No striving with supreme powers.
—Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy (1638/1651)
(This is the grimmer lesson to be gleaned from today’s introduction of the 17th President & and the new First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Spenser W. Kimball, 12th President, explains:
There have been some eighty apostles so endowed since Joseph Smith, though only eleven have occupied the place of the President of the Church, death having intervened; and since the death of his servants is in the power and control of the Lord, he permits to come to the first place only the one who is destined to take that leadership. Death and life become the controlling factors.
—Spencer W. Kimball, “We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet” (6 October 1972)
[My emphasis.] The succession of LDS leadership is Darwinian; death—natural process & index from the Outside—is the selection mechanism.)
This malady [clinical lycanthropy], said Avicenna, troubleth men most in February, and is nowadays frequent in Bohemia and Hungary, according to Heurnius.
—Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy (1638/1651)
(Cf. Nabi Banazadeh, Ali Kheradmand, & Mansoureh Nasirian, “Rare Variant of Lycanthropy and Ecstasy,” Addict Health 1:1 [2009, Summer]:
Patient was a 28-year-old, unemployed, married male living in Kerman province, Iran. His education level was 5th grade and was brought to Beheshti Psychiatry Hospital in Kerman for his aggressiveness and restlessness. The patient complained of people who were observing him with an intention to harm.
The patient believed that his father had changed to a boar and frequently attacked him, his brother had changed to a horse and sometimes kicked him, and his mother changed to a donkey and continuously brayed. He said that his soul sometimes left his body and went to various places with these animals and found what others do in their houses. He also stated that there was an angel protecting him and he could hear some people talking to him about his daily activities. He believed that there was a chicken in his head capturing his body and pushing his brain with thoughts that were not his. He believed that his wife was wearing a ring and by moving it puts more stress on his brain and more unpleasant feeling and for this reason had asked his wife to move out.
It was found in his history that following taking many ecstasy pills for opium cessation in an unofficial opium cessation center, he developed some delusional symptoms. He had been under physician’s observation for several months and after relative recovery, he stopped his medications and the symptoms aggravated again. There was no history of mental problems before taking ecstasy. He had persecutory delusions, depersonalization, passivity, loss of ego boundary, out of body experience, synesthesia, lycanthropy, thought insertion delusions and auditory and visual hallucinations. His time, place and person orientation and memory were intact. His neurological exam showed no important point. He had normal brain CT scan and MRI. Based on his history and diagnostic criteria of DSM-IV-TR, the patient was admitted with schizophrenia diagnosis and received 15 mg olanzapine daily. His lycanthropic symptoms stopped after two weeks of treatment and other symptoms improved gradually after second month of admission.
My emphasis. Happy Wolf Moon!)
“What has *being informed* done for you?”
—@Logo-Daedalus, “” (22 December 2017)
(Inform, the transitive verb, means “to give form or shape to; to give vital organizing power to; to give life to; to imbue and actuate with vitality; to animate; to mold; to figure; to fashion.” Antithetically, inform, the adjective, means “without regular form; shapeless; ugly; deformed” (my emphasis); its root is “not + form.”
The whole tweet & its thread is excellent, a contemporary variant of this caustic paragraph from Thoreau’s “Life Without Principle“:
Just so hollow and ineffectual, for the most part, is our ordinary conversation. Surface meets surface. When our life ceases to be inward and private, conversation degenerates into mere gossip. We rarely meet a man who can tell us any news which he has not read in a newspaper, or been told by his neighbor; and, for the most part, the only difference between us and our fellow is that he has seen the newspaper, or been out to tea, and we have not. In proportion as our inward life fails, we go more constantly and desperately to the post-office. You may depend on it, that the poor fellow who walks away with the greatest number of letters, proud of his extensive correspondence, has not heard from himself this long while.
[My emphasis.] Save your minds.)
I’ve successfully avoided a promised post on hyper-racism in the Book of Mormon & the same topic as it touched upon the Land/Shutdown LD50/New Centre rumpus. [Edit: This was cleaned out of my drafts, & the last reference has not aged well over the course of eight months.] Both require nimble scrambles up a slippery slope that bottoms out on stupefaction.
So imagine my surprise to find a Marxist poet implicitly making the distinction I tried to make explicitly with my earlier post: that race, as a proxy for speciation, is now firmly downstream of class or SES. But that’s precisely what Damn the Caesars does, fusing Marx & Darwin in a paragraph that has a strangely alt-right texture:
Fuck Trump. Until he and the whole of his genus are entirely removed from the sanctuary of political power they presently inhabit, how can this not be the first and most enduring concern of any reasoning US citizen? Fuck Trump and fuck every intellectually underdeveloped cretin associated with that fascist, racist, trans-hating, woman-hating, billionaire rapist. There can be, as Margaret Thatcher so memorably insisted, no alternative. Out or holocaust. For anyone sensitive to instant-by-instant developments across the past year there can be no purchase whatsoever that resides between these two positions. We know what this is. We have known all along. Fuck the fascists.
(My emphasis.) Here not merely a separate species, like Homo bourgouis, but a separate genus: completely dehumanized! That “there can be no purchase whatsoever … between these two positions” is astute. The dialectic fails & that’s okay. There are moments when synthesis is neither needed nor wanted. The alternatives are the blockchain metaphor of a hard fork and the biological metaphor of speciation. The latter won’t remain a figure of thought; it is the shape of things to come.
Why have we none [no grace] for books, those spiritual repasts; a grace before Milton, a grace before Shakespeare, a devotional exercise proper to be said before reading the Fairy Queen?
—Charles Lamb, “Grace Before Meat” (1823)
(Lamb cedes this extension of “the solitary ceremony of manducation” to “the use of a certain snug congregation of Utopian Rabelæsian Christians,” which is a double shame, first that we don’t specific devotional exercises for specific authors & acts of reading, and second that there isn’t an actual congregation of Utopian Rabelæsian Christians.)
The one man who has ever made me wish I had a penis is Norman Mailer.
—Alex Mar, “A Female Author’s Love for the Proudly Sexist Norman Mailer,” The Aesthete (undated)
(Not a bad sentence with which to start an essay on a subject as torturous as the sexual politics of reading Mailer. The title is bad, but I assume that’s an editorial imposition and that the much better “My Norman Mailer, Myself” of the article’s URL is Mar’s chosen title. Her penis envy, Mar clarifies, is figurative*: “I wanted a dick like his to swing around—you know, in the literary sense.” Unfortunately, I didn’t get that far because the second of three intervening sentences—”I was just out of college and starting a new life, living a few blocks from the paper he founded …, in an East Village studio so lopsided anything you dropped would roll across the floor”—hoops the mind with panniers of such self-satisfaction that the only sane response is to close the tab immediately.
*This is a disappointment. Imagine a literal legion of Mailer-steeped transmen marching through Provincetown, maniples hefting their synthetic man-poles in salute to a fellow prisoner of sex.)
His [Samuel Johnson’s] was a hungry man’s hard-hearted view of life, more like Merle Haggard’s conservatism than like his later friend Edmund Burke’s.
—Adam Gopnik, “Man of Fetters,” The New Yorker (8 December 2017)
(The comparison is unnecessary—and grossly inaccurate if you imagine New Yorker readers taking it as gospel—but the affinity between all three holds: a political or social orientation that moralizes yet [mostly] eschews complaint & guards against its own transformation into universalist aggression. How many times have you seen Johnson, Burke, or Merle Haggard lyrics* used as a rhetorical bludgeon?
*”Fightin’ Side of Me” &”Okie from Muskogee” don’t count. Hell, the latter was so plasticized with irony—well-nigh Chaucerian levels—that the Hag could never consistently articulate what he was doing with that song in interviews.)
Its suburbs, Katy to be precise: sprawling gated communities, fenced-in subdivisions, country clubs. Some of the best square-foot-per-dollar value in the nation. The scale of the destruction—the amount of raw materials needed to replace, say, the bottom two feet of drywall & insulation in one 2,200 square-foot home, multiplied by thousands—stupifies. If Irma is bad, a third of the U.S. drywall market will be eaten up by Texas and Flordia. Every yard is piled high with torn out drywall, insulation, flooring, cabinets, furniture. Anything resting below the ~2-4 ft. level has been thrown out or is due to be thrown out once the occupants return. Piles as high as my head, dripping chalky water into the gutters. Piles slowly collapsing under their own weight as the rot of their component parts intensifies. Piles of moldering carpet—these piles lower because the weight of wet carpet makes it hard to throw higher than five feet—you can smell at the end of the street. Everywhere the marks of the flood’s high point. I see it on cars, many having been completely submerged, their paint now scored by dirt, their windows fogged up, their insides covered with an eighth of an inch of mold. (The drive back consists in large part of passing tow trucks loaded with scrapped cars still dripping muck from their wheel wells.) On bookcases leaned against trees, on busted brick walls, on the banks of water hazards at the country club. Everywhere mildew and rot, American flags, Red Cross trucks passing out hot meals to demo crews, good Samaritans doing the same. Voiding your bowels while mucking out a single story McMansions gets tricky: with the bottom four feet of interior walls stripped to the studs, there is little privacy to be had.
Why is it too late to be simple,
out riding, pointing at something, when all you loved was there anyway? Too late
to be inventoried or caressed, as one lays in a stock of family anecdotes for the future,
poses to assume, frippery, harmless tomfoolery, until in a cocoon
made of commas it will all seem to come right, but the ashes have been left far behind
on a nameless road, in whose ruts glass still flashes magisterially,
not merrily short-circuited as when we were among people, but a thing on its own now,
to weep over rather than think of saving? If only we could get the message out further,
yet here all kinds of sacred cows hinder one, so there is no longer any point
in pursuing the implications today. Tomorrow will be good enough for that.
—John Ashbery, Flow Chart (1991)
Intimacy should be off-putting; it’s someone else’s private space we’re barging into.
—Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, “Sometimes, the staying power of horror has nothing to do with fear,” A.V. Club (28 July 2017)
(Off-putting in the sense of “uninviting” [from the Latin inuitare, which Skeat says is of uncertain origin]. Cf. the pornographic invitation recognized by the Mormon anti-porn PSA mentioned in Ss-48/10,000: “Just because you saw pornography, and just because it made you curious or interested, doesn’t mean you’re a bad person.”)