. . . . . . . Supervalent Thought


Trump, or Political Emotions

I wrote this column in case anyone’s going to be teaching the election this fall.
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Trump, or Political Emotions

Dear America, if I read one more article about the Danger of Political Emotions in an election season (I mean you, Paul Krugman), I might take my own life.  If I do that and fail, will the state bring me up on charges the way it’s considering to do for Chelsea Manning, whose recent suicide attempt might be prosecuted?[1]  If Obama has an ounce of decency in him he’ll make that possibility quietly go away.

If x had an ounce of decency, x would deliver justice.  Such bad math, so emotional.  But politics is always emotional.  It is a scene where structural antagonisms—genuinely conflicting interests enforcing imbalances of power—are described in rhetoric that intensifies fantasy.

Here is the thesis of this piece, which is about the contemporary United States.  People would like to feel free. They would like the world to have a generous cushion for all their aggression and inclination. They would like there to be a general plane of okayness governing social relations.  It is hard for some to see that the “generous cushion for aggression” might conflict with the “general plane of okayness.”

When I listen to Donald Trump, I think he’s not wrong about some things, especially the awful neoliberal-Clintonian trade deals and bank deregulation that sold out the working class in the US because of a muddled idea that any wealth at all is a general social benefit.  But Donald Trump is our current best exhibit of two other pretty solid truths about politics, thinking, and feeling.

One is: A Good Account of a Problem Predicts Absolutely Nothing About the Value of a Solution.

I am a professor.  I have read three decades of essays that set up problems beautifully and then fall apart in the what is to be done section.  Sanders and Trump inflamed their audiences with searing critiques of Capitalism’s unfairness. Then what? Then Trump’s response to what he has genuinely seen is, analytically speaking, word salad. Trump is sound and fury and garble. Yet—and this is key—the noise in his message increases the apparent value of what’s clear about it. The ways he’s right seem more powerful, somehow, in relief against the ways he’s blabbing. Plus, apart from rebooting capitalism, nobody in mainstream politics is that visionary about what to do, because everyone has to be patriotic toward capitalism, since that’s come to stand for freedom.

Two: the second thing about Trump is that Trump is free.

You watch him calculating, yet not seeming to care about the consequences of what he says, and you listen to his supporters enjoying the feel of his freedom. See the brilliant interviews on Samantha Bee’s Full Frontal, where RNC conventioneers say, over and over: We’re for Trump because he’s not politically correct, PC has harmed America, and you think, people feel so unfree.[2]

Let’s sit with that.

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I went back 2 the violent room for the time being

Prince was at the cusp of my unclenching. I’ll never be able to tell the story as long as people are still alive but I won’t tell a cover story either. I mean, I won’t intentionally tell a cover story, but it’s all a cover one way or another: you can’t say everything, even if you would. But if you are not free all the way through you can still build from a space where your freedom’s not entirely crushed. Comedians call it commitment to the joke. Where the lung’s even a little unencumbered, possession and dispossession are just bad memories.

So for the moment, let’s say it’s been seven hours and thirteen days, divided by your weight in dog years, say. Frankness stands in for facts. Thunder sounds out what the lightening speaks. I was driven to tell you something simple. Forgive me if I go astray. Continue reading



Time Out

For the last 24 hours I’ve been unscheduled. I had taken a gig in Amsterdam scheduled right after the term so I could interrupt my habits of working, working out, professing, sleeping a little & waking up, opening the window so that the cat could smell the world and then sitting down at the desk with my habitual combo of detox tea and coffee, because who am I if not balanced, before I extend myself to become unbalanced. The great thing about writing is that it is flat even when it’s other things too.

I never take vacations, and days off are rare failures to be very off at all, as I narrate here yearly if I manage actually to try–it just occurs to me now that my drive to keep my infinitives unsplit (so that your verbs will be strong, I tell my students) has something to do with my drive to hold myself together too, as an action figure of a cool figuration otherwise than to be/not to be but feeling out attachment heuristically. With all this work, I am a slow reviser: I have been ahead of many curves, but now some curves are ahead of me and it doesn’t matter, I hope, because a curve’s curve requires lots of leaning one way by many people before it becomes a thing that’s banking as a stability and not just a longing for solidity at the end of some road, like a home. Continue reading



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 (4)

4.  Contact Sheet

It is only evidence that she has been somewhere at the same time that her camera’s been there. There’s a pig in a doorway, a street, a man from behind. The places seem akimbo, as though executed by the fist of a small, tight child. The problem of a book is that it is fixed. But “archive” senses a strewn thing, of stuff and gesture moved by weather systems. Will we want to know later that the insurgents at the skirmish wore brightly colored jeans? We can imagine the folders into which they will go, each according to his palate.

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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