18/05/2013

summer miscellany

(c) Arcimboldo (c.1570) "Spring and Summer"


Deciphering corporate language:
  • "Manager" = Controller
  • "Executive" = Controller controller / King Simpleton / Capital's Metatron
  • "Administrator" = Cartesian demon.
  • "Supervisor" = Guard labour.
  • "... Officer" = Desk ballast.
  • "Analyst" = Cherry-picker.
  • "Advisor" = "Yes" Man.
  • "Consultant" = "It'll cost you" Man.
  • "Assistant" = monkey.
  • "Intern" = monkey's monkey.
  • "Technician" = nerd monkey.
  • "Programmer"= Code monkey.
  • "Developer" = Programmer.

(OK, so job-title inflation is an understandable process - you're trying to convince people that what they do is important - but you're doing so without changing their work or working conditions.)


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Here is the great joke of the humanities: "we shall wake you to the injustice and pain of the world - just in time to realise you've failed to equip yourself with the skills to do anything about it."

Shrinking away from this nasty state of affairs explains the popularity of critical theory and loud activism - because a quick and easy way to deny the joke's reality is to reassure yourself that introspection and radical chat are in the fact the real way to change the world.

(OK, so the ability to recognise the status quo as corrupt is itself a kind of skill - and ok, it is in theory possible for Critical theorists to work with engineers, politicians and financiers. But lots of things are possible in theory, and are never ever seen in this world of ours.)


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OK, so the humanities do supply one potent tool of social justice: redescription!
  • "atomisation of society" / "increase in personal freedom"
  • "average" / "normal"
  • "passivity" / "receptivity"
  • "giving him sex"* / "having sex with him"
Is it disingenuous to think of these as exactly the same phenomenon, just with different stances taken?


* Heard someone say this recently, in a truly awful sentence: "I'm nae givin him sex until he gets me jewellery."


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Recent addition to my canon Metal Places in England: Lychpit, Hampshire. That's Lich, coming from the Old Eng. lic - corpse - and today most commonly seen as a title for the undead king of necromancers.

(OK, that should be put in inverted commas, "commonly".)


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"The limitations of the ‘ethical’ are perhaps most obvious to the modern mind. The life of eternity is just an illusion, for we are all-too mortal, flesh-and-blood creatures. To believe we belong there is to live in denial of our animality. So the world has increasingly embraced the ‘aesthetic’. But this fails to satisfy us, too... No wonder there is still so much vague spiritual yearning in the West: people long for the ethical but cannot see beyond the aesthetic."
- Julian Baggini

I learn that Kierkegaard's name is derived from the Danish for severe graveyard! Ffs! It's as if Kant's family name were "Buchhalter", or Derrida's, "Jacasseur".

(OK, so it's probably quite innocuous in Danish - more like "Churchland", perhaps...)


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The rapper Danny Brown has a sociologist in his entourage.* This is such a fantastic, surrealist move! It begs a short story by Borges, or a short vignette by David Lynch: swaggering louts fuel conspicuous consumption of academia. Death Row back the Strong programme in Science studies; Def Jam pick up on pragmatic post-positivist computational sociology. Zygmunt Bauman is seen at Roc-a-Wear launch parties, bending Kanye's ear. Knowledge-bling. Postgrad physicists as Ill-ness Regulators and Flow Accelerators.

*(OK, she's a support act too.)

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In a hundred years we will mock the Scots, and the Russians, and the Svalbardans of today for living in literally lethal temperatures at often depressing light levels merely because their parents lived there.
(OK, so despite the energy burden, there were good evolutionary reasons to live in the cold - for example no malaria and suppressed infections. OK, so we saturate space with affect as we go, and it's this that gives the otherwise baffling and repugnant idea "tradition" its warmth and traction. OK, so things one sacrifices for are thereby elevated.)


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My obsession with Punk - a mostly unimportant social movement which receives a disproportionate volume of cultural representation - continues. This is because it stood at the very beginning of my development into myself: I got into effective altruism through philosophy; I got into philosophy through poetry; and I got into poetry through punk subculture. Though this is surely not your average punk's route, the move is potential in the scene. And Punk, or its modern dilutions, is generally available to Western kids during the great taste amnesty of our mid-teens, and as such can claim to be a force for good.

(OK, so subcultures hardly have a monopoly on virtue. But above-average levels.)


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Certain academics spend a lot of time "unmasking" certain practices, following Mr Freud and Mannheim. (Think science, sex and gender, sport.) However, microeconomists - those least humane of social scientists - are unmaskers too: they are just the right-wing counterparts of constructivists.

(OK, so they don't see themselves as doing anything particularly novel - though they are. They don't have much imagination when it comes to that sort of thing.)


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A poncey European pomo secularist, I hold that Nothing is above ridicule. What could justify this potentially heartless, libertarian attitude to speech?

Here is a nasty, 'realist' argument-from-consequences: if people are not permitted to mock you, my dear zealot, then all that's left to them are the sadly ineffective means of rational public debate; the slow, corruptible and dissatisfying political process - or the horrifically effective means of state or popular violence. So it's in everyone's interest to have humour as a valve on cultural difference.

(OK, so humour has sometimes been used as incitement to violence rather than a sublimation of it.)


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I think I shall save this from the digital void: my friend's sarcastic abusive links to his friends' blogs. (Guess which is me:)


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