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Monthly Archives: August 2008

links for august 2008

Chekhov’s Gun


If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don’t put it there

Anton Chekhov, from Gurlyand’s “Reminiscences of A. P. Chekhov”, in Teatr i iskusstvo 1904, No. 28, 11 July, p. 521

Quote #229

If people are clamping their body together as if it might fall apart, perhaps the same is true of the mind. Could it be that our instructions on how to use our consciousness are as a damaging as our advice about posture? Should we really be told to ‘Think!’ and ‘Try to concentrate!’ and ‘Be original!’ as if thought required effort, and as if originality lay somewhere outside of ourselves? Should we really think of ourselves as ‘one consciousness’ and force our imagination to confirm this?

It’s not easy to kill the curiosity of an ape, but sitting at a desk for year after year of organised boredom might do the trick. Our preoccupation with trivia suggests that the urge to learn is intact, but that learning anything of significance has become stressful. The Executive producer of the David Letterman show, Robert Morton, said ‘If you walk away from this show learning something, then we haven’t done our job’. If entertainment is designed to pass the time without teaching us anything, then I have to presume that it’s a spin-off of our education system. Other cultures have feasts, celebrations and morality plays, and they may tear out hearts to ensure that the sun comes up, but I think that entertainment is peculiar to us, and many of us are entertained for most of our waking hours

Keith Johnstone, in Impro for Storytellers (1999, p338)

racist humanism

You know well enough that we are exploiters. You know too that we have laid hands on first the gold and metals, then the petroleum of the ‘new continents’, and that we have brought them back to the old countries. This was not without excellent results, as witness our palaces, our cathedrals and our great industrial cities; and then when there was the threat of a slump, the colonial markets were there to soften the blow or to divert it. Crammed with riches, Europe accorded the human status de jure to its inhabitants. With us, to be a man is to be an accomplice of colonialism, since all of us without exception have profited by colonial exploitation. This fat, pale continent ends by falling into what Fanon rightly calls narcissism. Cocteau became irritated with Paris — ‘that city which talks about itself the whole time’. Is Europe any different? And that super-European monstrosity, North America? Chatter, chatter: liberty, equality, fraternity, love, honour, patriotism and what have you. All this did not prevent us from making anti-racial speeches about dirty niggers, dirty Jews and dirty Arabs. High-minded people, liberal or just soft-hearted, protest that they were shocked by such inconsistency; but they were either mistaken or dishonest, for with us there is nothing more consistent than a racist humanism since the European has only been able to become a man through creating slaves and monsters. While there was a native population somewhere this imposture was not shown up; in the notion of the human race we found an abstract assumption of universality which served as cover for the most realistic practices. On the other side of the ocean there was a race of less-than-humans who, thanks to us, might reach our status a thousand years hence, perhaps; in short, we mistook the elite for the genus. Today, the native populations reveal their true nature, and at the same time our exclusive ‘club’ reveals its weakness — that it’s neither more nor less than a minority. Worse than that: since the others become men in name against us, it seems that we are the enemies of mankind; the élite shows itself in its true colours — it is nothing more than a gang.

John-Paul Sartre, in the introduction the Franz Fanon’s The Wretched Of The Earth (1963; compare with Camus’ “Neither Victims Nor Executioners”)

New York calling

I am going to be in Philadelphia on the 4th of September for a meeting, and am thinking of paying a visit to New York the following weekend, simply because I’ve never been. Does anyone have any recommended activities for me?

A Thousand Kisses Deep (book of longing version)

You came to me this morning
And you handled me like meat.
You´d have live alone to know
How good that feels, how sweet.
Anonymous, and hard, and fast –
(I´d know you in my sleep) –
Then born together, born at last
A thousand kisses deep.

I loved you when you opened
Like a lily to the heat.
I´m just another snowman
Standing in the rain and sleet,
Who loved you with his frozen love
His second-hand physique –
With all he is, and all he was
A thousand kisses deep.

All soaked in sex, and pressed against
The limits of the sea:
I saw there were no oceans left
For scavengers like me.
We made it to the forward deck
I blessed our remnant fleet –
And then consented to be wrecked
A thousand kisses deep.

It´s true that you could lie to me
It´s true you could to cheat
The means no longer guarantee
The virtue in deceit.
That truth is bent, that beauty spent,
That style is obsolete –
O since the Holy Spirit went
A thousand kisses deep.

(So what about this inner Light
That´s boundless and unique?
I´m slouching through another night
A thousand kisses deep.)

I´m turning tricks; I´m getting fixed,
I´m back on Boogie Street.
I tried to quit the business –
Hey, I´m lazy and I´m weak.
But sometimes when the night is slow,
The wretched and the meek,
We gather up our hearts and go
A thousand kisses deep.

(And fragrant is the thought of you,
The file is now complete –
Except what we forgot to do
A thousand kisses deep.)

The ponies run, the girls are young,
The odds are there to beat.
You win a while, and then it´s done –
Your little winning streak.
And summoned now to deal
With your invincible defeat,
You live your life as if it´s real
A thousand kisses deep.

(I jammed with Diz and Dante –
I did not have their sweep –
But once or twice, they let me play
A thousand kisses deep.)

And I´m still working with the wine,
Still dancing cheek to cheek.
The band is playing “Auld Lang Syne” –
The heart will not retreat.
And maybe I had miles to drive,
And promises to keep –
Your ditch it all to stay alive
A thousand kisses deep.

And now you are the Angel Death
And now the Paraclete;
Now you are the Quickening Breath
And now the Belsen heap.
No turning from the threat of love,
No acrobatic leap –
As witnessed here in time and blood
A thousand kisses deep

Leonard Cohen