tirado/thrown


Bidding the Summer Farewell: Revisiting Some of Its Finer Reads

Link dumps occupy an odd place in the blogging universe, and are to be treated alternately with curiosity, suspicion, and a modicum of heightened alertness.   For one, they are points of reference that fully haven’t been taken in by the poster of said links.  Had the person posting the link truly made the works they reference his/her own, then the poster could just as well dispense with the reference altogether and have the reference return as some artifact or remnant within another work the poster provides (preferably with a link if it’s online).

As with practically everything that is done here at tirado/thrown, the bullet points that follow are not meatballs, but barbecue: charred, gristly, messy, and nearly-indigestible.  However, as a way to look back at the summer that will have just passed on September 22, here are some links to short pieces to that helped make it worthwhile:

  • Boston’s master of experience, James Parker, dwells in the marrow of the MBTA’s scorned jewel, the Orange Line.  Incidentally, the line passes through our beloved Jamaica Plain, where tirado/thrown calls home. [Boston Globe]
  • Though tangled in the throes of a post-racial America (whatever that means), the term “Racism” has some words to offer the kind folks at We Are Respectable Negroes on its use and abuse.  [W.A.R.N]
  • Theory spares us from disasters:  A brilliant interview with Sylvere Lotringer, co-founder of that most abrasive and alluring of publishers, semiotext(e)  .  He speaks with Nina Power on art, the academy, thought, and theory’s ongoing relevance.  [frieze]
  • Our favorite blogs are the ones we are entirely jealous of when we come across them, leaving us wishing that this blog were only as good.  Planomenology is in fact one of those blogs that belong in the class ‘aspirational peers’. The posts can be lenghty at parts, but there’s some visceral and fascinating stuff going on there- not to be missed.  [Planomenology]
  • Another philosophy blog worth paying attention to:  The Inhumanities launches with a discussion of Matthew Callarco’s book, Zoographies, which is sitting on the shelf waiting to be read.  We wish we were better readers, as much as we value our idleness.  However, work towards an articulation of being that includes the world of animals and tilts its spears towards unseating anthropocentrism as a philosophical paradigm is an admirable and necessary task. [Inhumanities]
  • Having just mentioned in passing an outstanding blog with vegan links, we continue with a nod to our ethical impotence.   The New York Times discusses the Sonorense, the Chicano/Mexican contribution to the American hot dog landscape. How could something so wrong just be so good?  For our money, though, Daniel Hernandez’s LA Weekly piece on danger dogs from early 2008 remains the best treatment on the bacon-wrapped hot dog thus far. [NYT]
  • Over at Buddyhead (when was the last we read that???), Chris Checkman offers readers a passionate, bile-laced appraisal of James Carr, whose rendition of “Dark End of the Street” lets us know the Flying Burrito Brothers could conjure up the soul, but not like Carr.  Checkman (aka Papa John, the former host of KXLUs infamous Blues Hotel) should be read with Carr’s music playing loud.  Conveniently, the article has samples of Carr’s output to allow readers just that pleasure. [Buddyhead]
  • Our closer: What if Fantasy Island were actually set on Beirut’s Riviera instead of some tropical island?  We think that visitors would have been welcomed with the sounds in video Filastine Frequencies posted at his blog. There he invites us to imagine a Middle East not besmirched by crackpots, fanatics, and imperialists alike, and witness hybridity at its finest.  The video for the Bendaly Family’s “Do You Love Me?” also leads this post.  [Filastine Frequencies, with a big nod to WayneandWax]


A Rare Autobiographical Anecdote

zizek

A comment of Slavoj Žižek’s at his talk in Cambridge a few weeks ago brought to mind a harrowing memory.

In an aside during a meandering, though no less interesting lecture (tangentially related to his new book The Monstrosity of Christ), Žižek mentioned CIA documents from Latin America noting that liberation theology was perceived as a greater threat than communism.

On the one hand, such an assertion seems entirely unsurprising.  Liberation theology threatened the legitimacy of Empire, Church, and State alike, to the point that officials at the highest levels of the Catholic Church ardently labored to suppress it, in an apparent collusion with neo-liberal and authoritarian interests (with a few exceptions).  The State, with imperial support, did the less savory work, carrying out the infamous atrocities on laity and clergy alike.  That much is well-known.

On the other hand, his comment brought to mind a discussion with my stepfather during Christmas of 1998. In the 70s and early 80s he had spent time in Guatemala as an officer, training and fighting alongside the most lethal of Latin America’s elite forces: the Kaibiles.**  To note his fervent anti-communist almost goes without saying.  To his mind, a liberationist eucharist would probably have resembled the scene below.

last-supper

During my last year of undergraduate education and my first years of graduate stuidies in philosophy, I was enthralled by Catholicism and struggled with the idea of becoming a Jesuit. That I attended Jesuit institutions during those years only made my questioning more palpable and immediate to me at the time.

On my first night back from Boston for winter break, my step-father and I stood by the Christmas tree in the modest Calabasas apartment he and my mother shared with my younger brother. Within five minutes of our conversation he asked me, “So, are you still thinking about becoming a Jesuit priest?”

“Well, I’m still not sure. I’ve thought about it, but…”

“You know, some of those Jesuits died with AK-47s in their hands…”

I couldn’t adequately, nor quickly, respond at the time. From what I knew about my stepfather, I could only sense that he would not have hesitated to deal a fatal shot were I a cleric at the other end of his rifle muzzle.  Žižek’s comment only made that episode almost eleven years ago that much more vivid- and chilling. Perhaps the most monstrous fantasy of Christ an authoritarian could imagine was one whose wrath was directed at the oppressors of the poor or the abusers of power who did a shabby job of justice.

jesus1

**  Since the end of the nearly four-decade civil war in Guatemala, the Kaibil have come upon relatively slim times.  Still in existence, their numbers have been curtailed to some extent, but their fate has mirrored the fortunes of post-dictatorial Latin America.  Active Kaibil continue to work in various capacities: mired in the fight against drug trafficking, taking on projects against “juvenile delinquency”, and taking part in UN peacekeeping and combat missions. Some ex-Kaibiles have found work leveraging their skills as security or muscle for narco cartels, recruited into groups such as Los Zetas.  Still others have entered into private security industry as mercenaries.  Spanish-language video reportage of the Kaibil are available here, here, and here.



Are you HILOBROW?

hilobrow screenshot

A number of weeks ago, a blip on the feed reader caught our attention at tirado/thrown: blog posts authored by Josh Glenn and Matthew Battles, a couple of fellow Bostonians from the JP barrio whose acquaintance we made while shilling ads for Glenn’s amazing periodical Hermenaut in the late 90s-early 00s.  A little more digging outside the confines of the feed reader’s data stream revealed the existence of a new entity on the blogging landscape: HILOBROW. 

From the looks of a number of the posts, hilobrow promises to be an exciting exploration of modes of (dis)engagement with cultural phenomena which advance a particular disposition. Its editors argue against the snobbishness attitude of the highbrow, the well-intentioned dishonesty of the lowbrow, and the middlebrow’s toxic sarcasm. Instead, hilobrow seeks to approach matters through a camp sensibility, which the editors identify as

…a manifestation of engaged irony. (When the cast of John Waters’s 1998 movie Pecker toast the “death of irony,” they’re toasting the death of middlebrow sarcastic hipsterism.) The engaged ironist is a hilobrow.

This, of course, continues Glenn’s long-standing interest in cultivating philosophic attitudes towards the phantasmic saturation of late capitalist existence. In the late 90s, Glenn devoted a double-issue of Hermenaut (#11/12) to the theme of “Camp”, which lays out the terrain he’s treading. The introductory essay and excerpts from that issue still live at the Hermenaut website (under “Print”).  

We here at tirado/thrown couldn’t be more excited for hilobrow‘s debut!



“Dasein ist Design”

021709_Spheres_235.JPG

That was the philosophical catchphrase proclaimed by the self-described “Sloterdijkian” Bruno Latour during his portion of a public lecture with Peter Sloterdijk at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design a couple of weeks ago.

Taking as its theme, “Networks and Spheres: Two Ways to Interpret Globalization”, the tandem lectures and discussion was a sweeping journey through very basic issues of space, dwelling, and modes of design required to meet the demands our current socio-spatial conditions.  

Peter Sloterdijk quietly approached the lectern after being introduced by GSD Dean Moshen Mostafavi and lectured with a measure of understatement and modesty.  In the form of a self-colloquy, Sloterdijk introduced listeners to the main features of his three-volume Spharen (Spheres) project, citing VonUexkull, Benjamin, LeCorbusier, and a view of psychedelic capitalism as exemplified by the structure heralding the birth of mass culture: London’s Crystal Palace.  Taking seriously the notion of space as a key anthropological category, Sloterdijk develops a heuristic questioning the home or the dwelling as the primary philosophical space in a context of profoundly fragile spatial and social complexity.  

In the sense that ethos designates a habitat or “accustomed space”, the home is the site western philosophy and ethical thinking.  Instead, Sloterdijk proposes the flexible, structures of spheres and foams as structuring spatial relations (whether biological or interpersonal) noting that the task of architecture is to understand its place between biology (dealing with atmosphere or environment) and philosophy (whose inquiry is oriented towards the world).  Sloterdijk’s lecture hinted at architecture’s biopolitical vocation in the design and construction of habitats organizing space in dynamic constellations of spheres and islands.

Sloterdijk concluded his portion by noting architecture’s contribution to scientific discovery. He cited the early biologists’ use of the architectural terminology used in the design of monasteries to inspire their study of microscopically experienced structures, saying that “the real owner of the use of the cell is the community of architects…”

An energetic Bruno Latour followed. Drawing upon Sloterdijk, he announced at the very beginning of his lecture, “I was born a Sloterdijkian!”  To test out the ideas of spheres and networks in his proposed thought experiment, he took to task contemporary internet-based notions of networks against his understanding of networks as inspired by Leibniz’s monadology and Diderot.  Latour equally takes to task Heidegger’s ontological enterprise, which he claims, superficially considers the atmosphere of the world at its peril. Biopolitics again reared its head, this time in the midst of a critique of Heidegger’s fundamental ontology.  In Latour’s words,

The Dasein is thrown into the world, but so naked that he doesn’t stand much chance to last. …the respective relations between death and superficiality are suddenly reversed.  There’s not the slightest chance to understand being when it has been cut off from the vast numbers of apparently “trifle” [sic] and “superficial” “little beings” that make it exist from moment to moment…In one stroke, the philosopher’s quest for being as such, looks like an antiquated research program.

Latour’s lecture simultaneously glossed on Sloterdijk’s and challenged philosophic thought to re-think itself by diving into the material conceptions and conditions of our dwelling and recast the split between nature and culture in terms of spheres and networks. This provocation calls on us to consider justice and equality as operative in environments where space is needed, spherically structured, and mediated by circuits of networks.  In a parody of Heidegger, “Tell me what is your position on space, and I’ll tell you who you are…” he proposes a dead-serious litmus test for philosophers and architects alike to consider.  Towards the end of the lecture, his reverie along theological, economic, political, spatial, and historical lines illustrated the urgency of such a project.

Additional Materials:

Image: From left, Bruno Latour, Peter Sloterdijk, and Moshen Mostafavi at the “Networks and Spheres” discussion at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, February 17, 2009.  Photo by Stephanie Mitchell, Harvard University News Office.



Late Winter Video: Waiting for the Gift of Sound and Vision

Here at tirado/thrown, we heartily anticipate the end of the winter.  With the clear light and the cold air, we’re slowly attempting to shed the frozen snow that stubbornly sticks to the ground here in Boston (but not before the upcoming Agamben post, though).

The Sea and Cake’s cover of David Bowie’s “Sound and Vision” is the perfect song for this time of year.  They take on Bowie with a blast of cold Chicago air and fashion a tempered interpretation that does not threaten the original version’s excitement and buoyancy.

In an issue of loud paper a number of years ago, The Sea and Cake’s lead singer Sam Prekop professed his love for the work of Mies Van Der Rohe.  Lines, glass, light, and steel, Van Der Rohe’s architecture trades in the very basic terms of experience and dwelling. 

It’s not entirely surprising then, that the video above marshals high-modern experimental animation to offer a visual expereince well-coordinated with a song that is about experience, broadly conceived: wonder, awakening, anticipation, becoming alive, the senses sparkening and opening to the world.  The above video is vitalism wrapped in the guise of a collected, though vibrant, formalism.  Here’s to ushering the end of Winter.

UPDATE: A far better version of the video is up on Pitchfork.tv, which I recommend over the video I posted above.



Work Cloud

work-cloud

The image above is from artist Micheal Lewy’s City of Work tumblr.  (His website is well worth paying a visit.)  It caught my attention in light of some reflections at ICite that I’ve been following at a distance concerning the phenomena of word clouds and their relation to language, poetry, politics, psyche, and symbolic efficiency.  It started with this post, and has so far continued here and here.  Juxtaposing the blog posts and Lewy’s work raised more questions than answers.

First, some questions regarding the relationship of Lewy’s piece to language, its social use, and the piece’s orientation as an artwork.  If, as ICite argues, word clouds flatten sense and the possibilities of meaning (through ‘marking a moment’, or being a form of secondary orality, a trace of chatter, or a positionless marker of intensity, etc.), does Lewy’s rendering of office lingo serve to pit this terminology against itself?   In effect, the piece seems to expose the terminology’s flatness, its lack of tonality, and its reliance on the frequency and intensity of its use in our working lives.  Could it be argued that Lewy’s piece is a parody of technical applications of language upon the seemingly neutral language of work?

A second group of questions arise with respect to discourse, psyche, ontology, and politics.  Is workplace jargon an apparatus of master discourse reliant upon biopolitical coersion to acheive its politcal-economic ends?  Does it not reveal that the language of work is not merely natural, but vulnerable to a decline in symbolic efficiency? 

It would seem that Lewy’s ‘work cloud’ brings to sharper relief the contingent properties of social relations, capitalism included.



Inflicting Wounds Whose Scars are Borders
February 1, 2009, 10:32 pm
Filed under: Chicano, Flaneurie, Ideas, Literature, Philosophy, Poetry | Tags: , , , , , ,

nogalitos-007

From Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands/La Frontera (1987), as quoted by Alfred Arteaga*  in Chicano Poetics: Heterotexts and Hybridities:

“The U.S.-Mexican border es una herida abierta [is an open wound] where the Third World grates against the first and bleeds.  And before a scab forms it hemorrhages again, the lifeblood of two worlds merging to form a third country – a border culture.” (3)

When placed next to the image of a border fence in Nogales above, the words in each citation seem to make their meaning all the more truthful.  The graffiti above reads, “Borders: scars upon the earth.”  

These structures are performative signifiers of the State’s violence, a power enacting a logic of exclusion.  The fences, walls, agents, and surveillance equipment are ciphers encoding action, establishing identity, and determining the value of who can cross and who cannot.

On the one hand, the State’s constitution excludes portions of humanity to include a remainder and establish the social bond by an oath, a pledge promising the subject’s personal sacrifice for a teleological end.  The ultimate wages of transgressing against the State include surrendering the claim to membership in the community and becoming party to a non-sacrificial death: to be killed.  

On the other hand, borderlands include the excluded and the excluder alike in a relationship of tense exposure to one another where it becomes possible for language to not be sanctified, where the apparatus of the State is exposed and can be brought to question.

Image Credit: Nogales, as photographed and thoughtfully reflected upon at La Gringa Rusa Mexicana, via Citizen Orange.

*A note of gratitude to Sound Taste for bringing my attention to Alfred Arteaga in a moving tribute to his memory.