June 2007

back to the skin trip: tattoo as the genetic origin of inscription; skin does its reversible number

Everything happens at the surface in a crystal which develops only on the edges. Undoubtedly, an organism is not developed in the same manner. An organism does not cease to contract in an interior space and to expand in an exterior space – to assimilate and to externalise. But membranes are no less important, for they carry potentials and regenerate polarites. They place internal and external spaces into contact, without regard to distance. The internal and external, depth and height, have biological value only through this topological surface of contact. Thus, even biologically, it is necessary to understand that “the deepest is the skin.”

– Gilles Deleuze, The Logic of Sense, p. 119

Between the two presents of Chronos – that of the subversion due to the bottom and that of the actualisation in forms – there is a third, there must be a third, pertaining to the Aion. In fact, the instant as the paradoxical element or quasi-cause which runs through the entire straight line must itself be represented. It is even in this sense that representation can envelop an expression on its edges, although the expression itself may be of another nature; and that the sage can “identify” with the quasi-cause, although the quasi-cause itself is missing from its own identity. The present of the Aion representing the instant is not at all like the vast and deep present of Chronos: it is the present without thickness, the present of the actor, dancer, or mime – the pure perverse “moment.” It is the present of the pure operation, not of the incorporation. It is not the present of subversion or actualisation, but that of the counter-actualisation, which keeps the former from overturning the latter, and the latter from being confused with the former, and which comes to duplicate the lining (redoubler la doublure).

– Ibid., pp. 191-192

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max stirner


Max Stirner
El único y su propiedad


Tercera edición cibernética, enero del 2003
Captura y diseño, Chantal López y Omar Cortés

– www.antorcha.net/biblioteca_virtual/filosofia/unico/caratula_unico.html

Human or divine, as Stirner said, the predicates are the same whether they belong analytically to the divine being, or whether they are synthetically bound to the human form.

– Gilles Deleuze, The Logic of Sense, p. 122

Remember Max Stirner as the miraculous figure in Marcel Duchamp’s year in Munich, 1912, when such a change was wrought in the latter by Stirner’s Der Einzige und sein Eigentum (as Roberto Calasso says, the top pop title of that late great German romance with personhood), and a key invokee in the as yet unpublished Sweetheart, over____ (see pages opposite for selected verses).

 

 

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towards day 11 @ sf

So. We lose Morgana, the dancer character, to projects dearer to her heart, one presumes. I was too quick in my exclamation, Progress! We will make do, with or without. And what is making do if not a process?

We have a room, square but not out of necessity. And dark, for there being minimal light. The room itself is oppressive, but not so for want of the possibilities that we may bring to it and not for lack of objects, figures, interest. And then there’s always nothing: part-objects, incorporeal ideas, half-mimed actions, impersonal embodiments and the supernumeraries, who aren’t themselves not the actors but the same acting in the modality of unacting. (For the latter, it remains to be shown to what extent it is an idea.)

If making do is the process, what sort of process is it?

Say you remember an original and that this original is the Great Piece you now seek to reproduce but for the fact that you lack certain resources. They could be your own personal skills – I can’t dance I can’t sing I can’t act I can’t direct – or they might be the forces required more generally to realise, to represent the greatness of the remembered original.

For instance, at the point where I drop the vase the acrobat who catches it before it hits and smashes on the floor isn’t there to do her tragicomical turn down the back of the ladder, whose timing is precise, whose movement is practiced and adds so much, whereas all I need do is let go of the vase.

If she is not there dare I drop the vase? Is this all I need do? It will no doubt smash and no one will be any the wiser that there was ever any intention in the original that it be caught and that the action of its being caught could hold in itself a presently absent meaning, comical, tragicomical, tragic, comic-tragical or otherwise.

How might these questions arise without the acrobat? How might the questions you would ask of the Great Piece be transferred onto its remembered representation? Its represented and reconstructed memory?

Is it simply – although not entirely simple – at the level of signification that the remembered original in its representation needs to reproduce an effect missing for the absence of the acrobat? Both her designated, denoted action and her manifest presence are missing, so, is her (non-)effect significant? More significant, that is, than manifest or denoted? (You’ll see that this has to do with a Deleuzean tripartition of the proposition into signification, manifestation and denotation.) Or are we really resting on the complex surface of sense, on its complexion?

What is it and what does it mean at the level of process to make do without the Ear-scratching performer, the Vase-catching acrobat, the Non-illustrative dancer? Again, will you tell me, what is the problem?

How approach a sense of representation without, in the spirit of making do?

Memory provides some clues. The necessity that the recalled Great Piece be denotatively, manifestly or significantly great provides none. Greatness is clueless.

Clive Barker – of Theatre Games fame, not the other Clive Barkers – writes of the tape the rehearsed actor has running through his head – that actress has running through hers – that rehearsal itself inscribes with its records of past actions, figures, interests, in order whatever actions or figures for the actor, actress, or their interests be tensed past. He talks of the naturalisation of a rehearsed past in terms of consciousness of pastness damaging performance of presentness and therefore hurting, stripping back the presentational presentness of the performance to the representation of a remembered pitiable figure, human.

There is a pragmatics in action here of how to make performance (go) hang (in the present), of how to improve the acting. The actor’s and actress’s memory of a rehearsed performance or a rehearsed Figure better presents that Figure through his and her individual representation of, and therefore memory of, the Figure’s actions and interests.

Rehearsal is to make past. In order for past to return. The hermaphroditic actor-actress is therefore the aleatory point of this return, in Deleuzean terms, the dice cast damaging memory on which memory hangs, depends – its humanity. Its thrown humanity.

Will you say then, we remember this Greatness? Because we have no excuse but Greatness – that we recall in part but are totally! And will you hear these falls and feel the awful making do of our process? Will you know we lack even the ambition of the will? And don’t enact our own want (of phallus) and unact the meaning we mean and then rise to the surface we and only we can show without?

To clarify: the remembered Great Original is scattered over the surface of memory. The actor counter-actualises the event. But as well as memory there is also hope. Along with reproduction there is the production to come. And it is no longer a question of a chronic choice between a pitiless presentation and a pitiful representation (in the sense that Virilio uses the word pity in genetic qualification of (re)presentation, in Art and Fear [Paul Virilio, trans. Julie Rose, Continuum, London, 2004]).

Deleuze quotes the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius in a note: “Above, below, all around are the movements of the elements. But the motion of virtue is in none of these; it is something more divine, and advancing by a way hardly observed it goes happily on its road.” [Gilles Deleuze, The Logic of Sense, p. 93, n. 3] The ethical choice, then, for the Stoic sage as for the actor, lies elsewhere. It is advanced neither in the mixture of elements, presentation, representation, nor in the directions up or down, but is in motion and observable, tracing its line, by a sideways glance, out along the surface.

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Joseph Plateau (1801 – 1883), cf. RJF Project, pages opposite

Joseph Plateau’s experiments with the persistence of vision – despite the fact that he blinded himself by staring at the sun for periods of up to 25 seconds – led to his “Phenakisticope” (from the Greek for “deceitful view”), the first cinematic device.

In the “Monde Littéraire,” 17 April 1853, Charles Baudelaire published a text entitled “La Morale du joujou,” in which he described the Phenakisticope and its “twenty identical dancing figures performing the same movements with fantastic precision.”

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Albert: “God doesn’t play dice” Niels: “Don’t tell God what to do!”

niels bohr and albert einstein

– Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein, chez Paul Ehrenfest, December, 1925

(Paul Ehrenfest, a theoretical physicist at the University of Leiden (!), suffering from depression, ended his life on September 25, 1933, shooting himself and Wassik, his and Tatyana Alexeyevna Afanasyeva’s Down syndrome son, in a rowboat, on a lake, in the country.)

Seeing a horseshoe on Bohr’s door, a surprised visitor remarked that he didn’t believe in the superstition that it brought luck. Bohr snapped back: ‘I don’t believe in it either; I have it there because I was told that it also works if one does not believe in it!’ Perhaps this is why ‘culture’ is emerging as the central life-world category. With regard to religion, we no longer ‘really believe,’ we just follow (various) religious rituals and behaviours as part of a respect for the ‘life-style’ of the community we belong to … ‘Culture’ is the name for all those things we practise without really believing in them, without taking them quite seriously. This is why we dismiss fundamentalist believers as ‘barbarians,’ as anti-cultural, as a threat to culture – they dare take their beliefs seriously.

– Slavoj Zizek, How to Read Lacan, pp. 30-31

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concentrations of a Wildean sort of camp and a Duchampian strain of irony on a Franciscan order

The frame is artificial and that’s precisely why it’s there; to reinforce the artificial nature of the painting. The more the artificiality of the painting is apparent, the better, and the more chance the painting has of working or of showing something. That might seem paradoxical, but it makes perfect sense in art: one achieves one’s goal by using the maximum of artificial means, and one succeeds much more in doing something authentic when the artificiality is patently obvious. Take for example the Greek or classical poets; their language was very artificial and highly stylised. They all worked within strict constraints, and yet it’s precisely in doing so that they produced their greatest works which give us, when we read them, that impression of freedom and spontaneity.

– Francis Bacon, Francis Bacon in conversation with Michel Archimbauld, Phaidon, London, 1993, p. 167

When I begin, I might have some ideas, but most of the time the only idea I have is of doing something. … I respond to some kind of stimulation, to a mark, that’s all. If it’s going to work, then it happens afterwards on the canvas, as the work progresses. … This mess around here is rather like my mind; it may be a good image of what goes on inside me, that’s what it’s like, my life is like that.

– Francis Bacon, ibid., p. 163

As early as 1959, in the catalogue for the Museo de Arte at Sao Paulo in Brazil, Robert Melville wrote that Bacon was ‘highly gifted and satanically influential; he discovers in the art of painting the felicities of the death warrant.’ He continued: ‘To put it somewhat gruesomely, Bacon might be said to have covered the lampshades of his immediate predecessors with human skin, for although he has been far from unreceptive of the symbols of the human condition which inform the invented personages of surrealism, he presents this symbolic material as studies of human appearance.’

– Daniel Farson, The Gilded Gutter Life of Francis Bacon, Random House, London, 1993, pp. 129-130

Other guests included[…] … Also a woman who had not been asked but gate-crashed all the same. As she was one of my closest friends and we happened to arrive simultaneously, I knew Francis thought I had brought her. I found it annoying that he welcomed her as if she were the guest of honour while shooting me a sharp look behind her back. [Daniel Farson does not give her name. She returns below as ‘she.’]

The prospect of a book launch – the writer’s equivalent of a private view – reduces me to an alcoholic jellyfish and invariably ends in calamity. But Francis rose superbly to such occasions. With his beatific smile, he stood beside a large table covered with catalogues as well as glasses, distinguished in a well-cut suit, sober and self-controlled. In a curious way, he was isolated. Peter Bradshaw told me afterwards that he had this impression too, that instead of being the centre of a seething throng of admirers Francis look alone, almost vulnerable. Going over to keep him company, he asked Francis to write something special in his catalogue.

‘Such as?’ asked Francis.

‘I don’t know. Something interesting. … “Thank you for the trade”.’

‘You’re not making me cheap!’ Francis replied, scribbling his usual ‘Best wishes, Francis.’

Francis was correct to treat this occasion [the second Tate retrospective, 21 May, 1985] with the solemnity it deserved. He knew he had crossed a final frontier. He told Peter Beard that he hated nine out of ten paintings he saw, including his own. ‘I don’t like most of what I see, and I think if people do one or two extraordinary things they’ve done a lot. …’ He knew now that he had ‘done a lot.’

She [the gate-crasher(?)] was too quick to disparage his work:

… [then ‘she’ proceeds to quote Bacon!] ‘I don’t suppose any artist is satisfied with his work, but I think one of the terribly interesting things about all artists is they’ll never know whether their work is any good because they’ll be dead before time has had its terrible chance and its infallible kind of judgement upon it. So they’ll never know if their work is any good really because it takes quite a long time for time to really get to work on it.’

Francis made the concession to Peter Beard that he did like certain things by Picasso, Matisse and, above all, Duchamp.

– Daniel Farson, ibid., pp. 213-215

He held his brush like a sword and stood far back from the canvas, like he was fencing with an unseen opponent. I never saw him clean his brushes, but he’d occasionally wipe them on his dressing gown or on an old sock or shirt.

– John Edwards’s Foreword to 7 Reece Mews: Francis Bacon’s Studio, photographs by Perry Ogden, Thames & Hudson, London, 2001, p. 13

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day 10 @ the soap factory

a method of continuous production – meaning that fresh ingredients are added to the mixture up above, while down below, the finished product is drawn off …

– RJF Project (pages opposite)

I might have said at some point, in respect of documenting the process of forming these texts – RJF project – into dramatic materials, that is where a more diaristic linearity – like a blog! – to posts here on squarewhiteworld might enter. I might not have, because the intention had been, rather than to record our progress through successive rehearsals as the steps towards an already imagined endpoint in production, to describe an approach, an open and non-linear process, relative to a provisional set of stations at which the work would be staged.

This process as a group process has so far foundered on or at least not flowed easily from and over the absences of one or another of the cast. It has also encountered and not assimilated as an obstacle the absence of the dancer character. Contrary to the original intention behind recording here then a backwards-forwards movement of thought and actions, I find that what we are doing is making little more than progress. You could say this is because there have up to this juncture been insufficient fresh ingredients. You could equally say that the mixture has so far failed. What one has been able to draw off down below in the way of a finished product from the mixture of textual, metaphorical and actual ingredients, from the mixture of materials, has not been sufficient to support a description of process or answer the problem of approach.

Day ten marked the addition of a new member to the group, Morgana, an actress with a background in dance. Progress! And now the problem of binding a fresh thread of inquiry into the warp of the work: how to address the sense of the work in the element of dance? The movement is double, on one side, the throughline dance cuts, on the other, the line cut through dance, by the project, dance being one among its elements.

Deleuze: We seek to determine an impersonal and pre-individual transcendental field, which does not resemble the corresponding empirical fields, and which nevertheless is not confused with an undifferentiated depth. This field cannot be determined as that of consciousness. … What is neither individual nor personal are […] emissions of singularities, insofar as they occur on an unconscious surface … Singularities are the true transcendental events, and Ferlinghetti calls them “the fourth person singular.”

– Gilles Deleuze, The Logic of Sense, trans. Mark Lester with Charles Stivale, Continuum, London, 2004, p. 118

Elsewhere, Deleuze writes of the battle as event, hovering over itself. That is, over the individual views of the battlefield – those of soldiers, officers, generals, medics or of distant centres of command (like the novelist who describes the battle) – over the empirical fields which correspond to a battle, as event, the battle hovers. It hovers exactly like the idea of the work above the work we do, of the theatre above the theatre we make. And further, the relationship between the former and the latter theatre, between theatre and the idea, theatre, is not one of the particular to the general (and not of some kind of ideal theatre through some sort of dramatic descent to its actualisation onstage), but of the singularity-event above to the heterogeneous series below. The finished product, soap, for instance, would be one in this heterogeneous series of ones, affirming the mixture in its immediate heterogeneity, in every instance, through difference in repetition, in which all odds are stack on each and every roll of the dice – or, back again to theatre, through (continuous) production in (contiguous) rehearsal (the variable = n).

I would like to take advantage of Deleuze’s choice of ‘battle’ as a fortuitous event, since it introduces the notion of a polemical process as opposed to a dialectical process. The painter, Francis Bacon, one of the figures invoked in the work with which we are currently engaged, argued against abstract painting because of its openness to any number of interpretations, because, as he maintained, it doesn’t offer anything to combat the viewer. Asked to account for the appeal of painters like Jackson Pollock, his one-word explanation was, “Fashion.”

Igor Stravinsky is of a similar mind in his view of the Great Tradition as being an argument, an argument going back through the centuries – a battle, one could say, to wrest art from fashion. (Again, Bacon averred that there exists no longer any choice but to be a Great Artist.) And not just to make new but make sense.

Stravinsky consciously threw himself into the fray, the battlefield of musical composition, in preference to throwing himself down into the abyss of possibilities, an “undifferentiated depth” which we can readily identify as Deleuze’s, the fragmented and fragmenting formlessness of a schizophrenic abyss. So the security Stravinsky said he found in traditional musical forms need not be interpreted as connoting his avoidance of taking artistic risks; these forms may properly be called martial. And polemical.

In an earlier post I have said ‘dialectical’ but neither Stravinsky nor Bacon would have felt at home, artistically, behind a stall for ideas or commodities, in the marketplace, in the agora, at the place where fashion and dialectics played. They would sooner have found an appropriate venue for their individual agonistics outside this democratic forum (or ghetto) and beyond the city’s reigning lights, “on this glacis,” as Paul Virilio puts it, at “the place of exclusion [le lieu des bannis] from the rights of the citizen.” (Or perhaps it’s simply that I would choose to put art on this glacis, ensuring the glaciation of its forms!) I am circling back around to the root of ‘polemic’ and its derivations being found in the word for battle, polemos. [Paul Virilio, Desert Screen, trans. Michael Degener, Continuum, London, 2005, pp. 5-6]

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necessary elitism and the gratuitous scratching of your ear

A work of art asks to be judged by a standard which has no meaning for the majority of its spectators.

– David Hare, Obedience, Struggle & Revolt, p. 14

On the same page, David Hare continues, about the film, Sylvia, a biopic on Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes:

An actor is compelled, say, to scratch her ear, on no other grounds but that ‘Oh, Sylvia always scratched her ear…’ Who’s in charge here? The artist or the subject?

But what if the action of scratching the ear had not even this behind it? Would its uselessness qualify it as artistic?

Still the question holds: Who’s in charge? The justification must lie in the performance and therefore with the artist, the actor.

Then, what if the actor, when asked why? merely says, At this point I just thought it would be a good idea if I scratched my ear? Is he or she not the artist? (Kafka would have something to say about this Ear-scratching Artist!)

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the contract with the audience: day 9 at the Soap Factory

Critics love to reiterate the uninteresting idea that theatre depends on conflict. But actually it doesn’t. It depends on engagement – engagement between the action on stage and the audience which attends. Screaming and shouting don’t make a play. Nor do swordfights. Lectures and plays are alike in relying for their true vitality on the richness of the interaction between the performance itself and the thoughts and feelings created by the unspoken reaction in the room. Anyone who has had the luck to hear Robert Hughes talking about Goya or Stephen Pinker discoursing on the Darwinian interpretation of language will notice that in the fifteen minutes which is set aside for questions at the end, there is always an unusually high standard of interrogation. It is as if – hey! – the better the speaker, the deeper the response.

– David Hare’s Introduction to his Obedience, Struggle & Revolt, Faber and Faber, London, 2005, p. 5

Sean Penn has decided never to act on stage again, because he does not believe the American theatre any longer commands an audience which is interesting to play to. The work may be worthwhile, but the qualitative experience of presenting it is not.

– David Hare, ibid., p. 7

It’s not enough to start from principles. Or to restrict oneself to principles. Especially when the principles are held to be right. I asked for a consensus on first principles, day eight at the Soap Factory, and received beglummed reassurances. After that, nothing held its form – and, but, no overtures could be made to the nothing. It, nothing, evaded an overdetermined trap, a trap with a large Baconian arrow and an ovoid marking out the place where the dice were supposed to turn up the winning numbers, which were always going to be evens. The odds were against it.

Igor Stravinsky, when setting out to compose a new work, contemplating the abyss of possibilities it presented, thought, what holds me back from plumetting into its formless depth but falling back on traditional forms? Stravinsky had a specific understanding of tradition as dialectic. The argument of the new begins with the first note, which either negotiates its truce with the old or stands its ground against it. The argument continues all down the line as the agon of influence.

Day nine of work on the RJF Project (working title (at the ‘soap face,’ that is)), we at last had our ur-text of the thirteen ‘renderings’ (listed opposite as pages), presented script-wise in paragraphs as speeches, rather than lineated in stanzas – as that other sort of non-conversational speech. Nothing much changed in the way we approached the work, only, performers were asked to remain on stage, as a change in the working style. No more spectating from the ‘wings.’ The work and process brought into the selfsame arena, wrestling-school (Howard Barker, but also Herbert Blau) style. More damage can be inflicted on the work this way.

We may doubt that there is any delineation between stage and off, however it seems more effective to extend the limits of the former – with its tensions, its dialectic, audience to stage, and in rehearsal, director to stage – than to think of such a delineation as never having existed. This again means living traditon: you don’t overcome tradition’s, influence’s – even cliche’s – symbolic hold on things by ignoring it; or, put another way, ignorance of the law is no excuse before the law.

Another find is that unacting, referred to in the previous post, relies on there being a performance out of which it drops in order for the actor/performer to trap it, hold it in. To show the support, what it supports must first be shown. Entirely a matter of having to run, then walk, before one can stand. (It. Which is the same as being. It. ‘It.’)

If there is no beyond to the law, then the holes, the gaps, the fissures have to be found, in its interstices, which amounts but not absolutely to a continuous recitation of the law, or its rehearsal, in order to hear, see, feel, smell, even, where there is discontinuity, where the needle jumps in the track… at the unexpected, there make the trap. Kafka is good for this – good for something, then – but so is Francis Bacon, the painter, both of whom are invoked in the current project.

Ever more tangentially, I’ve noted here that seeking public funding would be an evil, adding to the evil of that admixture of professional pretensions to amateur fun – or is that the other way around? – we witness in our ‘group.’ This is not a principle. I would in fact argue for citizens’ access to evil, as there are citizens’ advice bureaux; that it would be a civic service to train citizens in the active employment of bad intentions, in foul play and the tactics of evil – possibly without the doing, the teaching would be enough – so that it not be among the prerogatives of privilege, whether of wealth… no, but wealth will sustain it.

We steer on an unequal axis until the shitty, the using, from the merely offputting to the provocatively fucking-with and getting away with it – which is the demesne of our arts insofar as they evoke humanities – is restored to us. Then we will be princes of our destiny, citizens of our city, occupying equally the axis of evil as the axis of the good, with a more than opportunistic and a more than fatalistic attitude faced with the future… coming head-on like a truck. (Part of the problem is of course that evil has no easy antithesis. We would have purity, cleanliness, hygiene, clarity!)

The impeccable, as they say, logic with which we pursue our project at the Soap Factory may be stated: if it says it’s not, it is; but if it says it isn’t not, it is the more.

I would have something to say about unreal spaces…

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at the sf, inconvenient glaciation: Day Eight

You can phone your glacier and listen to him die.

– BBC World Service, Go Digital, 12/6/7

There is demand for this product, allegedly. Developed by Vodaphone Germany and demonstrated – ‘exhibited’ would be too strong a word – at the Venice Biennale, it gives you a realtime glacial death-rattle and splish-splosh audio connection that also enhances your reading experience, if you happen to be in some ‘corner’ with a book and care to call. Venice is the place to be, because design is going to be increasingly important to technological products and artists are the ones who bring us the future today in the world of design: they look to the future with optimism. As for the glacier, presumably, he does not.

Today was possibly the eighth day – for convenience, I’ll call it that – of work at the soap face. Since it was the first time in almost two weeks we’ve had a quorum, we began by reading the 13 texts so far listed as ‘renderings’ (see pages, left). I took the ‘dancer’s’ text, “plateau: eighth rendering,” which doesn’t in fact occur as eighth in the sequence. (I’ll publish the performance order as if anybody’s interested in due course.) For the interested reader, these 13 constitute the body of the work, to be supplemented perhaps by a further text or two, dependent on how it plays.

It read well, which could be counted as disappointing for a work intended as ‘open;’ meaning, it came off the page as finished, but, then, I made the mistake I perennially make of asking for a metatextual reading, of the why and not the what: why this? and not something else? Why like this? and not unlike it? Which was not to ask, Do you like it? But… My questions ran aground and should have been replaced by the injunction simply to think about it, to think, and to make the world in which these texts can have life. And be damaged. And by which they can be opened up.

After that, things went glacial. Ice melted, not holding its form. The demonstration of what I meant by unacting became anaerobic. It lacked breath. Too much breath already expended on pointless exegesis. Our day suffered from ‘continuous partial attention’ paid, without sufficient ‘fractional ownership,’ or sufficient value shared. ‘Share value,’ however, was not ‘purposely’ reduced, so no litigious action taken against the anactive CEO.

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