is very likely that nearly every one has been very nearly certain that
something that is interesting is interesting them" Gertrude
February Sunday permalink
Jargon acquisition: "[M]ental spaces are small conceptual packets
constructed as we think and talk, for purposes of local understanding
and action. They are very partial assemblies containing elements, structured
by frames and cognitive models.... [O]ur hypothesis is that, in terms
of processing, elements in mental spaces correspond to activated neuronal
assemblies and linking between elements corresponds to some kind of
neurobiological binding, such as co-activation. On this view, mental
spaces operate in working memory but are built up partly by activating
structures available from long-term memory. Mental spaces are interconnected
in working memory, can be modified dynamically as thought and discourse
unfold, and can be used generally to model dynamic mappings in thought
and language" (Gilles Fauconnier and Mark Turner, The Way We
Think  102).
Frames are "entrenched" spaces, ready for "all-at-once"
activation. Networks are entrenched frames, likewise available for global
activation and application. "Indeed, much of our thinking consists
of activating entrenched integration networks for dealing with present
Much appreciated contributions to inframince
and zip studies at Konvolut
M. And the remarks on "Imaginary Lover" and "Ebony
Eyes" ("Had to ask someone who each was by, but could sing
along with a dismaying proportion of both") connect to....
Unlidded ear: here.
Just knowing these exist makes
me hear differently. One use to which I'd like to put them: cataloging
the canned soundtracks imposed in most enclosed commercial environments.
Illustration of the banal fact that by far the majority of the songs
I know by heart I neither like nor have ever (even once) elected
Rebutting Duchamp's axiom in the 1914 Box? "One can look at seeing;
/ one can't hear hearing" ("On peut regarder voir; / On ne
peut pas entendre entendre").
Situation: prevented from traveling anywhere during a two-week
break from teaching, I am prevented, même, from traveling
to Philadelphia to refresh my memory of the Arensberg Collection. So
I decide (without formulating it as a decisionuntil now) to see
Duchamp's work wheresoever I chance upon it. Hence:
I'm speaking by phone to a friend in mourning for her recently deceased
husband. When she mentions that the exercise prescribed her, in part
to ward off depression, includes riding a stationary bicycle, and that
she invariably cries while doing so, I see avoir
l'apprenti dans le soleil and quickly "run the blend"
(Fauconnier-Turner): the slope is mourning, and she is the apprentice
still at the beginning of an agonizing climb.
Performing the very tight three-point turn my driveway (especially in
winter) requires of me, the view through the rearview mirror of the
dead branches I need to not back into is also a glimpse (cocked ninety
degrees) of the twigs within which the female figure is implausibly
nestled in Etant
Need, demand, and desire: Does "Imaginary
Lover" conform even more closely to Lacanian theory than "Prove
My Love" by the Violent Femmes? Fabricate an aural equivalent
of The Wilson-Lincoln
effect to explore this question further? (Example of an intellectual
project for which there is not need, demand, or desire.)
Jonathan Lethem's "The Beards: An Adolescence in Disguise"
(New Yorker 28 February 2005: 62-69). Of Frick's part in "The
Heavenly Music Corporation": "His thinking, audible as he
tested the surf of Eno's synthesizer, was like a morality only I understood"
(63). "Hence my rage at Stanley Kubrick, Don DeLillo, Jean-Luc
Godard, and Talking Heads. The artists who seemed to promise the most
were the ones who'd created art that stirred me while seeming to absent
themselves from emotional riskso these were the ones that were
capable of failing my needs most violently. It was as though in their
coolness these artists had sensed my oversized needs and turned away,
flinching from what I'd ask them to feel on my behalf" (67).
By contrast: "Dylan and Dick created bodies of work so contradictory
and erratic that they never seemed to have promised me perfection, so
they could never disappoint me" (68). "There's a death
wish in reducing life to watching one's fingers twitch on the alphabet"
Today I'm seeing this
the lines of the "nine shots" (less one) at the Large
Glass. Oddly, I count only eight of the "shots" in several
other online images (that I don't have permission to link directly to).
Aesthetico-oneiric hazards: before sleep, I read about and meditate
on le soigneur de gravité (gravity tender), another
unrealized element of the Large
Glass. In dream, toward three a.m., I'm thrown from the bed to the
floor by a force applied to the precise point on my body (left chest,
around the nipple) where I'm most displaceable.
Annotated hazard: Jean Suquet | "From
the Splash to the Flash, with the best wishes of Le Soigneur de Gravité:
The Large Glass, a Guided Tour" | 1992 | Tout
Fait: Marcel Duchamp Studies Online
Open to chance: Something very like the breast / nipple from "Priére
de Toucher" is included in Matta's "Altar to the Juggler
of Gravity" (1947), constructed from instructions provided by Duchamp.
In Pontus Hullen's Marcel Duchamp:Work and Life, "Priére"
happens to be shown next to "Torture-morte,"
the work of Duchamp's that most occupied my thoughts yesterday.
Open to chance (cont'd): at the top of a visiting fiction writer's cv,
the title "A New Kind of Gravity."
Why I thought often of "Torture-morte" yesteday: In the light-wells
of an institutional building, a stippled semi-opaque plexiglass is used
to shade three rows of long flourescent bulbs. Looking up at them, say
during a reading, one notices numerous small black shapes distributed
like inverse stars against the illuminated panel. These inverted constellations
are composed of dead flies, with an occasional moonlike moth thrown
in. Each light-well is thus an insect cemetery, and in a room with twelve
such wells, several hundred small corpses rest above one's head.
degree by which rooms lit in the manner described above will be brighter
after the dead insects are removed is, I should imagine, inframince.
were the structure of said institutional building to be jolted somehow,
the noise made by the fly wings vibrating against the plexiglass would
make an inframince contribution to the overall racket.
Usually I wake up with a song in my head, but this morning it was a
shape: the tire-bouchon toboggan run Duchamp never did achieve
in the space to the right of the chocolate grinder and below the oculist
witnesses in the Large
Glass (see "completed" work of 1965).
Organic analog: the Maine delicacy, fiddleheads.
Organic/aesthetic analog (thought of later): Smithson's spiral
jetty. Duchampian shadow cast: the distended corkscrew in Tu
Discriminating among smiles: approaching vehicle's windshield, inspecting
from passenger's side of the hood the driver's side wipersmile
produced by absence of parking ticket.
To be open to chance, as others are open for business.
marry a person called "Teeny." Shade by which the mot juste
("teensy") has been missed is inframince.
Delays not in glass: Harold
Russell's prosthetic arms in Best
Years of Our Lives (1946) are almost identical to the one supplied
my elementary school classmate Regina a full twenty-five years later.
The cemetery of airplane shells Dana Andrews visits on his way out of
Semantic mensuration: distance between Duchamp's "même"
and the internet's "meme." By analogy to idio-ideo
at Hotel Point: the même meme?
Google returns for "mensuration" (115,000) and for the word
it thinks I meant to type: "menstruation" (1,450,000). Wordcount
rankings: "menstruation" (24,248 of 86,800), "mensuration"
Weather Band: for about seventy-two hours, light snownicely spaced
flakes, no facility for accumulatingmakes for visible air. Imagining
it as an ordinary atmosphere, rather than a fluke.
Delays not in glass: watching Best
Years last night, I notice that Myrna Loy has become one of those
actors whose every gesture and utterance absorbs and delights me. The
"aha-erlebnis" comes nearly six months after its probable
cause: TCM's September focus on Loy's films.
Tire-bouchon (cont'd): A fiction writer on campus reads his story
about base jumping. At one point the protagonist "spirals"
down from the top of the St.
Louis Arch (three seconds of free fall, twenty seconds of chute).
A while later, a squirrel "spirals" up a tree trunk.
Arbitrariness of the sign: The designers of an e-mail application decide
they need a non-linguistic sonic indicator for "no mail."
They go with a metallic scraping noise. Am I to think I've opened a
metal mailbox, only to find it empty? But doesn't the door open just
as scrapingly, rustedly, crushingly hopelessly, upon epistolary bounty?
Oneiric suspense: In a dream, a friend who does, when angered, sometimes
walk away from a group and not return, sets off on what should be a
brief errand, saying as he goes, "I've been known to walk off...."
Interior burn (how my consciousness acquires music lately): First step:
modicum of faith in the mp3 bloggers (download to desktop). Second step:
independent evaluation (listen in iTunes). Third step: selection to
"next comp" playlist (listening and sequencing; burning to
cd). Fourth step: listen through better speakers, at different volumes,
in different situations (home, car). Fifth step: interiorization of
song (wake up with it, start singing it while walking).
Observation: Interior "burning" never duplicates the sequence
of the cd. Hence, factor in something like "synaptic shuffle"?
Tracks of latest comp reproduced
"spontaneously" in some situation or another: This Isn't It
by Giant Drag (for reasons adduced below);
(2) Hateful by The Clash, much of the day Monday, for the guitar riff
and a dose of delegated speech (a pop song is a fulfilment of a wish);
(3) Baby, It's Cold Outside by Deschanel and Redbone (in admiration
of Redbone's voice and the altogether illicit intimacy of the duet);
(4) Whiskey and Gin by Johnny Ray (in admiration of Ray's tremulous
voice and appreciation of the speaker's candor in admitting that his
sexual satisfaction depends upon his lover remaining an alchoholic).
Then there are the burns one comes to regret. Not that anything Stritch
does can really bring displeasure, but I did recite "Zip"
to my own and others' distraction last fall. Nice, then, to see a couplet
of it come to Eeksy-Peeksy's
Silliman awaits the polarizing
messiah. My secular preference is for more minds "unintimidated
by multiplicity" (H.D.).
The Best Years of Our Lives
| Dir. William Wyler, 1946 | 172min TCM | IMDb
Were the curtains to the left opened, the laptop screen would be engulfed
Mina Loy morning: Paris 1902-1903. Art school and the mysterious impregnation.
"Virgins Plus Curtains Minus Dots."
Browsed last night in a gridded composition book from 1987 (warped slightly
by careless storage) with notes on Duchamp lectures by Sheldon Nodelman
and, when his mother's death prevented him from teaching, Allan Kaprow,
running from the back of the volume to the middle, and notes on Freud
and Lacan from the front to the middle. The 180 degree rotations of
The Giant Drag singer's intonation and handling of "the turn"
when she comes to the passage: "Love, love, love this isn't
it." If the song isn't mediocre, it will be because she's pulled
An insurance agent's idea of digital photography: shoot every single
object in the house, one by one. Begin with the books? the refrigerator?
"Both my lovers are broke / Three broke lovers" (Lee Ann Brown,
The Duchampian inframince:
"The warmth of a seat (which has just been left) is infra-thin."
So too the noise generated by walking in velvet trousers.
Private reference: the mention of velvet trousers calls to mind Jackson
Mac Low's black pair in Amiens in 1999. Intimations of a dandyism we'd
not previously suspected in him.
Filament connecting R. Mutt to "und wir waren sehr arm." And
the inexhaustible pleasure of imitating the Nina Hagen of "Born
in Xixax." Memory fragment (borrowed) of a record signing in Seal
Beach: "Nina, look up." "How can I look up, when I want
to look down?"
Something about Blithe Danner, Martha Plimpton.
Delay not in glass: visiting the home of X, one deduces from a variety
of clues that his lover is probably betraying him sexually; delay between
this observation (kept to oneself) and confirmation of fact (roughly
Just a few minutes into the film, before anything much has been established,
the protagonist and narrator of Detour
finds his way into a roadside diner, where a talkative stranger offers
him a ride north. Rebuffed, the driver gets change for a dime and drops
his nickel into the jukebox, selecting just the song that will trigger
the flashback that will be the film. For me, though, the scene harbors
a small, self-contained satisfaction: I've been wondering what a jukebox
might look like, circa the mid-1940s, ever since I began talking and
writing about John Cage's anecdote of a glamorously
self-mutilating one. The movie has barely started and Edgar G. Ulmerwith
his two to one shooting ratio, six day production window, and measly
thirty grandhas already shown me something I've longed
Trying to get the cell phone to recognize a voice command, one adopts
the harsh tone associated with telling a recalcitrant child something
"for the last time." Unimaginable (for me, so far) to attempt,
instead, a sweeter, more seductive tone. Resolution: practice politeness
with cyborgs, même.
Joshua Clover, writing about a movie I've been boorishly unable to appreciate,
teaches me that the opposite of a slave name is a "liberonym"
(footnote 3 of this).
Pop Comp courtesy of the invaluable
Year - Death Cab for Cutie | Ralome - Plaid | Baby, It's Cold Outside
- Zooey Deschanel and Leon Redbone | Whiskey & Gin - Johnny Ray
| New Slang - The Shins | Be Still My Heart - The Postal Service | Roda
- Gilberto Gil | Home - Lou Barlow | A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head
to the Left - Andrew Bird | This Isn't It - Giant Drag | One Step Ahead
- Aretha Franklin | Just Kissed My Baby - The Meters | Keeper of the
Castle - The Four Tops | Hateful - The Clash | I Just Need Myself -
The Cure | The Answer - Bloc Party | No Heathen Featuring Wicked Act
(Blacksmith Mix ) - DJ/Rupture | M.I.A - M.I.A | Braking (Hushed) -
Quantazelle | Spring's Arrival (The Express Rising Remix) - Piano Overlord
I Shot Andy Warhol | Dir. Mary Harron, 1996 | 103min
Spanking the Monkey | Dir. David O. Russell, 1994
| 100min Cinemax | IMDb
Detour | Dir. Edgar G. Ulmer, 1945 | 67min TCM |
IMDb | Senses
of Cinema profile of Ulmer
by Erik Ulman
Total Eclipse | Dir. Agnieszka Holland, 1995 | 111min
DVD | IMDb
Swimming to Cambodia | Dir. Jonathan Demme, 1987
| 85min Trio | IMDb
Coal Miner's Daughter | Dir. Michael Apted, 1980
| 125min TCM | IMDb
| Dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 1945 | 111min TCM
Tender Comrade | Dir. Edward Dmytryk, 1943
| 102min TCM
In his 1944
Partisan Review essay on "pseudo-folk" art (the one poet
Robert Duncan responds to in "The Homosexual in Society"), James
Agee refers to Tender Comrade as "the
most richly dreadful and fascinating of recent films." In an energetically
overwritten paragraph from a Nation omnibus review of the same
year, he lays down the (mixed up) terms of his disapproval: "The
astonishing Tender Comrade is one in the eye
for widows, with plenty for mere war wives too, and nothing I can imagine
for anyone else except the hardiest misogynists, for whom it should provide
the biggest treat and most satisfying textbook in years." Intolerant
of the highest-salaried tender comrade," Ginger Rogers ("hilt-deep
in her specialty as a sort of female Henry Fonda"), Agee finds himself
suffocated by the film's "cooperative, sorority-house democracy"
and calls Rogers's (indeed insufferable) closing speech ("which lasts
twenty-four hours and five minutes by my watch") "one of the
most nauseating things I have ever sat through." Sixty years (and
a HUAC trial for both writer and director) later, this all reads as overreaction
to what is a self-evidently imperfect, but still a stranger and more likable
film than Agee can quite admit (though his ambivalence can be glimpsed
in the adjectives he applies to it).
The Ace of Hearts | Dir. Wallace Worsley, 1921 |
| IMDb | Members of
an anarchist cell draw cards for the privilege of assassinating "the
one who has lived too long." The ace goes to Lon Chaney's rival for
the love of Lilithand with it goes Lilith, for whom man and Cause
are now united in one flesh. But having tasted said flesh, neither Lilith
nor her noble hitman care to go through with the plot. Chaney's solution
to the problem is elegant and definitive. Below Chaney takes a pathetic
fallacy drenching as his former comrades get it on upstairs.
The Pawnbroker | Dir. Sidney Lumet, 1964 |116min
TCM | IMDb | First
viewing of this stark, noisy, raw, and utterly astonishing film. The outstretched
hands below belong to one in a long row of women having their wedding
rings harvested by concentration camp guards, an image that flashes into
the pawnbroker's mind when a young pregnant woman comes to hock her own
ring. Each such flashback works to link the camps to the U.S. ghetto through
the shared terms of misogyny, prostitution, and brute domination.
Beginning another shift at my third factory: teaching a grad
seminar, a class on American
poetry, and the foundations
of literary analysis. And the New Writing Series looks to be about
June 1-15, 2003 June
July 1-15, 2003 July
16-31, 2003 August 2003
September 2003 October
- December 2003 January - February
2004 March - June 2004
July - December 2004
to ensemble back to index