Isola Farniente & back again [Chronicles of Dis/Infection, jul2017]

Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability.

– sam keen

I like the word ‘indolence’. It makes my laziness seem classy.

– bernard williams




As much as I’d like to call my partner in amore my designated “native companion” [the one with all the emic inside knowledge one consults when one doesn’t wish to end up in the multi-cultural stewing pot], the most i can honestly call her is the assignated “linguistic companion”, the one that helps me not to make a total fudge of everyday communicative tasks, such as ordering a simple tramezzino. The destinations? Isola Elba and Firenze.


The first was an asymmetrical compromise between her stated wish of frying times on an Italian spiaggia and my half-hearted wish to either check out Ferrante’s stomping grounds [which, if you’ve so much as read the first 100 pages of the tetralogy is an urge that rises from the very pits of your literary guts] or pass a sweltering week in SPQR [one has to admit that a sojourn in the Godmother of cities in the middle of july is a very hard proposition to defend if one isn’t a southern sudanese type, or the like]. Despite my metropolitan leanings, I was enticed by the possibility of an island. The second destination, Firenze, was as consensual as coitus. The Moms had been harping since the birth of our brood of siblings about the many unrivalled, supernal beauties of the city of flowers [and super narrow streets and, not least, Medici].


So then chronologically.


Just an hour out of Lucerne we came across a strange irony, though i’m not even quite sure which word to properly apply: instead of entering the newly constructed 700 gazillion Francs supertunnel [longest of the world, national pride showpiece], we gently curved up and over its opening and onto the old [now ancient] tracks up into the Alps, namely Goeschenen, thence Airolo. After having been treated all year long to a media and advertising extravaganza about this Helvetic construction masterpiece, which it took over two decades to….bore! [and who advertises a public transport tunnel anyway?!], instead of bloody using it, we just left it by the railside as the grey-red Trenitalia climbed its usual serpentine tracks into the mountains.


The ChangeOver in Milano Centrale adequately echoed the latest issue of “The Spiegel”: Ferien der Angst [Vacation of Fear]. To be honest, yours truly generally comes down on the anxious side, however, I haven’t quite fell off the neurotic cliff with this whole the Summer of Terrorism thing. However, Nomhle was fairly hopping on a hot wire when we arrived in Milano, darting her azzuro-marroni irises left and right in search of every- and anybody w a beard and/or a suspiciously unattended suitcase. So we decided to dash over to the connecting platform, the trouble being that M. C is a full-stop station [or whatever] and that TrenItalia does this thing where they don’t announce a train’s platform until, like, 5 minutes before its departure. So as to better get in the country’s spirit of mad last-minute dashes, one may assume. Anyway, we sidled through the station crab-like.


In Monza, as we cruised through slowly, nearly flaunting a vacational lassitude, in this city of Senna’s departure stood a naked concrete high-riser, unfinished and emboldened by scaffolding, defying the need to accommodate human shapes.


Already by the time we got to Piombino, on the Italian West Coast, the weather was agreeably sweltering. The local train was not a beauty but not nearly as beat-up as I had imagined it. The seats being some hard blue material, hard on the eyes, that is intended to minimize all the fun in vandalism by way of an anti-spectacular canvas.


A nice guy in his 50s helped us find the correct jetty for the traghetti [ferry]. His Italian was quite followable, even for a beginner and he sprinkled it liberally with “cazzo”, again, it seemed, to make sure we understood where we’d arrived. He even informed us about the wind conditions on the island and what they meant to beaches and the seaside. Then, in a mood of camaraderie, I pulled out the EU card and the man was off and racing, his Italian soaring to C2 altitudes, laced with working-class venom. It was both incomprehensible and beautiful.




The ferry was straight out of “A supposedly Fun Thing…”, with a sleek 1980/90s modernist look [edgy, sharp angled], slanted backwards like a blade to cut apart air and water, in white, yellow and blue. For a little while I wondered why it was so phenomenally huge but once it docked into port it spewed forth a vile stream of cars and campers. Many of them hailing from our motherland. Many others of Oranje provenience [a people constantly in search of locales where sandwiches are not the exclusive staple food]. It jetted across the Isthmus in a sprinterly 30 minutes, making the Mediterranean seem like another concrete road. This was a remote yelp from what I had imagined the crossing to be [influenced by a trip to Robben Island]: wave- and wind-tossed on a small barge, with the stomach’s contents remaining put being somewhat iffy.

The only thing that threatened one’s gastrointestinal buonessere [well-being] on the behemothal barge were the numberless TV screens, which presented an undifferentiated medley of extremely old-school food- and beverage advertisements. One of them, I shit you not beloved reader, was a Coca Cola advertisement from the 1940s [at the latest] presented with not even a smidgen of irony in sight. The hand holding aloft the Coke bottle had probably only just returned from duty on the Western Front; the missing rest of the body having been taken out by an on-target Kraut grenade.


Then Isola Elba, Portoferraio. Another horrid belch of cars, immediately infiltrating the pot-holed arteries of the isle. The island is small but not nearly as tiny as we’d miscalculated [e.g. we’d be able to cycle across it in a good day]. The cabdriver took us across the many arid, brush-choked ridges and ravines to the southern coast of Elba [Marina di Campo]. Our holiday house was a nice white country thing for 4 parties, maybe 500 meters land inwards from the beach. That first day we went down into village along the dried out river-bed, crossing a tiny bridge while trying not to get struck by passing cars and motorcycles, to rent two high-end mountainbikes at low-end prices. The handle-bars were wide like bullhorns, lending a very enjoyable sense of ultra-control; plus the gear-stuff was, surprisingly, at XT level.


    The next day we took on the intermediate challenge of pedalling up the winding road to the next “mountain” village, where awaited: absolutely nothing. A calm little Inn where a bumbling teen served up a lovely Spritz. We tried to reach the next spiaggia by bike trail with the intention of staying isoaltitudinous for a while. There was an abandoned soccer pitch on the outcrop of a ridge overlooking the Mediterranean from on high, the field only dust with remainders of brown lawn sticking out, goals in shambles, suggesting that the last match had been played many decades ago. And that the village’s soccer youth is not particularly high up on Isola Elba’s budgetary list.


    Eventually we ran into an interesting figure: an elderly man only in black shorts and black sandals, made exclusively from sinew and roast-brown skin. He’d become a bit lost much as we had and heavily advised against continuing down the steep trail we were engaged on. So we backtracked along with him. The guy had tracked up with nothing, no backpack, no shirt, no handy, no wallet, nothing to drink. His key statement “La mia moglie si in cazera da mati quando ritornero” [My wife’ll be mad when I come back home]. He’d been on his way for over two hours but he wanted to make San Pierro di Campo before returning. As soon as the terrain became intermediately steep, to my astonishment, he fell into a long-loped run which just about matched our measly pace on the mountainbikes [we were a bit spent, in our defense]. Our ways split and he jogged out of sight. We made down the hillside only for a short while before dismounting our rides, Umde unhappily behind me. The trail had shrivelled to a tiny bushpath bordered on either side by all the world’s thorny vegetation. She made mention of snakes. The sand and the dust deposited on the rocks made it seem like one was constantly one false step away from braining the back of one’s skull. Eventually and still in good time, we made it to the Spiaggia, where sun-blessed happiness patiently had awaited us. The ride home offered a spectacular view from a steep-plunging cliffside road onto the dazzling blue-diamond sparkle of the Mediterranean. The road back was downhill free flight.


    In the course of the week we tried a number of beaches, none of them farther than we could reach with a decent bike-ride and without a sun-stroke. The one called Fonza intrigued mostly by its approach. You left the village by the hindside [at the far end of the massive, central beach where people seemed to top out on sunshine like human dollops of spam], crossed a little bridge and rode towards the camping grounds. This would maybe be a good place to digress into the vastly amusing paradoxes of camping but let’sn’t. The campers were parked in a low pine copse, well-girdled in by a tall fence wrapped in a green windscreen, a bit like turning a chunk of nature into a compartmentalized [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] pseudo-living room. With a fir-needle carpet, mind you. We parked our bikes thereabouts, anxious of theft, which many folks had already waggled their indexes at us about.


And up the hill it went, oh-so-very-steeply, on a wide dust road, the dustiest yet, across the adjoining ridges past the showboaty gates of Don C. K. [letters hugely welded into the estate’s frontgate], then down down down to Fonza beach. Where middle-aged women welcomed us with killer-dagger-stares. As well as Australian teens. Our brine dabblings were always very brief affairs between Nomhle seeing it in functional terms of not going up in flames and myself being of extremely limited swimmerly competence. When I caught my first inadvertent gulp of seawater, I instantly, viscerally understood the term “brine” and all its salty associations.


    Seccheto was probably the best. We did a fair share of swimming and diving. Lots of reading on ascetic rock too. And I got to observe a mildly complex beach tableau: a young woman arguing with a rod-fishing guy who I assumed to be the father of the boys snorkeling around; though it was actually about him fishing with hooks while the kids were out there in harm’s way. Except that these french kids were, as far as beach-life goes, also armed to the gills: they had harpoons! And had been diving around for a speerable catch for who-knows-how-long. Meanwhile a skateboardy guy in coral-reef-sneakers had been observing the kids irritatedly and I imagined that he was just about to read them the riot act. Instead he put on a lifesuit, lowered himself into the waters and put on a more desperately incompetent show of non-swimmanship than I could ever hope to perform. Meanwhile a chubby pre-teen Italian girl was pacing the large rocks to an unknown end, mayhap in search of nettable animal life in the little tidepools. Eventually one of the frog-eater kids harpooned a much-too-small red fish, proudly capering across the rockscape with it hanging limply from the tricorn. I could fairly see the irritation fuming off of the local beach goers at this grave breach of pescatory etiquette.



Italian crabs adhere to certain minimal aesthetic conventions.

In the stones’ crevices, it turned out, there were indeed sidling crabs. The curly haired french kid, buoyed by the catch, went on to snorkel for what seemed like ever. It was a lovely day on the rocks. Then that view again!


One day was for Portoferraio with the idea of giving culture its due. After all it is, unfairly, known as Napoleon’s Island. The thing is….





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Commuting, aka the eternal drag [Chronicles of Dis/Infection, Mar2016]



For many people, commuting is the worst part of the day, and policies that can make commuting shorter and more convenient would be a straightforward way to reduce minor but widespread suffering. –  Nassim Nicholas Taleb OR Daniel Kahneman [according to brainy quote, hilarious]

There is a good chance, too good a chance, you woke up at an unchristian, unmuslim, unbuddhist, non-atheist hour today, cursing the up-coming commute and, perhaps, if you‘re less fortunate, your entire day of work. The forbidding distance you still have to climb until Friday late afternoon to then dive off the cliff of the workweek into the weekend, a drink in each hand. Say a Shenzen-Mule* and a GILF**-on-the-Beach.
I suppose I‘m exaggerating but the daily commute is an exaggeration too.

biketowork1Whether you wear a fitbit monitoring your sleep-cycle or not, getting up with the crows and hens is an abomination! Every fiber of your body screams at you to stay under covers, to enjoy the warmth and soft comfort for another hour or two. But some mis-programmed long-term reward program in your brain, without even really being activated, hauls you off the mattress. Its arguments are un-argumentable-with: getting fired, not finding another job, possibly never achieving anything in life [a project, coincidentally, in which i am at quite an advanced standing].

The present-day fact [the social-democratic reality?] of getting up early in the morning has never been particularly understandable to me. A recent study referenced in The Atlantic*** that a few odd-ball characters actually enjoy their worm-catcher‘s commute [notably only if it‘s not longer than 30min and if these people, morning-afficionados, also love their jobs; in which case liking the morning ride could be a collateral benefit {can we make this a thing? collateral benefit? that’d be so cool; I’d get mad props} a side-effect of loving your cushy existence], this study did not achieve much in the way of convincing me that commutes and human nature are not shittily compatible at best. Not to be all SPSS [a statistical programme, horrible] about this but I‘m fairly positive that upwards of 51% people I know f#cking dread the matinal bus or train or bicycle, even their own cars [which with a soft, warm interior are a painful reminder of bed?].

So here‘s what is inexplicable: A) assuming that a low-ball number of four-out-of-five [sleep-berobbed] people on their way to work bloody despise the morning commute B)….and there is a common-sense mantra about doing 20% of the work in 80% of the time [again more than 51% of folks seem to believe in this; wink to statistic-pros reading this] C) ….and the French do 35h weeks without tumbling into poverty [question: is their average quality-of-life higher than that in the workaholic US?] D)….we live in ever more extensively individualized societies whose clarion-call appears to be to cater to these millions of individuals in every conceivable way…  E) …we also live in an information society which, given its stupendous computing capacities, has been able to coordinate activities ever more ingeniously…..

WELL, given A to E, I frankly wonder: How in the fuck it could be that so many people still HAVE TO commute at such ungodly hours? Is this the inertia of human institutions? Is it perhaps one of the last outlets to show other people what [involuntary] hard-asses we are? Do we wish to „Call it a day“ as early in the afternoon as humanly possible?

I wish I got to decide which are the correct answers but I‘d even rather not even be able to ask these questions. Because at the next deeper level there is a more important follow-up question: why in a society so organizationally ingenious, so in doe-eyed love with individualization, the morning commute is still a living, breathing, 2 x 45min fuct-of-life?

*…my twist on the Moscow Mule which seems to be a surprisingly elitist drink, according to google images
**Girld I’d Like to Flirt with
*** here’s the study about the happy commuters





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A Chiliad Ethnomethodologies [Chronicles of Dis/Infection, Mar2016]


Younger anthropologists have the notion that anthropology is too diverse. The number of things done under the name of anthropology is just infinite; you can do anything and call it anthropology. – Clifford Geertz

The purpose of anthropology is to make the world safe for human differences. – Ruth Benedict

    There is a very precise designation in academia, refering to one of its humanist formations:  anthropology. At one time, like my father before me, I too was a member of the tribe of anthropologists/aliusphagi. I worshipped its high-priests, I observed its rituals and I was even quite conversant in its lingo. I was at the time very much a junior-member who still would‘ve had to accomplish numerous rituals of passage to rise to the highest ranks of the tribe. At some point, I decided to forsake the Anthropologists and instead rejoin my original tribe, the Helvetians, a hardy mountainfolk of cheese-consumers.

    In the last decade however, time and again, great paroxysms of nostalgia have ceased hold of me and our magical locutions would come to mind, resound mystically in my head, as I considered the everyday quandaries of yet another tribe [teachers] I‘ve been in the progress of joining: alterity, agency, emic, ethnomethodology, liminality, kinship, Non-Places, Thick Description and many more.

    Lost in the lambent air of a spring afternoon, for minutes at a time, I would chant in low voice the sonorous syllabic susurrus  „ethnomethodology“, flipping the sounds out of my mouth like mana from divinities, trying for old time‘s sake to recall its meaning and contexts. Say it a score times for better living plus a relaxed lingua, a chiliad for straight-up apotheosis.

    And, so as not to fall entirely from grace [there can always be a return to the homeland], I kept reading some of the holy scriptures: Interaction Ritual, The Protestant Ethic, Natural Symbols, The Structure of Scientific Revolution, The Interpretation of Cultures et al. I tried to salvage my soul but these exercises are never a success. My other obligations were running me away from the old gods; meaning hemorrhaged from the lacerations of a new existence that did not quite suite my psycholiterary gestalt. But then neither did the old ones. The true self is always deformed in the service of the collective. The semantics of self are made to bleed.

Thus, as a bandaid and a panacea, I started scribbling, hoping to recapture the logos of anthropos and ego at my own leisure. It is difficult, I think, this matter of tribe affiliation; I‘ve seldom felt I really belonged. And if so, then only a posteriori. But shuttling between ethnic obligations, typing my own underbrush paths between various tribal settlements, I maybe eventually eked out a modus vivendi all of my own: the idiographer, documenting on interest and impulse the width of human idiosyncracies, in turn itself put down in unorthodox format.  

    There we have it: a word for a process for a life. Is that what I truly want, what anybody hopes for? Another designation, one more magic word, a new-fangled affiliation, however fancy, to stuff onself into? Do we have to set out into the depths of the human jungle to found our own tribes?

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Plected pulsing palms [Chronicles of Dis/Infection, Mar2016]


The first wealth is health. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

A wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings, and learn how by his own thought to derive benefit from his illnesses.  – Hippocrates


At the clinic we spent two days entwined: her, operated upon, me, healthy and compassionate. The innards, a complication that needed fixing and got one, by hands of 71 summers, mind you.
    The space was strange, unsettling: the soft-sounded lobby was populated by occasional patients and visitors, all, it seemed, septo- or octogenarians. Once I suddenly heard strings hammered on softly and, turning around, I did see an in-the-flesh piano player. Who looked back at me morosely, surrounded as we were, by so many moribund folk. Even all of the doctors and surgeons were old; an odd thing that, statistically, I thought, having been to more other hospitals than I wish I would‘ve been by now.

    The love of my life was in and out of fugue states. Sometimes I confused a wide-eyed, focused stare with wakefulness and tried to address her but the words slid right off her high wall of medication. However when she was up, we speculated on whether she‘d been overmedicated, we speculated on the exact nature of the post-surgical sutures/scars, we had conversations that doddered on dadaism, medically induced.

Still, in the clutch of our plected hands, love pulsed and throbbed.

    Polite, mildly pretty nurses showed up at high frequency [a private clinic, remember], to check the convalescentee‘s progression: pulse, general state of well-being, blood-pressure, intake of painkillers, meals, etcetera. All the metabolic ins and outs that make a patient‘s glorious days at a hospital.

    You come in knowing it is a place of life&death and but then it‘s just more like a hotel, a hotel for elderly people. A hotel where people by some outlandish agreement all walk around attached to IVs. And the staff in the lobby is absolute hotel-ish and you wonder what-on-earth they will do if, as must be the case eventually, a medical emergency happens right there in the foyer. Then again, in the wilderness of our age, terrorrism has already made one or two hotels more hospital-like, strewn with horrifically injured people and corpses.

    diamond_PNG6676The room itself was dark but elegantly pannelled. Wifi gratis. Each patient has a big screen TV. Each has a safe for the valuables because this is a place where robbery would indeed pay off: the helpless patients, the old-fashioned preference for cash, elderly ladies‘ bijoux. In fact, the clinic‘s sigil is a diamond, the connection of which to health is impossible for me to reconstruct [e.g. In particular, diamond has the highest hardness and thermal conductivity of any bulk material. Those properties determine the major industrial application of diamond in cutting and polishing tools and the scientific applications in diamond knives and diamond anvil cells. ]

    And then, as if to contradict my coagulating cliches, a freshly-baked mother strolled into the lobby, pushing her freshly-excreted baby along in a wooden crib with a mosquito-net-type of tent to protect it from the new world. She walked around the lobby with the little human being as if to spray vitality all over the lounge‘s ailing atmosphere.
    Back in the room you can do no wrong. You can press the staff-button a million times an hour without getting nurses in a sour mood. In fact the staff is supremely solicitous. You get a bill for the coffee, which is weird considering how much the stay there costs to begin with [you‘d think a coffee, two coffees, ten are diddly-squat in that grand total]. But I needed succor to stay fresh & caring, to provide TLC.

wheelchair-hiOur hands lay curled on the linen, the pulse on our palms touching. We went to the toilet together, to be safe, to guard against fainting. I pushed her around the corridors and the lobby on a wheelchair and we would stay „outside“ [it was still inside the building] until another spell overcame her: sickness, nausea, vertigo, fatigue. The four horsemen of the post-surgical götterdämmerung. 

InfuuszakjesEventually I returned home, one night before her and found myself falling asleep in bed alone. What a strange, amputated feeling that was. In the middle of the night a full bladder woke me and as I shifted out of bed I realized that I hadn‘t a clue where I was. And it didn‘t matter either. Later, as I slunk back into dreamterritory, I vaguely realized what I was missing. The zero-point of my coordinate system, the nucleus of my signifying system: sweet Nomhle 😉




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Siphic’s Bi-Spartanism [chronicles of Dis/Infection, mar2016]


Space and light and order. Those are the things that men need just as much as they need bread or a place to sleep. – Le Corbusier


My brother‘s crib is interesting, to say the very least, in a way. According to genetics a giga-significant share of our DNA is identical and, more anecdoto-empirically, according to our significant others we are alike in many a habitual pattern, in lilt of speech, as concerns phenotypical landmarks, and so forth. Siblings know the litany. And with equal habitude [don‘t look this word up, it‘s straight out of my mental rectum] we deny to be aware of such similarities, making a flaming point of our very different approaches to paper [i.e. folding it nicely, scribbling on it hideously] ….or, as is the case w/ our sister, using it as a pragmatic tool to convey knowledge of social surplus value. She‘s the one of us three who seems to be of some use to society, as far as anyone can tell 😉

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

Anyway, my brother and I probably do share certain… convergences… but nothing could be more divergent than our attention to our immediate, everyday habitat. When my sister & her husband left for the dreamy territories of the US of A, Sipho got to take over/invade/set up camp in that place; however, Ray‘s friendly employer had organized for all of their worldly belongings&droppings they cared for to be containerized to the other end of the planet. Thus the place was left in a rather emptyish, echoing state, which is great for toddlers to play soccer but not excessively habitable for your median adult. Not that any of us is median.

The budget at my disposal would‘ve sent me scrambling to Conforama, possibly Ikea a few times. Or better still: we‘d have moved in all of Tiziana‘s nice furniture. My brother‘s a different beast however.
He was off to VonMoos et al, purchasing planks of wood, screws, lengths of metal, bits of round timber and other vital ingredients of movables, the names of which are like that of alien fauna. In the course of his Origami art-work he has accumulated a vast arsenal of tools [saws, screwdrivers, workbench, drilling machines, lathes???, a.s.f] with which to re-configure said assorted pieces of wood&metal. There have been very pleasing results in dark wood and brass or copper [don‘t exactly know]: a shoe rack, wall-mounted shelves, a petite but massive coffee table, etc.

Maybe the naive marvel to me is on the level of aesthetics/creativity: two genetically identical specimens of fauna walk into a do-it-yourself-store, T sees random pieces of timber, screws, hammers, etc. S sees unassembled tables and shelves and everyday appartmental objects.
The other thing that always strikes me [not just at Sipho‘s, to be fake-honest] is the dearth of objects in his living room: how can one possibly keep the living room so uncluttered? Is there not always an army of objects ready to invade the family room? To enlargen the vast empire of material matter? Books, dishes, magazines, tools, pieces of clothing, pens, shoes, what-have-you.

In my brother‘s lounge with its rarefied items, I get the distinct feeling that every one of them signifies; especially the artwork itself. And that, as if in consideration/contemplation of a work in the whitey cube, 1’d be amiss not to consider what the signification might be: can an existential lesson be extracted from a  piece of tchotchke?

This is a slobbishly post-modern over-interpretation of a great room and I could simply ask my brother why he places this or that object on the se fecit shelf but that‘s not how I care to consider it, doesn‘t strike me as productive. Rather, banal queries trickle to mind: If pieces of material are reduced, can they start signalling for themselves with some indepenence? What messages do we wish to convey to ourselves and others by the objects here present? Would our living room be an abject mess in the absence of Nomhle?

And then so right next to it is the over-cluttered atelier, bursting with colors, paper and matter of inconceivable variety. Criss-crossing from the sitting room into the workspace you can fairly feel the osmotic gradient you are pushing up against, the pressure the latter exercises towards the former, the enormous difference of entropy. In which case my brother, I now recognize, is an industrious, life-size version of Maxwell‘s Demon. He might not wreck the rules of thermodynamics but he certainly confounds the laws of spartanism.



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Veggie vexation [chronicles of Dis/Infection, mar2016]


It’s the 21st century. It’s healthier for us, better for the environment and certainly kinder to be a vegetarian. –Ingrid Newkirk

One should not kill a living being, nor cause it to be killed, nor should one incite another to kill. Do not injure any being, either strong or weak, in the world. – Buddha


There have been times in the past when it occured to folks such as myself to declare their allegiance from roof-tops and other altitudinous locations; this is to express: in the past I have been less non-evangelical. More importantly: my own standing in this matter is of little-to-no-relevance because this is not any kind of competition or comparison-game. The issue under consideration is vegetarianism, not per se but as a bone of contention, an asparagus of antagonism.

    There was a time when I was vocal about this and used to give people quite a bit of shit for not joining the herbivore camp, telling them what all is bad about consuming carrion, etc. This is an extremely bad, inefficient and rather amateurish strategy to win people over to the vegetarian w.o.l, evidently. Nobody on this planet seriously wants to hear that they are doing something which is wrong or generally harmful. What I could hear about every quarter of an hour is that I‘m [near-]competent, important for others and just a likable guy. But if one tries to somehow identify shortcomings…. well within about .5 milliseconds the issue becomes personal [you versus I] and the accusing parties [e.g. vegetarians] are themselves reprimanded of moral grandstanding [e.g. an exclusive wish to colonize the empire of the moral altiplano]. At best, this leads to an empty argument of who is a better human being and why, which is not at all what vegetarianism is about, namely, animals and why they should not suffer/die. Worst, everybody is blown out to sea in a shit‘phoon of mindmelting ad-hominems.

    But now the last couple of yrs, I have gone, it seems to me, in quite the opposite direction, where most remarks about veggie-style elicit nothing much more than a non-commital shrug, the evenness of which is calibrated to evoke some ancient-zen-monk-grade aura of everlasting serenity.

There are multiple reasons: A) It‘s not pleasant to be perceived as a moral megalomaniac B) The pro&con–arguments get old incredibly quickly [after being a vegetarian for about 12 months you‘ll get a shiny glint in your eyes whenever smbdy brings up a new argument against it, not tears, not even of compassion, but the hope of finally exercising your ethical imagination again] C) the creeping sense that its people‘s own damn business if they can‘t figure out smthng so obvious and that it‘s not your obligation [investment of time&energy] to make them, as it were, see the light  D) …also, really, the information-age universal response is smtms not entirely unhandy or inconvenient: „no, really, if you google ,vegetarian lifestyle‘ you can find amazing info on this. ok, gotta go. c u amigo!‘. E) I suppose there must be many more arguments but my brain is closing up shop for tonite. Benefits-of-Vegetarian-Diet-2

[this is a stab at a shorter format but because i, to be frank as bascombe, have about 7 more things to say on the topic this is as outright a failure as it gets; but still anyway…]



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Problematic Pulchritude [Chronicles of Dis/Infection, Mar2016]


The 20th century has been marked by cynicism, selfishness, greed, and the desire to please, all without changing the status quo. In the 21st century, we must resurrect solidarity and compassion. – Oscar Arias


Bildschirmfoto 2016-03-21 um 18.19.11

Well, this is the Sloterdjik in the early 80s but, obviously, there are still relevant take-aways for today‘s thinking. First of all, there is the curious notion that hope and realism are somehow incommensurable: you cannot have one without not having the other, you can only have either one. So on this view, hope is identical to utopia, the non-place which is not here, is never here. But in fact hope, as I have come across it in multiple contexts [and this o.c. is open to unending discussion] is merely a positive disposition of a present person towards the future, it envisions what ideals a person/society would like to see realized in the future, what ethical and material conditions it would consider good. What I think is important to point out is that these ideal for the future should be, more or less, realizable: they might happen or not but they are not entirely beyond the parameters of the present, real moment. If the ideals are not realizable other terms are usually employed: to fantasize, to daydream, utopian, etc. Thus the point could be made that hope builds on a realistic appreciation of the present and goes hand-in-hand with realism.

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The second interesting point is: „everything is problematic, so everything is kind of indifferent“ Niet! Non! Hayi!  Méiyǒu! One does not have to be aboard the sinking Allure of the Seas to realize that everything is problematic means there is a maximum emergency – for such cases there is conventionally a protocol: a list of priorities that need to be worked and checked off one after the other. It can even happen that one is the person, fortunate or not, who has to compile such a catastrophe protocol. In wars there is triage. In buildings there are emergency procedures. Nobody sits engulfed in flames and smoke, in rising cold brine and declares: „Oh well, this is all very problematic!“

sloterdijk_philosophInstead one begins with the most urgent action and works one‘s way down.
So how come Sloterdjik conceptualizes it differently in this short excerpt? It must be a matter of being taken out of context!  The bourgeoisie or the post-60s intellectuals mentioned are not inside the burning building or the foundering vessel, they are warmly tucked away on the Middle-Class OceanLiner, on the upper floors of Affluenza Towers; there is enough distance to conceive of it all in terms of a problem. It is this distance combined with the unwillingness to cross it that allows for the formation of cynicism. You‘ll always find enough leisure and wit to crack some clever remark or other about somebody else‘s loss.


Maybe-you-should-eat-makeupThis is actually not my favorite topic at all and yet I wish to think about it, think through it: beauty. It is rather unfortunate, I suppose, that U. Eco has already written a whole goddamn brilliant book on it but since I haven‘t read it, I can naively pluck away at the topic. Nor do I have any art-historical credentials whatsoever to consider this matter but that should just be filed under additional complication.
For two.5 yrs now I‘ve been together with a partner who can conventionally be considered „beautiful“ or „aesthetically pleasing“ or a „bombshell“ or whatever is your preferred designation of advanced aesthetic phenotype. It is just tough luck that such a statement cannot be made without coming off as vainglorious but the postulate is needed for this piece of thinking.
What makes one beautiful in terms of outward appearance? There‘ve been thousands of studies on the topic which neither of us will be bothered to consult and so the conjectures remain at the surface of general insight: above-average symmetry, large eyes, proportional spacing of facial features, healthy skin, etc. The matter of the body is too complex, vexed and contentious to even consider getting into.
More interesting is the effect such a phenotype has on a room full of people, which I‘ve observed w/ befuddled, possibly spooked fascination: wherever and whenever, a significant majority of heads [w/ eyeballs therein] will tilt in her general direction.

Untitled-1335Suppositions? A) Significantly salient stereotypes of whatever configuration naturally draw attention [whether a supermodel, pygmy or notre-dame-type persona].

B) This is the lamest and most banal and yet it must be mentioned: motion; it draws attention. As you enter, you move. The frog next to the pile of dead flies dies. Big bloody deal!

C) The crux: Beauty. It is intrinsically pleasing to examine, whether one is male or female at either end of the hoary subject-object binary. You can look at it and derive a little dose of harmless pleasure.
It seems also to activate more atavistic programs of the human psyche. Beauty is rare and distributed entirely unjustly and unequally. The question that immediately rears its head is: why this cosmic injustice? This collides with our ever-present [if rarely justified] fever-dream of living in a meritocratic society: whatever privilege you enjoy, you must have earned it! But [leaving aside the toxic pandora‘s box of make-up and pla-surg] beauty is not achieved, not based on a person‘s lifetime work or impeccable civic ethos, it just is. It is there, up from the genotype, no questions asked.

[What unfathomable level of outrage would Hitler have created if, to top all the horrors off, he would‘ve look like Brad Pitt?! ]



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