It seems to me that narcissism is ineluctably at the heart of poetry, maybe of every human enterprise. One-third of people will think I’m an idiot for bothering to state this. Two-thirds will think I’m repugnant for suggesting that poetry isn’t soul magic. But, however magical your soul, doesn’t its unveiling imply a touch of egotism? In lyric poetry, especially, some degree of narcissism seems unavoidable. Even Dickinson and Hopkins sought readers at some point. Now let us observe a moment’s silence for the Unknown Poets, who have defeated narcissism and won oblivion. Then, since there’s nothing to build on there, let us quickly turn in gratitude to their egotistical fellow poets, who reached through self-regard to give the bitter world a little beauty and insight.
In June 2010, the government was expressing real interest in social
networks. The Air Force issued a public request for “persona
management software,” which might sound boring until you realize that
the government essentially wanted the ability to have one agent run
multiple social media accounts at once.
It wanted 50 software licenses, each of which could support 10
personas, “replete with background, history, supporting details, and
cyber presences that are technically, culturally and geographically
The software would allow these 50 cyberwarriors to peer at their
monitors all day and manipulate these 10 accounts easily, all “without
fear of being discovered by sophisticated adversaries.” The personas
would appear to come from all over the world, the better to infiltrate
jihadist websites and social networks, or perhaps to show up on
Facebook groups and influence public opinion in pro-US directions.
As the cyberwarriors worked away controlling their 10 personas, their
computers would helpfully provide “real-time local information” so
that they could play their roles convincingly.
While hackers get most of the attention for their rootkits and botnets
and malware, state actors use the same tools to play a different
game—the Great Game—and it could be coming soon to a computer near
As I fell into the rhythm of the words, as I savored the way Dickens was planting his signposts for the development of the plot, as I watched him create unforgettable characters in a page or two, I felt a kind of peace. This wasn’t hectic. I wasn’t skittering around here and there. I wasn’t scanning headlines and skimming pages and tweeting links. I was reading.
What I am going to do, is take some time every day to read. I believe I’ll make it a practice to read in the room without the computer and the Wi-Fi.
I interpret “…the room without” as the rest of the world. My first daily read for the summer: Moby Dick. (It’s my first time.)
But the present is not a potential past; it is the moment of choice and action; we can not avoid living it through a project; and there is no project which is purely contemplative since one always projects himself toward something, toward the future; to put oneself “outside” is still a way of living the inescapable fact that one is inside; those French intellectuals who, in the name of history, poetry, or art, sought to rise above the drama of the age, were willy-nilly its actors; more or less explicitly, they were playing the occupier’s game. Likewise, the Italian aesthete, occupied in caressing the marbles and bronzes of Florence, is playing a political role in the life of his country by his very inertia. One can not justify all that is by asserting that everything may equally be the object of contemplation, since man never contemplates: he does.
– Simone de Beauvoir, from The Ethics of Ambiguity
“In 1996, seven friends agreed to write one haiku a day and mail them to each other. At the end of the year, they realized that their collection of simple, critical observations had given them a new way to look a the details of their lives.”
The Smiths on
Starbucks’ sound system
another dream over
Bitter stamp taste
Licked for a letter
that will get no reply
People in cars
telling life stories
in red light glances
the father pushing
the kid on the tricycle
when it’s easier to tell him to pedal
I’ve been meaning to post something by Anis Mojgani since I first started this scrapbook. And while I feel there’s something in Mojgani’s work that these videos don’t quite capture, there’s no use waiting for perfection.
As a representative of the night-time cereal eaters, among several other characters listed, I give you “Shake the Dust”:
And be patient with this one — it really unfolds in the last minute or so, from the moment he says: “Because every breathe I give…”:
“…and the answer comes:
And I still have time to be…”
(All quotes are 99% accurate, though I have re-ordered them a little bit.)
UbuWeb can be construed as the “Robin Hood” of the Avant Garde. Only a handful of artists have given explicit consent to be featured.
“If we had to ask permission, UbuWeb wouldn’t exist.”
“We don’t really fuck with economies — because there’s no economy for this stuff.” (This stuff meaning, the music of Marcel Duchamp or Jean Dubuffet, for example.)
“We respect legitimate economies.”
UbuWeb features five terabytes of work from 5,000+ artists.
When he was working on his collection of Warhol interviews, Goldsmith went to the offices of the Warhol foundation to get permission, and they “laughed him out of the office.” In their view, Warhol’s words are valueless.
“Download everything you possibly can from UbuWeb — it won’t last forever.”
“The outsider stuff is becoming the inside.”
“There’s so much stuff on UbuWeb that I don’t know what’s there.” (Editors help him by managing different sections.)
UbuWeb is not a democracy: The collection is “highly curated, highly selective.” Most submissions don’t make it on the site.
UbuWeb has a Facebook page, created by his students, but Kenneth Goldsmith was unequivocal: “I hate Facebook.”
“I have problems with the idea of quality in Web 2.0.” And donation buttons make him sick.
From time to time, he gets offers — up to US$50,000 — for the domain ubu.com, from companies who want to sell products that “help you be you!” etc. And he takes great pleasure in replying: “Fuck you: This is reserved for poetry.” (I instantly pictured an orange traffic cone with this response, embossed on a metal plate, sticking out of the top. And the entrepreneurial part of my brain thinks it would make a great embroidered fishing hat…or maybe stickers that could be placed wherever logos lurk?)
UbuWeb may look institutional, but “it’s made of toothpicks and tissue paper.”
“I’m not an art historian…there are holes…it’s a horribly-flawed fanzine…the taxonomy is atrocious…it’s an art historian’s nightmare!”
“We’re in the Summer of Love for the web right now, and it’s not going to last…We’re in the midst of a revolution that’s so large we don’t even recognize it.”
“Old hippies are the worst in the world” in terms of copyright, control, permissions and sharing. “It’s generational.”
A few gleanings from a look around the site this morning: