17 January 2009

Creating Hybrid Objects

Filed under: Ktismata, Language, Reflections — ktismatics @ 7:59 am

I’m continuing with my reading of Graham Harman‘s fascinating Guerrilla Metaphysics. Here we find him elaborating on José Ortega y Gasset’s exploration of metaphor. Ortega had selected as an example a line from the Catalonian poet Josep Maria López-Picó, in which Picó says that the cypress tree “is like the ghost of a dead flame.” Harman explores the stripped-down essence of this poetic phrase — “a cypress is a flame”:

If someone tells me that a cypress is like a juniper, what happens is that my attention is absorbed by a set of remarkably similar qualities; I am adrift in a world of attributes of things. But if someone tells me that a cypress is a flame, then I have entered the magic world of a cypress-flame-feeling-thing. Since the two images are unable actually to melt together instantly by way of their truly minimal common qualities, the cryptic essences that my life senses in them remain before me in a kind of permanent collision. My exultant feeling of the cypress and my exultant feeling of the flame attempt to fuse with one another, but without final resolution: their hard carapaces crack as they fill each other with molten plasm. And as Ortega admits, “even when a metaphor is created we still do not know the reason for it. We simply sense an identity, we live exultantly in this being, the cypress-flame.” This new being may be constructed out of feelings, but given Ortega’s object-oriented concept of feeling, it is actually a new thing that has entered the world, and not just a private mental state of mine. To create such an object is to de-create the external images that normally identify it, reshaping the plasma of their qualities into a hybrid structure. What we call a style, says Ortega, is nothing other than a specific mode of de-creating images and recreating them as feeling-things. (p. 109)

I find this explanation of metaphor as a hybrid feeling-object really quite helpful. Though I’m not sure I’d draw quite so sharp a distinction between the pairings cypress-juniper and cypress-flame, this is a relatively minor quibble that actually supports Harman’s case for realism. He says that in observing the similarities between a cypress and a juniper, one becomes immersed in a plasmic medium of attributes cut loose from their objects. But these attributes can congeal themselves into a new merged object called “evergreen.” For that matter, even two separate cypresses become linked together in the plasm of multiply-shared attributes, forming the merged object “cypress.”

A cypress and a flame eject from themselves certain shared attributes into the plasm, most notably the flamelike shape of those tall thin varieties of cypress that so often line Mediterranean roadsides and driveways. Should we assert then the obvious simile: the cypress-juniper object is like the cypress-flame object? I think yes, while recognizing that similarity isn’t the same as identity. The cypress-flame hybrid object is pulled together inside the plasm from attributes of the component elements “cypress” and “flame” and the observant and imaginative mind of the poet. This is one style of assembling a hybrid object. Another style relies on sexual reproduction as a means of transmitting genetic material. DNA carries biochemical attributes that afford both individuation (this tree, that one, the other one…) and speciation (these cypresses).

Some time after human beings showed up on the earth they began reflecting on the things that surrounded them in their environment. These early humans became able to think about individual trees and tree attributes and tree collectives, and together the humans ssigned names to these things. But thinking and naming is only one style for spawning the proliferation of hybrid objects within the plasm. It’s a style that didn’t arrive on the scene until the universe had already amassed billions of years of object-creation successes. One particular genetically-created species of tree and the cognitive-linguistically-created species named “cypress” share many attributes, but they aren’t identical to each other. Human cognition, social construction, genetic reproduction: these are but three of the many different styles for configuring hybrid objects. Different styles generate different kinds of objects which, when again cut loose from themselves inside the plasm of attributes, also share certain similarities with each other. But again, similarity isn’t the same as identity.

I haven’t even finished Harman’s chapter on metaphor, let alone the whole book, but based on what I’ve read so far I presume this is the direction he’s guiding his readers.



  1. […] 17, 2009 KTISMATICS WITH ANOTHER INTERESTING POST, this time on my reading of Ortega on metaphor. I wasn’t planning any blog posts for the next […]


    Pingback by cypress-juniper and cypress-flame « Object-Oriented Philosophy — 17 January 2009 @ 9:50 am

  2. I remember my fascination with taxonomy while studying biology so many years ago. That was about the time taxonomic study, as a viable scientific career option, was about to die. At the time it seemed that scientists had ‘discovered’ that all those classification exercises ultimately seemed to have little to do with the new genetics dominated wave – genes, genomics, molecular biology. And that was the only stuff that stood any chance of getting funding.

    I remember my professor (he taught us lower plant morphology) Dr. Jerry Snider, saying that one could divide taxonomists into two camps – splitters, and lumpers. it’s something that has stuck with me as a truism about humans in general. That aside, what I really wanted to ask was, what about the Gestalt way?


    Comment by samlcarr — 17 January 2009 @ 11:47 am

  3. Dr. Zamalek says on his blog:

    “I would admit now that identifying a concept such as “evergreen” is not just a matter of qualities, but also creates a split– between a general object called “evergreen” and its different manifestations in the form of cypress juniper, spruce, pine, etc.”

    Yes, I think that’s the case: otherwise you end up stuck forever in The Correlation. Mapping genomes of different species certainly depends on technological enhancements of human observation, and I suppose if human culture had gone on some other trajectory (e.g. steampunk) biologists would now be studying speciation from some very different angle. But scientists develop these investigative technologies precisely because they’re looking for knowledge that doesn’t participate in the relational plasm of observable features. It’s not necessary to claim that a genome map accurately represents the inner essence of a thing — it is tainted in a sense by the investigative tool and the features this tool is able to apprehend.

    So now we’re back it seems to the question of whether these features have any relationship to the “real properties” of the thing. Maybe this is where the scientific theory comes in: the empirical tools scrape the surfaces and probe the cores of things we wouldn’t otherwise be able to touch, but still it’s the theory that proposes to explain how the empirical evidence points inward to the real properties. But now is it the theorist who creates this reality, putting us back into The Correlation? To me these sorts of reductions happen so long as a radical distinction must be maintained between discernible properties and essence. If essence always withdraws from the Correlation then science never can touch the real properties of the object, no matter how “post-human” the investigative technology and no matter how counterintuitive the theory.

    I’ll keep reading with this question in the back of my mind awaiting further light. I’m sure I don’t adequately understand the fourfold and your further elaborations on it which you put forward in your post. But the relationship between a thing and its qualities is the issue, as you say. You put science in the quadrant of “separating a real object from its accidental manifestations,” while “separating a real object from its real qualities” — which is where I’d want to look for science — you assign to causation. Scientific theories tend to be theories of causation, so this suggests some relationship between accidents and real qualities, I would think. And I think ordinary science is positioned somewhere closer to ordinary perception, where it’s a matter of mapping the empirical findings from technologically-enhanced, systematically-gathered perceptions to an existing theoretical explanation. This of course is what most working scientists do most of the time. So does this require some connection between real objects and intentional objects? As I say, the categorical schema isn’t quite clear to me: when I try applying it to specific ways in which scientists try to separate real objects from qualities, the dual-binary separations start blurring. Mostly I suspect it reconfirms my resistance to the idea that real objects always hold something back. I’m more prone to regard objects as being willing to give up their secrets if we promise to respect them in the morning and not just use them for our own sordid pleasures.


    Comment by ktismatics — 18 January 2009 @ 5:41 pm

  4. “What I’m doing on this blog, and loving to do, is thinking out loud on my feet. I think it’s working”

    Yes, this is when blogging is particularly enjoyable, and it’s made more possible when you’re not worried about what negative responses your newly-forming ideas are likely to generate when you expose them to public view. I think people get in the habit of critiquing as a sign of being sharp, and I’m sure the dialectic of confronting and overcoming opposition can be helpful. But I think it’s overrated compared with trying to move roughly in the same direction together. The critique style isn’t just instilled in school, by the way. In business contexts (where I’ve spent a pretty extended chunk of time) people are very reluctant to take real risks, so there’s an overwhelming tendency for people to “look for a reason to say no.” One of the mantras in the one MBA class I took was “be a quick second” — i.e., let the risk-takers struggle it out on their own, then swoop in and buy them out after they’ve achieved proof of concept (i.e., likelihood of generating big profits). Not that different from the academic scene — worse in my experience actually.

    I very much like your tips for creativity, style, productivity, etc. You’ve been very generous with yourself, which I suspect has something to do with having faced rejection and indifference in your own career. Taking risks is, well, risky, and it’s helpful for the risk-takers to gain strength from one another rather than competing with or ignoring one another. Synergy, good will, and camaraderie — keep passion and calling flowing through the interpersonal circuitry!


    Comment by ktismatics — 18 January 2009 @ 5:49 pm

  5. “what about the Gestalt way?”

    I read a scifi novel not too long ago that featured a genetically-enhanced character who could see both sides of a gestalt-switch image simultaneously, the glass AND the two women, the receding cube AND the projecting cube. Pretty cool, Sam.

    Usually the idea of gestalt refers to perceptual psychology and phenomenology: how things appear to the perceiver rather than what the thing is in itself. This isn’t the focus of Harman’s explorations, except to the extent that a percept is also an object in its own right. Now I think the idea of an object being different from the sum of its parts is probably something with which Harman would agree. In fact, maybe for Harman the essence of an object is completely other than the sum of its parts, if by “parts” we refer to observable and usable features of the object. I think a “Harmanic object” has essential qualities, but it also has an “eidos,” which seems to me to be something like the real object in its wholeness (= gestalt) as opposed to its distinct real qualities. As I said a couple of comments ago, I’m not fully adept at negotiating these distinctions in Harman’s fourfold scheme.


    Comment by ktismatics — 18 January 2009 @ 6:27 pm

  6. I’m like a philosophy 101 student, so excuse the interruption, but some of your discussion sounded like stuff I’ve run into before with gestalten. I freely admit that I have no real grasp of what you are actually getting at either!

    The evergreen-cypress-juniper-flame illustration is very interesting. I always thought that the poetic joining together of disparate ideas actually functioned more as creating trajectories that may in fact even be divergent when thought through. If the trajectories converge then one has created a class. If not, then a new ‘object’ surfaces that may be purely imaginary where difference creates another vector that is wholly new. I think, incidentally, that leaving out the ‘ghost’ may end up distorting the picture quite significantly.


    Comment by samlcarr — 19 January 2009 @ 6:55 am

  7. “The ghost of a dead flame” plays on the color contrasts, the bright yellow flame against the dark green cypress. It’s interesting because we have no experience with the ghost of a flame, but only with its charred embers. This comparison makes us imagine something that doesn’t exist — or rather, we have to create a non-material object in our imagination for the metaphor to “work.”

    Continuing the chapter I find that Harman discounts the notion of metaphor as a comparison of features between two kinds of objects we’ve encountered. Rather, the comparison takes place in the totality of our “feelings” for these objects. To compare features point by point is to engage in something like a taxonomy exercise: once we find the matching features we can throw away the rest of the flame and the cypress. In that case the metaphor becomes virtually exchangeable for its literal translation: the cypress is a tall, conical, pointed (dark-colored) object. To make this exchange of literal for figurative loses the poesie, the feeling induced by the metaphor. Harman says it’s a feeling induced by juxtaposing the wholistic feelings we retain of these two objects, their gestalten rather than their features.

    For this feeling Harman, in his response to my post, says he now uses the term “eidos,” which in Greek is something like “image” in that it’s derived from the word for vision, but which also moves into the word “idea.” Richard Rorty pointed out that the conflation of visual perception with the idea of a thing resulted in a long misguided tradition in which the idea is a representation of the thing itself, as if an object traces a direct pathway from the world into the eye into the mind. Harman isn’t trying to restore “the mirror of nature” as Rorty calls it. Rather, the eidos as subjective representation of the whole object remains completely separate from the whole object in the world. I think, Sam, that by restoring the “ghost of a dead flame” to the metaphor that the distinction perhaps becomes clearer. We can create this object in our minds not as a combination of features or qualities but by conjuring a mental image of a whole object that has no correlate in the real world. I might be able to describe my eidos of a ghostly dead flame to you by reciting its list of features, but to do so would fail to credit the uncanny danger it invokes, as well as the intangible mystery, that such an imagined thing carries within itself.

    I’m glad you brought the “ghost” back to mind, Sam, since it helps me think through these ideas more carefully. After a chapter on humor Harman gets into his theory of “vicarious causation,” in which perhaps he’ll describe how a physical object like an eclipse or a metaphor can enter into relations with other things, including human minds, without giving up any of its insular essence to the relationship.


    Comment by ktismatics — 19 January 2009 @ 7:40 am

  8. When we think about eidos in a Biblical context we quickly land on two related concepts: “image and likeness” in Genesis 1, and “idol” (eidolon in Greek). In both cases the word goes beyond just an idea or a list of features/qualities to a wholistic representation. An idol is supposed to serve as a portal, granting access to the real god-object toward which it points. But an idol is also typically an icon, a likeness of that toward which it points. The idol-worshippers tended to conflate the image with the likeness, the idol with the real thing. But the idol is a different object, separate and distinct from the god-object toward which it points.

    In Genesis 1 man is said to be both idol AND icon, image AND likeness of the gods. It’s little wonder that man conflates himself with the gods, which is the usual warning put forward in the Scriptures. Maybe the gods should have made humans entirely different from themselves if they wanted man to avoid this confusion.


    Comment by ktismatics — 19 January 2009 @ 8:48 am

  9. “Ortega had selected as an example a line from the Catalonian poet Josep Maria López-Picó, in which Picó says that the cypress tree “is like the ghost of a dead flame.”

    “The cypresses were flames of black fire everywhere on the hills.” – from Harry Mulisch, The Assault

    Reading over this post and my subsequent comments, I see that upon first exposure I was quite prepared to immerse myself in Harman’s ontology, as well as his insistence that creating ideas is braver than critiquing them. Mulisch’s character sees the Tuscan cypresses as flames while he’s undergoing a nervous breakdown. He regards the cypress-flame as an object in the world, not in his own imaginings about the world. And yet he’s aware that it’s not right: “Something was wrong with the world, not with him.” This is what expressionism does: projects subjective reactions to the world onto the world itself. And then Mulisch’s breaking-down character loses his subjectivity, merging into the wrong world as another wrong object: “Lisbeth found him this way, motionless but trembling, like a statue during an earthquake.” When he masters himself again, the character finds that the world and its objects are no longer wrong but are also no longer subjectively enchanting: “From that afternoon they lost something of their perfection, the way a beautiful face is blemished by a scar.”


    Comment by ktismatics — 14 February 2011 @ 3:01 am

  10. Okay, I played along with you, let you say that you meant ‘scar’ (fixated by me only because the troll and Dejan thought that was the WAY TO GO to their TortureTainment) by my uncle’s unattractive porno of decades ago, while knowing that, in fact, you HAD originally meant the same thing Dejan and the Troll(s) meant. It was, in fact, YOU who said ‘you’ve been scarred by the experience’, meaning this nonsense that went on full-steam for a full year at Dejan’s, with people pretending to be Robin Mackay and Nick Land and possibly even being these people, until my Unified Troll Theory was, in fact, proved to be valid, nevermind what the TortureTainment specialist wants. So what was the point in covering something like that up? It wasn’t unrealistic to say I’d ‘been scarred’ by the experience. Why wouldn’t you own up to that? Does Mikhail frankly have a point, even if he’s also up to some various mischiefs that I don’t have to know about? You had reason to think I ‘might have been scarred’, but HOW was I scarred? THAT is the part the TortureTainment Partners are interested in, and why I even received another email from one of them; but the previous ‘object of desire’ was reduced, before the ‘director’ re-deleted the bleug, to INSISTING that I was SCARRED, and what that Troll(s) was doing was BEGGING that I still see ‘some troll(s)’ as ‘that obscure object of my desire’. But HOW can they be sure that I DO? They can’t be. So the sadistic tactic is to insist that I am ‘not over somebody’ who is on record officially only as having READ some of the CPC Follies. He’s still not the best writer I’ve ever read, not by a long shot; that I thought we could collaborate would have been a mistake if his work was not being lifted directly. And I’m NOT ABUSING the blog materials, because I told the author of them that he could identify himself at any time and claim what was his own. instead he said ‘go ahead and use Desiree/Lafayette’s “Bonbons”‘. And so I did, and he was given yet another chance to claim his work as recently as 2 weeks ago.

    I think you’re just DEPRESSED sometimes.

    The point is: After I said I had been ‘scarred temporarily’, the Troll comes in to Dejan’s and says ‘NO, you’re SCARRED permanently’, etc., and Dejan chimes in over here until you delete him. And this is ONLY because I mentioned it, therefore it must be true, this is the Dejanian Lacanian Doctrine, you know. It’s cheap and meaningless. PATRICK STILL LOVES NICK LAND, because otherwise he wouldn’t say anything about him at all. Okay, yes, well, you know they totally IGNORED MY 24YO BOYFRIEND, the OFFLINE one, not to mention even during the UGLY PERIOD OF NOTHING BUT LYING on all parts but mine, because this doesn’t fit into their fucking MONGOLOID SCENARIO.

    Now you can say that you didn’t bring this up to annoy me too, but why would I believe you this time? Of COURSE I don’t trust you, I tend to see your other good qualities, and you’re a sensitive man. You really worked your ass off in a way nobody in the bleugs did to understand Day of Cine-Musique. Traxus wouldn’t even say a word about it, and was explicit about HOW HE WOULDN’T even while you were writing about it, BECAUSE ‘more should have been said about Christian’s paintings’, and ‘I think I really shouldn’t say anything’, and this was because I was at that point totally anti-Arpege. But that went away for awhile, and I saw Traxus twice–maybe that was because I was in the ‘scarring period’ in January, 2010, and he ‘seemed to have helped me’, but he was being sly all the time; by the time he came in June I already had the young boyfriend, and he pretended to be happy for me (he wasn’t ‘unhappy’, I imagine, just didn’t care.)

    So, I ASK you? WHERE IS MY FUCKING SCAR? Is it on my brain, my ass, or my ‘ugly crooked front tooth’, as the Troll said. Is it that you all get so fucking paranoid yourselves, that you want to invent nasty hateful fictions? And then WHY, I ask you, if I then let you go ahead with your cover-up, which you certainly knew you were doing, do you then come back with this fucking SCAR business. And the point is, even if you didn’t say it with me in mind, you SHOULD have known that I’d pick up on it, and the other point is ‘why would I believe anything you say after this?’ And you know what, I don’t. And don’t be all pitiful about it either, I don’t believe Dominic either necessarily. You’ve both been friends in other real ways, and I haven’t found the such thing as ‘the honest bleuger’ except myself, and I AM honest AND gutsy. This is why the bleugers resent me, because these are two of the few virtues I indisputably possess. So I don’t expect honesty in ANY OF YOU, Arpege has written even more filth at Qlipoth by today, about Chomsky and Critchley (as though she weren’t just as bad), and who cares? There are other reasons to like people besides honesty. You may be like Jack, who has sometimes said he ‘lies to spare people’s feelings’. I’m sure you’ve done a lot of this, but for another thing, those long stories I wrote in response to your cover-up were not ‘most embarasssing moments’ ONLY, they were half MY embarassing moments (which embarass me no longer, or DOES SOMEBODY WANT THEM TO, just like DOES SOMEBODY WANT ME TO BE EMBARASSED because I once though Nick Land liked me too? Because, in fact, I know he did, and I know he still does. HOW could he NOT? I ask you. It is SO fucking obvious, that if you immerse yourself in someone, and THEN resist them like a son-of-a-bitch, that obviously they admire you.

    AND Mikhail DID show real courage coming over here and talking to me, showing his unashamed appreciation of me, and I said the same. The ‘laughingstock’ all these gerbils used to call me is NO LONGER IN EFFECT. And of course, that was the whole show at CPC and why the bleug was finally deleted. And the owner wonders why I don’t love her? Well, I swear, Jake, I caint fer the life of me figger that one out.

    So the whole thrust of the dejan/troll ‘lacanian therapy’ is that the NEGATIVE is always not just the truth, but THE ONLY TRUTH. That’s why I not only got the ‘Madeleine’ insults about the ‘SCARRING’ on here, but also in my email. Okay, you think about this. Because it’s nothing to get petty about, and NO, I’m not going to expose myself to the LEPERS for fear that they’d see ‘the scar on my face’, but because I am not interested to ruin my day for assholes, and also (this interested me) I didn’t even see the right photos of the High Leper until a few days ago, he’s purely Babbitt, which is to say, a solid, unpoetic and okay, but not esp. esthetic, fact. I was ‘in love’ with whoever wrote the seductive lyrics, I was ‘not in love with Nick Land’ unless he wrote the lyrics; I just thought he was the most likely one, as the horrifically bad-faith scenario continued and propagated and re-propagated itself, because he has the most talent (or I thought he had the most talent; ultimately, the ‘Hyacinth’ entries no longer seemed quite as supernal after I lost interest in jerking off in front of ‘the computer that never comes to see me in person’ and also in finding Dominic’s real poetry, and then my own to finish the book with.) So there we have the troll begging me to agree that I might be SCARRED. Frankly, if I were ‘permanently scarred’, I obviously would know NOT to say anything about it, since I know that ‘weak points’ are all that the TortureTainment Specialists were ever interested in. I don’t know how much you had to do with it, and I overlook that. I am not going to overlook the same things more than once, though. Don’t ruin it–IF you get my drift. Why? Because it’s NOT necessary to. I’m on the way now, all the reports are good (I don’t even need fucking root canals or fillings, which is where I was going the other day when the first ‘Madeleine, of course you’re SCARRED’ came through. Okay, you people don’t like me because you think I’m conceited. You don’t think Sour-mouthed cockroaches like Arpege are conceited? Well, they are, and now she’s got a new wife all her own, both husband and wife have new bleugs.


    Comment by Illegal Dances of New York City — 14 February 2011 @ 10:36 am

  11. I googled “ktismatics scar” and found nothing referring to you. I recall your either writing or suggesting that some adult male fucked you when you were around eight years old, and I remember writing that I thought this might leave a permanent mark on you, but you didn’t follow up on my observation so that was that. I thought it was an uncle, but you say no. Maybe I misread your remarks at the time – I’m guessing this exchange took place within the last year. To the best of my recollection I never wrote that you’d been scarred by your online romance at cpc, nor do I believe it.

    So anyhow, you were reading Mulisch and so am I. The passage I cite in my last comment is something I read at about 2:30 this morning. Mulisch saying that the world had lost some glamor, much like a scar on a face, completed the idea of the paragraph in which subjective and objective overlap and change places with each other. What grabbed me was the cypress flame, which flashed me back to Harman’s riff on Ortega y Gassett, and so I wrote the comment triggered by that synchrony.


    Comment by ktismatics — 14 February 2011 @ 11:07 am

    • “I recall your either writing or suggesting that some adult male fucked you when you were around eight years old, and I remember writing that I thought this might leave a permanent mark on you, but you didn’t follow up on my observation so that was that. I thought it was an uncle, but you say no. Maybe I misread your remarks at the time – I’m guessing this exchange took place within the last year. To the best of my recollection I never wrote that you’d been scarred by your online romance at cpc, nor do I believe it.”

      Then you just fucking recall WRONG. I never suggested any such thing, because I would have certainly been, if anything, PROUD of it, if not interested in it. And as or the other part of it, that you said I ‘was scarred by the cpc’ thing, ‘romance’ or whatever it was, it was definitely here, and if you can’t keep up with your own fucking bleug, it’s not something I’m going to take the time to look up, since as of this last week, you DO edit posts (even if cleverly and limitledly) without anymore saying what you take out (you once wrote ‘unacceptable material removled’ or something like that). This time you just took it out without saying, and so that’s that, but you did it. If ‘you don’t believe, then there’s no place else that it came from, because even the Troll(s) knew it, but so what. That’s the way you operate, so fine. But you DID do it, because I answered that you said that because ‘you wanted it’ that I be SCARRED. Now, at this point, I don’t really know what you ‘wanted’, but it certainly didn’t come from any place else, and YOU KNOW IT (obviously, you can erase from your own bleug, and do so, so I’m not going on a long search for something that does not matter, and which you’ve clearly been ‘in on’, just like the other ‘nice bleugers’, whether or not I care (I don’t care as much as you or Dejan or Nick or Robin things, but think so if you want, if that’s your choice–I do notice that you ONLY focussed on the more negative aspects, and not the others. I REPEAT: Do either of you REALLY think NICK LAND, if nobody else, is NOT impressed by somebody who will go all the way with him, with his wife, with his business bleug, and emails, and NOT be impressed. OF COURSE, I think he’s the best of the bleugers aside from myself, because he’s an artist despite himself. It doesn’t matter if he’s still alive, dead, or dying, HE and HE ALONE, knows that I knew something that even these proteges don’t know–and he appreciates it despite his wishes that he didn’t. And do not think that he doesn’t know that I know other major writer HERE IN NEW YORK that I think are more profound than he is even. And that is because they are. He could have decided to take control of his destiny in some other way if he’d wanted to, but he didn’t, and that’s his business now. THAT is the only reason why I am not interested any more, because even a not-particularly-famous (YET–because he will be) poet like Dominic would not be afraid to be a part of our book. Anybody who was not totally involved with some neurotic (at least) attitude, would have done likewise. And he WOULD NOT. But that you care no more about than does Dejan. The very FACT of a REAL POEM finally means a LOT MORE than someone’s endless trolling. Sorry, but that’s just the way it is. I thought Nick had the most talent, but he clearly does NOT.


      Comment by Illegal Dances of New York City — 14 February 2011 @ 4:03 pm

      • But that should tell you something about YOURSELF, that you ‘recall’ my saying ‘here or somewhere’ about an ‘uncle who fucked me’. If ONLY I’d had one who was worthy of it! But even were there, NO UNCLE FUCKED ME, or I would have said so. You fucking MADE THAT UP, or ‘recalled it wrong’, because even now, I would certainly have no reason not to admit that it happened. And it DID NOT. Why would I care? Even if I had said that (which I most certainly did not), I wouldn’t have written his name down, so there would be ‘no skin off my nose’, and I wouldn’t deny it. It just didn’t happen, and I don’t have that particular kind of ‘troll’s imagination’ to imagine it if it didn’t.


        Comment by Illegal Dances of New York City — 14 February 2011 @ 4:12 pm

      • Okay, I misunderstood what you once wrote, which is probably why you didn’t respond when I suggested that the experience might well have had a lasting impact. But that is the context for the scarring remark I made, whether I used that precise word or not. If you think I mentioned scarring with respect to your troll, then you remember wrong. Even if I had suggested that you’d been scarred by interacting with the troll, and if you replied that you were not — which I have no reason to doubt — then why in the world would I now deny having written such a thing, much less deleted it? That would be ordinary give-and-take in a conversation, based on my concern that you had been hurt by the experience. However, I’m just not interested enough in your troll to have used the climax of Mulisch’s book to make surreptitious comments about your mental health.


        Comment by ktismatics — 14 February 2011 @ 4:34 pm

  12. Now I’m motivated to finish reading Mulisch’s novel. The incident in which the main character sees the cypresses as black flames proves to be a turning point. He believes that he has successfully compartmentalized the memory of his family being gunned down by the Nazis, and that in so doing he has anesthetized himself against the pain. (He even becomes an anesthesiologist as an adult.) But now, triggered by a seemingly trivial association between the past trauma and his current life, the self-anesthesia wears off, and he collapses into shuddering catatonia. Later this character takes his daughter back to the place he grew up, the place where the killings took place. Much has changed over the years: his old family home has been replaced by a modern house, the hedges have been removed, the neighbors have moved away. But then, looking at the plaque commemorating people killed by Nazis in the area, a good memory comes back to him in a flash, a memory that he was unable to retrieve prior to his breakdown:

    “Tears came to his eyes. Everything was still there, not a thing had disappeared — the peace and light between the tall straight beeches, a row of smaller trees where the trench had been…”

    During his breakdown the trees changed instantaneously twice: first into black flames, then into diminished and blemished and scarred things. Now, post-breakdown and after many years, he sees trees as they are, and as they were back then, when the trauma unfolded. Re-establishing his subjectivity, the character can also perceive the objective world for what it is.

    In my earlier comment I was noting that the subjective-objective confusions the character was experiencing during his breakdown corresponded to what Harman contends is the ordinary relationship between subjects and objects; i.e., that the objects release properties from themselves which travel through a sort of environmental plasma in order to merge with the perceiving subject. It’s the way in which schizophrenics tend to experience the world, or in the case of Mulisch’s character the temporary schizophrenia provoked by the return of the repressed.

    25 pages to go…


    Comment by ktismatics — 14 February 2011 @ 1:24 pm

  13. By chance/fate the main character encounters his old neighbor at an anti-nuke rally. She was there when his brother was shot by the Nazis. He asks her about that night:

    “Was the Ortscommandant present in person?”
    “How should I know. I was questioned by a Kraut in civilian clothes. First…”
    “Did he have a scar on his face?”
    “A scar? I don’t think so. Why?”
    “Go on.”

    I had forgotten this detail about the Nazi who had been in command during the slaughter of the hero’s family and who had taken him into custody. From chapter two:

    “The German was about forty years old and actually had that lean, hardened face with the horizontal scar beneath the left cheekbone — a type no longer used except by directors of comedies or grade B movies.”

    So, during the hero’s breakdown, the narrator likening the disenchantment of the world to “a beautiful face blemished by a scar” was a partial return of this memory to conscious awareness, both for the hero and for the reader.

    And then, a few pages later, the story ends with the key revelation for making sense of the mystery at the cor of that long-ago wartime trauma. A very good book.


    Comment by ktismatics — 14 February 2011 @ 2:11 pm

  14. “Even if I had suggested that you’d been scarred by interacting with the troll, and if you replied that you were not — which I have no reason to doubt — then why in the world would I now deny having written such a thing,”

    That’s exactly right, you wouldn’t, so there was obviously some misunderstanding. And I had replied at the time (thinking you meant ‘scarred by the troll’) that I thought you ‘wanted me to be scarred’. But since there must have been some ‘wires-crossed’, you probably didnt’ even know what I was talking about. But the TROLL thought it was the same as I did. I just said YES! I really WAS temporarily made very unhappy (and still am, in a sense) that the TROLL only wanted to ge ‘troll jouissance’, but how other that be temporary? One is going to worry about a ‘troll’s feelings’ forever? But Dejan, whether he was ‘that troll’ or not, definitely agreed, and took up the ‘meme’, as these assholes call it (what a repulsive term, including when Nick uses it.) It wasn’t clear.

    “much less deleted it? ”

    You deleted something the other day, or rather that’s what I was referring to, when I said someone was INSANE. I thought that was your business, and didn’t object, even though I hadn’t thought it was particularly offensive–still, that was your business.


    Comment by Illegal Dances of New York City — 14 February 2011 @ 4:48 pm

    • Whole difference seems to be with what people value, and I’m clearly not ‘up to the current values’. People don’t value any of the loyalty they polemicize in the ‘big people’, because they think that being ‘little-people-besmirched bleugers’ gives them license to say anything at all. And they do that. This is TOTAL BULLSHIT, and no different except in size from what Dubya Bush used to do with his own cronies. The irony of bleugers is all about ‘we’re little enough and poor enough to be able to afford it without punishment’, and that’s what most do.


      Comment by Illegal Dances of New York City — 14 February 2011 @ 4:53 pm

  15. Good, it sounds like we’ve come to an understanding of our prior misunderstandings. If you had been scarred by anything at any time I certainly wouldn’t have gloated over it or subjected you to my pity. And yes I do delete from time to time, almost always for reasons of cordiality.


    Comment by ktismatics — 14 February 2011 @ 5:00 pm

    • Yes, because now the person(s) who have decided that that was worth giving intense attention to can refer to your previous comment (which they can claim not to have access to for governmental reasons, I suppose–wordprees vs. Blogger, etc.–), but since this is blogging, it really is a matter of whether the troll feels he is ‘getting the mark’, it can’t possibly be enough if ‘he feels it’ alone, if the mark doesn’t (or no longer does. That’s the problem with this kind of troll, because he knows if it doesn’t work that way, it hasn’t worked. And that’s interesting: The Troll CANNOT have the jouissance unless it’s agreed with to some degree by the targer. His assumption is that SURELY it IS agreed with, but he then realizes that it isn’t. Before that, he didn’t know it was possible, esp. if he’d set up a whole ‘official-sounding system’, which is the cleverness (because it isn’t a legally-registered organization at all), and this is why they used CCRU after they were all fired from the real jobs anyway, or even if they used it before, if that was the case. It’s an understandable endeavour, but then why do some of them then decide we want to talk about pedestrian affairs like ‘Chinese moms’ if they were anything but simply Establishment Trolls themselves.)

      Which doesn’t mean I think we’ve gotten anywhere particularly satisfying, but then we go back to home and hearth, etc.


      Comment by Illegal Dances of New York City — 14 February 2011 @ 5:31 pm

    • I should add that it would be appreciated when you annotate your deletions. I had to go over that one post several times to figure out what it was you deleted. I was not offended that you deleted, but if you are interested in ‘cordiality’, could you maybe not also inform one when you delete? If a person writes something, he definitely has the right to know if something has been deleted…or doesn’t he? A deletion that seems as if ‘sneaky’ is not really the same thing as responsible editing that one has to ‘figure out’.


      Comment by Illegal Dances of New York City — 14 February 2011 @ 6:33 pm

      • Here’s one way to annotate deletions: email it to the commenter, which I just did. It’s probably better than saying on the blog something like “offensive remarks directed at X and Y deleted.”


        Comment by ktismatics — 14 February 2011 @ 7:39 pm

  16. [Various marginally offensive remarks deleted, leaving an empty space where the comment used to be – Ed.]


    Comment by parody center — 14 February 2011 @ 7:43 pm

  17. Here’s the passage. I suppose you imagined I was talking about ‘Lolita’ in a literal sense, although I never said anything about an uncle, don’t know where that came from. I had once referred to myself way back in 2009 when I was dealing with The Troll(s), as ‘the oldest Lolita on record’, but that referred to my ‘being raped by the troll’. Anyone who is an ‘old Lolita’ is not still 12 years old (he has to be LITERALLY OLD, even though it’s unfortunate when it happens, and it was when it happened to me beginning late 2008), although (s)he can be emotiionally. Maybe I was, of course, that naive even that recently, but this is just for the record. I suppose we all remember differently, and the memory definitely changes as we get older. I thought it was obvious from my Reply that I was talking about things which had been more recent, but perhaps not. The “uncle” thing was what was strange, as I had only 3 real uncles, although many great-uncles, and also some uncles by marriage to my many aunts. But none of them would have ever had the slightest imagination for sex of any kind; I recently noted that there is less homosexuality in my family than almost any I’ve ever seen. Maybe that’s why I’ve had such a lot of wild sex in my life, but my precocity didn’t start till I was about 11, when there was some ass-fucking and then jerking off with the other boys, and finally by 12, some cocksucking with one of the farmboys (that was pleasant, although he wasn’t so good at it):

    “As the oldest Lolita on record, and the most successful at turning it into a successful Nymphomania Sinecure”

    Not to doubt your resilience and your ability to turn shit into Shinola, anonymous, but wouldn’t you say that your experience as a Lolita scarred you? Or have you simply incorporated it into your distinctive curriculum vita?

    The book is superb of course. I’m reminded of our recent allusion to Touch of Evil and making great art out of repulsive materials. One needn’t sympathize with Humbert any more than one must sympathize with the Bosch grotesques or the homely Rembrandt portrait subjects. Perhaps it’s time for me to return to the Proust, having ramped up toward his ultra-maximalism via Nabokov. However, I have put a library hold on Max Brooks’ (son of Mel) novel about the zombie wars.

    Comment by john doyle — 18 April 2010 @ 1:34 pm


    Not to doubt your resilience and your ability to turn shit into Shinola, anonymous, but wouldn’t you say that your experience as a Lolita scarred you? Or have you simply incorporated it into your distinctive curriculum vita?

    The latter, certainly. It did everything it wasn’t intended to do, while pretending it did want to, but it worked anyway. Why should you deduce that it scarred me? What evidence have I given that it did anything other than cause me temporary inconvenience. Why do you say things like this and also then realize that I got enormous benefits from it, and not only the writing contributions both by the rapist and the half-willing rape victim? Probably there is a sense in which you do hope it scarred me. SCARED me at one point yes, but not scarred. Of course you were doubting my resilience and ability to turn shit into Shinola. You’re just pissed off about everything today, I don’t know why. Probably having some blocks yourself.

    Comment by anonymous — 18 April 2010 @ 2:29 pm

    This is primarily because of what other people did regarding it (they took it to mean the ‘online follies’ just as I had, and, for some reason, I just wanted that cleared up, because they were acting as though that were some particular ‘lodestone’, and trying to invest it with meaning that they still swear it has. I don’t see how, since I won’t even cross the street to spy on Mr. Mackay next month, and even if the ‘cult figure’ were rumoured to be secretly being hauled in, I’d certainly not be interested in risking my life to the Necrophile Set.) Thanks for helping me get this cleared up, and what you wrote yesterday set the record str8 as well. I was just tired of that particular part of the TortureTainment, even though I don’t like any of it. However, with that bleug gone, there is only so far it can go, and it’s good there are rules about what you can write here.


    Comment by illegal dances of new york city — 15 February 2011 @ 1:17 pm

  18. Yes, that’s the conversation. I did construe your remarks as referring to something that had happened to you long ago that had scarred you as it had Lolita. Misconstrual on my part, clearly. The uncles? I don’t know. Maybe I conflated this conversation with another in which you mentioned uncles? Maybe it’s a repressed memory of my own, and my uncle Charlie, who lived with us for awhile when I was a kid, raped me? This was one of my father’s other brothers (I mentioned George recently on another post), and he lived with us while attending art school in Chicago. My mother thought he was a sleaze and was concerned that he might do something bad to me. To my knowledge the only time he hurt me was when he clipped my lip on a golf backswing in our backyard, causing profuse but short-lived bleeding and no scar.


    Comment by ktismatics — 15 February 2011 @ 1:53 pm

  19. Okay, yes, now I remember you put a couple of comments on two posts, I think, that were a year or two old. Thanks.


    Comment by Patrick — 17 February 2011 @ 11:23 am

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