. . . . . . . Supervalent Thought


This Week in Shakes (more Hundreds)

My friend Martha Howard asked me to post my experiment with shakes. I might post others.  There’s a lot of variety among them, as you can already see from the last few posts.
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This Week in Shakes

Monday

The protein drink is a chalky substance diluted and well-enough flavored that a small store sample persuades you that you would drink it at home–only to find at home that, no matter how much attention you’d paid at the time, you can’t get the makeup to look as good or the hair to fall again the way it did at the original moment of optimism. I had committed to two tubs of vegan breakfast powder. One recalled the fleck of inhaled bugs and the other a bully pushing my face down thoroughly into tough wet dirt.

When it comes to experiments I commit my mouth. Five months of unquenchably pasty tongue prison ran out finally and I leaped to acquire seven new shake packs full of promise and percentages. Today: Vega One all-in-one nutritional shake in French Vanilla: 50% of daily intake vitamins & minerals, 15 grams of protein, 6 grams of fiber & 1.5 grams of omega 3, plus antioxidants, probiotics and greens. Dairy, gluten & soy free, no sugar added, and 135 calories.  Complete daily essentials to help you thrive. Good for your body and the planet: clean . . . without compromise. The ampersand’s shortcut efficiency figures negativity baroquely.

My shake was green.  The world has not enough water for everyone, nor amounts sufficient to dilute this shake so that its flavor could be rejoined at the party after the chaos of getting in, finding the room with the coats, and moving outside for a quick smoke. Vanilla is a tart baby when you drink it from the bottle and a teasing allusion if you bite the bark. Vanilla is also the sex you slide into, the pleasant-event of that hand again there, or the feeling of feet arching. My tongue sought out but never landed.

Tuesday

The dread of another virtue-breakfast was nuked today by politics, a painful turn of need and interest towards hypervigilance. There was a Punch and Judy Show with all the thrill and erotic boredom of your average sexual antagonism. Punch called Judy a vampire, and then Judy threw her feminism hard, knocking his need to eat the brains he also finds repulsive.  The mob of tweeting lurkers verged with stakes for theory’s heart.

Disgust and love keep me very quiet. The chocolate version of yesterday’s foul mud was eleven additional calories, which will today be soundly punished for my own good.

Wednesday

Last night was spent battling the cat’s episodic loneliness and so this exhausted morning’s Vega Energizing Smoothie was an especially dreadful prospect, reminding me that the verb “to stomach” shows that bodies have not only their own ideas but radically private sovereign tongues. Vanilla Almondilla offers as its main gift what it doesn’t have: dairy, gluten & soy free, no sugar added.  In the Coke Zero era the ideal contribution of a food is its subtraction of dark consequences from pleasure.  90 calories, 10 grams of protein.  Xanthan gum is the aspartame of the health shake, which is also green.

Thursday

The iPad reads aloud in the kitchen this morning while I pull things together. Voice Dream offers a woman’s halting, nasal phonetic literalism to relay a scholarly book on comedy, preferring spectacle’s excesses to narrative’s enchainments. My naked partner enters the white room holding the ginger cat.  He wonders, is it the Russian model of narrative where y is the effect of x or the Aristotelian one of intensities, reversals, and consequences? Raw Protein Beyond Organic Protein Formula features Bob Marley Brand coffee: it is free of gluten, dairy, soy, fillers, artificial flavors, and good ones. I can’t stop laughing.

Friday

I spent the last night alone and so the morning was like a hotel morning with its shapeless offer of waking without obligation to be a particular way. The noise of a mind open to a limited formlessness makes breathing and blinking worth nothing in particular, and I considered taking a break from breakfast altogether because of the quiet. But the night’s move through finitude required some pause after I lifted my head up and laughed at how turtle that everyday stretching is. I say to myself get ahold of yourself.  The Vega Energizing Tropical Smoothie was wonderful, a wonder.

Saturday

I’m well-acquainted with the genre of the Skype dinner date with old lovers. After recipe hunting left me numb, today’s shake was my dinner protein, Vega Reparative in Berry–a revoltingly sweet attempt at Nestle’s Quick Strawberry. I reenacted to my love a scene from Domestic Violence of an old white woman telling stories on her husband, a college professor who had so abused her that she saw an angel flying round her room looking down kindly from the high white ceiling to offer advice. “I know I’m crazy,” she says softly, with her rice-paper skin like mica, pixillated, awry.

Sunday

The woman with Parkinson’s swims everyday and each day seems to diminish a little, which I sense because she always wears the same pants, of a slightly burnt orange hue. Bending stretches things out, so don’t presuppose, I tell myself, knowing that in the future a snapshot of this naked gym tableau might well portray a secret no-one could have known. We used to talk about her bad back, which we now have nostalgia for. She laughs at my Amazing Meals shake, with its grainy and delicious austerity. I dash it down as though it matters that it gets somewhere.



The Game (2)

2. This game is called “Watch Your Step.” I am not sure that it’s a game or that any of the games I’ve described is a game.  It’s more like a scene that stimulates games of encounter, which is to say, scenarios of risk. My thinking about this was world-shaken by Diana Taylor’s article on double-blind scenarios, which came out after her book, which I also loved, but as I was the editor for the smaller, later piece, my bones know it as deeply as a body would that has many times leaned toward its object. This is not objective knowledge.

The best a thought can do, after all, is to make itself available to be found, by documenting its encounter with something so well that it shifts things into a new proximity, as though words in a dictionary had suddenly slid down into each other’s definitions. That’s not too eloquent, but the event of eloquence has only a little to do with meaning emerging. I was researching what a “scene” is while editing Diana’s piece for a “special issue on the case,” which the University of Chicago Press refused to make into a book because they thought it wasn’t “sexy.” Continue reading



The Game

1. The Test

There’s a can of blueberries at the back of the shelf amid dust and flour mites or whatever it is that gets into the rice, like an old writing file where you made a deposit in the darkness of a late style. As though berries too syrupy even for ice cream and the cheesecakes your mother never got to make were just waiting around for you to be found, like that child in the game. Continue reading



The Book of Love is long and boring, no one can lift the damn thing . . .

Delaminated from week 1 lecture notes, Love Theory (Winter 2012)…

I am a love theorist. I sometimes feel dissociated from all my loves. I sometimes ask them to hold more of an image of me than I can hold. By “sometimes” I mean all the times. The image is the regressed form, not the narrative noise that comes later to try to apply adhesive to the fantasy and its representation in objects, so that I know I am an event that lives in the world. The love and the images available for it are in a Thunderdome death-love match, yet we act as though affect could be held within a steady-state space like meat on a hook, or the image of meat on a hook, since actual meat turns green. Most storage lockers are cold enough to slow down that decay, as we know from narrative and domesticity. Aggressions and tenderness pop around in me without much of a thing on which to project blame steadily or balance an idealization. So it’s just me and  phantasmagoric noise that only sometimes feels like a cover song for a structuring shape or an improv around genre. In love I’m left holding the chaos bag and there is no solution that would make these things into sweet puzzle pieces. See Phillips’ reading of attachment as the drive to return to the taste of another person: the “sweetness” love stands for binds itself to an infinity of objects and plots and strategies for investing the scene with a worthiness matching our intensity of a need for its nourishment.  This is why, perhaps too, Laplanche uses the word “metabolize.”

This is a philosophical “I”. I don’t feel like using “we,” because I fall into the banality pit when I do. (See Derrida on film on love. He should have trusted his first instinct to say nothing, since what he says is nothing, but he was being a good boy, and trying to maintain his availability for the interviewer’s idealization, the death in life of the call and response: he was trying to be loveable.  Maybe the phrases one offers as gifts are the best love because they metarecognize the demand for love in any call: but, in itself, the professor’s discourse is not an opening to the other’s inconvenience, and it is not love if it is not opened to that.) Continue reading



For example

I noticed, over the last few months, as my mother was dying, that I had taken pictures that seemed very specific. Now I am looking at the archive, as one looks at a drying hand after a manicure.

My mother died of femininity.  I told her that I would say this about her. She had said, “Will you write a book about me?”  and I asked if she wanted me to. She said “Yes. I want you to say that I left the world a better place because I had you!” I said I thought that this was a bad idea: people would think it an excuse to write about me.  She said, “Can you think of another topic?”  I offered this phrase about femininity, and explained why.  My brother-in-law thought that it would be better to say that my mother died from vanity rather than from femininity. I can see why he would prefer that story; it’s interesting to see how a label shifts the implication.

In her late teens she took up smoking, because it was sold as a weight-reduction aid.  When she died she had aggressive stage 4 lung cancer.  In her teens she started wearing high heels, to enhance the back arch and ass-to-calves posture whose strut transforms the whole body to a sexual tableau, shifting between teetering and stillness. Later, she had an abortion and on the way out tripped down the stairs in those heels, hurting her back permanently.  Decades later, selling dresses at Bloomingdale’s, she was forced to carry, by her estimate, 500 lbs. of clothes each day. Shop girls, you know, are forced to dress like their customers. They have to do this to show that they understand the appropriate universe of taste, even while working like mules in that same universe, carrying to their ladies stacks of hanging things and having to reorganize what their ladies left behind on the dressing room floor. She liked this job, because she liked being known as having good taste.

Continue reading



Affect Theory Roundtable Questions, MLA 2012 Authors: Lauren Berlant, Ann Cvetkovich, Jonathan Flatley, Neville Hoad, Heather Love, José E. Muñoz, Tavia Nyong’o

These are our questions for the MLA roundtable.  Section one takes up genealogies of affect theory; section two takes up the problem of affect in the historical present; section three takes up a variety of concerns about queer theory, sexuality, racialization, specific cases and archives, and modes of orientation that are in proximity to whatever we might call affect but in different idioms.  You can download them here.  mla roundtable 2011

745. Affecting Affect Theory is scheduled to take place at 1:45+3:00 p.m. on 08-JAN-12 in 615, WSCC; Washington State Convention Center, 800 Convention Place (Pike St. and 8th Ave.)

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Affect Theory Roundtable Questions, MLA 2012

Authors:  Lauren Berlant, Ann Cvetkovich, Jonathan Flatley, Neville Hoad, Heather Love, José E. Muñoz, Tavia Nyong’o

I. Genealogies of Affect Theory 

1.  How do we think about the different trajectories of affect theory now, especially as the Deleuzian/Massumian project/idiom has become so important to its critical circulation?  How do we think the proximity of public feelings, minor affects, psychoanalysis, Sedgwickian syncretism (Buddhism, Tomkins, Klein), and affective labor’s version of affect-as-immateriality in relation to the Spinozan tradition?  How to keep the event of affect open to maintaining the multiplicity of traditions, trajectories, tendencies, and critical tactics? Is spanning all traditions important to ways we think about addressing future problems?

2. Affect vs/alongside mood, feeling, emotion etc. What are the stakes of synthesizing these different ways of talking to our about states of the sensorium?

3.  Cavell (a great affect theorist who is not often included in the genealogies of affect theory) says that professional philosophy has been emancipated from an obligation to be therapeutic, but that it should be haunted by that very emancipation.  What about the critical work we do: what about questions of theory and utility, of reparativity, of failure?

4. In response to thoughts about genealogies and the increasing institutionalization of Deleuzian affect studies, I would like to take the chance to think in some detail about genealogies for public feelings/feel tank type affect studies. The Cavell thing got me thinking about other possibly overlooked figures. Continue reading



In the Air (1)

The fantasy of a common sense, a sense of a capacity or of something affectively general at the core of democracy, is not necessarily sentimental. But the drive to create a more capacious democratic sensorium so often tips into intimacy’s sentimental vernacular that its placeholder status as conceptual magnet, not origin or experience, is very hard to discipline–and the drive to discipline it is the source of so much social theory. The local occasion of this post is the Theatre Oobleck production of There Is a Happiness That Morning Is. The  play, riffing on Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience, was classic Oobleck:  noisy, vital, and entirely intentional.  There wasn’t a supervalent moment in it, which was an achievement of sorts, since it is about love and fucking and freedom and  lyric poetry and death, and how they shape profound scenes of self-encounter that reveal enigmas of suffering and impaired autonomy at the heart of ordinary intimacy. But it was unsatisfying, because it aimed to be too satisfying: the writing overdramatized every emotion, including disbelief, as though to color within the lines must amount to blackening an entire page. In this it was exemplary of so much aesthetic and theoretical work that works over the emotions, attempting to drown out the affects and to claim that when we are authentic we feel one known thing at a time.

The problem of writing about this play is that any substantive discussion of it will make it more wonderful than any minute of seeing it. This is what critical engagement does: it adds value through staging interest that’s been magnetized to a form. It converts the event of form into a situation. In reading with a thing a transitional environment emerges that changes what attention can attend to. The encounter makes change prehensible, resonating toward a leavening sense of a concept whose potentiality is virtually affirmed even if the encounter itself fails to have much afterlife. But what I am trying to do is to think about the downsides of potentiality modes when they are tethered to a simplifying desire for emotions already normatively held in common to provide a foundation for (aesthetic or political) transformation.

Continue reading




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