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Jun. 28th, 2013

once again, i have a different journal now.

please comment if you are interested in gaining access to it.

May. 17th, 2013

I am committed to embodied experience. This is a highly charged philosophical claim and yet I am not interested in justifying it. I’m interested in illustrating it.

I used a manual wheelchair for about ten years now. The first power chair I had was ill-fitted and then it broke. Due to a series of reasons, we couldn’t get it fixed. Then I fell very ill and being in a manual chair was all I could cope with. I could hardly type. C’mon. As I recovered enough to want more independent, my insurance company began finding technicalities to rejecting my request for a power chair. That fight lasted many years but this is not what I wanted to write about. I wanted to write about the way in which I experienced the world when I was in a manual wheelchair that had to be pushed by my mother.

I live downtown Chicago. It’s fun, it’s lively, it’s full of quirky sights. The city is also known for its architecture. Yet what I used to see for so many years was the cracks and damages in the sidewalks. I have never looked at anything so intently as I did at sidewalks. There is no other object in the world I have ever scrutinized with this much concentration. Not a work of art, not a lover's face. There are a few reasons for that, the main one being that my the front wheels of the wheelchair tend to be stuck in seemingly harmless ruts unless you know how to handle it. And even then. What happens in a case like that is that it gets close to tipping over and I freak like a Chihuahua on acid. So I’d have my eyes glued to the sidewalk and alert my mother if I feel alarmed. Which means I’d yelp, like the said Chihuahua. The people, the architecture? Not so much a priority.

Things got much worse in November of 2011. We were out for a walk and there was a sandy patch. The wheels got stuck and I fell face down on the ground. The sand probably saved me from breaking any bones. However, the seconds of my fall lasted a long time. I know that seconds are not supposed to last a long time but they did. Oh, they so did. In those few seconds, I was crushed with an absolutely paralyzing helplessness. The helplessness that has never left me since then.

This is when my fears grew stronger. I could cope with going to school because, well, I guess the goal of getting somewhere kept me focused. However, going for a walk had no joy to it anymore. Strange, isn’t it, when joy leaves your world entirely? As if colors left it, leaving it monochrome.

Which brings me to the way in which I experienced myself every time I went out. I have extreme osteoporosis. When I was a kid, my mom took me to some sort of event, which, naturally, had a lot of people. Someone bumped into me, not even forcibly. That resulted in a broken bone. Thanks to the osteoporosis, I weigh 60lb. An uncanny, human feather.

So this is how I experienced myself every time I went out: as fragile bones. I am a doctoral student in high-standing. I can do cool things. Like, really cool things. I’ve enjoyed the respect of nearly every professor I’ve ever worked with. One of them described me as “fiercely independent.” Which was damn intuitive because I take crap from no one. I never have, I never will. And yet, none of that mattered when I was outside. Because I was reduced to being fragile bones, to the girl who is not likely to survive even a minor threat to her bodily integrity, the girl in the grip of visceral fear. Screw reading Heidegger in the original. Who cares, right?

Let’s see… Another thing I saw with an eerie clarity was cars, coming every which way. My mom, my primary care-taker, the person who pushed my wheelchair, was nearly killed in a car accident in 2005. The cars were a big threat, for sure. Because I had no control. Because my life was entrusted to someone who was nearly killed by a car. Oh, the feeling I had… Wait, do you really want to know?

And this is where I will stop. I got a power wheelchair about a week ago, the battle has been won. However, I am going to say that what’s been done to me by my insurance company is evil: if this life and this experience is all there is, I do not take kindly to my experience of the world being reduced to experiencing the sidewalk and the unpredictability of the drivers. In the same vein, I do not take kindly to being reduced to the sum total of fucking bones. I am not reducible to anything.

I’ll be happy if the rest of my life happens to be dedicated to the idea that systematically impoverishing someone’s experience of the world is evil. Because it is.

Because there is nothing that can possibly redeem the time of the concrete and the bones.

May. 2nd, 2013

Fanon has passion and the fury at injustice in his writings. And Arendt has... fear. Not often but i am convinced that what I catch glimpses of in her writings is fear. Even terror.

Mar. 25th, 2013

“And I also wonder where we lie, in the end, on the human or even the animal scale.”

“What we lie under?” said Cuzco.

“Yes,” Brown snickered sadly. “I wonder.”

“That’s just it,” said Cuzco. “This time you’ve asked the right question, Brown. What we lie under.”

Mar. 17th, 2013

“A man who trusts cannot be betrayed, only mistaken.” Cally said that was a saying among her people.
Who’s Cally?
Cally was murdered. So were most of her people. (c)

Feb. 17th, 2013

I can’t account for this girl who lives in me and who’s been haunting me for so many years. I catch a glimpse of her in night-stained mirrors, but only if I’m not looking, only if I’m pretending not to look. Every now and then, she fills my eyes with eerie, heavy, darkening silver and then this vivid, feverish silver gets torn out, violently and swiftly. The terrible force that tears it out of my eyes, this force has no name and the place it comes from is forever hidden by very still, silent trees. And it hurts. It always hurts so much.

I see us both standing on a bridge, one overwhelmingly lucid evening, smoking fine slim cigarettes, fragile ashes in lieu of whispered stories, and no one will ever be able to tell if it was a push or a jump…

Why can’t I account for you? And which one of us failed to protect the other?

Feb. 15th, 2013

Mental pain is unbearably hot because it scorches everything it touches and yet it is also inhumanly cold because it puts an ice-like, crystalline screen over everything you see. And that’s how you know the real pain: it burns the psyche with the slow ghostly fire and turns your vision into ice.

Feb. 11th, 2013

at some point the question is no longer, “why is someone treated unjustly?”... because there are answers to that, there are always answers, even if they're lame. at some point the real question is, “why are there *exceptions* to that?”

as far as ethical matters go, i find few things as genuinely unsettling as this. it's the haunting force of exception that quietly fractures my mind.

from an email

it was fascinating. i thought it was a brilliant critique of modern (capitalist) society where no one has any time for anyone anymore and where the space in which someone is simply acknowledging your presence, without rushing off, in which someone finally has time for you--"she visualizes time in the space she shares with the audience"--comes to have an incredible value. it's gut-wrenching. the aspect of the 'blank slate' was incredibly interesting as well, insofar as it brought to the fore the disconcerting human need to create idols, even gods (the adulatory and downright religious reactions to the performance gave me the chills) and i'd say it could've been the most powerful testimony to that need i've ever seen, if only because it was so sterile (the museum context) and pronounced, both artificial and raw.

theoretically, the question--the difficulty--of presence is remarkably interesting too and it really made me wonder what it would mean for a philosopher to be 'present,' in a very different register of course. what would the equivalent of the bodily presence for the mind be?

the stuff about "she does all of this because she was an unhappy little girl and now she wants to be loved" was admittedly weak, in my view. the erotic aspect and the significance of love in her work were so vivid, they simply shouldn't have commented on that, the words trivialized the matter.

anyway, these are some of my thoughts, haha.

Sep. 27th, 2012

"the girl who talked with her eyes.

do you see what i'm saying?"

Aug. 20th, 2012

Blanchot thought and wrote a lot about what happens when you’re alone. As did Levinas. Literally alone. About the forces rising like a slow, heavy mist over harrowing experiences and claiming your existence as soon as daytime distractions fade away. It’s then that the fine threads of the night are woven through your body, the threads so delicate and yet so strong.

May. 12th, 2012

--i grew up in boston. well, actually, i grew up in books.
--there’s things you can’t get in books.
--there are things you can’t get anywhere. but we dream they can be found in other people.

Jan. 23rd, 2012

"you never think of it, but the truth may turn out to be sad"

"i count as friends those who disapprove of my actions but not of my existence"

(c) godard

Jan. 22nd, 2012

"My writings are supposed to be so difficult. I was supposed to think that everybody in distress understands me. But where are those who are in distress?" (c) Nietzsche, cited by Benjamin.


if only i could find a means of expression for the real intellectual understanding that i have with [...]. if only i could stay up all night, stay vigilant, and think of nothing but the times when we’re both speaking of violence, and the body, and suffering, and justice, and ethics, and commitment, and wars, and responsibility, and resistance, and when that which is speaking with this unbelievable intellectual intensity is finally pain itself--if only i had this time, i’d find a way to commemorate. but i don’t. and yet, there are times when that which is speaking in a highly abstract language is pain itself. and you shiver, because that’s what happens when pain and thinking finally meet. you shiver.

we can only do so much, but it is never, ever the reason to not even try. it is never the reason to do nothing. and then it comes down to a series of proper names: blanchot, levinas, beckett, ophir, kant, arendt, godard, fanon, weil, adorno, benjamin, duras...

Jan. 19th, 2012

If we refuse to conflate the conditions of knowledge with the conditions of reality, then the question is not, “Why do I do evil?” and not, “Why do you do evil?” but rather, “Why are there the conditions under which people do evil?” (c)

For Nietzsche, society is the problem. For Adorno, society is not the problem. This society is the problem. (c)


Kirlian Camera - Nightglory
VNV Nation - Automatic 
The Frozen Autumn - Chirality 
Miserylab - Void of Life
PJ Harvey - Let England Shake 
This Morn' Omina - L'Unifications Des Forces Opposantes 
Siva Six - The Twin Moons 
Aïboforcen - Dédale 
IAMX - Volatile Times 
Acretongue - Strange Cargo 
Mirko Hirsch - Obsession
Cold In May - Gone Away With The Memories

Jan. 4th, 2012

"no one loved nico and nico loved no one".

Dec. 21st, 2011

as this one reviewer said, melancholia, cronenberg’s crash, bergman’s persona, and fight club are the only films that have succeeded in capturing the feeling of genuine clinical depression. i’d add the piano teacher to that.

it’s what chills you to the bone, it’s when the winter strikes roots in your bones. it’s the cold that re-crystallizes your very being by its inhuman, utterly hollow force.

Dec. 4th, 2011

what is it that can’t be hurt? it is not pure cold, it is not an idea, not a concept, not an abstraction. it is neither lack in the psychoanalytic sense nor a feeling of invincibility, far from it. but i keep asking myself precisely this question. there’s something that can’t be hurt and i can think of the way in which blanchot wrote about extremely fine needle-like points and the black winter sky, but then what do i do with contempt? where does contempt fit in and how do i talk about it? what do i say about this encounter between blanchot’s terrible lightless sky and contempt?
but it’s not all there’s to it either. you can’t be hurt if you don’t you say that you want something. not being hurt is not giving anyone the means to deny you. and the temptation to give someone the means is always there.
and yet, even the hegelian master goes down. it is not a question of if, it’s a question of when.

film socialisme

“you trouble me with each of your words”

“to tell is never enough”

“ideas separate us. dreams bring us closer. no, nightmares.”

“sun and death never look at each other directly”

“affection is an ancient event”

“we discover war only once. but we discover life many times.”

Nov. 23rd, 2011

RD was in town and i was so freaking happy to see him, now of all times. we talked for 6-7 hours straight about beckett, french cinema, von trier, blanchot, freud, foucault, rorty, democracy, languages, and a myriad of other things. days like these, days like these.

Nov. 22nd, 2011

i'll just say that again: the hour of the wolf


While I was still in that state of mind - it must have been about three o'clock - J. woke up without moving at all - that is, she looked at me. That look was very human: I don't mean affectionate or kind, since it was neither; but it wasn't cold or marked by the forces of this night.

only blanchot could understand "human" like this: not cold or marked by the forces of the night. and blanchot's razor-like subtlety remains unparalleled. 


contagion works fine for those who think that greater films are too upsetting, too hard to watch, and too fucked up. it’s like wanting to drink something strong for a change, just to make life more interesting, but having the fear of getting burned and thus opting for something strong, but never quite strong enough. it’s just never going to be strong enough for as long as there’s this addiction to comfort.

and yes, i am that mean.

drive, on the other hand, is just a touching story. one feels tenderness for films like that. if things are to be plain, just make them plain in the best possible way.


it’s slightly amusing that antichrist is so universally hated. it’s called antichrist people, hello? not love, sunshine, or good taste. i personally don’t even care. 

Nov. 11th, 2011

some scenes in melancholia are like gold--not fire because what we see there is static--made purely out of ice, gold seen through the indestructible density of crystal-clear ice. only von trier can do that, visually.

kirsten dunst is brilliant because of her blank stare, occasionally mask-like expression, and the genuinely mean streak. all of those work perfectly. 

and if you don’t feel anything during the final scene, you never will. it’s as simple as that.

Nov. 11th, 2011

so i've rewatched melancholia within the span of two days. i wasn't this affected by a film since... um... berlin alexanderplatz, but that was three years ago.

films (from a letter)

so i watched the white ribbon. it is indeed a lot like bergman: the space austere, enchanted, and not even violent--just cruel. it actually works well that he never offers any real explanation of what happened in the film--it begins and ends with reports on gossiping. and it's pretty much his style. speaking of haneke, i've always had warm feelings about the piano teacher... it's a perfectly executed, ice-cold portrayal of screwedupness, strong as the strongest liquor. i actually think the film and jelinek as a writer (it's based on her text) gained more recognition with some people in russia than here. here people either don't know this film, or they tried watching it and found it too harsh, or they sweetly confuse it with the pianist...
i also watched von trier's melancholia. it was expected to be the winner of the cannes festival this year, but his press-conference-from-hell killed this possibility completely, maybe even for good (ok, i never ever turned to art for moral insights, so i honestly just don't care). i have very few words about the film, but it's the best i've seen this year and, heck, even last year. and someone even told me that i'd become obsessed with it for a while, so it's nice that i'm so predictable for some... it's extremely harrowing, but harrowing in a very aesthetic and strangely sympathetic way. 'crushing beauty' would be a bad pun, but who cares. but there are no words. with some notable exceptions, a lot of his previous films stunned me too. he's just one of the icons of intellectual foreign cinema, as i have always loved it.

Nov. 8th, 2011

the implications of the idea that people will harm you for any weakness you show--and that genuinely good, decent people won’t even look, so you must avoid them entirely--are extremely hard to accept in any lasting way, like a highly complex language you try to master and succeed only momentarily, the language that you know to have a refined, mechanistically cold logic. you work hard, you get a few bits right and then your attention shifts elsewhere, you expel it out of your mind. and yet you must master it, you must read the icy, viciously beautiful archaic texts written in it--you simply must if you have any self-respect left.


We can tell whether we are happy by the sound of the wind. It warns the unhappy man of the fragility of his house, hounding him from shallow sleep and violent dreams. T o the happy man it is the song of his protectedness: its furious howling concedes that it has power over him no longer.

to i.

rick's lecture on wed was just brilliant. i have such a rush of feelings when i hear things like that....
it was really interesting how he said that hegel was most successful at the reversal where the singular is *nothing* without the universal and then he talked about workers voting for reagan... it is one of the most painful enigmas--people embracing the interests of their oppressors--and i think there are so many attempted answers to that (ignorance, psychoanalytic 'answers', nietzschean 'answers', and of course false consciousness in marx, etc). yes, back in the day i actually thought that those with physical disabilities are bound to be progressive and inclusive, but that was such nonsense. as usual, i'm with ophir here because this was entirely true for me personally: i was different--worse really--when i could not recognize the socially constructed (produced) aspect of suffering and damage. that one recognition changed so many things for me. 

also, did you hear how he said that we can judge what the kids today call 'events'? omg!

it was also striking what he said about happiness being more than mere survival... because i'm so tired of fighting for survival. i am so very, very tired.


"The subjugation of life to the process of production imposes as a humiliation on everyone something of the isolation and solitude that we are tempted to regard as resulting from our own superior choice."

gotta love 'em amazon reviewers

"If I were a serial killer, this would be my background music. Deffinately worth a listen, because let's face it, you didn't just stumble in here. Did you."

(about laibach)

Oct. 18th, 2011

"The Mohists were dour people whose ears were open to the demands of justice rather than to the appeal of love."

Oct. 9th, 2011

"The change is possible. So, what do we consider today possible? Just follow the media. On the one hand in technology and sexuality everything seems to be possible. You can travel to the moon. You can become immortal by biogenetics. You can have sex with animals or whatever. But look at the fields of society and economy. There almost everything is considered impossible. You want to raise taxes a little bit for the rich, they tell you it’s impossible, we lose competitivitiy. You want more money for healthcare: they tell you impossible, this means a totalitarian state. There is something wrong in the world where you are promised to be immortal but cannot spend a little bit more for health care. [...] We don’t want higher standards of living. We want better standards of living."

hope (to i.)

hope is a tricky question. if you mean changing the status quo in favor of the oppressed, then i do not see a lot of this possibility in the states and i see little of it elsewhere in the face of *both* american hegemony and extreme right ideologies. and yet people do revolt in some countries and it's just a fact. but it is the responsibility of intellectuals to take side and there's no excuse to not do so. the stance of some intellectuals like they're above the world is unbelievable.


i have said and will say again that hope is the consequence of other affects and actions, not their cause. consider, for instance, simone weil, whom i admire. she actually could not tolerate others' suffering, she could not accept it. and she acted out of that. hope had nothing to do with it. and the same with arendt, it would seem: she could not accept what had happened, what should not have happened, and it is this non-acceptance that animated her other concerns, i would argue. that is partly why i love her thinking.

yes, hope is a great thing when it comes to motivating people at large (recall how obama gave people hope...), but this is something different and bespeaks a profoundly depressing idea: we can hope only that such a person comes in power who will uphold the interests of the oppressed.

so yes, in what i write, i stay away from the talk of hope and possibility (ditching my heidegger heritage, still)--one reason being that it does not do any justice at all to the reason *why* some people act morally or revolt.

to i.

wow, i never thought the line 'history is written by the victors' was that cryptic....


so here's what i was trying to say about the tragic ground of existence: i actually do think that to minimize suffering, one simply cannot construe it as a-historical, universal, etc. to me, this is really crucial and the talk about the 'otherwise' made me think of that. yes, one can talk about a-historical vulnerability, about the human condition, but that is not synonymous with suffering or injustice in my mind. what's more, i am inclined to think that, if suffering or injustice is *not* a-historical or universal, one has judge or decide whether the existing conditions are unjust--one has to make up his or her mind one way or the other, precisely in the absence of a higher certainty. so responsibility to me is something other than recognizing a universal dimension.
and two more things: 1. i'm getting just angry about r's reading of that benjamin's line and 2. i can't stand all this stuff about infinite possibilities. it's just a line of thinking that does not appeal to me at all.

Foucault, Useless to Revolt

"These days, intellectuals don't have a very good "press," I believe I can employ that word in a rather precise sense. This is not the moment to say that one is not an intellectual; besides, I would just provoke a smile. I am an intellectual. If I were asked for my conception of what I do, the strategist being the man who says, "What difference does a particular death, a particular cry, a particular revolt make compared to the great general necessity, and, on the other hand, what difference does a general principle make in the particular situation where we are?", well, I would have to say that it is immaterial to me whether the strategist is a politician, a historian, a revolutionary, a follower of the shah or of the ayatollah; my theoretical ethic is opposite to theirs. It is "antistrategic": to be respectful when a singularity revolts, intransigent as soon as power violates the universal. A simple choice, a difficult job: for one must at the same time look closely, a bit beneath history, at what cleaves it and stirs it, and keep watch, a bit behind politics, over what must unconditionally limit it. After all, that is my work; I am not the first or the only one to do it. But that is what I chose."

and when i read such words, i feel that there's hope in and for philosophy. and, for once, i am proud of being part of it.

Foucault, Useless to Revolt

No one has the right to say, "Revolt for me; the final liberation of all men depends on it." But I am not in agreement with anyone who would say, "It is useless for you to revolt; it is always going to be the same thing." One does not dIctate to those who risk their lives facing a power. Is one right to revolt, or not? Let us leave the question open. People do revolt; that is a fact. And that is how subjectivity (not that of great men, but that of anyone) is brought into history, breathing life into it. A convict risks his life to protest unjust punishments; a madman can no longer bear being confined and humiliated; a people refuses the regime that oppresses it. That doesn't make the first innocent, doesn't cure the second, and doesn't ensure for the third the tomorrow it was promised. Moreover, no one is obliged to support them. No one is obliged to find that these confused voices sing better than the others and speak the truth itself. It is enough that they exist and that they have against them everything that is dead set on shutting them up for there to be a sense in listening to them and in seeing what they mean to say. A question of ethics? Perhaps. A question of reality, without a doubt.


so.... with regard to my deceptively humble relationship with philosophy--how i often don't see myself doing it--perhaps i spent way too much time thinking precisely about the singularity of some stances and how traumatic histories (trauma more in the sense of fanon, which was brilliant) overdetermine what one says. my views on this are bleak, so perhaps it's good that my first project was killed. they are bleak in two ways, externally and internally: the first has to do with how others relate or rather fail to relate to this and the second one has to do with some sort of strange violence that goes hand in hand with such thinking. you know, this is all very kleinian in a way, but i simply don't know how else to put it: when there's pain, the world is fractured for you, it's seen in stark contrasts, and the level of screwedupness here--precisely at the level of thinking--can be frightening. do you see what i'm saying?

i've been thinking about the cfp you sent me, which is quite poorly written, if you ask me. the whole problem always risks becoming an empty debate about usage and terminology--and i've seen it happen. as for me, one of the problems that interest me is understanding evil as what is unacceptable, as we see in arendt. the failure or refusal (which is it, in each case?) to accept something is just so thought-provoking...

adorno's pronouncements on suffering were a bit of a letdown... :) i did get his (rick's really) point, but i guess i wanted to hear something else.

for sure about privilege... but the wall of privilege or dumb luck is hardly penetrable, not even philosophically or perhaps--let alone philosophically.

ok, i'll tell you what's in the back of my mind when i hear adorno talk about 'harm done to the object'... wtf? what about benjamin? *i* would never feel at home at this kind of generality or abstraction if something like this happened to someone i knew well. 

oh, i go livid when i hear that nonsense about terminology viz. the problem of evil. you know that the boys even mocked it a while ago, when i was still around? that whole group laughed about it. 

Sep. 21st, 2011

Take your battered soul, wear it as a crown
All that numbs you
Stare into the sun, the blind relief
All that numbs you now
As the years roll into one, only numbers change
The world revolving around your spinning head


“While I was in the next room, I heard a child who was afraid of the dark call out: ‘Do speak to me, Auntie! I’m frightened!’ ‘Why, what good would that do? You can’t see me.’ To this the child replied: ‘If someone speaks, things lighten up’”.


so i finally watched 'incendies,' which r raved about... i understand completely why he said it was like a greek tragedy. i don't even know what to say, i really don't. but certainly levinas' stance towards the palestinians is hardly forgivable and makes you wonder, once again, how such 'little mistakes' creep into one's otherwise grandiose thought.

and really it is simply shameful that artists say so much more on these matters than philosophers usually do.


it's just hard or in fact impossible to accept that the whole situation is very much fostered by certain hegemonic powers... there's something so very disgusting about it, as much as some philosophical positions were disgusting. but see, violence in the fanonian sense doesn't stand a chance here precisely because of this hegemonic framework, at least it seems to me that way. this is one instance where the problem of ideology is actually painful to think about.
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