19 Matching Annotations
  1. Apr 2016
    1. Eco’s collection is more focused than Carriere’s. It is a “collection dedicated to the occult and mistaken sciences.” It contains works, for example, by the misinformed astronomer Ptolemy but not by the rightly informed astronomer Galileo. “I am fascinated by error, by bad faith and idiocy,” Eco tells us. He loves the man who wrote a book about the dangers of toothpicks, and another author who produced a volume “about the value of being beaten with a stick, providing a list of famous artists and writers who had benefitted from this practice, from Boileau to Voltaire to Mozart.” He adores the hygienist who recommended, in his treatise, the practice of walking backwards. Eco does not tell us how many of these books he actually owns, or how much he would pay for a first edition in mint condition.
  2. Sep 2014
    1. His proposal, derived from synopses of Paracelsus and Jakob Böhme, is that we learn to think of language as magic. Magic is what will substitute for structure, in which case one synonym for post-structuralism is “the occult.” Agamben wants magical signs; this, roughly, is what he means by “signatures,” signs that aren’t just neutral stand-ins for things, tokens or pointers, but charmed symbols vibrating with their own energies, signs that have “efficacy,” “efficacious likenesses,” not marks that you write down but marks that are written across you. Every spoken sentence changes the world and is in that sense a spell or hex. This is probably the clearest instance of the “regression” that Agamben makes central to his method: “the opposite of rationalization,” he calls it. If you are serious about your critique of enlightenment, you are going to need an enchanted epistemology.

      But how is magic not a structure?

    2. Agamben is in the market for a way of thinking about language that does not go through a juridical model of laws and rules … or a political model of the system … or a technical model of the machine.
    3. It is the virtue of Giorgio Agamben’s recent book on method, The Signature of All Things, to remind us what a painstaking post-structuralism can look like. And yes, this is the first thing to know about the book: that it is post-structuralist, in some wholly precise sense of that term, still, in 2008, when it was first published in Italy, and not just because its author quotes Foucault a lot. What matters is that Agamben is still actively trying to purge the concept of “structure” from his thinking; still trying to jimmy that e from his typewriter; still scanning old volumes of philosophy so he can accusingly annotate the passages where schemes sneak in unbidden; still trying to devise something to put in their place.
  3. Aug 2014
    1. Phones can only work when they know where they are and are telling the phone company that. It’s not surveillance, it’s how radio waves work. This is the first reason for the network to work the way it does. The second? Billing. In fact, most of the surveillance networks in the world weren’t built to surveil at all, but to make things work at a fundamental level, and to bill people. Surveillance and intrusion are opportunistically inserted into good infrastructure.
    1. INTERVIEWER On the subject of being a woman writer in a man’s world, you’ve mentioned A Room of One’s Own as a touchstone. LE GUIN My mother gave it to me. It is an important book for a mother to give a daughter. She gave me A Room of One’s Own and Three Guineas when I was a teenager. So she corrupted me thoroughly, bless her heart. Though you know, in the 1950s, A Room of One’s Own was kind of tough going. Writing was something that men set the rules for, and I had never questioned that. The women who questioned those rules were too revolutionary for me even to know about them. So I fit myself into the man’s world of writing and wrote like a man, presenting only the male point of view. My early books are all set in a man’s world.
    2. So I put myself through a sort of course, reading that literature, and that led me to utopianism. And that led me, through Kropotkin, into anarchism, pacifist anarchism. And at some point it occurred to me that nobody had written an anarchist utopia. We’d had socialist utopias and dystopias and all the rest, but anarchism—hey, that would be fun. So then I read all the anarchist literature I could get, which was quite a lot, if you went to the right little stores in Portland. INTERVIEWER Where you got your books in a brown paper bag? LE GUIN You had to get to know the owner of the store. And if he trusted you, he’d take you to the back room and show you this wealth of material, some of which was violent anarchism and would have been frowned on by the government. I swam around in that stuff for a couple years before I could approach my lump of concrete again, and I discovered it had fallen apart. I had my character, and he was a physicist, but he wasn’t who I thought he was. So that book started not with an idea but with a whole group of ideas coming together. It was a very demanding book to write, because I had to invent that society pretty much from scratch, with a lot of help from the anarchist writers, particularly Americans like Paul Goodman, who had actually tried to envision what an anarchist society might be like.
    3. INTERVIEWER And featuring male protagonists. LE GUIN Absolutely. Then came literary feminism, which was a tremendous problem and gift to me. I had to . . . handle it. And I wasn’t sure I could, because I’m not much good on theory. Go away, just let me write. But the fact is, I was getting stuck in my writing. I couldn’t keep pretending I was a man. And so feminism came along at just the right moment for me.
    4. LE GUIN The breakthrough was unconscious. It’s a short book, published in 1978, called The Eye of the Heron. It’s about two colonies on another planet—one of them is a bunch of pacifists, Gandhian types. The other one is a criminal colony sent mostly from South America. The two places are side by side. My hero was from the Gandhian society, a nice young man. And then there was a girl, the daughter of the boss of the criminal society. And the nice young hero insisted on getting himself shot, about halfway through the book. And I said, Hey, you can’t do that! You’re my protagonist! My own unconscious mind was forcing me to realize that the weight of the story was in the girl’s consciousness, not the boy’s. INTERVIEWER What led you to set The Left Hand of Darkness in a world where gender is fluid? LE GUIN That was my ignorant approach to feminism. I knew just enough to realize that gender itself was coming into question. We didn’t have the language yet to say that gender is a social construction, which is how we shorthand it now. But gender—what is gender? Does it need to be male, does it need to be female? Gender had been thrown into the arena where science fiction goes in search of interesting subjects to revisit and re-question. I thought, Well, gee, nobody’s done that. Actually, what I didn’t know is that, slightly before me, Theodore Sturgeon had written a book called Venus Plus X. It’s worth checking out, a rare thing, an early male approach to considering gender as—at least partly—socially constructed. Sturgeon was a talented, warm-hearted writer, so it’s also interesting in itself. Stylistically, he was not a great writer, but he was a very good storyteller and a very good mind. But I, of course, went off in a different direction. You could say I was asking myself, What does it mean to be a woman, or a man, male or female? And what if you weren’t?
    5. LE GUIN Updike did a beautiful review of a young-adult novel of mine, The Beginning Place, in The New Yorker. He was always a generous reviewer. And Harold Bloom—he’s put in a really good word for me. It’s funny, The Anxiety of Influence came out at just the time that women were discovering other women writers and saying, Hey, we have influences! We never did before! Here were all the men worrying about the anxiety of being influenced and the women were going, Whoopee!
    1. These hupomnemata should not be thought of simply as a memory support, which might be consulted from time to time, as occasion arose; they are not meant to be substituted for a recollection that may fail. They constitute, rather, a material and a framework for exercises to be carried out frequently: reading, rereading, meditating, conversing with oneself and with others. And this was in order to have them, according to the expression that recurs often,
    2. Hupomnemata, in the technical sense, could be account books, public registers, or individual notebooks serving as memory aids. Their use as books of life, as guides for conduct, seems to have become a common thing for a whole cultivated public. One wrote down quotes in them, extracts from books, examples, and actions that one had witnessed or read about, reflections or reasonings that one had heard or that had come to mind. They constituted a material record of things read, heard, or thought, thus offering them up as a kind of accumulated treasure for subsequent rereading and meditation. They also formed a raw material for the drafting of more systematic treatises, in which one presented arguments and means for struggling against some weakness (such as anger, envy, gossip, flattery) or for overcoming some difficult circumstance (a grief, an exile, ruin, disgrace). Thus, when Fundamus requests advice for struggling against the agitations of the soul, Plutarch at that moment does not really have the time to compose a treatise in the proper form, so he will send him, in their present state, the
    3. Hence, a first analogy can be put forward: what others are to the ascetic in a community, the notebook is to the recluse. But, at the same time, a second analogy is posed, one that refers to the practice of ascesis as work not just on actions but, more precise]y, on thought: the constraint that the presence of others exerts in the domain of conduct, writing will exert in the domain of the inner impulses of the soul.
    1. Interessant an den Analogien, die die Autoren Einstein entweder gezogen zu haben unterstellen oder aber selbst finden, um Zusammenhänge zu verdeutlichen, ist, dass es sich dabei offenbar zu einem großen Teil nicht um mathematisch-logische, sondern um bildliche Analogien, also Metaphern handelt. Das bedeutet mithin, dass das Einstein-Hirn beim Erdenken der Relativitätstheorie weitgehend mit denselben bildlichen Verfahren arbeitete wie zum Beispiel das Shakespeare-Hirn beim Verfassen so mancher unsterblicher Verszeile.
    1. f you’ve been hurt: Articulate it as well as you can. A person can’t address an issue if they don’t know it exists or don’t understand it. Do you know what you need? An apology, space, time, physical contact, reassurance, a commitment to address a certain behavior? Ask for it. If you don’t know what you need, say that. Ask for help finding a solution. Too many arguments move from “I’m sorry” to “that’s not good enough” without ever saying what would be good enough. And maybe nothing is, but if that’s the case it needs to be said. It’s not about them. People aren’t heroes or villains. Calling someone a monster doesn’t address the hurt; it tells them you think it’s inevitable and irreparable that they’ll hurt you. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to need help. It’s okay to not be able to deal with it right away. When emotions are high, productive conversation can be painful, almost impossible.
    2. If you’ve hurt someone: Apologize. They may not accept it (and they don’t have to), but apologize. Mean it. If you don’t know what you’ve done to hurt them, find out as calmly as you can. “I’m sorry that you feel bad” is not an apology. It’s passive-aggressive. Apologize for the behavior, not its effect. Remember that it’s not about you. If someone is telling you that you’ve hurt them, that isn’t an attack. Defensiveness is a refusal to address the issue. I presume you care about your partners. If you hurt them, focus on fixing the hurt rather than maintaining your ego or denying the hurt exists. People aren’t heroes or villains. Doing something wrong does not mean you’re a horrible person. We all do it. We fuck up or lash out or just don’t know what the hell we’re doing sometimes. These are discrete behaviors. If you’ve hurt someone, it makes sense to feel bad. It’s not so helpful to decide this makes you a Bad Person who should be shunned forever for your unforgivable sin. Acting like that is asking the person you’ve hurt to take care of you, and avoids addressing the hurt.