Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Piano 74: John Cale: The Ritual (American Psycho) | piano cover




Cover of the piano tune taken from the iconic 'ritual' scene of the movie American Psycho. The tempo here is much slower than the film version but variety is the spice of life as they say!

Audiohttps://soundcloud.com/scruffyowlet/john-cale-the-ritual-american-psycho

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Thought 596: Externality as Therapeutic Model

"At the extreme limit of pain, nothing remains but the conditions of time and space." - Hölderlin
Indeed. Therefore, in view of a desire for self-therapy as well as self-strengthening, it may perhaps be a good idea to become friends with those external conditions of time and space - which of course aren't entirely external since our bodies occupy space as embodied (or incarnated) time, 'embodied time', that is, by virtue of their cyclical needs and ageing propensity (combining the circular and linear movements of time-keeping, which can lead one to take the view that time is essentially a spiral that spirals outward, just as the circle is pulled out of itself by pressure exerted by the forward motion of linear progression). 


By 'becoming friends with time and space' I mean to say that I have found it helpful, when prey to difficult emotions such as anxiety, hurt, melancholy but also resentment and anger, to willingly envision myself as placed in the external conditions of time and space, which is to say within the objective, physical laws of nature, that I may place my thoughtful attention and trust on their unwavering and stable reliability as opposed to my own fraught, and therefore unreliable, inner life.

This mental envisioning of the external, objective conditions in which one operates serves several purposes. One is to facilitate necessary action; that is to say, in keeping with the focus on external conditions, one comes to realise the primacy of action as the sole enabler for manifesting (positive or negative) change in the physical world but also for warding off or, failing that, resisting negative events. This is a useful insight when action is required of us precisely when we least feel able to act, on account of fear and suffering (fear itself being a form of suffering - see Fear as Suffering - Rational and Irrational Fear - Courage).

The other is to provide one with a transcendent substitute for a redeeming god (although having a personal, self-redeeming god can also be helpful - see Tentative Musing on Heidegger's Last God) by placing one's faith in the immutable conditions of time and space - and physical laws generally - that were here before we were born and will likely outlive us too, conditions, might I add, far more reliable than the caprice that generally accompanies human comportment as well as the general (psychosomatic) frailty of both ψυχή (soul) and σῶμα (body).

[It was this transcendent-substitute idea that led me to write in Eternal Recurrence that "Being and time are my religion".]  

Lastly, and this is perhaps one of the most arduous uses of this external model for self-therapy, is to use the mindset of objective externality as a counterweight to the seemingly in-finite time during which one's suffering and distress takes place on an internal level, keeping in one's rational mind the thought that pain and discomfort do not last forever. Of course one may be tempted to end the suffering early by voluntarily bringing about one's own death through suicide, but I have found it generally conducive to greater happiness and better coping mechanisms to be resolutely on the side of life, banishing the (sometimes tempting and comforting) option of self-termination or the mere thought thereof (known, in the more extreme of cases, as suicidal ideation). 

[As a side note, the esoteric philosopher Manly P. Hall offered the interesting formulation as regards suicide that the (successful) suicide makes his body depart from his soul whereas in so-called 'natural' death the soul departs from one's body.]

For more on how to deal with difficult emotions, see my earlier post Emotions & Thoughts.

Addendum 1 - An external mindset or, at the least, getting into the habit of thinking with one's head rather than one's feelings or emotions (albeit whilst still listening to one's heart, if one has managed to unlock it - see Importance of the Heart and Emotional Data as Teacher) is perhaps also to be recommended in ordinary circumstances as well, i.e. when not feeling emotionally beset, for the purpose of bettering one's judgement and decision-making in daily, earthly habitation - which is also always habituation (see How to Become Master of the World). 

Addendum 2 - There is a contradiction of sorts in stating the reliability of physical, objective data - such as time and space - as opposed to the frailty of the ψυχή (soul) and σῶμα (body), when the external model of self-therapy requires a well-functioning mind (another meaning of ψυχή) which is itself part, one could argue, of the σῶμα or body. I have no convincing defence against this charge, save to say that no theoretical model, in whatever domain, is completely bereft of shortcoming or oversight; indeed that shortcoming or oversight might even be a condition for its coming to the word at all.

Piano 71: All Terminator Piano Covers | playlist


Friday, 15 December 2017

Thought 595: The Jew as Werewolf: A Fresh Look at An American Werewolf in London


The 1981 movie An American Werewolf in London interconnects in interesting ways with Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben's seminal book that goes, in the English-speaking world, under the name Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life

In a chapter entitled 'The Ban and the Wolf', Agamben traces the Germanic, Anglo-Saxon (but also Latin in the form of the homo sacer) origins of the wolf-man or werewolf to the figure of the bandit who, being banned by the community, quidlibet possit eum offendere, 'may be harmed by anyone'. 

[Indeed Agamben's argument places the ban, and the abandonment it entails, at the archeo-logical - in the sense of foundational, ἀρχή in Greek meaning beginning - heart of political sovereign power, which is essentially a form of power of life and death, vitae necisque potestas, not unlike the one that was held by the Roman patriarch over his sons or the totalitarian tyrant over his nation's population.]

The banned bandit that anyone may kill with impunity was said to have a 'wolf's head' - as per the laws of Edward the Confessor in 1030-1035 which use the term wulfesheud - thereby assimilating him to the hybrid figure of the werewolf who, in combining beast and man, φύσις (nature) and νόμος (custom), city and forest (both featured in the movie)
"dwells paradoxically within both while belonging to neither."



If one considers and takes seriously the allusion in the film to the main character being Jewish and his (nighmared) execution by Nazi monsters - note the menorahs in the background of that scene - then this werewolf/bandit angle gains in political moment, if one perceives the film as offering a covert commentary on the Jewish condition, the Jews traditionally having been only liminally included in - and therefore partly excluded from - the societies they were circumstantially forced to assimilate to.



[It is regrettable that the usually genial Rob Ager failed to give proper focus to this aspect of the movie in his analysis of it, instead of a brief and somewhat feeble allusion to it.]

The Jewish-werewolf connection of the film is particularly serendipitous as regards Agamben's book because Jews did - historically and juridically - come to form an excluded, nationally (our word 'nation' coming from the Latin for birth, natio, and to be born, nascere) abandoned group that were able to be killed with impunity by the Nazi regime, just as the werewolf historically was no more than a shunned bandit who could be killed by anyone without that killing amounting to homicide or criminal murder - the Nuremberg Trials testifying to that fact on the basis that they had to invent the category of 'crime against humanity' to successfully prosecute the Nazi architects and enforcers of the Final Solution.

Viewers of the film know that David (note the Jewish name), the American Werewolf in London himself, is pursued and killed at the end of the feature by an urban mob and indeed there are also hints very early on in the film, as David and his friend Jack visit a country pub, that their 'sort' is not welcomed by English rural villagers either - whether as Americans, foreigners or, indeed, Jews.

Addendum - Of course, Agamben's book makes the wider point that, at bottom, we are all werewolves (note Thomas Hobbes' famous observation according to which homo homini lupus est, man is a wolf for man), not just Jews, in so far as we are all operating under a foundational ban that grounds the modern Nation State and its taking control of our bare, naked lives as part of an argued biopolitical (βίος, life) or, in the worst case scenario, thanatopolitical (θάνατος, death) paradigm of sovereign power.  

Piano 62: Piano Compositions 1 | playlist




The first batch of my original piano compositions, in the order that they were recorded.


Tracklist:
4. Musing
6. Melancholy Melody (piano solo version)
9. 2 in 1
13. Rising
14. Craving
25. Upwards & Forwards (piano solo version)

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Thought 594: Computed by Computers


Computers compute, i.e. calculate, as suggested by the Latin word computare, itself formed of com, together, and puto, to reckon. 

What should be clear to alert minds alive today is that not only do computers compute whatever data we put into them - such as text, numbers, photos, graphics, music, movies and so forth - but that as computer users, particularly in so far as we use the internet - but also ATM cash machines, debit or credit cards, supermarket loyalty cards, motorway toll booths, parking metres or simply smart phones - we too are computed, i.e mathematically quantified, by corporate and governmental entities that have the technical methodologies to do so. 

As such, just as the philosopher Martin Heidegger hinted at in his essay The Question Concerning Technology, our perceived liberation from old-world labour by machine technology and, more recently, from information control by the digital internet of things has equally transpired in both cases to be at the same time a form of modern-world enslavement that has taken the shape of a reduction of people into exploited and surveilled resource material - or 'human resources' to be a little more polite (and, as I observed in God as Leviathan - The State as False God concerning the internet, the words 'net' as well as 'web' have connotations of 'trap' of a self-admitted 'world wide' scope). 

Thus, just as the so-called scientific revolution that started in the sixteenth century Renaissance period took it upon itself to project a mathematical, which is to say calculating and quantifying (and indeed literalising too, in the sense that mathematical, geometrical symbols are taken literally as a self-contained rather than merely referential reality - see the essay Philosophy and Linguistics in Agamben's Potentialities), model on physical nature, so in the twenty-first century 'screen-age' we too, as human beings and therefore as a form of nature, are mathematically reckoned with, i.e. com-puted, not to say trimmed and pruned - which are other denotations of the Latin word puto.

Piano 59: Muse: Uprising | piano cover




Piano cover of the song Uprising by the British band Muse.

Audio: https://soundcloud.com/scruffyowlet/muse-uprising

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Piano 57: Pixies: Where Is My Mind? | piano cover




Piano cover of Where Is My Mind? by the Pixies. Arrangement by Maxence Cyrin.

Audio: https://soundcloud.com/scruffyowlet/pixies-where-is-my-mind

Thought 593: The Shining: All Work and No Play


As I surmised in my Note on the Shining and has since been confirmed by my watching related videos by the talented film analyst Rob Ager (collativelearning.com), the Overlook Hotel in that film represents the United States of America in many of its less happy aspects [- a fact easy to 'overlook' haha]. 

Anyway, this post to add that there was no way a genius like Kubrick would film a veiled critique of the USA without at least hinting at the most damaging and toxic puritanical work ethic, which is at the heart of the capitalist project.

[Indeed it seems to me that the whole ethos of 'earning one's living' has something of the 'original sin' philosophy about it, in the sense that one has to make up for the mere fact of being born by labouring one's entire adult life as a kind of penance for the guilt of being alive and requiring food and shelter. 

Debt slavery through fractional reserve banking and the issuance of fiat currency - a phenomenon alluded to in the film with regards to the whole 'Gold Room' sequence - can indeed be viewed in terms of that puritanical guilt derived from Christian 'original sin'.] 

And indeed when is Jack Torrance revealed to be utterly bananas other than the moment his wife discovers mountains of his typed papers that all read, for the most part, 
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy."
Interestingly, it is only once this crazy hamster-wheel-ethic of work for the sake of work is shown in its raw, naked insanity that the film begins to enter its final phase, when Jack becomes openly predatory and murderous towards his wife and son, thereby in a sense fulfilling the 'dull boy' observation of the typed papers.

The scene where Wendy discovers the papers - a turning point in the movie - may also be a hint by Kubrick at how the capitalist work ethic makes white and blue-collar male workers lash out at their families as they vent their frustration at being superfluous, creatively compromised slaves and cogs in the hierarchical, compartmentalised and technocratic machine of corporate America.

Just as so much of the film The Shining deals, in a veiled way, with the topic of intergenerational abuse - on top of 'the detail' of Native American genocide which forms an implicit backdrop to the movie - so it was essential for Kubrick to place the live-to-work paradigm of the United States in its proper unsavoury and dystopian context.

Addendum - As regards the distinction between work and play, the esoteric wiseman Manly P. Hall was of the view that play is activity done for oneself and work is activity done for others. Narrowing the gap between the two, i.e. trying to do what one loves (play) whilst serving others (work) - be it employers, the public or both who will (or should) compensate that service with money - is often a priority for people of a creative bent who want to minimise their capitalist alienation whereby the spiritual currencies of (spending) time and (paying) attention - premised as they are on the bodily currency of (labouring) energy - are exchanged for (an often pitiful) monetary, i.e. quantitative, currency that is technologically and sociologically required - and enforced - to enjoy the benefits precisely of technological society. 

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Thought 592: What is the Meaning of the Brain Bug's Capture in Starship Troopers?

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I have yet to watch the analysis of the film Starship Troopers by the gifted artist and analyst Rob Ager (collativelearning.com), but what has caused me to ponder the film for a number of years now, aside from what to me is the obvious anti-war propaganda angle that hides itself precisely as war propaganda, is the underlying meaning of the capture and torture of the 'brain bug' at the end of the film, the brain bug being the alien entity that controls the enemy alien race in the film. 

The way I have tended to read it is as an allegory and powerful image, if properly grasped, of the triumph of low brow and gung-ho anti-intellectualism, even as a revolt of the weak-minded against the broad-minded for, in the immortal words of Alexander Pope,
"There is no stronger antipathy than that of fools to men of wit."
It is not hard to see how this anti-intellectualism lends itself well to the fascistic and militaristic human society on display in the film - which can be seen as a barely covert commentary on aspects of contemporary society prevailing outside the film -  that would certainly not welcome thoughtful anti-conformity and any significant degree of introspective mindfulness within its midst.

Thought 591: Belief and the Value of Money Meme


This meme is rather amusing in its display of faux enlightenment. It wouldn't be a lot worse if it said 
"The only difference between these two colours
 is your belief that one is redder than the other."
In the case of the money meme, perhaps the statement would be more accurate if it read
"the only difference between these two notes is other people's belief that one has more value than the other."
[It seems to me this money meme fails to take into account sociological as opposed to merely individual factors at play in the difference in value between the two notes and, suspecting as I do that this meme is American in origin given it is a US dollar bill being used as an example, it shows up the limitations of individualist explanations for societal and large scale phenomena that prevailing American thinking seems to be particularly fond of using, allergic as it appears to be to collective and holistic realities. 

For, everyone might privately believe that both notes are of equivalent value or equal valuelessness (as the case may be) but if this private belief isn't collectively put into practice by a critical mass choosing to use the monopoly bill as opposed to the dollar bill for the exchange of goods and service, then the dollar bill will continue to have more value in manifested reality than the board game one. Also, as my girlfriend amusingly points out, if the author of this meme genuinely believes in it, then he would be okay being paid in monopoly as opposed to federal reserve money.]

Moreover, the meme is false from the outset when it states that "the only difference between these two notes is...". 

What, aside from the fact one is a US dollar bill - that I can use in the real world to buy things with - and the other is a note taken from a Monopoly board game - that I can't use to buy things with - and that both look markedly different in a variety of ways, including ways, such as having a water mark, that would indeed affect their value?

Moreover it amuses me how this meme assumes I believe one to have more value than the other and that that belief - which I do not actually have - is the actual cause of the difference between them, whether in value or otherwise. 

This meme is so illiterate on so many levels - sociologically, epistemologically, logically, even economically - that it borders on genius. 

To its credit, however, it does raise interesting questions, such as how beliefs come to be formed in the first place, what belief is as opposed, say, to knowledge (i.e. the much-vaunted and taunted difference between γνῶσις and δόξα in Greek philosophical terminology), the effects of belief on the world, particularly of a collective nature, and, indeed, the extent to which things do not require your personal belief to have an effect on you.

For, in contradistinction to the point suggested by this meme, i.e. that the value and therefore hold of money is based purely on belief (see The Power of Money), I would maintain that money's universally entrenched and sociologically-as-well-as-technologically enforced nature is such that it does not require your personal belief to affect you or indeed anyone else you know, including and especially those who choose to live without money (like the author of Moneyless Man, Mark Boyle) - for they are affected by money in simply choosing to face and carry out a life with-out money. 

Piano 54: Brad Fiedel: Main Title from The Terminator | piano cover




Piano cover of the anthemic main title from the movie The Terminator (1984)

Audio: https://soundcloud.com/scruffyowlet/brad-fiedel-main-title-from-the-terminator

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Thought 590: Heidegger's Oedipal Anti-Americanism


An angle I have not heard stated as much as Heidegger's anti-semitism is his pronounced anti-Americanism (and anti-Bolshevism) which reading of his lecture Introduction to Metaphysics, delivered in the summer of 1935, as well as of his so-called 'black notebooks' from that period, could put forward as at least one of the reasons for his support of the Third Reich, since for him Germany lied 
"in the great pincers between Russia on the one side and America on the other"
, which political entities were ironically to become the two global superpowers after the Second World War - but which, quite famously in fact, French thinker Alexis de Tocqueville already regarded as "the two great nations of the world" as early as 1835 (Democracy in America - see the full Tocqueville quote here).

In an odd sense, therefore, if Heidegger's support of the militaristic Third Reich was, at least in part, informed by a desire to stop the Bolshevisation as well as Americanisation of Europe - which political phenomena he regarded as well-nigh identical metaphysically because they are both forms of modernisation - it transpired that that decision only precipitated the (relative) Bolshevisation (witness East Germany) as well as the (outright) Americanisation of Western Europe in so far as the defeat of the expansionist Third Reich put Russia and America at the forefront of the geopolitical chess game.

[Rather like Oedipus, 'the man who knew too much' according to Michel Foucault (and indeed, as that thinker noted, the verb οἰδα, to 'know' or 'see', is frequently used by Oedipus and resembles the root of his very name: Οίδιπους), who, in full knowledge of his fate, sought to avert it by fleeing from his native city but in so doing only brought that fate closer to realisation, with the effect that it was his foresight through the knowledge he had of the prophecy that caused his demise, Heidegger's support of the National Socialist movement, borne out of a genuine foresight as to America's (and Russia's) looming ascendancy over the globe, turned out to be a boon, historically, for the triumph of America - which came out of the war with Germany richer, stronger and as leader of the occident - over Western Europe, a fate which Heidegger, at least according to my interpretation, had precisely sought to avert by lending his very temporary and largely unappreciated philosophical authority to the Nazi cause.]

As revealed by the black notebooks, Heidegger came to see the woeful spiritual inadequacy - more aptly termed bankruptcy - of the National Socialist movement not long after the aforementioned lecture but not, controversially, because of the Nazis' mistreatment of Jewish people and other groups perceived as undesirable, but because, in their philistinism and scientism, they were not radical and philosophical enough and guilty, in Heidegger's reversal of the Cartesian motto, of a mindset according to which
"non cogito, ergo sum" (I don't think, therefore I am).
But as is also clear in the aforementioned notebooks and even in his published lecture What is Called Thinking?, Heidegger, while full of contempt for the Soviet Union, nonetheless espoused the Russian tradition and nation as the worthy one, in contrast to the uprooted dystopia of the United States of America (see Note on the Shining) . 

The fact that today Russia has experienced somewhat of a revival on the world stage and is seen favourably by a (vocal) minority of political observers in the West shows that the Russian v American dialectic is far from over and that the political struggles of Heidegger's era are still material today - including in terms of the growth of the far right who use fear and hatred of the left as a political platform, along with anti-semitic conspiracy theories. 

Coming back to Heidegger, it remains that, for a lecture given in the summer of 1935 (published under the name Introduction to Metaphysics), Heidegger's tirade against modernity and Tocqueville's 'two great nations' according to which
"Russia and America, seen metaphysically, are both the same. [In them, we find] the same hopeless frenzy of unchained technology and of the rootless organisation of the average man. When the farthest corner of the globe has been conquered technologically and can be exploited economically; when any incident you like, in any place you like, at any time you like, becomes accessible as fast as you like; when you can simultaneously 'experience' an assassination attempt against a king in France and symphony concert in Tokyo; when time as history has vanished from all Dasein of all peoples; when a boxer counts as the great man of a people; when the tallies of millions at mass meetings are a triumph; then, yes then, there still looms like a spectre over all this uproar the question: what for? - where to? - and what then?"
is undeniably quite prescient, seemingly anticipating the world wide web and sites like YouTube (where 'the symphony concert in Tokyo' could be streamed live) and Facebook (where 'the assassination attempt against a king in France' would undoubtedly feature in the trending news items on the home feed).

However, to add even more to the irony as well as potential hypocrisy of both Heidegger's position and my general approval of his stature as a thinker, let it at once be said that the edition of Heidegger I've quoted from is American (Yale University Press) and that I'm sharing this post on an American website (blogger, itself owned by Google). 

Addendum - As Heidegger presciently states in Introduction to Metaphysics, after the wrongly termed 'collapse' of German idealism - wrongly termed because it was the age that was no longer strong enough to stand up to that spiritual world - 
"Dasein began to slide into a world that lacked the depth from which the essential always comes and returns to human beings, thereby forcing them to superiority and allowing them to act on the basis of rank. All things sank to the same level, to a surface resembling a blind mirror that no longer mirrors, that casts nothing back. The prevailing dimension became that of extension and number."
He continues
"By now in those countries [i.e. Russia and America] the predominance of a cross-section of the indifferent is no longer something inconsequential and merely barren but the onslaught of that which aggressively destroys all rank and that is world-spiritual, and portrays these as a lie. This is the onslaught of what we call the demonic [in the sense of the destructively evil]."
In 2018, the dark demonism of America (and Russia) has indeed, as Heidegger feared, spread to Europe (and the world), with the dire consequences for the human spirit that some of us know all too well.