“What is above us in the atmosphere is daily simplified into one or another of those icons beloved of weather forecasters, which, in their naive reductiveness, stand in relation to the subtleties of the sky rather as news reports stand in relation to the complexities of existence,” – Alain de Botton, in his new book The News: A User’s Manual. Flagged by Claire Carusillo in a list of the book’s “11 most Alain de Botton sentences.”
“The McRib is like Holbein’s skull: we experience it as (quasi-)foodstuff, as marketing campaign, as cult object, as Internet meme, but those experiences don’t sufficiently explain it. To understand McRib fully, we have to look at the sandwich askew. … The McRib’s stochastic return makes visible the relationship between the eater and the McDonald’s menu. It produces a stain, a tear in the order of things that reveals the object-cause of desire for McDonald’s, but only briefly before it evaporates like faux-cartilage. The fragile conditions that make the McRib possible also insure that desire for McDonald’s food more generally speaking is maintained.
Desire is a delicate system. For Lacan, the lover “gives what he does not possess,” namely the objet a that incites desire rather than sustaining it. Likewise, McDonald’s sells what it does not sell: the conditions of predictability, affordability, and chemico-machinic automated cookery that make its very business viable. … Industrialism is also a kind of magic, the magic of the perfect facsimile. Eating at McDonald’s—eating anything whatsoever at McDonald’s—connects us to that magic, allows us to marinate inside it and take on its power,” – Ian Bogost, contemplating the return of the McRib. Update from a reader:
Does the Bogost piece really belong in that category? Seems pretty tongue-in-cheek to me.
No, not Mike Napoli – Richard Brody, of The New Yorker:
One of the beauties of the beard is that its lushness is polysemic, lending itself to an interpretive exuberance to match its flow.
A beard is a celebration of nature that brings appearance closer to that of untamed human animals—a Rousseau-esque gesture that was crucial to the age of Aquarius, a time when long-established norms of behavior collapsed and made public life a clearer expression of formerly unspeakable private desires. By contrast, the shaven and crew-cut athlete suggests a martial fury that is joyless—a grim, self-denying efficiency that may work in war but is exactly the opposite of the essence of baseball, which, for all its competitive ardor, is playtime. (And the over-all increasing regimentation and militarization of modern life has no more powerful, intimate symbol than the fanatical prevalence of depilation).
Roger Angell, objecting to the idea of unkempt beards rather than the peuce prose, only makes it worse:
How does it feel to wake up, night after night, in immediate proximity to a crazed Pomeranian or a Malamute or an Old English sheepdog stubbornly adhering to the once caressable jaw of the guy on the nearest pillow? Doesn’t it scratch? Doesn’t it itch? Doesn’t it smell, however faintly, of tonight’s boeuf en daube or yesterday’s last pinch of Red Man?
Boeuf an daube? Probably remnants of chowder.
Look: Beards need no highfalutin defense. They’re simply the default for most men. Do nothing and you’ll have a beard. At some point, you’ll need to trim it. Go to a barber who knows what he’s doing. That’s about it. Keep it as you would an English hedge. Tended from time to time but not fussed over. And if you see a debate in The New Yorker on their “Rousseau-esque gesturing,” roll your eyes and have a good chuckle.
“The chapter which attempts to account for the time of plants – their specific hetero-temporality – brilliantly guides the reader through the various seasonal rhythms of vegetal life, which unfolds within the continuity of nourishment and the discontinuity of germination. Agro-business is figured here as the commodification of the plant’s other-directed time and radical passivity, a blithe betrayal of the headless heeding of pure potential: ‘the plant, with its non-conscious affirmation of repetition, prefigures the affirmative movement of the Nietzschean eternal return, with its acceptance of the perpetual recommencement of life,’” – Dominic Pettman, reviewing Michael Marder’s Plant-Thinking: A Philosophy of Vegetal Life. Dish debate on Marder’s plant ethics here and here. Update from a dissenting reader:
I posted a somewhat hostile view of your Poseur Alert posts over at my blog, Critical Animal, inspired recently by your calling of Dominic Pettman a poseur. I just thought I would let you know. I generally like your blog, and I enjoy the inclusion of various intellectual pursuits in your blogging. But calling people I like and respect poseurs really wears on me.
“What kind of hand job leaves you cleaner than before? A manicure, of course. Why does this joke work? Because of the tension between the conventional idiomatic sense of ‘hand job’ (a certain type of sex act) and its semantic or compositional meaning (in which it is synonymous with ‘job done by or to the hand’). When you think about it, virtually all jobs are ‘hand jobs’ in the second semantic sense: for all human work is manual work—not just carpentry and brick laying but also cookery and calligraphy. Indeed, without the hand human culture and human economies would not exist. So really ‘hand jobs’ are very respectable and vital to human flourishing. We are a ‘hand job’ species. (Are you now becoming desensitized to the specifically sexual meaning of ‘hand job’? Remember that heart surgeons are giving you a ‘hand job’ when they operate on you; similarly for masseurs and even tax accountants.)
I have in fact written a whole book about the hand, Prehension, in which its ubiquity is noted and celebrated.
I even have a cult centering on the hand, described in this blog. I have given a semester-long seminar discussing the hand and locutions related to it. I now tend to use ‘hand job’ in the capacious sense just outlined, sometimes with humorous intent.
Suppose now a professor P, well conversant in the above points, slyly remarks to his graduate student, who is also thus conversant: ‘I had a hand job yesterday’. The astute student, suitably linguistically primed, responds after a moment by saying: ‘Ah, you had a manicure’. Professor P replies: ‘You are clearly a clever student—I can’t trick you. That is exactly the response I was looking for!’ They then chuckle together in a self-congratulatory academic manner. Academics like riddles and word games,” – Colin McGinn, a philosophy professor who resigned last week from the University of Miami following allegations that he sent sexually explicit emails to a female graduate student. McGinn is a Dish Poseur repeat offender.
“The animated GIF, meanwhile—whose origins go back to the antediluvian age of dial-up modems and whose natural home is the resolutely non-artistic bottom-feed of Internet image production—rudely interrupts the unbroken sheen of all the slick shit, since to GIF an image is not only to create a loop, but—in very literal terms pertaining to the effects of LZW compression—to apply a verfremdungseffekt, or distancing effect. The shiny mirror finish of HD video is dithered to dust, dots and dashes, and all the smoothing of Photoshop reduced to a crude cartography of color. The v-effekt was one of political playwright Brecht’s theatrical techniques to ensure an audience never get too comfortable: a device to make the abstract immediate and the political relatable. Here, the distancing effect allows the moving image to circulate widely on low-bandwidth connections, bringing it closer to home. To GIF is to reduce a picture to the “poor image” defended by Hito Steyerl; the conditions of its own circulation made visible. ‘The poor image is no longer about the real thing—the originary original. Instead, it is about its own real conditions of existence: about swarm circulation, digital dispersion, fractured and flexible temporalities… In short: it is about reality.’
The animated GIF is a Brechtian medium not only in the distancing effects of image compression, but also in that the repetition of a single gesture ad infinitum constitutes a sort of gestus—a symbolic moment that is amplified in context to represent a whole paradigm of existence,” – Jesse Darling.
(Hat tip: Cyborgology)
The wrong way to write a cover letter:
I was pleased to discover, through my clandestine Alaskan network, that you have not finalized a new law clerk for the upcoming year. I hope you find this letter portentously post facto rather than unskillfully delinquent. I wish to spare you the unleavened hardtack of your sensible, standard cover letter and instead appeal to your irrational masculine avatar through a reflective vignette.
I grew up in suburban Kansas City in a perfect neighborhood on a perfect street in a perfect house.
My parents afforded me every opportunity and expected results. Laboriously, I molded myself into a surprisingly athletic, covertly academic, role player. The Dalai Lama might even have congratulated me on my stubbornly unconditional perspective. Adorned in a passion for the sciences, I followed the tracks to Lawrence, Kansas. Here, I learned to be a Jayhawk.
Bouquets of regimental red and yellow tulips line the campus boulevard like a million Kansas City Chiefs fans cheering you from class to class. Each sunny spring day in Lawrence, with dudes in shorts and sunglasses and ladies in short skirts, seemed a microcosm for the whole four years. The Kansas Greek scene made for an interesting cocktail, one part social one part societal jockey and only one ice cube to cool it down. I sipped confidently from this hearty libation. Overwhelmed by ubiquitous female beauty, animal instinct to succeed prevailed.