Saturday, February 15, 2003

Ruins

I am unable to write. Too depressed from the talk about endgame and the authoritarian logic of the war politicians itching to pull the trigger.

Theirs is a sterile landscape in a state of emergency. The latest episode is mentioned by lw at In a Dark Time in her Well, I'll Be Duct post.

I took the poodles for a walk along the cliff tops in the late afternoon hoping that the beauty of nature would lift my spirits. Alas the dogs came across a freshly dead rabbit and proceeded to dismember and eat it.

this is an interesting website. Check out links.

Maybe we need to turn to the politics of the body, eros and the carnival in order to prise the images from the past and submit them to parody, ridicule and relativism.

Friday, February 14, 2003

A good read

This is a lovely blog. It has lifted me out of my bleak mood. Do read it.

And the writing at Open Brackets is delightful. As is the insightful writing on American pop culture at Bellona Times.

My heart soars. For a moment I forget about the bleak depression caused by Australia helping the US bomb the Iraqi people back to the stone age in the name of freedom and democracy.

At the moment I feel that I'm trapped living in a Leonard Cohen song.

Thursday, February 13, 2003

Maybe its time for some nostalgia

After wandering into Reading and Writing

Now that rock legend Bob Dylan is in Australia to perform at the Melbourne International Music & Blues Festival perhaps we should re-listen to his icon of pop surrealism, Desolation Row, now that a hard rain's gonna fall. True, this song has lost its force of shock. When we hear it being played, maybe we could listen for what is strange and disturbing in what is so familar.

Perhaps we could think of the song in terms of the destruction of Iraq and our cities and so salvage what is out of date: the claim to happiness (a flourishing life) that human beings find denied them in our postmodern, technified world that is about to go up in smoke.
Why stay?

This has some of the content that was missing from Imre's lightweight account of leaving the green groves of academy in Australia. The question that we should be asking is: Why stay? It is a question that Gillian Whitlock does ask.

Many don't stay. Academia in Australia is a wasteland for those working in the humanities. The good ones get out for the history of the humanities in Australia is one of decline and fall. The short response to the decay of a human life is Beckett's, "Time enough."

The conversations in academia go a bit like this:

HAMM:"Is it not time for my pain-killer?"

HAMM: "You feel normal?"

CLOC (irritably):"I tell you I don't complain."

Whitlock recognizes that she lives and works 'in a spiritual and intellectual graveyard', but she stays rather than goes. It is unclear why she does, when living in an academic graveyard turns you into one of the walking dead.

I guess you can always read Beckett to gain an insight into your depressing condition and wonder about the vitality of the inner self. One can become a clown who cracks jokes about live in a garbage can and reads novels about daily life in Eastern Europe under Communism. We can learn to laugh at the absurdities of life, but after a while we realize that the laughter that enlivens the graveyard suffocates the ones who laugh.

Its bleak I know. And I do exaggerate. But not much. Its a life that kills. I do acknowledge that human life still goes on. It is still a human life. But it is a tragic one for all its freedom for the powerless. Consider love in academia (its usually between teacher and student of course):

NELL: What is it, my pet?" (Pause.) Time for love?

NAGG: Were you asleep?

NELL: Oh no!

NAGG: Kiss me.

NELL: We can't.

NAGG: Try. (Their heads strain towards each other, fail to meet, fall apart again)

Academia is a place to leave, if you value life.

If you think I'm being a sad sack who is negative about Australia, then read this about the streak of anti-intellectualism in US universities; and this about the polite acceptance of the destruction wrought in Australian universities. If you think I'm too negative about humanities then read this article about that new academic species, the terminator scholar here. It is very good.

Why stay when there is no future unless you enjoy a living a life amidst the ruins.
Facelift

This is the third part of the renovations completed. All three blogs have now been remodelled. They are all in need of minor twicks but the big changes have been made. This remains my budget weblog. A comments box will be added in due course.

Trashlog is a weblog with a similar spirit to this one. Much much classer of course and expresses the ethos in a different way.

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Imre Salusinszky & Tim Blair

I've heard the name Imre Salusinszky around the traps here and there but I have not meet the man. I often wondered who he was or what he had done to be 'known'. I knew that he was reputed to be a bit of a heavy and that he appeared in public wearing masks. I gathered that he was some sort of literary conservative, who was based at the University of Newcastle, and who also hung out with Tim Blair doing this sort of stuff.

I missed the show. But it was pretty lively by all accounts.

I do recall reading this but I did not pay it too much attention at the time---I did not really about th subject matter I guess. But I gather that he once wrote weekly newspaper columns that used to appear in the Australian Financial Review, the Sydney Morning Herald, and The Age. I am not sure why they stopped.

Then I came across him writing a column in the Australian Higher Education Review today (No link) called 'I wanted a career change.' The content? Imre was leaving the ivy towered walls of academia for something new and different. His academic carreer had not been spectacular---- 'solid, efficient and throughly respectable' is how he described it. Why the career change? Many of us ex-academics had been downsized. This was voluntary parting of the ways. He says:

"I've been doing the same job for a long time; I was getting stale; and interesting new opportunities beckoned."

Yawn. Fair enough. But still yawn.

This piece is a modest start to his new life as staff writer at The Australian would you not say? We will have to wait and see what happens next, won't we.

And Tim Blair? I'm so looking forward to reading his Bulletin column tomorow. He is plugging it madly.I look forward to cos it will make my day. Gives me a big hope after reading a passage of Samuel Beckett's Endgame, such as this:

HAMM: "I once knew a madman who thought the end of the world had come. He was a painter---and engraver. I had a great fondness for him. I used to go round and see him, in the asylum. I'd take him by the hand and drag him to the window. Look! There! All that rising corn! And there! Look! The sails of the herring fleet. All that loveliness! (Pause.) He'd snatch away his hand and go back into his corner. Appalled. All he had seen was ashes. (Pause.) He alone had been spared. (Pause.) Forgotten. (Pause.) It appears the case is.....was not so....unusual."

Seriously though. I just wanted a bit of content after reading Imre's column.
A junk interview

I found this hard to take after all the time and effort I spent working through Of Grammatology. I'm not sure, 'its an experience' justifies it either.

Monday, February 10, 2003

Photos

Check out this poisoned arrow series about our near neighbour.

Link courtesy of William Burroughs Baboon.

Its a good weblog with a key eye on the media's politics ----check out the analysis of the The Weekend Australian's editorial on the ALP position on the war.
Junk Newspapers

Of late a heap of junk for code has cast a critical eye over the journalists and newspapers in Australia. The example often used for the thin work produced has been The Advertiser

Well Crikey.com.au carries the media criticism further with this piece on the neo-con agenda of the new Editor in chief of The Australian when Chris Mitchell was editor at the Brisbane Courier Mail.

It shows that newspapers are players in politics, not just observers and interpretators of political life. Mitchell imposes a strong neo-con position on his newspapers. It certainly weakens the neo-con case about Australia being dominated by the liberal media. it Conservatives are extremely well represented in the media and are developing a conservative media structure that, more than ever, is determined to shape, and limit the scope of, our political agenda.
It ain't Adorno---its Beckett +

Rob over at the wonderful blogorrhoea has lightly taken me to task for allowing my depressed state to push me into the world of 'the perfectly regulated pack of passive automatons envisaged by Sadsack Adorno and his gloomy mates.'

Fair enough. That's what blogging is all about.

The eagle-eyed Rob has spotted my liking for Adorno's anti-systematic, negative philosophy that critically interprets cultural fragments of broken-backed traditions. Rob corrects my onesidedness and resignation with a bit of Gramsci-----"Pessimism of the intellect; optimism of the will." It was fashionable for a time amongst English cultural Marxists around the time of Thatcher. A number of those cultural Marxists left England and set up shop at Griffith University in Queensland, where they spun the cultural wheels for Paul Keating's Labor Government, then left to become house intellectuals for the Blair Labour Government.

I never really understood that one when I read it, and I don't now. Being a plain man living amidst cultural junk, and who feels like data trash from reading all the war propaganda, the Gramsci quote is not something that I could take my stand on. I find it all a bit too cheerful. Like tv adverts, talk shows, games shows and much contemporary journalism.

Thats all by and the by. It was the negativity of Beckett that I ws reading about -- a text on Endgame. It caught my eye because all the journalists are writing about Endgame with respect to the UN and the US-led war with Iraq.

HAMM: And the horizon? Nothing on the horizon?

CLOV (lowering the telescope, turning towards Hamm, exasperated): What in God's name would there be on the horizon? (pause)

HAMM: The waves, how about the waves?

CLOV: The waves? (He turns the telescope on the waves.) Lead

HAMM: And the sun?

I presume that text is counterposed to the official optimism of the day, a sort of alarm system.

CLOV (looking) Zero.

HAMM: But it should be sinking. Look again.

CLOV (looking): Dam the sun

HAMM: Is it night already then?

CLOV( looking): No.

HAMM: Then what is it?

CLOV (looking): Gray. (Lowering the telescope, turning towards Hamm, louder) Gray! (Pause. Still louder.) GRRAY!

This is life after the catastrophe---a life of bleak bare survival. Is that not the future for the Iraqi people after the war? Adorno, in interpreting Beckett, in an essay called, Trying to Understand Endgame', says:

"Beckett's characters behave in precisely the primitive, behaviouristic manner appropriate to the state of affairs after the catastrophe, after it has mutilated them so they cannot react any differently; flies twitching after the fly swatter has half-squashed them.'

Its tough and harsh without a hint of blandness. But it is still true. Isn't that what war does to human beings? Especially when you are nuked or been subject to the deployment of chemical weapons.

This is a world constructed around a metaphysics of death.
Cultural trash

I meet a friend on Sunday at a bookshop in Adelaide. He said "I read your blog the other day and its cultural trash."

I shot back. "Maybe society has thrown its reason on the scrap heap and replaced it with the media manipulation of public opinion."

We went our separate ways without speaking further. It was a false life we once shared.

I picked up a book on Samuel Beckett. It was full of stuff about culture being kaput, human beings continuing to vegetate, creeping about on their hands and knees and unable to survive on the rubbish heap at the edge of city and a polluted nature.

Being a postmodernist text it held that we now find that our mode of life amongst the cultural junk has made reflection on our damaged state worthless. We have forgotten to remember the history that has bought us to this sorry state. We can imagine no other mode of life.

We may as well be dead.
This ain't the way home

Most of the day was spent on renovations. After taking the dogs for a walk I sat on the front steps with my glass of wine. One of the standard poodles (Ari) stood guard. I thought about picking up the dog shit in the Adelaide parklands then I thought about the stench of cadavers in the Iraqi desertand shuddered.

Thought you might like to see this. It is courtesy of Chris Owen in Perth.

We need to remember what has been forgotten in a time of crisis.