Thursday, September 12, 2013

Umpired Umbathy, Pathic and Pathological, Part XIII

I want to discuss difficult subjects and what I need to realize is this cannot be done with ease.

At the same time, I cannot allow the discussion of difficult subjects to itself become difficult; I cannot allow the discussion to be by its very nature a barrier to discussion.

What degree of difficulty is reasonable and appropriate to expect??? What level of effort must I demand from myself or my interlocutors?  The answer cannot be no effort if the subjects to be discussed are indeed difficult.

I cannot offer compensations or incentives to anyone taking the other side of a discussion with me, and I am aware of the risk to others of seeing their time and efforts utterly wasted absent these.

Is their a way of freeing thought and discussion from a certain puritanical exclusiveness, orthodoxy, and censoriousness without excusing thought and discussion from the real difficulties thought and discussion must encounter to be worthy of the names " thought and discussion" ? If so, how?

What are the material conditions of productive discussion, collaboration?


Friday, August 02, 2013

Umpired Umbathy, Pathic and Pathological, Part XII

            “ The U.S. manned space program of the 1960s provided a salient chapter in the evolution of consumer culture—not just through its technical accomplishments, but by the forms of display its designers and publicists adopted. The project’s social function and presentation techniques approximated those of the most highly developed communication medium in American culture: advertising. In a sense, the twelve-year effort to put Americans on the moon constituted the most elaborate advertising campaign ever devised. Its audience was truly global.  Eight hundred million people saw or heard the first men on the moon.

            The product of this spectacular ‘advertisement’ was not the hardware of space exploration. Missiles, astronauts, and lunar footprints simply provided a visually dramatic new iconography through which the real product could be conveyed: an image of national purpose that equated technological preeminence with military, ideological, and cultural supremacy.

            Conceived in the wake of the Sputnik scare, the project’s desired effect appeared to be straightforward enough—a Cold War assertion of superiority over the Soviet Union. The merchants of space emerged from two institutions familiar with that goal: the ‘military-industrial complex’ as President Eisenhower called it, and the news media. The first group included Pentagon strategists, scientists, and engineers involved with defense-related research and development, defense and aerospace contractors; and their allies in government—civilian and military agencies, congressmen, and even Presidents—who found support of an aggressive manned space program politically useful. The second group consisted of publishers, editors, and reporters for newspapers, magazines, and the newly developing national television newscasts. The needs and powers of these two groups differed, and dissension between andwithin them emerged repeatedly. Their shared interest in the manned space program centered on its capacity to generate publicity. The first group sought it, and the second made an industry of supplying it. Their roles seemed simple: The defense establishment would deliver the ‘payload’ for the public depiction of Americans in space, while the news media provided the vehicle.

            The enterprise, however, quickly expanded in scope as its designers recognized that the project’s success depended more on the impressions it created than on the engineering feats it accomplished. To differentiate U.S. efforst in space from those of the Soviets, Apollo had to convey more than an extraterrestrial show of force; it must portray American use of technology as benign, elegant, beyond the earthbound concerns of military and diplomatic strategy. To succeed fully, the manned space program had to project an image directly contradicting its origins.


            Mission Control, of course, was not merely a Sunbelt efflorescence of Madison Avenue To be sure, advertisers appropriated images, rituals, and eventually even astronauts from the manned space program. Conversely, NASA occasionally borrowed directly from the pantheon of names, iages, and associations stockpiled by advertising. ( As John Noble Wilford notes, the space agency named its first manned project Mercury ‘because a Greek god ahad a heroic ring and Mercury was considered to be the most familiar of the Olympians to Americans—thanks more to Deteroit than to the god or the planet.’)

            NASA and the news media, however, did not have to enlist the services of an ad agency in order to apply the techniques of advertising to space. By the 1960s any depiction of a man in a shiny new vehicle dealt with images and techniques already made familiar by advertisisng. It is in this capacity—as a principal source of public attitudes toward science and technology—that advertising influenced the state’s depiction of the space race. The underlying relationship of the manned space program to the advertising industry resembled that of a guest conductor to a resident orchestra. NASA waved an impressive baton, but it was primarily because of advertising’s ensemble of instruments and performers that the audeicne knew the score.

            Long before Apollo, merchants and generals had discovered the social impact of parading new and exotic products. But in post-World War II America the display value of technology had attained a new preeminence, often overshadowingthe technical specifications for a given product, the managerial decisions leading to its development, and even its actual performance. This elevation of technological display marked the emergence of commodity scientism as the prevailing idiom of science and technology.”

-- Selling The Moon: the U.S. Manned Space Program and the Triumph of Commodity Scientism, by Michael L. Smith, from The Culture of Consumption: Critical Essays in American History 1880-1980, edited by Richard Wightman Fox and T.J. Jackson Lears, (1983), Pantheon Books, a division of Random House, Inc.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Umpired Umbathy, Pathic and Pathological, Part XI

“ To have a soul separate from the body is to have a body separate from other bodies. The soul is individual, and the individual is separate. The trauma is separation, the nucleus of the separate, individual soul. There is no trauma without a split in the self: part of the self regresses to the time before the trauma; stays behind, with the mother, in the womb; a self-encapsulation in a dream-womb. Out of separation not accepted comes a delusion of separation, the dream or fantasy of being himself both mother and child. He makes himself independent of the mother by making himself his own mother. The self is formed like a nation, by a declaration of independence, a split from mother or the mother country, and a split in oneself into both mother and child, so as to be self-sufficing. An independent sovereignty, a private corporation, a person, is made by self-splitting ( schizophrenia ) and involution ( introversion ).

In a dream, in fantasy, in unconscious fantasy he makes himself both child and mother; or rather, child in the mother; little one ( manikin ) in the mother; penis in the womb. Genital organization is the dream of uterine regression, of return to the maternal womb; a fantasy, a make-believe game, a play, a drama, acted out by the genital. “ Every human being can and does enact with his own body the double role of the child and the mother.” Ferenczi, Thalassa, 23.

If we now survey the evolution of sexxuality from the thumb-sucking of the infant through the self-love of penital onanism to the heterosexual act of coitus, and keep in mind the complicated identifications of the ego with the penis and with the sexual secretion, we arrive at the conclusion that the purpose of this whole evolution, therefore the purpose likewise of the sex act, can be none other than an attempt on the part of the ego—an attempt at the beginning clumsy and fumbling, then more consciously purposive, and finally in part successful—to return to the mother’s womb, where there is no such painful disharmony between ego and environment as characterizes existence in the external world. The sex act achieves this transitory regression in a threefold manner: the whole organism attains this goal by purely hallucinatory means, somewhat as in sleep; the penis, with which the organism as a whole has identified itself, attains it partially or symbolically; while only the sexual secretion possesses the prerogative, as representative of the ego and its narcissistic double, the genital, of attaining in reality to the womb of the mother.  Ferenczi, Thalassa, 18.

The body, like the body politic, is a theater; everything is symbolic, everything including the sexual act. The principal part is a public person taking the part of the community as a whole: persona publica totius communitatis gerens vicem. The function of the representative organ is to impersonate, incarnate, incorporate in his own body the body politic.  Incorporation is the establishment of a theater ( public); the body of spectators depend on the performance for their existence as one body. Gierke, Political Theories of the Middle Age, 163. Cf. Roheim, Animism, 322.

Both politics and sex are theater; sex, said Talleyrand, is le theatre des pauvres. The penis is an actor; it does not actually attain regression in the maternal womb, it enacts the regression “partially or symbolically.” The rest of the body “ takes part in the regression hallucinatorily,” as spectators, passively identifying with the action of their representative, their prince or principal part, the leading man. The penis is the head of the body, the band of brothers: the rest of the body is to the penis as chorus to tragic hero, hypocritically and from a safe distance enjoying the thrill of being spectators at their own execution. The act of coitus is reminiscent of these melodramas in which, while there are of course dark clouds threatening all kinds of destruction, just as in real tragedy, ther is always the feeling that ‘everything will turn out all right.’” Talleyrand cited in Reik, Masochism in Modern Man, 296. Ferenczi, Thalassa, 42; cf. 40-41, 43.

-- Norman O. Brown, Love’s Body, copyright 1966, Random House, New York. 130-132.

Umpired Umbathy, Pathic and Pathological, Part X

“ A favored type of investment among world’s-fair concessionaires is an aboriginal village. Eskimos, Filipinos, or Ashantis usually can be hired at extremely moderate rates to sit around in an appropriate setting and act as if they were at home. The city dweller’s curiosity about exotic peoples, built up by a childhood of reading adventure books, is apparently insatiable. Providing suitable food is not such a problem as it might seem once the concessionaire has learned the fact, unreported by anthropologists, that all primitive peoples exist by preference on a diet of hamburger steak. Dufour derives from this pervading passion a theory that all races of man once inhabited a common Atlantis, but Rogers does not go so far. He just says he is glad they do not crave porterhouse. Once engaged, the aborigines must be encouraged and, if necessary, taught to perform some harmless maneuvre which may be balleyhooed as a sacred tribal rite, just about to begin, folks. This is ordinarily not difficult, as the average savage seems to be a good deal of a ham at heart.

Dufour & Rogers’ debut as practical ethnologists was really caused by a large captive balloon that blew away from its moorings at the Century of Progress. The balloon had been one of the sights of the midway, and its taking off left a large site vacant. So Lew and Joe, who already had a couple of other shows, leased the space for a tropical village, which they called Darkest Africa. Some of the partners’ acquaintances say they opened with a cast of tribesmen from South State Street, which is in the Chicago Black Belt, but Lew insists that he came to New York to engage them all. ‘ Naturally there was no time to go to Africa for performers on such short notice,’ he says, ‘ but you would be surprised by the number of real Africans there are in Harlem. They come there on ships.’

By the time Dufour got back to Chicago with his company of hamburger-eating cannibals, Rogers had built the village, a kind of stockade containing thatched huts and a bar. ‘ We had a lot of genuine junk, spears and things like that, that an explorer had brought from the bacteria of Africa,’ Joe Rogers says, ‘ but this chump had gone back to Africa, so we did not know exactly whick things belonged to which tribes—Dahomeys and Ashantis and Zulus and things like that. Somehow our natives didn’t seem to know, either.’ This failed to stump the partners. They divided the stuff among the representatives of the various tribal groups they had assembled and invited the anthropology departments of the Universities of Chicago and Illinois to see their show. Every time an anthropologist dropped in, the firm would get a beef. The scientist would complain that a Senegalese was carrying a Zulu shield, and Lew or Joe would thank him and pretend to be abashed. Then they would change the shield. ‘ By August,’ Joe says with simple pride, ‘ everything in the joint was in perfect order.’

The partners bought some monkeys for their village from an importer named Warren Buck and added an outside sign which said, ‘ Warren Buck’s Animals.’ By the merest chance, the branches and leaves of a large plam tree, part of the decorative scheme, blotted out the ‘ Warren,’ so the sign appeared to read ‘ Buck’s Animals.’ Since Frank Buck was at the height of his popularity, the inadvertence did not cut into the gate receipts of Darkest Africa.

The concession proved so profitable that Lew and Joe decided to open a more ambitious kraal for the 1934 edition of the Fair. They chose a Hawaiian village this time. Customers expect things of a Hawaiian village which they would not demand in Darkest Africa. They expect an elaborate tropical décor, languorous dance music, and a type of entertainment that invites trouble with the police.”  -- A.J. Liebling, The Telephone Booth Indian, copyright 1942, Library of Larceny Broadway Books New York.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Umpired Umbathy, Pathic and Pathological, Part IX

The Wolf and the Lamb

The strong are always best at proving they’re right.
Withness the case we’re now going to cite.
A lamb was drinking, serene,
At a brook running clear all the way.
A ravenous Wolf happened by, on the lookout for prey,
Whose sharp hunger drew him to the scene.
“ What makes you so bold as to muck up my beverage?”
This creature snarled in rage.
“ You will pay for your temerity!”
“ Sire” replied the Lamb, “ let not Your Majesty
Now give in to unjust ire,
But rather do consider, Sire:
I’m drinking—just look—
In the brook
Twenty feet farther down, if not more,
And therefore in no way at all, I think,
Can I be muddying what you drink.”
“ You’re muddying it!” insisted the cruel carnivore.
“ And I know that, last year, you spoke ill of me.”
“ How could I do that? Why I’d not yet even come to be,”
Said the Lamb. “At my dam’s teat I still nurse.”
If not you, then your brother. All the worse.”
“I don’t have one.” “Then it’s someone else in your clan.
For to me you’re all of you a curse:
You, your dogs, your shepherds to a man.
So I’ve been told: I have to pay you all back.”
With that, deep into the wood
The wolf dragged and ate his midday snack.
So trial and judgment stood.

--La Fontaine

As quoted in Rogues: Two Essays on Reason, by Jacques Derrida, Stanford University Press, 2005.

No mention of Sarah Palin.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Umpired Umbathy, Pathic and Pathological, Part VIII

On First Hooking onto Inflatable Hannah

Much have I travell'd in the realms of porn,
    And many goodly tits and ass seen;
    Round many southerly deltas have I been
Which bloggers in fealty to frustrated lust hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
    That deep-brow'd John Mayer ruled as his demesne;
    Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Sex Doll speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
    When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout John Holmes when with eagle dick
    He star'd in the sex flicks--and all his co-stars
Look'd at each other with a wild surmise--
    Spent, upon a Hollywood hill, a Wonderland boulevard.

--John-Charles Keats-Keating

Umpired Umbathy, Pathic and Pathological, Part VII

“ I am not really a man of science, an artist, a poet, not an observer, not an experimenter, and not a thinker. I am nothing but by temperment a colonizer—a plunderer, if you want to translate the word--with the greed, the boldness and audacity, and the rapacious ambition belonging to that type of being. Such people are apt to be treasured if the region they colonize yields much richness—especially gold, jewels, and other precious metals and objects-- if they have really colonized, exploited, and sacked great wealth : otherwise they remain lower level mediocre bourgeois bureaucrats. “ -- Cigarchimper Fraud in a letter to his friend Fleeced, quoted by Joons, and taken from June Malcontent In the Fraud Accumulation of B.S., 1983, page 1,00,110,111,001,101.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Umpired Umbathy, Pathic and Pathological, Part V

On first looking into Chapman's Homer

Much have I travell'd in the realms of gold,
    And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
    Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
    That deep-brow'd Homer ruled as his demesne;
    Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
    When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
    He star'd at the Pacific--and all his men
Look'd at each other with a wild surmise--
    Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

--John Keats


What I am trying to get at-- the poet portrays himself as an explorer, his reading as an exploration, and gives Cortez, a real explorer, poetic sensibilities, emotions. Do I think Keats' imaginative discoveries are real discoveries? How could they be? And yet I am uncertain about this. Maybe they were. Did Cortez or his men experienced poetic awe and wonder? I seriously doubt it. Keats speaks of a realm of gold--  a realm of treasure, of spiritual treasure. And surely Keats's works can be said to have added to this realm of treasure. Keats explorations enrich a realm of riches.  Cortez's travels are indeed to a realm of gold--which he and his men mercilessly plundered. The poetic act is virtuous and beautiful, but not real. The real act was overwhelmingly vicious and vile.    

Umpired Umbathy, Pathic and Pathological, Part VI

" I am not really a man of science, not an observer, not an experimenter, and not a thinker. I am nothing but by temperment a conquistador-- an adventurer, if you want to translate the word--with the curiosity, the boldness, and the tenacity that belong to that type of being. Such people are apt to be treasured if they succeed, if they have really discovered something: otherwise they are thrown aside." -- Sigmund Freud in a letter to his friend Fliess, quoted by Jones, and taken from Janet Malcolm In the Freud Archives 1983, page 102.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Umpired Umbathy, Pathic and Pathological, Part IV

On first looking into Chapman's Homer

Much have I travell'd in the realms of gold,
    And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
    Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
    That deep-brow'd Homer ruled as his demesne;
    Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
    When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
    He star'd at the Pacific--and all his men
Look'd at each other with a wild surmise--
    Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

--John Keats

 Much have I thought to use my own reason, audaciously,
And many goodly totalizations and mystic myths seen
Down many empty caverns spelunked
Which nerds in fealty to Apollo, Dionysus, and the Crucified hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-brow'd Kant tutored as his critique
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
It spoke as if boldness and loudness were allowed
Offering the infinitizations of the Enlightenment
A space and time a priori and impenetrable Caesura nonetheless
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle-greedy-phallic-unsheepish eyes
He star'd at Aztec riches--and all his men
Look'd at each other with a lusting surmise--
Not very silent at all, while sharpening their knives, and started killing.


I will take the exhilaration, the boldness, the joy of discovery, of exploration,
the new vistas, the expansiveness, the triumph, the sheer richness of experience,
the liveliness, the vitality, the inspiration.... But how to leave the rest behind?
 How do you take the good parts without promulgating 
or prolonging radiant triumphant calamity ?