September 2023

Patrick Modiano’s Scene of the Crime bears

this epigraph,

How many names have I etched in memory

like “dog” or “elephant” or “cow”

So long ago now, I recognize them only from afar,

even the zebra–and what was it all for?

— Rainer Maria Rilke

Was hab ich mir für Namen eingeprägt

und Hund und Kuh und Elefant

nun schon so lang und ganz von weit erkannt,

und dann das Zebra, ach, wozu?


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fresh from the Mouse vs the Meataxe

the Right Honourable Chris Hipkins vs Leader of His Majesty’s Loyal Opposition of New Zealand (wiki) Christopher Luxon played on the television last night, the first of the leaders’ debates for this year’s election, 14 October 2023.

It was moderated by 1News Political Editor Jessica Mutch McKay and was the first time voters got to see the leaders of the country’s two main parties going head-to-head in a primetime debate.

Jack Tame conducted what was risibly called (at the link above) analysis after the debate. Jack greeted Jessica with the embarrassing stupidity that, neither Chris nor Christopher, as they were interchangeably referred to throughout her moderation, but she had been the ‘winner.’ The analysis that followed featured an unbroken string of sports metaphors and was equally embarrassing for all involved, whoever they were.

…but who were Chris and Christopher? (one seemed always to be bigger in the shot, as if he had been eating) … the question was not really gratified with an answer. The sole gratification to come from the debate was its signalling of the end of adversarial politics in New Zealand. The contestants felt no need to distinguish themselves. And didn’t, either personally or professionally, either with their political or personal acuity, and neither were the policies of the parties they represent distinguished nor was any effort felt needed to do so.

Chris L, the Meataxe of the title, best described the differences in the party-line each was there to push (or pull) as their having the same aims but getting there different ways. He said this several times. It was odd. And, when it came to cogovernance, sort of like the guards and kapo getting together in front of the ovens … and exactly like that when it came to climate change.

… but then there they all are, including the Greens and Te Pāti Māori, Act and TOP and NZ Fi(r)st, the Meataxe and the Mouse’s parties, warming their hands …

No. They’re not warming their hands. They’re melting their crayons. It’s a colouring in competition. It’s all the colours of the rainbow. It’s paint by numbers but all the numbers are called Chris and…

It’s the political future of New Zealand Aotearoa and were it in the slightest involving it would be a nightmare or a gameshow if you felt the contestants were in the least engaged… but they are not. They are absent. They are Chris.

… and I had thought of illustrating this post with with a song from Aldous Harding’s Warm Chris album… or this,

… but it’s too familiar and filled … with actual meanings … or this, its meanings are more of the moment,

National Scandal

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Donald Antrim is determined to come to terms, at last, with the ghost of his old man, & other friends and relations

Donald Antrim’s My Eliot, the author’s first novel in more than 20 years, in which our protagonist “Donald Antrim” sits down to read his late father’s treatise on T.S. Eliot, determined to come to terms, at last, with the ghost of his old man … book rights sold to Random House

from here

Her father is the former Newsweek correspondent Curtis (Bill) Pepper, and her mother is the controversial sculptor (and social steamroller) Beverly Pepper. “Jorie is an amalgam of the two,” one New York editor told me.

that’s poet Jorie Graham, from here

Mother Teresa once rang the doorbell looking for her husband Bill.

that’s the doorbell of Beverly Pepper, Jorie Graham’s mum, from here

When she was a little girl in Brooklyn, so did the Dodgers.

from the same Beverly Pepper piece, here

Cole married his American wife, Elizabeth Lewis, in December 1989.

that’s Lloyd Cole, from here

In 1987, Tim and his wife Sarah played along with lurid tabloid reports that they were incestuous siblings.

that’s Tim Smith of the Cardiacs, here

American poetry is full of ‘Oh, poor me.’ Jorie doesn’t do that. I think she’s carved out such a powerful œuvre that it’s unignorable.

that’s Jorie Graham again, from here

‘Your normal reading habits, which have to do with the follow-through of plot, aren’t going to work here. So let’s let go and see what else we can read with.’ says Jorie Graham, followed by

Can We Decipher a Whale’s First Sounds?

from here

Cole stays in the creep — that space of unresolved circumstances and emotions that has room for great discomfort and some hope, some beauty.

that’s Lloyd Cole again, again from here and it finds it’s way into this list by way of the creep

Or is it simply the onslaught of another dangerous mood?

from here

A screenshot of her comment rippled through social media and many fans, especially those in her sizable LGBTQ fanbase, were met with bewilderment, anger, and disappointment.

although they weren’t met by her bewilderment, anger and disappointment, that’s Róisín Murphy, from here

on which subject, the bewilderment, anger and disappointment of fans, I’ve almost had it with Claire Dederer’s book, Monsters: A Fan’s Dilemma, had it after statements like this,

Hemmingway wrote in Death in the Afternoon: “Bullfighting is the only art in which the artist is in danger of death.” (Makes wanking gesture with hand.)

had it not because of its disrespect for Hemmingway but Dederer’s disrespect for herself.


A.L. Kennedy’s book On Bullfighting starts with the writer about to jump. Then from a neighbouring building she hears some crap song and decides that that cheesy mor tune can’t be the soundtrack for her going out. The telephone rings. It’s her publisher offering her an assignment to write on bullfighting. She goes, with Federico García Lorca as her guide.

La casada infiel

Y que yo me la llevé al río
creyendo que era mozuela,
pero tenía marido.
Fue la noche de Santiago
y casi por compromiso.
Se apagaron los faroles
y se encendieron los grillos.
En las últimas esquinas
toqué sus pechos dormidos,
y se me abrieron de pronto
como ramos de jacintos.
El almidón de su enagua
me sonaba en el oído,
como una pieza de seda
rasgada por diez cuchillos.
Sin luz de plata en sus copas
los árboles han crecido,
y un horizonte de perros
ladra muy lejos del río.
Pasadas las zarzamoras,
los juncos y los espinos,
bajo su mata de pelo
hice un hoyo sobre el limo.
Yo me quité la corbata.
Ella se quitó el vestido.
Yo el cinturón con revólver.
Ella sus cuatro corpiños.
Ni nardos ni caracolas
tienen el cutis tan fino,
ni los cristales con luna
relumbran con ese brillo.
Sus muslos se me escapaban
como peces sorprendidos,
la mitad llenos de lumbre,
la mitad llenos de frío.
Aquella noche corrí
el mejor de los caminos,
montado en potra de nácar
sin bridas y sin estribos.
No quiero decir, por hombre,
las cosas que ella me dijo.
La luz del entendimiento
me hace ser muy comedido.
Sucia de besos y arena
yo me la llevé del río.
Con el aire se batían
las espadas de los lirios.
Me porté como quien soy.
Como un gitano legítimo.
Le regalé un costurero
grande de raso pajizo,
y no quise enamorarme
porque teniendo marido
me dijo que era mozuela
cuando la llevaba al río.
by Leonard Cohen after the poem by Lorca 

The Night of Santiago 
And I was passing through 
So I took her to the river 
As any man would do 

She said she was a virgin 
That wasn’t what I’d heard 
But I’m not the Inquisition 
I took her at her word 

And yes she lied about it all 
Her children and her husband 
You were meant to judge the world 
Forgive me but I wasn’t 

The lights went out behind us 
The fireflies undressed 
The broken sidewalk ended 
I touched her sleeping breasts 

They opened to me urgently 
Like lilies from the dead 
Behind a fine embroidery 
Her nipples rose like bread 

Her petticoat was starched and loud 
And crushed between our legs 
It thundered like a living cloud 
Beset by razor blades

No silver light to plate their leaves 
The trees grew wild and high 
A file of dogs patrolled the beach 
To keep the night alive 

We passed the thorns and berry bush 
The reeds and prickly pear 
I made a hollow in the earth 
To nest her dampened hair 

Then I took off my necktie 
And she took off her dress 
My belt and pistol set aside 
We tore away the rest 

Her skin was oil and ointments 
And brighter than a shell 
Your gold and glass appointments 
Will never shine so well 

Her thighs they slipped away from me 
Like schools of startled fish 
Though I’ve forgotten half my life 
I still remember this 

That night I ran the best of roads 
Upon a mighty charger 
But very soon I’m overthrown 
And she’s become the rider 

Now as a man I won’t repeat 
The things she said aloud 
Except for this my lips are sealed 
Forever and for now

And soon there’s sand in every kiss 
And soon the dawn is ready 
And soon the night surrenders 
To a daffodil machete 

I gave her something pretty 
And I waited ’til she laughed 
I wasn’t born a gypsy 
To make a woman sad 

I didn’t fall in love. Of course 
It’s never up to you 
But she was walking back and forth 
And I was passing through 

When I took her to the river 
In her virginal apparel 
When I took her to the river 
On the Night of Santiago 

And yes she lied about her life 
Her children and her husband 
You were born to get it right 
Forgive me but I wasn’t 

The Night of Santiago 
And I was passing through 
And I took her to the river 
As any man would do


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surplus human sociality as ghost capital

Charles Tonderai Mudede (his name provides the link) uses Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments, 1759 to back up the idea it’s not the past that haunts the present but the present haunting the past. The ghosts are from now and matters of sympathetic identification with the figures of the past, the dead who generally have been done wrong. Smith argues we naturally side with those being beaten down and if they are killed it’s our natural empathy animating us to seek vengeance on their behalf.

Mudede calls this pushing of the social feeling potentially to beyond the death of those in whom we invest it a surplus, a surplus of human sociality. We don’t for the practical purpose of social participation need to identify ourselves with dead people but we do for the same reasons we identify ourselves with living people. Both are in a sense gratuitous. Although it might be said to be a matter of social utility in order pursue our own advantage, for example in producing ourselves as social subjects and in having social identities at all, that we have social feelings for the living if they are the same feelings we extend to the dead, if there is no difference and no distinction made, which practically there isn’t, is there a difference? Practically there is not because the cultural expectation we will side with the victims of historical wrongdoing is as strong as that at work in the social expectation we will show empathy towards those around us who are living.

To recognise as such crimes against humanity of which the victims are dead is as powerful an impetus to, and not just a matter of, correct thinking as the recognition of crimes on those who are alive. In fact in this case the values are inverted.

While the crimes of the present may be questioned those of the past rarely are. Our empathy with the dead of genocide matters more in the present than our identification with victims of the genocides that are ongoing and belong to the present. More surplus human sociality accrues to those who make the right identification, so that, culturally achieved, it goes to their advance in society. In other words, it has current utility and is to their advantage in a more than cultural sense.

Bringing in Adam Smith indicates that the advantage is economic and belongs to political economy. And I agree with Mudede. The ‘ghost’ as a figure of capital needs the emergence of hyper-culturality from ultra-sociality. Despite ants being ultra-social, having not developed symbolic exchange to the same level of ghost capital, they are not hyper-cultural. “There are no ghost ants.” (footnote 15)

The implications to be derived from ghost capital as the figure or value attached to surplus human sociality go in two directions, to the dead foundation and to the haunting of the living. Mark Fisher is famed for the sort of haunting I think being implied here. By the dead foundation I mean that calculation of a sign now marked as a cross or given arbitrary symbolic designation said to start time, said to be the point from which the time, lived and living time, starts. This is the time of inner duration. (see on computus here)


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Theory of the Moving Image, to be contd. [pdf]


luz es tiempo
point to point
theatrum philosophicum

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