Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Prescient Augury Fromm 1941

"Since modern man experiences himself both as the seller and as the commodity to be sold on the market, his self-esteem depends on conditions beyond his control. If he is "successful", he is valuable; if he is not, he is worthless. The degree of insecurity which results from this orientation can hardly be over-estimated. If one feels that one's own value is not constituted primarily by the human qualities one possesses, but by one's success on a competitive market with ever-changing conditions, one's self-esteem is bound to be shaky and in constant need of confirmation by others. Hence one is driven to strive relentlessly for success, and any setback is a severe threat to one's self-esteem; helplessness, insecurity, and inferiority feelings are the result. If the vicissitudes of the market are the judges of one's value, the sense of dignity and pride is destroyed."

"His prestige, status, success, and the fact that he is known to others as being a certain person are a substitute for the genuine feeling of identity. This situation makes him utterly dependent on the way others look at him and forces him to keep up the role in which he once had become successful."

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


Diamonds in the Glut

Visual artists, poets, and musicians are releasing free content online faster than ever before. There is an athleticism to these aesthetic outpourings...Athletic aesthetics are a by-product of art's new mediated environment, wherein creators must compete for online attention in the midst of an overwhelming amount of information. Artists using social media have transformed the notion of a "work" from a series of isolated projects to a constant broadcast of one's artistic identity as a recognizable, unique brand. That is, what the artist once accomplished by making commodities that could stand independently from them is now accomplished through their ongoing self-commodification.

Facing dim employment prospects and precarious conditions...such practitioners aggressively seek to exercise clout in the online attention economy through over production...With constant broadcast as the goal, editing oneself becomes a waste of resources...Self-editing is now outsourced to the audience, who carefully pick over the barrage of content with unprecedented zeal...The opportunity cost of not releasing work quickly rises as audiences become less discriminatory and more participatory. Thus aesthletes rationally adopt a lottery-like gambit of releasing as much work as possible: The more they release, the more likely one will become a hit. And even less successful posts serve to strengthen the bond between artist and audience, giving each a chance to reinforce the existence of the other.

-     Brad Troemel   Jogging

Duh/No Duh

...["Duh"] is generally understood to be an extra or paralinguistic symptom of discourse's pause or failure-- something akin to Aristotle's "mere voice" or an animal phone. It is not a word per se since it references the unavailability of discourse proper...or that which is obvious ["duh" or "no duh"].

..."Duh" is evocative, calling up, as it were, stupidity's rich tradition and within this tradition "duh" stands the ground of refusal. Refusing "duh" means resisting stupidity, and its double, a "refusing duh," conjures up a break between discourse and the world. This duality of "duh", the evocation of stupidity and its refusal, also elicits a response from knowing, stupidity's reciprocal and necessary condition.

..."The temptation," Ronell writes..."is to wage war on stupidity as if it were a vanquishable object....Stupidity exceeds and undercuts materiality, runs loose, wins a few rounds, recedes, gets carried home in the clutch of denial- and returns."

...Stupidity is "essentially linked to the inexhaustible...[it] is that which fatigues knowledge and wears down history." Stupidity is heavy, dull, and slow, with no interest other than to have no thinking....only to advance procedure and format, ending in the perpetual violence that is the ineluctable status quo.

..."stupidity itself remains to a large degree absent from the concerns of contemporary inquiry. No ethics or politics has been articulated to act upon its pervasive pull. Yet stupidity is everywhere."

...Stupidity is amorphous-- sometimes it appears as a pathogen suspended in droplets over the entirety of life. It enters into life, spreading throughout the world. It is there and it is here, which makes stupidity in many ways the ontological condition of all thinking, since all thinking misses something. Ronell charts stupidity's clinical presentations and records her suspicions of its sub-clinical imperceptibility. The question arises, Who shall report it? Who can see stupidity-- enough to say, there it is?

...The degrees of stupidity are endless, since no one can ever completely miss something or completely get something. It is Flaubert, for Ronell, who sees not the essence of stupidity, but the force of stupidity-- its trace: "Stupidity is something unshakeable. Nothing attacks it without breaking itself against it. It is of the nature of granite, hard and resistant."

...The difficulty with that the subject of inquiry escapes explanation. Stupidity, inherently, occupies a non or pre-discursive space-- a space not under the dictates of cognition...Stupidity has a brute force AND a philosophical trace that can be associated with the Odepipal Father and the law of mimesis: "Incapable of renewal or overcoming, the stupid subject has low Oedipal energy: he has held onto ideas, the relics and dogmas transmitted in his youth by his father."

..."The stupid are unable to make breaks or breakaways; they are hampered even on the rhetorical level, for they cannot run with grammatical leaps or metonymical discontinuities. They are incapable of referring allegorically or embracing deferral..the stupid cannot see themselves...and this invisibility allows stupidity to pass imperceptibly across the world."

-excerpts from Refusing Theory: Avita Ronell and the Structure of Stupidity by Victor E. Taylor

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

What's Yourn is Mined

     In the late 1970s John Moore was diagnosed with and treated for a form of leukemia at UCLA Medical Center. In the course of his treatments extensive amounts of blood, bone marrow and bodily tissue were withdrawn from his body. Without his knowledge these substances were used by his physicians and others for research purposes...Also concealed from him was the expectation of his physician and his physician's colleagues of benefiting financially from the products of their research with his cells. His physician used his privileged relationship with Moore for exclusive access to substances from Moore's body. The extraction of these substances was not always directly related to Moore's ongoing treatment but was part of this research activity.
     Based upon the research of Moore's physician's group, a patent on the cell line developed from Moore's cells was applied for and granted in 1984. Moore's rare cell line would be used to produce certain pharmaceuticals. Moore's physician and his partners together with UCLA Medical Center (the owners of the patent) sold rights for the commercial development of pharmaceuticals derived from Moore's cell line for a seven-figure amount. It had already been estimated that the sale of such pharmaceuticals would bring a multi-billion dollar yield within seven years.
     When Moore learned of all this he brought suit for malpractice and property theft. He argued that he deserved some part of the funds generated by the use of his own bodily substances, especially those taken for research and not for therapeutic purposes and without his knowledge of their eventual use. The case went to the Supreme Court of California, and Moore lost. His comment: "I was harvested."
     The court acknowledged that the physicians had lied by telling Moore that no financial or commercial value could be derived from his blood and bodily substances. The court understood that the physicians had consistently concealed their plans for economic gain from Moore. Nonetheless the court noted that "the defendants who allegedly obtained the cells from the plaintiff by improper means, [can] retain and exploit the full economic value of their ill-gotten gains free of...liability."

     According to the Bible, the first important technological enterprise undertaken by human beings was the construction of the Tower of Babel. While Scripture informs us that those who built the tower were punished for their sins, the text does not disclose the nature of their moral flaws...

    According to rabbinic legend, when the tower was being built and was already quite high, it was difficult to get bricks to the top of the construction site in order to build still higher. At that point, if a brick fell and broke as it was being hoisted to the top, all the workers cried and mourned its loss, saying, "How shall we get a brick to replace it?" But when one of the workers fell off the tower and died, no one paid attention because workers were plentiful and easy to replace.

-from Golems Among Us by Byron Sherwin

Taking the Least from You - Rebecca Skloot


Friday, October 18, 2013


Rabbi Simenon ben Eleazar says: I shall tell a parable. To what may this be likened?: A king built a large palace and decorated it, but a tannery pipe led through it and emptied at it's doorway.
Says every passerby: "How handsome and magnificent this palace would be if it were not for the tannery pipe coming through it!"
So too is man. If, with a foul stream issuing from his bowels, he exalts himself over other creatures, then how much the more he would exalt himself over other creatures if a stream of precious oil, balsam, or ointment issued from him!

Brown's Job

Brown is gone, and many men in the trade are wondering who is going to get Brown's job.

There has been considerable speculation about this. Brown's job was reputed to be a good job. Brown's former employers, wise, grey-eyed men, have had to sit still and repress amazement as they listened to bright, ambitious young men and dignified older ones seriously apply for Brown's job.

Brown had a big chair and a wide, flat-topped desk covered with a sheet of glass. Under the glass was a map of the United States. Brown had a salary of thirty thousand dollars a year. And twice a year Brown made a trip to the coast and called on every one of the firm's distributors.

He never tried to sell anything. Brown wasn't exactly in the sales department. He visited with the distributors, called on a few dealers, and once in a while made a little talk to a bunch of salesmen. Back at the office, he answered most of the important complaints, although Brown's job wasn't to handle complaints. Brown wasn't in the credit department either, but vital questions of credit got to Brown, somehow or other, and Brown would smoke and talk and tell a joke and untwist his telephone cord and tell the credit manager what to do.

Whenever Mr. Whythe, the impulsive little president, working like a beaver, would pick up a bunch of papers and peer into a particularly troublesome or messy subject, he had a way of saying, "What does Brown say? What does Brown say? What the hell does Brown say? - Well, why don't you do it, then?" And that was disposed.

Or when there was a difficulty that required quick action and lots of it, together with tact and lots of that, Mr. Whythe would say, "Brown, you handle that." And then one day the directors met unofficially and decided to fire the superintendent of the No.2 Mill. Brown didn't hear of this until the day after the letter had gone. "What do you think of it, Brown?" asked Mr. Whythe. Brown said, "That's all right. The letter won't be delivered until tomorrow morning, and I'll get him on the wire and have him start East tonight. Then I'll have his stenographer send the letter back here, and I'll destroy it before he sees it." The others agreed, "That's the thing to do."

Brown knew the business he was in. He knew the men he worked with. He had a whole lot of sense, which he apparently used without consciously summoning his judgment to his assistance. He seemed to think good sense.

Brown is gone, and men are applying for Brown's job. Others are asking who is going to get Brown's job - bright ambitious young men, dignified older men.

Men who are not the son of Brown's mother, nor the husband of Brown's wife, nor the product of Brown's childhood - men who never suffered Browns's sorrows nor felt his joys, men who never loved the things that Brown loved nor feared the things he feared - are asking for Brown's job.

Don't they know that Brown's chair and his desk, with the map under the glass top, and his pay envelope, are not Brown's job? Don't they know that they might as well apply to the Methodist Church for John Wesley's job?

Brown's former employers know it. Brown's job is where Brown is.

-Robley Feland

Koala Autopsy + Lunch

Class War

                                                     (On the Nature of) CREEPINESS