term designating that particular hairstyle?

I for one, though born in October, sure couldn’t. It’s not that the term per se does not designate a valid concern but that, applied to both Willy and Nilly, it stops making any coherent, politically weaponizable sense. For instance: some fuck-up Parisian designer using West-African clothes and designs without even acknowledging that legacy is clearly flubbed up and beyond condonation. But to try to apply the same logic to a hairdo, the right to determine certain basic configurations of one’s physique, is to defenestrate the elephant with the tubwater. It’s absurd, it’s bonkers, it makes a hash out of valid concerns. The same way that november fog mocks my octoberese will to cheerfulness.

 

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鬼 in the Lilly-Blanc Shell [编年史 of Dis/Infection, 九月 2017]

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If you read some of the recent literature, you’ll realize there really is no such thing as whiteness, but we kind of made that up. … Because you were born white, you have advantages that are systemically, culturally, psychologically there. And they have been built up and cemented for hundreds of years, but many people can’t look at it. It’s too difficult. – G. Popovich

Ok, so this one time I’ve fallen into the trap of racialized thinking. And I’m gonna do this whole bit like it makes perfect sense. But what you need to realize though is that all these concepts of whiteness, brownness, blackness and whateverness are at the very beginning of what keeps us locked into our old, unproductive, discriminating patterns of thought. Just saying. – tm

 

 

Without being a Frankfurt style pessimist, I do often get this feeling of cultural exhaustion when it comes to video games [which i don’t care about] and, what-to-call-them?, major motion pictures. The other day I watched Ghost in the Shell and the sense of boredom, of repetition was near-infinite. Even without being a diehard aficionado of the original anime, it is very hard to see past the lackluster, pro forma recycling of sci-fi tropes plus the regular, horrid genre conventions: cyborg identity crisis [played with numbing absence of sentiment by SJ], whitewashing of protagonists [for, as always, ostensibly commercial reasons], the evil exploitative corporation [true but bereft of any original take], gun fights [they should be illegalized, i no longer have the stamina to watch one]…. and… I cannot recall, I couldn’t watch this mess to the end, all images unpeeled with cyborg-shell slickness, every other scene was as if I had seen it a million million times before.

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Whereas the one thing that did, predictably, stick out, were the stunning neon visuals, the genius of the digital metropolitan aesthetics. The whole city was livid and animated with skyscraper-sized, three-dimensional advertising characters. Also watching Madame Johansson jump and run through this incandescent, candy-colored, hyperkinetic metropole, cloaked in [near-]invisibility was  non-cognitive bliss.

So, not quite true what I stated about the degree of boredom, let me reverse. To one scene in particular. When it was finally revealed that the protagonist’s original mother, the biological mama of the daughter whose brain was used for the ghost in the shell, was an elderly Chinese lady, the floodgates of post-/neo-colonial theory were flung wide open. There was a bittersweet moment of recognition in this twist of futuristic neo-colonial neuro-exploitation: even in the centuries ahead the tricontinents are only a source of labour and replacement part providers. Not what you hope for in progressive sci-fi but unfortunately the maximum imaginative range of the folks behind this GitS rehash.

 

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Here, nothing much of tradition is contested or modified. The cultural artifacts in this movie seem inert, functional parts in the unspooling of a 22nd century techno-thriller, cogs in the narrative machinery. And so the 32-bit howl of cyborg identity crisis has been reduced to Scarlett Johansson’s inert mien but it doesn’t matter because she ultimately finds her [romantic] partner, meaning that the prospect of some cybernetic, white, virtual nuclear family might yet be in the offing. A meta-title for the movie might then be Shell minus the Ghost.

 

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BedHead [Chronicles of Dis/Infection, Sep2017]

If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed. William H. McRaven

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First evening/night on our new bed. I am sure there was a time, a few years back, ancient history now in my late thirties, a time when I might have considered this luxurious extravagance. Something for the consummate consumer who knows no better way in which to enhance his or her happiness. Now though, instead of impassive, vacuous consumption, I feel a minor sense of rightful reward. Achievement, even arrivism. It seems T and I have spent many enough nights on shoddy mattresses and dysfunctional, sagging lath floors to have earned our right to, via crumpled mattresses and locked neck muscles, a decent, grown-up income Betten Thaler Mattress. Plus Italian bed frame.

The difference between the bed I am typing on at this very moment, and the shambolic, glorified cod I was lying on just yesternight is too comical to even describe. Upon spying the massive, high frame and thick, lavish mattress from the kitchen earlier this evening, the similes that immediately popped into my mind were of the lowest, most automobile kind: Rolls Royce, Bentley, Maserati….a sense of too much compared to yesterday’s cinquecento.

This new bed has a thick, lush mattress with complex, intercalated layers and differently composed zones, depending on which part of your body is supposed to be located atop it [during fully recumbent, horizontalized sleep]. For example, presently my posterior is approaching what is probably the cranial zone and thus there is some give, which is fine because, in combination with my back being propped up against an equally superb pillow levered up against the wall, the level of comfort experienced is off the known charts. I mean this in a very literal sense: I couldn’t have imagined before this last hour that one can feel so comfortable being propped up in bed. But here we are, here I am.

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Then there is the width, the whole initial point of getting a new bed. We’d been catching bemused flack for camping out together in our 120cm berth, a general disbelief as if what we had been describing was an anatomical impossibility rather than a cramped sleeping arrangement. Plus it had/has never seemed cramped to us as, when falling asleep we tend to get entangled ever closer as if the objective we had in mind, for some indefinite point past midnight was a cosy, hybrid Tiziemba blob of limbs with two mouths kissing some place amidst it. 120cm was oodles of space. But then listening to every other, no, every couple and non-couple we’ve had over for dinner or cake rave on about wider beds our curiosity was naturally piqued. Naturally T was the one to get concrete about the matter, she’s the serious party when it comes to matters of interior decoration. She ordered the bed(frame), though it eventually took forever to get it. And she’s also the one who got us to haul ass to a crosstown secondhand storlet to then drag home a pre-owned duckboard on a pullcart; which was probably one of the funnest activities all summer.

As for the mattress, embarrassed to say but for the longest while I was enamored with that Caspar crap for the simple reason that I’d ended up reading many of those “rave reviews” and fancied the idea of zzzzzzzzing on it for 99 night and then sending it back with a thanks but not my type note or something more flippant still. Then I fortunately remembered stuff like: support your local economy. Or: sleep on it first. In both senses: A) consider your significant purchases for a long while (i have the feeling I’ve finally begun to manage this incredibly demanding skill and sometimes a couple of months will pass before I ultimately buy stuff; this, above anything else, to me, seems to suggest that I must be something resembling an adult, if not from the inside, then at the very least from the outside, behaviorally) B) do a trial lie-down on the actual product [which I did, I even tested two different pillows and made a decision on which one is more comfortable of the two after resting my noggin on them for a total of maybe 60 seconds or so; an impossible decision! …but one that will come to one as the bed-and-pillow-expert looks one in the eye sternly, asking which one was more comfortable and enumerating various technical details one can’t significantly make sense of]. So on the word of my good mother I headed on out over to Betten Thaler and trialled out this mattress and it was celestial then as it still is now. Funny thing was that, on the way out, I was offered an apple from their apple basket. I thought to myself what a good ploy this was, to reinforce the familiarity and good-will of small town amity…. Until I stepped out of the store and, rather hungry, eagerly dug it out of my pocket only to find, with an oncoming laugh, that the thing was very spotty and mostly mushy and, in bright daylights, thoroughly unappetizing. Which doesn’t matter because this mattress, unlike the Magi, is supposed to last at least another decade, by which time I’ll probably have all but forgotten the rotten apple whereas I’ll have spent thousands of hours on this slice of heaven….. Ok….. so my complementary half is beggging me to call it a night….

 

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