Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Strange Bedfellows: On Vaysse's Totalité et Finitude: Spinoza et Heidegger


Translation is the closest that I have ever come to demonic possession. Let me explain, I used to think that there were books I read, books I wrote about, and books I taught, each category representing a deeper level of familiarity, even intimacy to the point where it is harder and harder to tell where the book's thoughts end and my thoughts begin. Translation, however, is on a whole different level. It is thinking someone else's thoughts. 

Friday, October 28, 2022

We Have Met the Barbarians and they are...: On Barbarian


Every mention of the film Barbarian carries with it the warning to not spoil anything, to experience it completely ignorant so as to be best frightened by its particular twists and turns. [Fair Warning: I will spoil everything here] For that reason it is not entirely clear if the title refers to anything. It could just be a vaguely menacing word. Many horror movies from the last few years seem to take their title from a series of such words, Insidious, Malignant, Terrifier, as if someone was just looking up “evil” or “scary” in a thesaurus. The opening scenes of the film, however, suggest that this title is not just a vaguely scary word, after all, it would be an odd choice suggesting that the we are running out of synonyms for scary, but that the film is very much about what it means to be a barbarian and what it means to be civilized. 

Sunday, October 23, 2022

The End? Narrative Incompleteness in the Age of Intellectual Property

The ending of the original The Blob 

I have a distinct memory of watching the original The Blob on a Saturday afternoon movie. I watched a lot of Saturday afternoon movies, Godzilla, all of the Universal monsters, and various giant ants, crabs, and praying mantis. The Blob stood out because it was actually frightening in a way that a giant monster crushing a city was not, and because its ending, in which a frozen blob was dropped someplace north of the Arctic Circle was followed by a giant question mark hovering over the sky, lingered in my mind. At the time it seemed like the perfect way to end a horror movie, with the horror still intact. I must admit as well that Steve McQueen's last line, "As long as the Arctic stays cold," sounds much more ominous these days. 

Friday, October 14, 2022

The Dialectics of Obedience: Vardoulakis, Balibar, Macherey

Halloween in Houston 

The Following is a response to Vardoulakis book Spinoza, The Epicurean that I gave at SPEP. I previously blogged about the book. 

One of the many merits of Dimitris Vardoulakis’ Spinoza, the Epicurean: Authority and Utility in Materialism is that it focuses on the question of obedience as central to the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus. Obedience is what differentiates revelation from knowledge, scripture from philosophy, action from belief. On one side, the first of these terms, there is obedience, that which falls under the control the state, and on the other freedom, the domain of philosophy. However, such an assertion would suggest obedience is a simple matter, that the line between obedience and freedom can be sharply drawn. Vardoulakis suggests that obedience must be understood through a dialectic of authority and freedom. As Vardoulakis describes this dialectic: 

Friday, October 07, 2022

The Subject Supposed to Care: On Masking, Conforming, and The Guilty Remnant

To wear a mask in a store, bus, classroom, or other public space is now to be in a small, and dwindling minority, as much as this might vary from place to place. Aside from a few holdouts, doctors offices, the place where I get my haircut, and so on, there are no mandates requiring masks anymore. That it is a minority, and a choice, is not the way that it often appears, at least to those who do not wear masks.

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Dreaming with their Eyes Open: The Sandman, the book, the television show, and memory

Every adaptation mining the vast troves of memory that we recall as our lives as readers of books and comics and watchers of film and television, but is known by its owners simply as intellectual property, always runs up against the singularity of the memory in adapting the generic nature of the property. Much of the politics of culture hinge on the conflict over the singular and generic nature of the memory. At times this politics takes the form as an attempt to retain some singular experience, a memory or attachment, against the commodification of culture  and at other times it takes the form of an attempt to insist on this singular memory or experience as the only correct one.  We are constantly trying to retain what is singular against what is interchangeable, which is, to some extent, a doomed project under capitalism. 

Sunday, September 04, 2022

Reading the Menu Symptomatically: On Macherey, Marx, and Symptomatic Reading

What follows is not a review of the entirety of Pierre Macherey and the Case of Literary Production, something that is hard to do with collections of essays in general, trying to find some common theme or thread, but would be easy to do in this case, because not only are the essays excellent on their own they also unify around an important thread of saving Macherey's work in general and his first book on literary production from obscurity. This has also been one of the projects of this blog, and one can follow the links to reviews (or at least posts) on his books on daily life, the university, utopia, norms, Spinoza, and literary production

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Welcome to Bizarro World: Part Two, Revenge of the Nerds


It has taken me a long time to write a follow up to my first post on Bizarro World. That is because once you begin to think about the strange inversions in which the persecuted are made out to be threats, and the comfortable are made out to be threatened, it is hard to not see it. Our entire world seems reversed and inverted, those who are most subject to violence are made into violent threats, and those who are most comfortable have made the threats to their comfort our central concern with the claims of cancel culture. Bizarro world would be one of those "descriptive theories" that Althusser talks about, something that stops thinking because it seems to be such an accurate description of what one is thinking about. 

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Unbecoming Saul: Reflections on the Last Season of Better Call Saul (Part Two)


How it Started/How it is going

The final episode of Better Call Saul is not just a finale to the series but to the entire Breaking Bad multiverse (to use the parlance of our times). While the first half of the season dealt with Better Call Saul as a separate show from Breaking Bad, dealing with the fates of characters such as Ignacio and Lalo who are named but never appear in the latter, the second half returns to its status as prequel and sequel. This is not just because of the appearances by Walt, Jesse, and Marie Schrader, but because it returns to the fundamental question of both shows and that is personal change and transformation. Was Jimmy always Saul dovetails with the question was Walt always Heisenberg. Or, as Chuck put it, can people really change?

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Between Legacy and History: On Peele's Nope

Seeing Nope at the Bridgton Twin Drive In 

Movie critics, even amateur ones, love puns, love working the title into their reviews in some sort of play on words. So it takes a certain amount of confidence to call a film "Nope". It just invites too many titles for negative reviews, say "Nope to nope" and so on. In the case of Peele that confidence is earned. It is the third movie by a director who is developing his own vision in an era where such things as vision or style, even directors as auteurs, are increasingly obsolete. The title of Nope recalls the title of Peele's first film, Get Out  which was an homage to Eddie Murphy's bit about how a haunted house movie would never work with a black family, they would Get Out at the first warning.