Thursday, May 25, 2017

Particles of deep topography - 19

Observation, description and its abuses

Text: The End of Oulipo?: An Attempt to Exhaust a Movement by Lauren Elkin , Scott Esposito - remixed
Illustrations: Photographs from Kassel during the Documenta (13) in 2012

Ways of observing - the context switch:
Benjamin tells authors they must learn to appropriate as does a camera’s lens. A camera is a tool for taking things out of context: taking a photo is nothing more than selecting a rectangle of the world to be pulled up from its surroundings.
Ways of observing - the cubist view:
Merleau-Ponty argues that painting that adopts a classical view of things—that is, painting that attempts to portray the world “realistically”—is but one interpretation of our experience, one that makes our world precise and rational. But of course, I would not be alone in arguing that what we experience in day-to-day life more commonly conforms to Picasso’s Cubism or Pollock’s Abstract Expressionism than classical art.
Ways of observing - methodical, long-term observation:
Perec once said, “I detest what’s called psychology... I prefer books in which characters are described by their actions, their gestures and their surroundings.” ... Elsewhere he declares his ambition “to write every kind of thing that it is possible for a man to write nowadays.” ... I begin these descriptions over again each year, taking care, thanks to an algorithm ... first, to describe each of these places in a different month of the year, second, never to describe the same pair of places in the same month. The intent is to create a way of looking at these 12 places that will reveal things no one has ever seen in them before ... “Question your tea spoons,” he exhorted readers of “The Infra-Ordinary.” “What’s underneath your wallpaper?”
Ways of observing - obsessive, exhaustive observation:
[Édouard Levé says] ... “Make an effort to exhaust the subject, even if that seems grotesque, or pointless, or stupid.” ... one might consider his photography book Amérique, where he compulsively produces photographs of American cities that share their names with major world cities. In both books the project is clear: follow the idea exhaustively, trusting that what comes will be art. Somehow in this widest of embraces he will catch things that are new ... they simply give the details, leaving it to the reader to decide what lies beneath.
Abuse and consumerization of revolutionary (situationist) techniques:
Products, beliefs and fashions that once existed on the boundaries of society were resolutely transformed into mass-consumable versions that were bought up by the middle classes.
David Foster Wallace put forth the argument that the second half of the twentieth century was a time of two great changes: first, the development of this “no” of resistance against capitalistic culture, and, second, the co-opting this “no” of resistance into a catchy sales pitch. Wallace identified the “no” of resistance with irony—long a potent weapon of the oppressed—and then he went on to argue that the appeal of this irony had been taken over by savvy advertisers, who use it to make their products hip. The fiction of irony and ridicule, which he identified with rebellious postmodernists like Thomas Pynchon and Don DeLillo, had been taken over by TV culture.
[Christian] Bök also strikes a polemic tone, forcefully declaring that artistic innovation has been co-opted by capitalism: Postmodern life has utterly recoded the avant-garde demand for radical newness. Innovation in art no longer differs from the kind of manufactured obsolescence that has come to justify advertisements for “improved” products; nevertheless, we have to find a new way to contribute by generating a “surprise” (a term that almost conforms to the cybernetic definition of “information”).

About this series Over the years I've collected many place descriptions. It's a waste to keep them on my harddisk. So I'll publish them from time to time. I will add some pictures when suitable.
Enhanced and amplified topographies can be found in a broad range of literature. The best ones link to metaphysics or mysticism and (pre-) load the landscape with unexpected layers, sheets, slabs and strata of meaning. We can appropriate all this work to enrich our everyday surroundings.

Previous posts are 1:The paranoid method, 2:Rooftops and sacrifices, 3:Oil and electricity,  4:Sewing machines, 5:Rooftops and apparitions, 6:Woods, 7:Mushrooms, 8:Formlessness (2d), 9:Formlessness (3d), 10:Autumn, 11:Monsters and mad scientists, 12:Empty spaces, 13:Stars and planets, 14:Addiction against emptiness, 15:Suggestive vagueness,  16: Ominous places and books, 17: Military technology, 18: Ominous telephones.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Particles of deep topography - 18

Ominous telephones
Text: China Mieville, Looking for Jake and other stories
Text: Fortean Times Forums: Isis177, danny_cogdon, Nitsuj, forteanflight, smoothvirus, Urvogel, brumben, lucydru, escargot1
Illustrations: Exhibits of Boijmans Museum Rotterdam, photographs by me


Post-apocalyptic technology cannot be trusted. Is all technology post-apocalyptic?
The last time I picked up the receiver something whispered to me down the wires, asked me a question in a reverential tone, in a language I did not understand, all sibilants and dentals. I put the phone down carefully and have not lifted it since.
Salvador Dali, White aphrodisiac telephone, 1936
Boijmans Museum - Rotterdam - Photographed in 2009
Just like sewing machines, classical telephones are eerie appliances. In the days of analog telephones real weirdness was still possible. Like getting a connection to nowhere and later losing the evidence:
I remember finding some number that would patch me through to odd "error" recordings. These were not the standard (for USA) three tones, followed by the female voice telling you your call could not be completed, but were lower quality recordings without the tones. Also, the voices were of different people. ... Around that time my mother noticed long-distance calls to tiny hamlets way up in the mountains showing up on the bill. She didn't get too upset about it because they only cost 1 or 2 cents. ... I started "collecting" the recordings to tape ... no idea whatever happened to that tape though.
Salvador Dali, Beach with telephone, 1938
Boijmans Museum - Rotterdam - Photographed in 2009
Or calling ghosts and being connected to unknown persons. And then that door closes gradually:
Back in 1982 when I would have been 12 years old, there was a song called 867-5309/Jenny that was a big hit on the radio. The rumor at school was that if you called this number "Jenny" would answer. So, of course we called it! ... But what happened was strange, it would never ring, usually you would hear a hiss or some kind of series of clicks or pops. What was even stranger was that every once in a while you would get patched into other people's conversations. ... Calling that phone number became my favorite pastime for a few months. ... However, as the weeks went by it became more and more difficult. I would have to call dozens of times to hear anything. Before long all you would get was the clicking and popping noises and nothing else. ... Much later, I tried it again but whatever was going on had been fixed and if you called the number you got a recording that the call could not be completed as dialed.
Salvador Dali, Lobster telephone or Aphrodisiac telephone, 1938
Boijmans Museum - Rotterdam - Photographed in 2017
Or calling unknown places and being connected to unknown persons:
This was about 15 years ago when mobiles were unheard of. ... I used to have a dodgy telephone extension, most amusing, because if you lifted the handset, tapped the "cradle" 2-3 times and listened, you could hear people talking in a phone box. Of course it depended on whether anyone was on that phone at the time, and often I'd only hear one side of the conversation, but it was highly interesting. I assumed it was the box round the corner but never found out.
Salvador Dali, White aphrodisiac telephone, 1936
Boijmans Museum - Rotterdam - Photographed in 2017
Even today strange events are reported, even in the era of mobiles:
Had a call a few weeks ago and when I said "Hello?" it paused then said "That is not an appropriate answer".
I had a strange phone call that I found quite scary at the time. It was probably 1 AM and the phone rang. Thinking some disaster had occurred for the phone to ring so late, I rushed to answer it. The voice at the other end sounded like a robotic Anne Robinson and said simply : "Goodbye". The voice was right weird. You had to hear it really ... 
Yesterday afternoon my telephone rang and when I answered it and said 'Hello!' a couple of times I heard my voice played back to me saying the exact few words that I had just spoken. Then the line went dead.

About this series Over the years I've collected many place descriptions. It's a waste to keep them on my harddisk. So I'll publish them from time to time. I will add some pictures when suitable.
Enhanced and amplified topographies can be found in a broad range of literature. The best ones link to metaphysics or mysticism and (pre-) load the landscape with unexpected layers, sheets, slabs and strata of meaning. We can appropriate all this work to enrich our everyday surroundings.

Previous posts are 1:The paranoid method, 2:Rooftops and sacrifices, 3:Oil and electricity,  4:Sewing machines, 5:Rooftops and apparitions, 6:Woods, 7:Mushrooms, 8:Formlessness (2d), 9:Formlessness (3d), 10:Autumn, 11:Monsters and mad scientists, 12:Empty spaces, 13:Stars and planets, 14:Addiction against emptiness,  15:Suggestive vagueness, 16: Ominous places and books, 17: Military technology.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Milton Rakove on politics - 8

I'm reading this wonderful book from 1975: Don't make no waves ... don't back no losers by Milton Rakove. The book is a great mirror for our times. It does not give answers but it puts things in perspective. I like its musings on political philosophy and "Realpolitik". Something resonates with our times. See the quotes below. The earlier parts of this series are 1:Voters, 2:Power, 3:Immigration4:Religion5:Segregation, 6:The Irish, and 7:Political philosophy.

Communication style
... Daley projects an image at public gatherings of an effective, well-organized speaker who knows where he is going. "His style comes through," according to one observer, "not as inept but as unpretentious."
Community activities, 1968 - on Flickr - by Digital Collections, UIC Library
County board president George Dunne, Daley's possible heir apparent as mayor, recounts Daley's advice to budding candidates for office: "Prepare your talks carefully, and don't go over five minutes. Don't tell off-color stories. If you've had something to drink, stay home."

Daley, in public gatherings, is rather taciturn, conservative, and reserved.
"How do you approach the mayor?" the machine guys ask laughingly. On tiptoe," says newspaperman D.J.R. Bruckner. "And when he speaks to the people, most of the time, he uses few and careful words. Sloppy listening habits are very dangerous around this man."
Management style
Central to Daley's political style is his acceptance of responsibility for all matters which fall under his own purview. And he applies the same standards to all those who work for him or with him.If Daley assigns a job to a politician or city employee, he will not tell the person how to do the job. He will spell out the obligations of the position being offered, define the parameters of accountability, make it clear that with the title and the authority goes the responsibility, and define his own role in no uncertain terms.
Richard J. Daley - on Flickr - by gympumpkin
He normally will not give orders to an appointed or elected party or governmental official, give advice to those who come seeking it, or involve himself in a situation which has been brought about by the action of others. Woe to the party or public official who comes to him to ask what should be done about a particular situation. If you are working for the mayor, and you have a problem, and you come to him to ask him what you should do about your problem, chances are excellent that you will have a permanent problem with the mayor.
If you have a problem, and you ask to see him to tell him about your problem, and then tell him what you think you should do about your problem, you are likely to get a monosyllabic grunt or nod, and leave the office, still not having received a yes or no as to what to do about your problem but recognizing that if you have a problem, it is still your problem. And you will know, too, that if you do not resolve that problem satisfactorily, you may be looking for another job in the very near future.
Non decision making
There is a great deal of research and analysis being done today in contemporary political science, psychology, and sociology on how decision makers in positions of responsibility and authority go about making decisions. Most of this research and analysis is irrelevant to professional politicians like Richard J. Daley.
What the students of decision making have overlooked is that most successful politicians who have remained in office for any length of time are not decision makers. They are, rather, skilled practitioners in the art of not making decisions.
Blanik Mountain Knight - on Flickr - by Digital Collections, UIC Library
There is a simple explanation for the behavior of the non-decision makers who have managed to remain in public office for any period of time. They are generally professional politicians who, early in their political careers, learned the relationship between decision making and their chances for staying in office for any length of time. They know that every time a public official makes a political decision, somebody wins, somebody loses. They know, too, that those for whom they made the decision are ungrateful and will soon forget what was done for them. They know, further, that those against whom the decision was made will never forget the decision maker and will do their utmost to remove him from public office at the very first opportunity.
They know, finally, that while an office holder must be held accountable and responsible for whatever happens in his office, there is no need for him to seek accountability or responsibility in somebody else's sphere of authority. Consequently, most successful politicians avoid making decisions whenever they can and make decisions only if they are forced to do so by a developing crisis or an aroused public opinion. And, even when they are forced to make a decision, they will do it at the lowest level of accountability in order to alienate and offend as few people as possible.
Political technique of non decision making
Richard J. Daley is a master of this political technique. While he accepts his responsibilities as mayor of Chicago and chairman of the Democratic party of Cook County, he will not accept the responsibility for the operation of any ward or political subdivision of the city, nor will he make decisions for those in the city bureaucracy who have been given responsibility or authority over a particular area of public policy.
 
Community activities 1968 - on Flickr - by Digital Collections, UIC Library
If backed against the wall, he will appoint a committee to study the problem or announce that it should be decided in accordance with the principles of Christian justice. In the meantime, he will be looking around for a successor to the unfortunate bureaucrat or politician who failed in his responsibilities at his level in the political or governmental systems that Daley controls.
For example, when Superintendent of Schools James Redmond announced the Redmond Plan for busing black children in the city of Chicago into white schools, Daley was asked at his press conference what he thought of the Redmond Plan. Daley responded, "I'm not familiar with the specifics and details. I am not an educator. This is up to the educators of our country, the educators of our community, the board of education and their staffs to work it out." The reporter then asked if Daley was going to use his power as mayor to implement the Redmond Plan. Daley's response was, "Do you want the schools brought back into politics?" It was clear what the mayor was doing. He was going to run Superintendent Redmond up the flag pole and let him wave up there before he involved himself in such a controversial issue.
Politician versus administrator
It is a fact of human behavior and human psychology that the talents of a successful politician are different from those of a successful administrator, and that men who are capable administrators usually have little feel for the realities of political life.
 
Community activities 1968 - on Flickr - by Digital Collections, UIC Library
Successful politicians are usually gregarious, hail-fellow-well-met types who enjoy shaking hands with the multitude, who revel in publicity, who are inveterate joiners, and who have legions of acquaintances and friends. Capable administrators, in contrast, are usually private men who shun the limelight, who gain satisfaction in working out problems, who are masters at shuffling papers and delegating responsibility, and whose thought processes are normally orderly, circumspect, and undeviating.
Daley is an exception to the rule. A rarity in American politics, he is a first-rate administrator who is also a master politician.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Particles of deep topography - 17

Obscure texts and radio technology

Text: Kittler and the Media (TM - Theory and Media) (Geoffrey Winthrop-Young) - remixed
Illustrations: Rotterdam library, Rotterdam parking garage, WWII radio station near Rendlesham

Make your prose cryptic, with multiple meanings, this brings you closer to the truth:
One frequently has the impression that the author is writing not to communicate, but to amuse himself. His text consists of a tapestry of leitmotifs, puns, and cryptic pronouncements, which at times makes for fascinating reading, but too often resembles free association as much as it does serious scholarship. As in much poststructuralist writing here and abroad, the often-cited rigor is more an assertion of the convinced than a fact of the prose: analysis frequently cedes to apodictic statement; logic repeatedly yields to rhetorical flourishes.
Use conspiratorial themes woven around ubiquitous modern technology, and you will be right:
This war was never political at all, the politics was all theatre, all just to keep the people distracted . . . secretly, it was being dictated instead by the needs of technology . . . by a conspiracy between human beings and techniques, by something that needed the energy-burst of war, crying, “Money be damned, the very life of [insert name of Nation] is at stake,” but meaning, most likely, dawn is nearly here, I need my night’s blood, my funding, funding, ahh more, more. . . . The real crises were crises of allocation and priority, not among firms – it was only staged to look that way – but among the different Technologies, Plastics, Electronics, Aircraft, and their needs which are understood only by the ruling elite. (Pynchon 1987: 521)

And place these themes in urban or rural culture, to add layers of meaning:
Speed and acceleration have mandated the creation of special training camps that teach new forms of perception to sluggish people and accustom them to man-machine-synergies. This started in 1914 with the wristwatch and it will not end with today’s combat simulators. We can assume that in the interim period, when wars are not running in real-time, rock concerts and discos function as boot camps for perceptions that undermine the thresholds of perception. You can take the media out of war, but you can never take the war out of media. “Our discos are preparing our youth for a retaliatory strike”.
The more obscure technology references enhance the nostalgia, especially when looking at technology remnants in the landscape:
A world war, the first of its kind, had to break out to facilitate the switch from Poulsen’s arc transmission to Lieben or De Forest’s tube-type technology and the mass production of Fessenden’s experimental procedure”. In response, critics have raised the ironic question of whether this means “that without WWI radio technology would have been gathering dust in the basement[s] of various universities”.
 
Whether it is a matter of hi-fi technology living off innovations in aircraft and submarine location technologies, or of radio stations exploiting the VHF frequency modulation and signal multiplexing that had been indispensable for the successful coordination of “incredible” Wehrmacht panzer tactics, “the entertainment industry” – to quote one of Kittler’s most (in)famous aperçus – “is, in any conceivable sense of the word, nothing but an abuse of army equipment”.

About this series Over the years I've collected many place descriptions. It's a waste to keep them on my harddisk. So I'll publish them from time to time. I will add some pictures when suitable.
Enhanced and amplified topographies can be found in a broad range of literature. The best ones link to metaphysics or mysticism and (pre-) load the landscape with unexpected layers, sheets, slabs and strata of meaning. We can appropriate all this work to enrich our everyday surroundings.

Previous posts are 1:The paranoid method, 2:Rooftops and sacrifices, 3:Oil and electricity,  4:Sewing machines, 5:Rooftops and apparitions, 6:Woods, 7:Mushrooms, 8:Formlessness (2d), 9:Formlessness (3d), 10:Autumn, 11:Monsters and mad scientists, 12:Empty spaces, 13:Stars and planets, 14:Addiction against emptiness,  15:Suggestive vagueness, 16: Ominous places and books.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Beautiful art in Gouda

In the Gouda municipal museum behind the church:
The only artwork by Andy Goldsworthy in the Netherlands. Goldsworthy was heavily criticized in the Dutch press as being "too beautiful" and not being sufficiently modern and conceptual. I disagree.
Paul Arntzenius - (forgot to note the name of the picture)
I'm surprised that the painter dared to make such a simple, almost abstract, painting. It gives a very good impression of the evening sky, even though it uses the pre-impressionist style of the Barbizon school. A nice painting that presents both the medium and the message. I don't care that my History of modern art says that "The Barbizon school landscapes ... tended all too quickly to degenerate into academic clichés."
A wonderful set of indoor still life's by Mieke de Haan.
She is very good at painting light and space.
"I'm interested in the past that travels with us, that is carried by situations and people. ... I'm inspired by space and time. By deserted hallways en rooms in old buildings. I'm moved by the almost tangible emptiness in these spaces. ... Light falls through dirty windowpanes and breaks into shard on the floor."
A modern woollen dog barking at a painted Golden Age dog.
Floris Arntzenius - The beach at Scheveningen

At Arti Legi at the Gouda marketplace:
Sheep and oak branch
Beautiful etchings by Han van Hagen
Drei Raben von Georg Trakl

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Particles of deep topography - 16

Ominous places and books

Text: The Strange Dark One (W. H. Pugmire) - remixed
Illustrations: Artificial wilderness near Vlaardingen, The Netherlands

Uncanny places are the best places:
There is a place of phantasy and fear, and of sublimity, where things are found in darkness, and sometimes found in dream. April Dorgan found such things within a haunted valley that was surrounded by hills and mountains – a place that beguiled, and mocked, and poisoned. It was an uncanny place, and perhaps that was a portion of its allure.
 
Places are even better when we hesitate to revisit them:
I see that damn totem that was beside the lodge in the woods, with its reptilian faces and wings. I’m tempted to trek to Rick’s Lake again so as to copy the markings on that totem – yet I am reluctant to return. I don’t care to hear again those buzzing voices or the howling Thing. And yet it tugs me to it, that haunted place.
 
Try this sentence on your next walk. It works everywhere:
It was in those woods that we found him, with a strange book in his dead hand.
 
When we can ask perplexing questions about places, we've moved to an advanced level:
He asked me some perplexing questions concerning Rick’s Lake and Professor Gardner, which I didn’t answer. He questioned me about my dreams, damn him. How he could know about such things I cannot fathom.

About this series
Over the years I've collected many place descriptions. It's a waste to keep them on my harddisk. So I'll publish them from time to time. I will add some pictures when suitable.
Enhanced and amplified topographies can be found in a broad range of literature. The best ones link to metaphysics or mysticism and (pre-) load the landscape with unexpected layers, sheets, slabs and strata of meaning. We can appropriate all this work to enrich our everyday surroundings.

Previous posts are 1:The paranoid method, 2:Rooftops and sacrifices, 3:Oil and electricity,  4:Sewing machines, 5:Rooftops and apparitions, 6:Woods, 7:Mushrooms, 8:Formlessness (2d), 9:Formlessness (3d), 10:Autumn, 11:Monsters and mad scientists, 12:Empty spaces, 13:Stars and planets, 14:Addiction against emptiness, 15:Suggestive vagueness.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Milton Rakove on politics - 7

I'm reading this wonderful book from 1975: Don't make no waves ... don't back no losers by Milton Rakove. The book is a great mirror for our times. It does not give answers but it puts things in perspective. I like its musings on political philosophy and "Realpolitik". Something resonates with our times. See the quotes below. The earlier parts of this series are 1:Voters, 2:Power, 3:Immigration4:Religion5:Segregation and 6:The Irish.

Political philosophy

While he has never been a student of philosophy, there are basic philosophic values and maxims that have guided Daley the politician throughout his political career. Those values and maxims are:
  • conservatism,
  • parochialism,
  • loyalty,
  • tolerance,
  • uncompromising morality (by his standards),
  • acceptance of responsibility,
  • attention to details,
  • hard work, and
  • a cautious skepticism about the trustworthiness of his fellowmen.
His conservatism is ... a kind of instinctive, innate cautious approach to his fellowmen and to his society and its problems. "He's like a fellow who peeks in the bag to make sure the lady gave him a dozen of buns," wrote old-time Chicago newspaperman, Ed Lahey, in an article he did on the mayor in the Daily News (July 11, 1966).

Daley's conservatism is the old-line Irish Catholic acceptance of a world in which life is harsh, problems are normal, man is sinful, and struggle and hard work are necessary to obtain a foothold in this world and to improve one's status in society.

Daley's personal political philosophy is ... a kind of pragmatic approach to man and society which recognizes both the goodness and the evil of man, which is tolerant of the evil and cognizant of the good, and which accepts travail as a normal concomitant of man's existence on earth.
Self sufficiency

To survive in this world, men have an obligation to lift themselves up by their own bootstraps. But they also have a responsibility to help their fellow men who have not been successful in running the race through life but who have tried hard and done their best to make the most of themselves.

Daley has little sympathy for those who do not try to raise themselves up, who are content to live off the sweat of the brows of their fellowmen, and who thus become an unwarranted burden on those who are carrying their fair share of the load. "Look, Sister," he told a Catholic nun who complained to him about the plight of blacks in the ghetto, "you and I come from the same background. We know how tough it was. But we picked ourselves up by our bootstraps.'

The Marxist concept of "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need" is totally alien to Daley's outlook toward society and its problems. Rather, Daley might say, "To each according to his ability, and to those in need who have striven to help themselves."

Unavoidable hardships

... "Certain ills belong to the hardships of human life. They are natural. They are part of the struggle with Nature for existence. We cannot blame our fellow-men for our share of these. My neighbor and I are both struggling to free ourselves from these ills. The fact that my neighbor has succeeded in this struggle better than I constitutes no grievance for me. Certain other ills are due to the malice of men, and to the imperfections or errors of civil institutions. These ills are an object of agitation, and a subject of discussion. The former class of ills is to be met only by manly effort and energy; the latter may be corrected by associated effort."

The world as a set of neighborhoods

Daley's political style is also affected by his parochialism. He has never left Bridgeport. He conceives his city and world as a series of Bridgeports-communities in which God-fearing, decent, hard-working people strive to keep the community stable, hold onto the values of their fathers, and fulfill their obligations as citizens to the neighborhood, the polis, and the nation. Thus, men in politics should be active in the neighborhood, should concern themselves with those in need 'in the community, and should stay out of other neighborhoods, where the people of those neighborhoods should deal with their own problems in their own way.

The world is a Great Neighborhood made up of diverse peoples, each with their own cultures and customs to be respected, in which peace and prosperity can best be achieved by taking care of one's own problems at home, leaving others to do likewise in their respective neighborhoods. "We are a city of fine neighborhoods" he told a party rally in his first year in office in 1955. Eight years later, he still affirmed his belief in the character of his city. "I have lived in Chicago all my life," he told a press conference, "and I still say we have no ghettos in Chicago."

Loyalty to supporters

Daley's conservatism and parochialism are buttressed by a strong sense of loyalty to the people who are close to him by family ties or blood, to those who have worked for him, and to those who have supported him in times of stress.

Daley's political loyalty, however, transcends rewarding family, friends, and associates. He refuses to criticize or castigate associates and supporters who have become embroiled in' legal or political difficulties. He will always find another spot in government or politics for a loyal supporter who has encountered severe criticism or difficulty in the position he holds. He has an elephant's memory for those who stood up for him or supported him in time of need or stress. But he also has a long memory for those who broke ranks, offered unwarranted criticism, or put their own private interests before the interest of the party or the organization.

Particles of deep topography - 15

Suggestive vagueness

Text: Weird Realism: Lovecraft and Philosophy (Graham Harman) - remixed
Illustrations: Flanders landscape between Bruges and Antwerp

Use rhetoric devices to make landscapes more convincing:
Beneath the content of any communication lie certain modulations of rhetorical subtlety that have more weight in our determination of truth, falsity, and reality than does any explicit judgment about content.
Use vagueness  to make landscapes more meaningful:
While it is a genuine pleasure to visit Providence and tour these scenes from Lovecraft’s stories, there is the inevitable comical effect of seeing how utterly non-ominous most of these places look in person. But Lovecraft somehow makes it work, piling allusion on allusion like a creepy old neighbor constructing a second basement beneath his already mysterious existing one.

There are not simply one or two locations felt to be harmful, but the more vague and general “certain hilly regions.” No specific reason is given for avoiding these locations, other than the unspoken sense that they are “highly unhealthy, unprofitable, and generally unlucky to live in.” And best of all, “the farther one kept from them the better off one usually was.”
 Use explicit descriptions of the obvious to make landscapes more meaningful:
The second photograph simply depicts “a druid-like circle of standing stones on the summit of a wild hill.” No footprints are clearly visible here, and the real highlight of this passage is Wilmarth’s wonderfully vague inference that “the extreme remoteness of the place was apparent from the veritable sea of tenantless mountains which formed the background and stretched away toward a misty horizon.”
 
This explicit deduction of the photograph’s location, drawn from subsidiary hints of its design, further display Lovecraft’s obsessive tendency to speak openly of connections and junctions that are normally left in an unstated rhetorical or perceptual background.

About this series
Over the years I've collected many place descriptions. It's a waste to keep them on my harddisk. So I'll publish them from time to time. I will add some pictures when suitable.
Enhanced and amplified topographies can be found in a broad range of literature. The best ones link to metaphysics or mysticism and (pre-) load the landscape with unexpected layers, sheets, slabs and strata of meaning. We can appropriate all this work to enrich our everyday surroundings.

Previous posts are 1:The paranoid method, 2:Rooftops and sacrifices, 3:Oil and electricity,  4:Sewing machines, 5:Rooftops and apparitions, 6:Woods, 7:Mushrooms, 8:Formlessness (2d), 9:Formlessness (3d), 10:Autumn, 11:Monsters and mad scientists, 12:Empty spaces, 13:Stars and planets, 14:Addiction against emptiness.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Lines of sight - 2

The previous article in this series is here: lines of sight, some of them ephemeral.

From several points in Delfshaven you can see the skyscrapers of the city centre 2 km away. As always, Google maps is great for analyzing the sightlines. On the right you see the three high buildings in the city centre: The Delfsche Poort, The Mariott Hotel and the Bouwcentrum (or Robeco).
Below are the three high buildings as seen from the upper left map location, at the intersection of Aelbrechtskade and Hooidrift. I realize that the sightlines are better in winter, when the trees are bare. A pretty obvious fact, but it has to be experienced first, it will not arise from pure thought.
The Mariott hotel is also visible from the intersection of the Rochussenstraat and the Nieuwe Binnenweg (2 km). You can see the slightly different angle of the sightline. The squat pyramidal tower on the left is the tower of the Rotterdam cathedral.
Hunting for sightlines is interesting and surprising. I don't know if you can find sightlines on a map, in a controlled manner. I've only found sightlines by accident, not even by trial and error. They find me instead of me finding them.
Here I'm at the Mathenesserplein. It is really surprising to see the Maas building from here (2,8 km). This building is at the other side of Rotterdam, along the river. And it's not even a very high building, so I'm surprised to see it at all. And I'm proud that I can recognize it immediately, without looking at the map. 
And here I'm at the Mathenesserlaan. And in between the trees I can see the Euromast (1,8 km).
And again, as in all these examples, the direction of the landmark is unexpected. The map in my head is different from the real map. I want to do this more often.
Sources:

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Particles of deep topography - 14

Right after starting a this series I realized the title was wrong. There are two reasons for this:
  1. "Deep topography" is a much better title. The major theme in horror is "the appearance of the previously invisible". And horror landscapes have to provide for this. The author must pre-load the landscape with premonitions of unexpected layers, sheets, slabs and strata of meaning. And we can exploit and appropriate all the hard work of the author to enrich our everyday surroundings.
  2. "Horror" is the wrong category. Enhanced and amplified topographies can be found in a broad range of literature. The best ones link to metaphysics or mysticism. One day I will want to add quotes from the Bible or from Ignatius of Loyola. And you could hardly call that "horror literature".
Note: “Deep topography” is a phrase discovered by Nick Papadimitriou. It looks and sounds like this. I like it very much.
And not only is the title wrong, the numbering is wrong also. Previous posts with quotes from horror literature are here: 1:The paranoid method, 2:Rooftops and sacrifices, 3:Oil and electricity,  4:Sewing machines, 5:Rooftops and apparitions, 6:Woods, 7:Mushrooms, 8:Formlessness (2d), 9:Formlessness (3d), 10:Autumn, 11:Monsters and mad scientists, 12:Empty spaces, 13:Stars and planets. Most of these mix art, literature and Rotterdam.

Below is a quote from an article that I read this morning. It is not "horror literature". But it has the same "look and feel" with its mix of possession, metaphysics and religion. It would fit in modern horror and also in political landscape writing - the emptiness of late capitalism:
Addiction is different. Addicts resist known cures—even to the point of death. If you do not reckon with why addicts go to such lengths to continue suffering, you are unlikely to figure out how to treat them.
 
In 1993, Francis F. Seeburger, a professor of philosophy at the University of Denver, wrote a profound book on the thought processes of addicts called Addiction and Responsibility. 
“Something like an addiction to addiction plays a role in all addiction,” he writes. “Addiction itself ... is tempting; it has many attractive features.” 
In an empty world, people have a need to need. Addiction supplies it. “Addiction involves the addict. It does not present itself as some externally imposed condition. Instead, it comes toward the addict as the addict’s very self.” Addiction plays on our strengths, not just our failings. It simplifies things. It relieves us of certain responsibilities. It gives life a meaning. It is a “perversely clever copy of that transcendent peace of God.”
The founders of Alcoholics Anonymous thought there was something satanic about addiction. The mightiest sentence in the book of Alcoholics Anonymous is this: “Remember that we deal with alcohol—cunning, baffling, powerful!” The addict is, in his own, life-damaged way, rational. He’s too rational. He is a dedicated person—an oblate (*) of sorts, as Seeburger puts it. He has commitments in another, nether world.

The deeper problem, however, is at once metaphysical and practical, and we’re going to have a very hard time confronting it. Addicts, in their own short-circuited, reductive, and destructive way, are armed with a sense of purpose. We aren’t.
(*) From the Latin "oblatus" - someone who has been offered (to a monastic order). A lay-person who is committed to follow the monastic life as closely as possible.


Source:
American Carnage, by Christopher Caldwell, First Things
Rotterdam Gallery window - Rodenrijselaan
Gouda building site inside a chapel - Patersteeg - Jeruzalemstraat

Friday, March 10, 2017

Psychogeographic horror literature

Over the years I've collected many psychogeographic text fragments, clipped from horror stories. I like the ominous landscape en cityscape descriptions. It's a waste to keep them on my harddisk. So I'll publish them from time to time. I will add some pictures when suitable.


Over the parking lot, despite the upward glare of the casinos along the Strip, the desert night showed some bright stars: the triangle of Vega, Deneb, and Altair, and to the south red Mars in Sagittarius. Vega from Vegas? The asphalt under my feet was baking hot.
The shoulders of the road widened for a little settlement. I slowed down and then pulled up across from a small old café that was still open. Better get a little to eat, I told myself, it was a long empty stretch ahead. And some coffee, too, despite the heat. I got out. The stars crusted the desert night so luxuriously that one almost forgot they marched in unalterable order. Deneb, Altair, and Mars were merely brighter points in the great, eddying river of the Milky Way. Only Vega was still somewhat lonely.

Boulder Dam, when I got to it, was magnificent in a monstrous way. The highway went across the top of it, from Nevada into Arizona, but it was so wide and very brightly lit that one could see little of its surrounds and nothing of the Colorado River. There was also much heavy mesh wire fencing. The smell of security was very strong, so that one got the feeling it had been built not for Herbert but for Edgar Hoover. There were several great squat chunky towers, like banks or forts—in fact, to me with my peculiar imagination, it had the feeling of a fortress on Jupiter, built for a heavier gravity than ours. It had a Jovian look, or a Vulcanian.

Sources:
Day Dark, Night Bright (Fritz Leiber)
Photographs across the lake in a Rotterdam park

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Milton Rakove on politics - 6

I'm reading this wonderful book from 1975: Don't make no waves ... don't back no losers by Milton Rakove. The book is a great mirror for our times. It does not give answers but it puts things in perspective. I like its musings on political philosophy and "Realpolitik". Something resonates with our times. See the quotes below. The earlier parts of this series are 1:Voters, 2:Power, 3:Immigration4:Religion and 5:Segregation.
The Role of the Irish
There is an old cliché about the city of Chicago that the Jews own it, the Irish run it, and the blacks live in it. The cliché is only about half true. The Jews do not own Chicago. White Anglo-Saxon Protestant businessmen, who live in suburban communities like Lake Forest and Kenilworth, control the economic life of the city. And the blacks still number less than half the population of the city. But the Irish do run the city. ...

The first two major ethnic groups who came into the city from Europe were the Irish and the Germans. While the Germans were an important segment of the city's body politic, the Irish had several advantages which they parlayed into a dominant political role:
    • They spoke and understood English.
    • They were familiar with the English local political and governmental institutions on which the American system was based.
    • They were neutral outsiders in the traditional ethnic antipathies and hostilities which the Central and East European ethnic groups brought to America from their homelands.
A Lithuanian won't vote for a Pole, and a Pole won't vote for a Lithuanian," according to a Chicago politician. A German won't vote for either of them - but all three will vote for a 'Turkey,' an Irishman."

And, finally, the Irish became the saloonkeepers in cities like Chicago, and the Irish-owned and -run saloons became the centers of social and political activity not only for the Irish but also for the Polish, Lithuanian, Bohemian, and Italian immigrants who poured into the city after the Irish and Germans. For where would an ethnic laborer go for recreation at night after his twelve-hour stint in the steel mills or the stockyards but to the local saloon?
The Irish political style
... the social characteristics that most deeply affect the Irish political style are, "A deep and abiding interest in people as distinct individuals; a political morality with distinctive attitudes toward both political means and ends; a near clannish definition of and concern about political loyalty (especially vis-a-vis other Irish politicians); and a predominate interest in political power."
Irish politicians, says Levine,
    • remain "of the people";
    • are interested in power at least as much as in money;
    • decry ostentatious living or overly stylish clothes, maintaining "an inconspicuous residence, social style, style of dress, and a common manner of speech";
    • abjure gossip-column publicity;
    • "studiously avoid pretension, verboseness, and phraseology not characteristic of the common man";
    • are impatient with idealistic social reformers;
    • "view government as a source of power to be used for individual, rather than social, ends";
    • are "charitably disposed toward most of the moral and situational shortcomings of others" except for "apostates, heretics, and marital infidelity";
    • believe that "justice must be tempered with a good deal of mercy, or charity for fallible man";
    • " are tolerant of corruption, providing it doesn't get out of hand ("Making a buck is okay, but don't rob the poorhouse");
    • "place great emphasis on loyalty to the ethnic group, the party, and to each other ... in highly personal terms ... as related to people more than to something else ... in individualistic and pragmatic terms";
    • are fascinated "with the intricacies and subtleties of power struggle
An Irish politician, when asked if it was characteristic of Protestant Republicans to be charitable in politics, replies, "Oh, hell no! They want to take the guy out and slaughter him in the streets. The Irish want to give the guy a break every now and then ... Every guy is entitled to a fall, every dog to a bite."