By the Light of the Glow Worm

le plus grand ennemi du bien c'est le meilleur

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#1 2019-01-19 14:52:17

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Midden

Books, films, music, art

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#2 2019-01-19 15:07:44

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Re: Midden

I once paid 500 pounds to a friend for one of his paintings because he was a 'painter' and I wished to encourage him. I hung it on my wall, even though I had never liked it and it was poorly done. When he gave up being a painter, I burnt the painting. It had no meaning. I remember reading an interview with a novelist who, when asked what was the secret of his success, he replied, it was just a matter of keeping going. He started writing at the age lots of others started writing, but he kept going when they got proper jobs... his secret was nothing but his will allied to the opportunity allowed by longevity or persistance. Others, more talented than him, disappeared because they did not continue. If I had any advice to give younger people it would be the same as his - keep going. Write, paint, make music. When you reach your 30's, these activities inevitably become incongruous and it seems right to adopt a more 'realistic' mode of life, but if you keep going, once you reach the deadly still waters of your fifties, such activities take on a new meaning (not of life but of death). It is a delusion to think there are better beliefs, or values; it is essential (authentic even) to stick to the same position, hollow it out, sculpt it, transform it but stay with it, stay within the cultural frame that you are most familiar with - what you inherit, turns of phrase and gesture, become the tools of your expression. We can either give up or we can exist in relation to the possibility of giving up. We can either get out or exist in relation to the impossibility getting out.

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#3 2019-01-19 15:11:45

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Re: Midden

When did I begin mopping my brow? I have become the sweaty man character seen at the beginning of 70's movies, who by agitated behaviour indicates: a. He is a minor figure out of his depth in the world of spies or criminals; b. He is the first, unremarkable, victim of the outbreak of plague; c. As he mops his brow, he looks up and is the first to see an alien ship/meteorite approaching. The sweaty man is either a lowly figure (and has something important to hand over before he dies, or have prised from his dead fingers) or he is just an extra and a moving part of the mise en scène, a swaying palm, a creaking shutter. Either way, he has to be forgotten after the first 30 seconds of the film. Perhaps Central Casting had a list of actors who could play the peripheral sweaty man, maybe some of them made a living from only playing such roles. Occasionally in the 70's but not before or since, the sweaty man was elevated to central character (perhaps played by Jack Nicholson or Robert Mitchum in films like 'The King of Marvin Gardens' or 'The Friends of Eddie Coyle'). The sweat of the sweaty man in American 70's films tended to indicate 'belonging'... this is the sort of sweat a New York man sweats, this is the sort of sweat an LA man sweats. But in English films sweating always indicates alienation, being out of place: in India, in Australia, in Africa (Ice Cold In Alex, Black Narcissus).

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#4 2019-01-19 15:16:43

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Roma
An example of alternative hype, another pole of attraction that may be referred to as a counter to the inevitable complaint over the emptiness of modern film making.

The narration is strangely circling and forensic - a form of reminiscence absolutely at odds with the ‘proustian’ which it otherwise might resemble. It is like Citizen Kane told in anticipation of the unbreakdownable mystery of adult maturity. It is like a reenactment, an endoscopy, a cctv camera hidden in the servant’s quarters.

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#5 2019-01-19 15:19:50

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In retrospect, or retroactively, Olga Grushin’s The Dream Life of Sukhanov should be placed amongst the great works of (anti-)Soviet literature.

Again, as do so many Russian works of literature, it sets the problem of the universal squarely (squarely pegged) within the particular life by setting the secondary problem of the significance of an individuals acts. If one is a Tolstoy or a Dostoyevsky or a Chekhov, then the sacrifices are, by some process of evaluation, historically ‘worth it’. But, if one is a lesser writer, an unpublished writer, or a painter without a gallery, then by what scale of measurement can one’s privations be evaluated? It takes the same effort to live an unsuccessful life of creation as to live a successful one. The contemporaries of Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy also expended the time and energy involved in writing 1000 page novels but how were they to justify themselves to their wives? Men in their late twenties and early thirties sacrifice the discourse of sacrifice. They spent their early adulthood in a state of ascetic commitment but when the question of growing up, and putting away childish things, raises its head, they are able to demonstrate their seriousness to their wives by sacrificing the significance of their earlier sacrifices, disavowing who they once were and what they once thought. In reality, if they are lucky enough, they will discover as they continue into their fifties, with their children grown and their wives bored, that the period of apostasy and disavowal was merely a continuation, a different phase of their faith, of their anarchism, a fully automated self-fulfilling Judasism, and they embark on a strelnikov style return from their state of self-betrayal, a mad and doomed looping back to what they once were - an existential condition often banalised, upon the third crowing of the cock, as a ‘midlife crisis’. Also often, all too often, also like strelnikov, they will die in the snow on the outskirts of their home town, the opportunity for a last gaze upon Lara’s face denied them - but for the desire of return, the sincere desire for expiation, for all this the sin of their apostasy, for their expedient, post-facto rationalising, denial of their self-denyings, will be expiated. The old man’s re-embrace of surrealism, of anarchism, of romance, is really, and 30 year old ex-anarchists will find this incomprehensible, the high point of existence because although they will never re-encounter their own youth, everything is lost, everything has gone cold, they will be fit and ready, if they are lucky enough to live so long, to encounter their grandchildren and have a ball at their sober children’s expense. Such is the predicament of Sukhanov; the little life snatched back from the big life.

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#6 2019-01-19 15:20:31

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Re: Midden

Mavis Gallant is a sort of talismanic name to me. With tremendous anticipation, I began to read her collection, ‘Paris Stories’. To my surprise, I found I had already read it. Even so, this passage is deserving of my remembrance, and I am surprised that I ever forgot it:

Even in Geneva, where his status was file clerk, where he sank and stopped on the level of the men who never emigrated, the men on the bicycles-even there he had a manner of strolling to work as if his office were a pastime, and his real life a secret so splendid he could share it with no one except himself.

.

A brilliant writer, whose brilliance is derived from her acute, baconian ‘can’t paint’, sense of being unable to write.

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#7 2019-01-19 15:22:12

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Apostasy
https://www.theguardian.com/film/2018/j … -interview

Apostasy was our word to brood on in 2018 and so it is also the film of the year - unfortunately, whilst it is an important film, it is not great. The main problem is that it emphasises the obvious points: blood transfusions; excommunications (disfellowship); door knocking; unbirthdays; resurrection; the role of elders. It is like a film about Catholicism that focused on abortion or homosexuality, or a film about arranged marriage amongst Bangladeshi Muslims. I have known several Jehova’s Witnesses over the years, they are not quite as portrayed here - for example, they are very jovial, with great intersubjective capacity and, even if they have participated in the disfellowshipping of individuals they keep in contact with family members who they are supposed to shun (there is a sort of JW fellow traveller, or hinterland, milieu of those lost to the group but remaining within the gravitational field or constellation of reference).

As a proponent of small, closed groups, I would have preferred a more nuanced film discussing the JW materialist theological rejection of the soul for example, or the group as an instantiation of the critique of the nuclear family, the pacificism (in other words, I would like to have seen a work that examined the JW as a radical group). I would have liked to see the benefits of belonging to such a group in comparison to the atomisation of not belonging. In a similar way, I appreciated the presentation as a humane process of Iranian Shariah Law in ‘A Separation’. The JW worldview is not more irrational that other Christian perspectives, the point is that groups coalesce around irrational principles and that is more interesting than the irrationalities themselves. The God of Rome does not exist to an equal measure that the JW God does not exist - so that is really not the point. I don’t want to see films about ‘patriarchal’ monsters but about sets of individual relations burdened by non-negotiable constraints passing through group heuristics towards social goals. Apostasy’s performances, and superb interiors, were perfect for setting
extraordinary radical ideas within banal spaces but routine sensationalism got in the way.

The theoretical pivot, the lateness of the hour demands such, is that communism is not a critique of repressive relations (capitalism does this); dialectics is precisely the means by which an object is both suppressed and realised, it is a process that necessarily discovers itself (the human) in repressive mechanisms whilst recognising what is inhuman in what we might call ‘bad’ emancipation. Capitalism is nothing but bad freedom - but in the end it will still reduce all repressive structures to rubble; and what is lost with the death of religion is the possibility of what the JWs call ‘the new system’. The negation of the negation is therefore compelled to retrieve something of itself from good repression whilst ‘disfellowshipping’ the content generated by bad freedom.

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#8 2019-01-19 15:39:22

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Re: Midden

What is there to say about Godfather 2? Perhaps only that it more accurately presents political necessity than a naive pro-3rd estate film like All the President’s Men. Power is necessarily directed towards the destruction of that which is to be defended. Whatever gains definition will later become incoherent. Whatever is solid, will melt away. It is the process of realisation that is the precondition for decomposition. As soon as the flower blooms, it begins to whither. Then, the question was never one of survival of forms, but of the path of their decay, and more specifically, the ownership of the path by which the form takes its leave. The Family must be destroyed to defend the family. The sacred institution must be defiled by the measures taken to defend it against profanation. To prevent outside incursion, the territory must be overrun from within. Only the dead father is revered. In the end, it is not a matter of whether the beloved object can be saved, but who shall be the one to successfully implement its downfall, it is always a question of who possesses the right to burn the house down. Only that which is not defined, not organised, not recognised, and therefore is not presented as defensible, has a chance of continuation.

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#9 2019-01-19 15:40:04

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Re: Midden

A further comment on Linklater’s before/after trilogy. In ‘real life’ the coincidences would not occur, or if they did, everything would be about them rather than the protagonists. An alternative is presented in Dr Zhivago, where the coincidences that underpin the lovers’ meetings in St Petersburg (or is it Moscow?) are marked by the sparkings of the public electric tram. The mechanism of the city brings the two together but the last satisfying meeting is not completed. A dominant aspect of our culture is the perspective of the witness (And I only am escaped alone to tell thee) which shifts emphasis from the classical hero to the companion who was present during the tragedy and reflects upon it at one remove. It is difficult for us to conceive city based narratives of romantic love that do not depend upon the clockwork efficiency of the city at producing coincidences which we may then report (the operating principle of interactive social media).

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#10 2019-01-19 15:46:26

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Re: Midden

‘An inner difference at the heart of meaning.’  This is the line of a lost poem described in Emily L. Meanings begin in differences or perhaps differences begin in the place where meanings are situated. The writing is not falsely profound, it does not strive to ‘say something’... it records the state of writing, it is immanent to itself. If it shares that sense of booming, hyperbolic vagueness that characterises wilfully ‘spiritual’ ideas, then this is less a matter of deception than a function of what must escape the writer when they are writing from within the writing. Claude Lévi-Strauss thought writing coincided with, or was a product of, the formation of the state. Kafka is closer to it in, In The Penal Colony, writing is a less painful form of, a step back from, inscription on the body. I conclude, after reading Duras, that writing is not a product of the state so much as it is inseparable from alcohol. Not all alcoholics are writers but there is no writer who is not an alcoholic. True writing is always a product of the relation to habitual intoxication... It is certain that Duras wrote and that much of the product of the writing would elude her when sober but in the moment of the writing, it was immanent.

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