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Zenomax - rumours about the true things

Club Read 2010

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Dec 17, 2009, 8:33am Top

Walter Benjamin, talking of Kafka's work, describes "... the rumour about the true things (a sort of theological whispered intelligence dealing with matters discredited and obsolete)".

By this phrase he means a line of thought and knowledge which operated outside of the rational, the everyday, the scientific. This intrigues me, and both encaptured, and informed much of my Club Read 2009 reading.

I can see the phrase as a banner for 2010 as well.

Edited: Oct 17, 2010, 5:44pm Top

Walter Benjamin

Edited: Jul 18, 2010, 7:07am Top

this particular message will be used for reminders to myself, and updated from time to time as the thread evolves.

Some potential topics for this year (subject to useful books being available - any suggestions most welcome):

- the English pastoral ideal
- cityscapes, spaces, modernism & urban semiotics (thanks to Murr for the latter concept)
- the meaning of photography (Hockney) N.B. These areas still not tapped: Pre photography e.g. Wedgwood; Daguerre the entrepreneur and showman e.g. dioramas (bring in Balzac & Benjamin), Niepce and after; extras about Barthes....
- working class movements, utopianism & millenialism (David Mulder, The alchemy of revolution, Winstanley film release blurb ref Marx and Soldiers Councils)
- the absurd (Camus, Roussel, Peret)
- silence and noise (Ackroyd review, Russolo - The art of noises)
- peripheries, peripheral complexity

No doubt more themes will emerge as time goes by.

If anything like my 2009 thread, this thing will take on a life of its own quite quickly. I have learned to be patient and just follow.

Reading log:

5. William Fox Talbot, G Batchen

4. The Arcades Project, Walter Benjamin

3. Camera Lucida, Barthes, R.

2. The Minor Pleasures of Life, Rose Macaulay

1. A Certain World, W H Auden

Edited: Dec 29, 2009, 5:46pm Top

"The pendulum of the mind oscillates between sense and nonsense, not between right and wrong."

C G Jung

Where does this leave the concept of evil? Is it no more than an artificial construct?

Potentially a subject for later this year.

Dec 30, 2009, 8:43am Top

So, what is the reality which stands behind reality?

Edited: Jan 7, 2010, 4:23am Top

Two dipping in books to start off the year.

The Minor Pleasures of Life and A Certain World.

Edited: Jan 7, 2010, 12:36pm Top

"Old-fashioned" and "immemorial" are still united. The things that have gone out of fashion have become inexhaustible containers of memories.

Benjamin on Baudelaire, The Arcades Project.
Two pillars of this thread.

Compare this with Proust commenting on the art of Chardin "... the hidden life of the inanimate...."

Jan 7, 2010, 11:41pm Top

Zeno, I am following with great interest, just have nothing to say right now.

Didn't want you to be discouraged by the lack of response and stop posting.

Edited: Jan 7, 2010, 11:56pm Top

Zeno, I'm here, too. I just hope I can keep up with your thought process!

ETA--photography and Hockney? David Hockney? Or am I ignorant? Intrigued, would like to know more, please.

Edited: Jan 8, 2010, 7:40am Top

> 8 & 9: thanks for de-lurking. Don't worry about not posting, I would soldier on regardless. Always nice to see who is around though.

I have had a thought in my mind to create a new group and start up a single thread on it - both of which are not only completely fictional, but also so mundane and boring that potentially no one would ever visit (something like 'Advanced paper folding' or 'Local government by law amendments 1954 - 1957').

>9 theaelizabet: yes David Hockney himself. He has a theory that from around the 16th century painting became a lot more realistic because artists were using cameras - camera obscuras that allowed them to trace out real life.

He also has interesting ideas about the relationship between photography and painting, and about the relationship between photography/cine camera and reality (i.e. his comment "We thought we saw the 20th Century on the news and elsewhere better than any previous century, but we did not see it at all, the camera did").

Jan 8, 2010, 7:56am Top

I'd heard somewhere about the camera obscura/painting connection, but didn't realize it came from Hockney. I found the book that you must be referring to; my library has it. It looks interesting. I've done some reading on photography/reality/perception. Fascinating subject. I've read Sontag's On Photography and a couple of Alan Trachtenberg essays. Would love to hear if you have any suggestions of more recently published piece.

Edited: Jan 8, 2010, 10:52am Top

> 11 - I haven't got to the tracking down of books stage yet. I do, however, have a recently purchased copy of Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes.

The blurb says:

Examining the themes of presence and absence, the relationship between photography and theatre, history and death, these 'reflections on photography' begin as an investigation into the nature of photography....

Barthes starts the first paragraph thus:

One day, quite some time ago, I happened on a photograph of Napoleon's youngest brother, Jerome, taken in 1852. And I realized then, with an amazement I have not been able to lessen since: "I am looking at eyes that looked at the Emperor."

Jan 8, 2010, 11:57am Top

>12 zenomax: I've heard of the Barthes book and am adding it to the list of those I want to read on this subject when I get back to it. I also wanted to take further look at Trachtenberg, particularly in Lincoln's Smile and Reading American Photographs.

Along the lines of the same lines (well, sort of) of the Barthes opening, John Pipken in his novel Woodsburner, has a terrific little moment where briefly mentions Thoreau's smile and teeth. I'm sure I needn't say more.

I'll keep an eye out for any further reading you do in this area. It's interested me for some time.

Jan 10, 2010, 6:03am Top

>13 theaelizabet: Apropos of Thoreau's poor teeth, when he visited the dentist and was given ether, he commented as follows:

"By taking the ether the other day I was convinced how
far asunder a man could be separated from his senses"

"You expand like a seed in the ground. You exist in your roots, like a tree in winter. If you have an inclination to travel, take the ether: you go beyond the farthest star."

Edited: Jan 10, 2010, 6:22am Top

A brief piece in yesterday's Guardian on Moog (of synthesizer fame).

An interesting fellow, although his background and work was in physics, his wife was a professor in philosophy of religion, and he had novel ideas about the way things are.

He believed that all matter has a residual consciousness, shades of Jung and some of the other writers that I came across in 2009.

I wrote a review of Swanns Way at the end of last year in which I tried to incorporate some of the theories and ways of viewing the world which I had come across.

My theme was that there was a way of viewing things by which all 'matter' (to borrow from the Guardian article), whether living or inanimate, was both of equal importance, and of infinite depth. No matter how deep you dug you could never find out all there was to know about any object, animate or inanimate.

Jan 10, 2010, 1:18pm Top

"The photograph isn't what was photographed. It's something else. It's a new fact." Gary Winogrand

Edited: Jan 10, 2010, 1:34pm Top

I like that about photographs -- reminds me of something we were once taught: "the map is not the territory", which I have also heard on the Robert De Niro Film "Ronin", have yet to find out whether that is where my teacher got it from. Maybe i should google it see if it has a source.

ETA there i go: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Map%E2%80%93territory_relation#.22The_map_is_not_th... , never heard of him before. And its a NLP thing, which I know very little about, maybe where my teacher got it.

Jan 10, 2010, 1:35pm Top

"But then life always makes you choose between two possibilities, and you always feel: One is missing! Always one--the uninvented third possibility."

Robert Musil.

My feelings exactly.

Edited: Jan 10, 2010, 11:27pm Top

I'm contributing to thread-creep now, but I just wanted to respond to the "the map is not the territory"-conversation by recommending Jorge Luis Borges' (very) short story, "On Exactitude in Science." The entire thing is quoted here:


(ETA: Sorry, can't get the link to work, but the URL is correct)

Jan 11, 2010, 4:41am Top

> 17 & 19, thanks Tony & polu, I am just checking in before going to work but will follow both links later. A very interesting area for me.

Edited: Jan 11, 2010, 4:21pm Top

Thanks Andrew (ETA apologies , I should say Ryan), I'd forgotten that Borges, I am sure I have read it before (his brevity is such a good thing in some ways). It's mentioned on the page I linked to if you scroll up -- which I just discovered you can do today. I also see Gregory Bateson wrote on this which is also possibly where my teacher got it from.
And of course the game of Eschaton in Infinite Jest! I should have thought of that.

Jan 23, 2010, 4:47pm Top

I wonder whether Borges' full 1:1 map could be used on one of Calvino's invisible cities? They seem to be almost made for each other.

Thanks for the interesting diversions Tony & Ryan.

Jan 26, 2010, 4:32pm Top


Jan 27, 2010, 8:48am Top

Zenomax - just wanted to stop by and say this is a great thread, and has me thinking about all the comments here on photography, the camera obscura and that "the map is not the territory."

Jan 27, 2010, 2:09pm Top

Thank you Daniel.

Treading water a little at the moment as little time to do any reading, but I agree, photography as a philosophical or psychological or phenomenological concept provides a lot to think about.

Edited: Jan 27, 2010, 8:32pm Top

oh I love that!

Zeno, are you familiar with the early 19th century Russian poet Tyutchev? I have been reading him recently and this poem just leaped off the page last night saying to me: 'give me to Zeno.' It has many of the concerns which have appeared on your thread this year and last year. I hope you like it.


Speak not, lie hidden, and conceal
the way you dream, the things you feel.
Deep in your spirit let them rise
akin to stars in crystal skies
that set before the night is blurred:
delight in them and speak no word.

How can a heart expression find?
how should another know your mind?
Will he discern what quickens you?
A thought once uttered is untrue.
Dimmed is the fountainhead when stirred:
drink at the source and speak no word.

Live in your inner self alone:
within your soul a world has grown,
the magic of veiled thoughts that might
be blinded by the outer light,
drowned in the noise of day unheard...
take in their song and speak no word.

Fyodor Tyutchev
trans: Nabokov.

Jan 27, 2010, 11:24pm Top

Murr - It would just be wrong to tell you how I feel about that one.

Jan 27, 2010, 11:29pm Top


Edited: Jan 28, 2010, 2:57pm Top

#26, yes a very nicely turned thing. I am particularly taken with the phrase:

A thought once uttered is untrue.

The continued rise of the 99% ers...... Soon we may rule the world, perhaps we already do.

Tyutchev is completely new to me. But as I have said before, my Russian education has barely begun.

I have developed an interest in Russian landscapes after viewing a BBC Four series on the history of Russian art. Levitan was the prominent name I remembered. But how about this:

The rooks have returned, by A Savrasov

Jan 28, 2010, 3:03pm Top

I think I will enjoy Tyutchev - I learned a little of him after listening to Bjork's song (featuring Antony Hegarty) 'The dull flame of desire'. That Antony can sing. However I also know that for me anyway its very important to speak my heart, for my wellbeing - as presumably the poet did when he gave this advice.

Jan 28, 2010, 3:16pm Top

And thanks for taking the time to post the poem. I've just re read it and new lines keep popping up. ("within your soul a world has grown").

Jan 28, 2010, 3:32pm Top

Tony - I am familiar with both Bjork and Antony & the Johnsons, but hadn't heard the collaborative song you mentioned. Always there are these interesting links between seemingly unrelated things....

Edited: Jan 28, 2010, 5:29pm Top

Tony thinking a little more about your comment on the importance to your wellbeing of speaking your heart - to me the importance is in flexing my imagination and exercising my brain. My heart seems a subsidiary element to all this.

Up to joining LT I was pleased to keep this imaginative world to myself (a thought once uttered is untrue).

The joy, I find, is in understanding that other people do things differently. Quite liberating.

As always your words get me thinking on new paths....

Jan 28, 2010, 5:48pm Top

On photography, the newness and strangeness of the first photographs should not be underestimated.

From Fox Talbot's The Pencil of Nature, his "Notice to the Reader" introduction:

"The plates of the present work are impressed by the agency of Light alone, without any aid whatever from the artist's pencil."

Jan 28, 2010, 7:57pm Top

"The wish to capture evanescent reflections is not only impossible... but the mere desire alone, the will to do so, is blasphemy. God created man in His own image, and no man-made machine may fix the image of God. Is it possible that God should have abandoned His eternal principles, and allowed a Frenchman... to give to the world an invention of the Devil?"

From a report in the Leipzig City Advertiser, 1839, upon hearing of the Daguerreotype, which "requires no knowledge of drawing.... anyone may succeed.... and perform as well as the author of the invention"

Zeno, did you find a copy of The Pencil of Nature?

Edited: Jan 29, 2010, 5:00am Top

t. that is a great quote. To allow a Frenchman of all people!

I do not have a copy of The Pencil of Nature, although I have seen the first edition - under glass at an exhibition of FT's work at (I think) the Tate Gallery in London.

The quote comes from the introduction in this book:

William Henry Fox Talbot, by Geoffrey Batchen.

... which has, by the way, some nicely reproduced photographs and pre photographic contact prints.

Jan 29, 2010, 5:12am Top

Ha! A great quote that!

I'm glad that Tyutchev is resonating with you. I only discovered him recently and his poetry is quite fabulous. NAbokov reckons his short lyrics to be among the best in Russian. And although he was writing in the 1820s he seems to me to be very modern, more like the poets of the Silver Age: Esenin, Pasternak and Blok.

I love the Savrasov and know it well. I can feel the cold air in that painting.
Dammit, I wish I could somehow get that BBC 4 series on dvd out here. You're not the first to have mentioned it to me.

Feb 1, 2010, 5:28pm Top

Actually I am inclined to the opinion that I was the first to mention it to you, Murr. And yes, it is worth tracking down.

Feb 1, 2010, 5:40pm Top

Fox Talbot wrote a paper, presented to the Royal Society in 1839, in which he termed his experiments as partaking "of the character of the marvellous".

By 1841 he had strived to improve his system to such an extent that Herschel, whose background contributions to early photography should themselves not be underestimated, wrote : "I always felt sure you would perfect your processes till they equalled or surpassed Daguerre's, but this is really magical. Surely you deal with the naughty one."

Feb 6, 2010, 5:40pm Top

From Barthes, Camera Lucida:

Ultimately - or at the limit - in order to see a photograph well, it is best to look away or close your eyes. "The necessary condition for an image is sight," Janouch told Kafka; and Kafka smiled and replied: "We photograph things in order to drive them out of our minds. My stories are a way of shutting my eyes." The photograph must be silent.... Absolute subjectivity is achieved only in a state, an effort, of silence (shutting your eyes is to make the image speak in silence).

I like this paragraph - it teaches me something about photographs, Barthes and Kafka.

I think of K. with eyes shut, visualising the images within one of his stories, the 'hero/antihero' in conversation (in silence to the listener K.) with one of the many 'messengers' in a K. story. For some reason it makes me think of the early Disney cartoons, black, greys and white, roughly drawn, but exhuberant and other worldly.

Feb 6, 2010, 6:17pm Top

A beautiful paragraph zeno. I'm reading zen therapy and Kafka's idea puts me in mind of zen idea's of making a clean space inside ourselves and in this book it's an idea for a therapist. It reads like Kafka was doing something very similar.

Feb 17, 2010, 9:02am Top

In respect of creating silence, or clean spaces, within - it was reported on the news today that a complaint against ITV for showing an overly loud TV advert was upheld.

ITV's defence had been that the programme during which the advert was shown was made some time ago when "there was a lot of silent pauses in conversation". The argument being that the up to date advert was contrasted with the overly quiet old programme, thereby making the advert appear louder than it actually was.

The programme was the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes - maybe 20 years old?

Has the art of continuous noise making come into our culture in such a short space of time? Always on, always available, always making sound?

Feb 19, 2010, 12:42am Top

oh yes, noise pollution is a huge problem all over the world. A problem that very few people notice. 'Background music' for example, is a concept I abhor. I always ask restaurants to turn off the music they are playing. If they don't, I go elsewhere. Thankfully, on my mountain, it's very quiet.

Silence: Odilon Redon

Edited: Feb 19, 2010, 9:43am Top

Yes - I agree about background music, although I wouldn't have the gumption to request that it be turned off.

How can we 99%'ers be expected to live inside our heads, creating alternative worlds, when such banalities as 'background music' are impinging on our consciousness? Does the rest of humanity not understand the importance of what we are trying to achieve?

Having said that, I do admit to liking ambient noise and activity around me. Although I need time to myself each day in which to process thoughts, I would rather do this in a busy coffee shop (where I am anonymous) than alone elsewhere. If I have the opportunity to do this every day or two, I find it also allows me to enjoy my family time better.

The picture is quite beautiful. I find the colour and symbolic ideas quite compelling.

Colours and shapes always create emotional meaning for me. The visual is always far far more stimulating than aural input.

Feb 19, 2010, 10:05am Top

How can we 99%'ers be expected to live inside our heads, creating alternative worlds, when such banalities as 'background music' are impinging on our consciousness? Does the rest of humanity not understand the importance of what we are trying to achieve?

Amen! I don't mind background music though. I do have a whole list of other irritants. I get tired of telling the people closest to me that I'm just "environmentally sensitive," and there's nothing wrong with me. But to tell the truth, they've learned to leave me alone, whether they get it or not. So I'm fortunate. I guess the problem comes when they have to explain my maintenance issues to someone else.

BTW, what's a 99%'er? I just threw myself into that category cuz it seemed right, but I guess I should know what it is. *shakes head* Silly citygirl.

Also, it's funny the way our brains are wired. I'm so visual that I can miss a lot, or fail to be affected at times, but I have to pay more attention aurally and find myself altered by certain pieces of music, so much so that I feel like I've just taken some weird drug.

Feb 19, 2010, 10:40am Top

What a lovely, lovely thread.

I live near an airport, on an increasingly busy street, and it's a rare occurence that I stand in my house and "hear" absolute silence. It feels like a vacuum; reminds me of standing among the Muir Woods redwoods north of San Francisco. It's incentive to move.

>42 zenomax: Popular opposition to loud commercials is building in the USA. Interesting background about the science aspects here. (The referenced bill passed unanimously in the House in December and will head to the Senate.)

Feb 19, 2010, 10:55am Top

>45 citygirl: interesting; I resist visual "noise" too. The intense images and lightning-fast visual cuts in commercials make me close my eyes as often as I press the mute key. LT's redesigned widgets are mostly animated. I was going to link to a cnn.com article in my previous message but its visual noise just seemed so contradictory to the calm here :)

Edited: Feb 19, 2010, 1:37pm Top

detailmuse - nice to see you here, and thank you for your very kind comments. A source of calm sounds like a nice thing for this thread to aim for indeed.

cg! Lovely to see you here too. I guess you would understand my more esoteric statements better than most.

99%'er comes from a phrase I coined in my Club Read 2009 thread. I was writing about Robert Musil, and argued that even looking at his photograph you could see he was the kind of person who spent at least 99% of his time and energy inside his own head.

In fact, come to think of it, most of the authors I read in my 2009 thread were 99%'ers. 2010 is shaping up that way too.....

cg I know exactly what you mean about weird drugs - certain music and certain visuals affect me that way too. It is like they are almost visceral, living things inside me.

Edited: Feb 19, 2010, 1:39pm Top

Musil....the 99%'er.

Feb 19, 2010, 1:54pm Top

Thank you. Mr. Musil does look a bit...away. And, yes, I do believe I qualify.

I will second detailmuse in that you do have a lovely thread, and you should not be surprised that I would be lurking. Wouldn't it be funny if tim decided to make a feature that told you how many people were and had been lurking on threads you created, but not who they were? Thank goodness he hasn't. I can imagine some would become quite paranoid: "Who are you out there? Show your faces!"

Feb 20, 2010, 4:10am Top

I doubt I'm a 99%er, or perhaps not even as much as a 50%er: I'm just too extroverted. But I am driven half crazy by extraneous sound, often that others don't even notice or care about. I can hardly go to movies anymore because of the little noises (and some not so little) that people make. And when I fled the city after living in one urban place or another all my life (I've lived in Woodstock, New York, now for over twenty years), it was the noises that compelled me. I don't dislike the other aspects of city life at all; well, no, I don't like waiting in traffic.

Feb 21, 2010, 3:35am Top

Well Peter, I'm quite glad we are not all 99%ers. If we were, there would be some great philosophical debates and lots of scientific breakthroughs, but no one with the skills to service a car, build a house or grow food....

I like the idea of living somewhere quiet, and enjoy holidays in the countryside, but I don't think I would actually like to live somewhere quiet on a permanent basis (it goes back to liking ambient noise and activity around me).

Feb 21, 2010, 7:31am Top

Reasons for being overly sensitive to noise, and other apparent idiosyncrasies that determine where we live and what we do ... We touched on psychological types in another universe eons ago, as you know, zenomax. It's not the subject and thrust of this thread, so I'll just say (using the percentage meme) that I'm about a 50% sensory, 25% thought, 15% intuitive, and 10% emotive type (in the Jung typology), so I get all the sensory stimulus (and ambient noise) I can handle just leaving the house.

Feb 21, 2010, 3:31pm Top

Yes, I remember those discussions. In MBTI terms you seem to be pointing to an ESTJ or ESTP? I guess it does make sense that those who live more through the 5 senses would find sensory stimulus more disruptive on average than those who do not.

I rather think that 99%'ers refer to introverted intuitives in Jungian terms.

Edited: Feb 21, 2010, 3:49pm Top

I guess I leave photography at this point and move on to silence/noise.

Here we have the work of Luigi Russolo, author of The Art of Noises - a set of noise machines.

Edited: Feb 21, 2010, 4:32pm Top

The thing that I find interesting is that silence can only be defined by its relationship to noise. Without noise, silence would seem to be meaningless.

I have become interested in ambient noise (not least because the word 'ambient' has caught my imagination for some obscure reason). On Youtube you can get all sorts of ambient sounds and music (can you imagine 'dark industrial ambient'? - it appears to exist).

And what about background music, or mere background noise - things that are not meant to be interpreted, but just exist - almost as filler? What do they signify?

The other interest I appear to have at present in this area is noise or sound through time and across cultures. I remember reading some time ago a review by Peter Ackroyd (in The Times?) about a book which considered the historical context of sound. This book, and Russolo's manifesto, both seem worthy of tracking down.

Feb 22, 2010, 2:09am Top

Also interesting: human beings can't experience true silence. What we think of as a "silent" room usually has about 30 dB of ambient noise. To get quieter than that, you have to go into an anechoic chamber... but then you hear the noises of your own body--the beating of your heart, the hum of your nervous system...

Feb 22, 2010, 8:01am Top

Yes, especially the constant high-pitched ringing in my ears, often throbbiing with the beat of my heart.

Feb 22, 2010, 8:54am Top

That is interesting, Medla (do you mind that shortening?). You're absolutely right. Perhaps if we did experience true silence, we'd know that we were dead. Or if not dead, then mad. Or would it drive us mad? Or would we experience the divine?

Way over my head.

Feb 22, 2010, 10:21am Top

Citygirl- (I don't mind. :) I don't know what'd happen if we experienced true silence, but I do know that a friend of mine who spent half an hour in an anechoic chamber said it really creeped him out. He felt very unsettled.

Edited: Feb 22, 2010, 10:46am Top

Interesting discussion here Zeno. I am wondering if noise/silence is similar to the heat/cold dynamic – is there no silence, only the lack of noise?

Meddy, your comments on the chamber remind me of the artist Joseph Beuys. He has a few installations of giant piles of felt. Walking amongst them, you feel like your ears are being sucked out. It’s the closest I’ve ever come to complete silence. Here is his installation at Dia:Beacon in NY:

Feb 22, 2010, 10:46am Top

I just realized (duh) that deaf people experience silence all the time and they don't go mad. Does anyone know anything about the experience of going suddenly from hearing to deaf?

Edited: Feb 22, 2010, 11:04am Top

Dia:Beacon, yes. I go there a bit (I don't live far away), and Joseph Beuys. I'll have to go back to experience that silence; Beuys was there when I went last, but not the pieces I see in the photo.

Edited: Feb 23, 2010, 10:36am Top

>60 Medellia:, 61 yes! that's the sense I experienced in the redwood forest mentioned above. I can imagine it with felt.

Feb 23, 2010, 9:47pm Top

So - the voices in our heads, are they noise, or part of the silence?

Feb 23, 2010, 10:12pm Top

zeno wrote: and what about background music, or mere background noise - things that are not meant to be interpreted, but just exist - almost as filler? What do they signify?

Was it Charles Ives, Meddy (or knowledgable others)? who purposely wrote his music to reflect the incidental and randomness of noise in everyday life? He was first inspired by hearing two different brass bands pass each other on the street playing different things. Turned such accidents into an art form, gave incidental noise some kind of meaning, or at least a space to listen to them.

Feb 24, 2010, 1:47am Top

Yep, Ives. Playing his "Country Band March" was the most fun I ever had in a wind ensemble. I also heard a very memorable performance of "The Unanswered Question" by the NY Phil in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine back in May. It was an amazing space for that piece.

That whole concert was very interesting. The pieces (Messiaen "L'Ascension," Vaughan Williams "The Lark Ascending," Barber's Adagio, Ives) were well-chosen for the acoustics of the cathedral, and I came away reflecting that the silences of the pieces were even more interesting than the noises (because of the reverberations in the cathedral)--to circle back to our topic here. :)

Edited: Feb 24, 2010, 5:04pm Top

Daniel - do you have voices in your head too?

Has anyone heard of Pauline Oliveros and her ideas about Deep Listening?

It is said to be "... a philosophy and practice ... that distinguishes the difference between the involuntary nature of hearing and the voluntary selective nature of listening. The result of the practice cultivates appreciation of sounds on a heightened level..."

I came across this concept earlier this evening after listening to an Oliveros tune on YouTube and following up the information from the excerpt. Another example of Jung's synchronicity at work?

Feb 24, 2010, 5:07pm Top

Oh and let me thank everyone for dropping by and posting. Such erudition.

I'm not used to such attention.

Feb 24, 2010, 5:13pm Top

I like the idea of those two bands passing each other playing different tunes too.

What little I've heard of Ives I have liked. Sadly my music education is a little underdeveloped...

Feb 24, 2010, 10:07pm Top

#68 - getting them to quiet down a bit so I can think is quite a challenge. :) Sorry, that was a little goofy on your otherwise really nice thread. It wasn't meant in a bad way. The thread just had me thinking about how background noise can help me clear me head (as long as it stays in the background). While if I'm in relative silence, I find it more difficult to focus on just one thing - hence the idea that for me silence can actually be "noisier" inside my head. But that all seemed too long to post, and now I've posted it anyway...sigh.

Feb 25, 2010, 7:42am Top

My piano teacher reminded me today of John Cage's composition called 4'33'', which, to quote Wikipedia:

the score instructs the performer not to play the instrument during the entire duration of the piece... Although commonly perceived as "four minutes thirty-three seconds of silence", the piece actually consists of the sounds of the environment that the listeners hear while it is performed..

Part of me thinks that's pretty cool, but another part of me sniggers at the fact that the piece is in three movements.

Wikipedia Link

Feb 25, 2010, 8:44am Top

Here’s a full orchestral performance of 4’33”

Edited: Feb 25, 2010, 4:04pm Top

That is a great piece!

It appeals to my absurdist nature in many ways. The orchestra members sitting there because it is their job, the audience wondering what sort of pose to adopt - are they being taken for a ride, or are they part of a refined work. I personally would think of myself as a lab rat under the microscope.

Daniel - no need to apologise, I have voices in my head too. I was curious to know how it worked for you. Mine are most apparent at times of quietitude as well. Although I believe they are there all the time, I only catch snippets of the conversation at times such as the moments before falling alseep and the moments immediately after waking.

The voices are benign, but I cannot tell what they are. In my more fanciful moments I ponder over whether they are my unconscious conversing with the (Jungian) collective unconscious. In my more realistic moods I think it may be different parts of my mind meeting to supply a continuous narrative.

I don't think I have come across specific reference to such benign inner narrative before, so I was curious to know if it happens to you in that way? The voices, curiously, reflect my absurdist sympathies (if the narrative had been scripted it could have been written by the authors I most admire - Proust, Kafka, Musil, Camus, Schwitters and Peret).

I also have pictures, colours, snippets of sound, song loops, movie scenes, memories, abstract thoughts about history or geopolitics or obscure subjects, all going through my mind all the time.

And yet my mind tends to be relaxed in spite of all. It is like a benign entertainment and education all in one.

Feb 25, 2010, 4:08pm Top

And please don't be constrained by this thread officially being termed a 'nice thread'.

I am pleased that people have seen it as such, but I wouldn't want anyone to be constrained from saying anything interesting, obscure, arcane or challenging (preferably all 4).

Edited: Feb 25, 2010, 4:15pm Top

#74 I've always imagined it as layers, with stuff in the foreground consciously controlled, and stuff in the background processing almost completely unconsciously, but affecting things like my mood. The important stuff is somewhere in there, but tends to get lost, or clandestinely manifested in some way.

For example, when I read it comes in in different ways, and often has to battle with what else is in there. If the writing is clean and clear, it can come in immediately at a deep level. If it's clever, than it only comes in at the surface, and needs to be reprocessed before it can reach deeper. This is a problem I often have with poetry. If I re-read, the text clears itself up lot and then immediately touches deeper. If I'm annoyed by the text, it follows a different path in, with most of my thoughts focusing on how annoying it is and why. :)

Feb 25, 2010, 4:18pm Top

#75 - just to clarify, by "nice" I meant you have really good stuff here. It didn't mean nice, as say, opposed to mean or rude, or impolite.

Edited: Feb 25, 2010, 6:05pm Top

At the risk of digressing further in an already digressive thread, I need to record some finds from my current book The Arcades Project. This book, in point of fact, is always a current or almost current read, never far away from my reach.

Latest gems to emerge:

On photography:

"... the cruel and surprising charm of daguerreotypes", Charles Baudelaire.

On Baudelaire's religious faith:

"There is a story that one day a naval officer, one of his friends, showed him a manitou he had brought back from Africa, a monstrous little head carved from a piece of wood by a poor black man - 'It is awfully ugly,' says the officer, and he threw it away disdainfully. 'Take care,' Baudelaire said in an anxious tone, 'lest it prove the true god!' They were the most profound words he ever utterted. He believed in unknown gods..."

On Proust's uniqueness:

"With a passion unknown to any writer before him, he took as his subject the fidelity to things that have crossed our path in life. Fidelity to an afternoon, to a tree, a spot of sun on the carpet; fidelity to garments, pieces of furniture, to perfumes or landscapes...."

I have written elsewhere about Proust's understanding of the inanimate as almost 'living' partners in this world. (He spoke of the work of still life artist Chardin as showing 'the hidden life of the inanimate'). This passage from Benjamin builds on this. Fidelity in my eyes means remembering, paying attention to, just as Proust does with the people in his acts of remembering.

Benjamin adds, in the same passage:

"In order to understand Proust, generally speaking, it is perhaps necessary to begin with the fact that his subject is the obverse side, le revers, not so much of the world but of life itself"

Feb 25, 2010, 6:08pm Top

Still life by Chardin:

Feb 25, 2010, 11:54pm Top

Very interesting discussion of internal voices. It reminded me of this description of consciousness, from Julian Jaynes:

… a secret theatre of speechless monologue and prevenient counsel, an invisible mansion of all moods, musings and mysteries, an infinite resort of disappointments and discoveries. A whole kingdom where each of us reigns reclusively alone questioning what we will, commanding what we can. A hidden hermitage where we may study out the troubled book of what we have done and yet may do. An introcosm that is more myself than anything I can find in a mirror. This consciousness that is myself of selves, that is everything, and yet nothing at all…

from The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind

It seems to me that consciousness itself consists of the internal voices, and in the Western mind, this is most often couched as dialogue. Yes? No?

I would also cite the authors you did, Zeno, in >74 zenomax:, as being closest to the real monologues in my head, especially Proust and Musil, with the addition of Joyce and Virginia Woolf.

Feb 26, 2010, 4:57pm Top

Just been without electricity for three days. No humming refrigerator. No furnace noise. No nothing, inside or out. Perhaps there are laboratories where it can be scientifically more silent, but I don't see how.

I made a woodstove fire to keep warm, and had the fluttering sound of flames. I don't think I've ever heard anything lovelier.

Feb 27, 2010, 3:51pm Top

Re voices in your head--Isn't it the goal of transcendental meditation to temporarily still these voices and reach your core?

When I was a child and wanted to be alone, I'd sometimes go sit inside a cabinet, inside a closet, inside my bedroom for a while. It was so quiet, I only heard an echo or small humming in my ears. For some reason it gave me a thrill. I was a pretty normal kid otherwise.

Edited: Mar 2, 2010, 4:41pm Top

Intriguingly, one of the voices in my head does sound very much like this.


I find it compelling, compulsive even. Also it makes me laugh out loud (like a Kafka tale does, like Dada imagery does).

Unsurprisingly, Ashley had a mild tourette's.....

From Wikipedia:

"Ashley was intrigued by his involuntary speech, and the idea of composing music that was unconscious. Seeing that the speech that resulted from having Tourette’s could not be controlled, it was a different aspect from producing music that is deliberate and conscious..."

Now this actually leads me back to synthesizers - and Moog who I mentioned above, and Eno (who, in a recent documentary, mentioned that electronic controls on music were becoming so close to perfection that music no longer had an edge - he was now requesting manufacturers of the various synthesizers he used to start producing instruments with in built imperfections).

Ashley's connection is that he was a pioneer in audio synthesis, as well as leading the way in other performance and musical fields.

It feels to me (as someone who has no musical background, nor any great liking for synthesizer music) that there are certain parables and other learnings from the development and theory of synthesizers. Facets such as mimicry, decay, and the ability to produce almost infinite variations seem like a doorway into other philosophical musings.

I like the concept of inbuilt weakness being a good thing - as things near perfection (can they ever reach it?) are they becoming less useful, less interesting? Are we better off embracing human weakness?

Mar 2, 2010, 4:40pm Top

I saw a great documentary film called 'Rocks with wings' about 5 years ago - about a man who comes to work with a Navajo women's basketball team. Part of it showed their weaving and how the weave a spirit line into the rugs for example. this looks like an imperfection, its to stop their souls (if thats the right word) being trapped in the piece -- and to my eyes is also a recognition of not striving for perfection, maybe they say that in the documentary too, its a while since I saw it. I used this in a dissertation and put my own spirit line in - it always also makes me think of open works which i also think i saw a programme about at the same time.

Edited: Mar 3, 2010, 6:01pm Top

More diversions to paper over the fact that I haven't done my homework on noise and silence yet (although I increasingly see both Cage and Eno as real visionaries in this area, pushing their musical philosophies into new, little explored areas).

"A planetarium appeared in Moscow.
This was an enormous fantastical apparatus. It was the realisation of his fantasy.
Made of black metal and glass.
With forms that resembled no living creature.
It was called the 'Martian'.
It made him continue to search and search for a fantastical reality.
Or for the fantasy in reality."

Alexander Rodchenko, Black and White - Auotbiography.

Quoted in Militant Modernism

Shades of Fyodor Tyutchev?

Edited: Mar 3, 2010, 6:03pm Top


"Balzac discovered the big city as something bristling with mystery, and the sense which he always keeps alert is that of curiosity. This is his Muse. He is never either comic or tragic; simply curious...."

Cesare Pavese, quoted in Calvino, Why Read the Classics.

I aim to write about cities and urbanism and modernism at some stage. Paris and London already loom large...

Mar 6, 2010, 4:50am Top

Thank you notes.

>80 tomcatMurr: Murr, a well chosen thought provoking quote, as ever. And you remind me that Virginia Woolf is a gap in my reading which I need to rectify.

>81 copyedit52: Peter, have you found your rural idyll? Were you consciously looking for such a thing?

>82 arubabookwoman: abw, I am fascinated by the way you describe how you removed yourself to the power of 3 - "inside a cabinet, inside a closet, inside my bedroom". I can kind of relate to that, although I merely went to my room and closed the door.For some reason your description reminds me of the title sequence to Get Smart when he goes through all those doors and they each slam shut behind him - a feeling of security/secrecy from the outside world.

>84 tonikat:, Tony I really like that thought that the imperfection is built in to stop souls becoming trapped within. Imperfection as protection.

Mar 6, 2010, 8:49am Top

I'll take my rural idyllocry with electricity and plumbing, zenomax. But seriously: you learn a lot about your habits and dependencies at such times. What could be more interesting than that?

Mar 6, 2010, 9:51am Top

Peter - I'm not knocking it, not by a long chalk!

Mar 6, 2010, 10:21am Top

I like that bit of slang: a long chalk. Racetrack lingo, I suppose.

Mar 6, 2010, 10:28am Top

I think it goes back to chalking scores up at pubs??, but I may be wrong. Jonathon will know of course.

Mar 6, 2010, 10:30am Top

Ah. At the racetrack (where I occasionally contribute), to bet on the "chalk" means to back the favorite.

Mar 10, 2010, 4:35pm Top

Content, a documentary by film maker Chris Petit aired here last night. Dipping in and out of it, I felt that parts of it related directly to this thread.

Firstly, Petit called it 'a 21st century ambient road movie'. That use of the word 'ambient' which intrigues me so much at the moment. As a concept and as a word it seems to be unassuming, yet rebellious at the same time. Mere background, but quietly undermining too.

The other part which struck me in the documentary was Petit's voice over explanation that as a child he learnt to have 2 personalities for the world, one facing outward conformed to what was expected of him, the other facing inward was driven by inner voices, which most of the time were incoherent.

Mar 11, 2010, 1:16pm Top

When I was young, my elders and betters said to me:
'You must pretend to believe'

Charles Hayward, 'Pretend to Believe'.

Mar 17, 2010, 1:45pm Top

Noise and silence (and ambience):

"Whereas the extant canned music companies proceed from the basis of regularizing environments by blanketing their acoustic and atmospheric idiosyncracies, Ambient Music is intended to enhance these. Whereas conventional background music is produced by stripping away all sense of doubt and uncertainty (and thus all genuine interest) from the music, Ambient Music retains these qualities. And whereas their intention is to `brighten' the environment by adding stimulus to it (thus supposedly alleviating the tedium of routine tasks and levelling out the natural ups and downs of the body rhythms) Ambient Music is intended to induce calm and a space to think.

Ambient Music must be able to accomodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting."

Brian Eno, notes to Music for Airports, 1978.

Mar 21, 2010, 12:11pm Top

Intriguing that Eno suggests that interest is retained by the inbuilt 'qualities' of doubt and uncertainty. This chimes with his view that the musical equipment he works with should have inbuilt imperfections. An interesting philosophy.

Mar 21, 2010, 12:24pm Top

"Wherever we are, what we hear is mostly noise. When we ignore it, it disturbs us. When we listen to it, we find it fascinating. The sound of a truck at fifty miles per hour. Static between stations, Rain..."

John Cage, Silence

Mar 21, 2010, 8:15pm Top

Ah. I recently discovered Cage had written a book of that name, and I thought of you.

Mar 23, 2010, 3:29pm Top

#98, thank you for thinking of me in that particular context.

"Xenia told me once that when she was a child in Alaska, she and her friends had a club and there was only one rule: No silliness."

John Cage, 'Indeterminacy', in Silence

Edited: Mar 23, 2010, 4:17pm Top

"Let's walk together through a great modern capital, with the ear more attentive than the eye, and we will vary the pleasure of our sensibilities by distinguishing among the gurglings of water, air and gas inside metallic pipes, the rumblings and rattlings of engines breathing with obvious animal spirits, the rising and falling of pistons, the stridency of mechanical saws, the loud jumping of trolleys on their rails, the snapping of whips, the whipping of flags. We will have fun imagining our orchestration of department stores' sliding doors, the hubbub of the crowds, the different roars of railway stations, iron foundries...."

Luigi Russolo, The Art of Noise, 1913. One of the first to see noise as a means to music, leading to musique concrete, electronic music, Eno and so weiter...

Mar 23, 2010, 4:41pm Top

"The existence of other people is a difficulty and an outrage for objective thought."

Merleau Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception.

I covet this sentence, particularly for its burst of emotion. It is also strangely true in an obtuse way.

Mar 23, 2010, 4:48pm Top

Yeah. People are the worst.

Mar 23, 2010, 6:25pm Top

Don't stir the pot now Peter...

I don't believe this is a comment on the value of people per se (either collectively or individually), but rather on the fact of their existence.

Mar 23, 2010, 7:20pm Top

I'm kidding, of course. Kinda.

Mar 24, 2010, 5:38am Top

Note to self, must keep my wits about me when Peter in vicinity....

Edited: Mar 24, 2010, 7:42am Top

Any discussion of noise and silence must at least mention Sonny Rollins; the silences within music, between notes and phrases, as distinct, as syncopated, as the sound their contrast makes possible.

Apr 29, 2010, 2:53pm Top

Baudelaire (Le Gouffre/The Abyss):

"...my windows open on infinity..."

Edited: May 4, 2010, 6:03pm Top

Apropos of Benjamin's view of Proust - that he "...took as his subject the fidelity to things that have crossed our path in life":

"All still lifes are actually paintings of the world on the sixth day of creation, when God and the world were alone together, without man!" (Musil).

May 4, 2010, 8:57pm Top

oh that Musil quote is superb!

May 28, 2010, 4:18pm Top

More on noise -- the NY Times reviews three recent books about the topic. (I was hoping to snag The Unwanted Sound of Everything We Want in last month’s Early Reviewers. Alas, no.)

May 28, 2010, 5:29pm Top

Thank you for your post - how nice to hear from you.

I like the idea of the Society for the Suppression of Unnecessary Noise.

Just the sort of oddment body that makes life worth living.

May 28, 2010, 7:55pm Top

It could speed up law making.


Jun 8, 2010, 2:07pm Top

Our relationship with inanimate objects, on waking:


"Perhaps the immobility of the things that surround us is forced upon them by our conviction that they are themselves and not anything else, by the immobility of our conception of them. For it always happened that when I awoke like this, and my mind struggled in an unsuccessful attempt to discover where I was, everything revolved around me through the darkness: things, places, years. My body, still too heavy with sleep to move, would endeavour to construe from the pattern of its tiredness the position of its various limbs, in order to deduce therefrom the direction of the wall, the location of the furniture, to piece together and give a name to the house in which it lay."


"In the gloomy cowl of night and morning's semidarkness, time congeals like milk, yet I innocently try to see through it. All I see is the immense silence of worm - eaten objects, things oppressed by their own nocturnal specific weight, the suspended bell - clapper in the heart of things that are weighed down by oblivion, that are practically non - existent, that have been horribly and mercilessly reduced to specks and surrounded by a violet auriole. The painting on the wall, the guardian angel over our bed, the night tables, the vase yawning empty: all this is now a gigantic, heavy void lacking any proportion, for in the twilight their positions are just barely outlined. Actually, I can only guess their location from a day - old memory that already seems so distant."

Jun 8, 2010, 2:10pm Top

... the suspended bell - clapper in the heart of things...

Jun 9, 2010, 10:25pm Top

Nice comparison, Zeno.

Edited: Jul 10, 2010, 2:31pm Top

"The end of the world doesn't come suddenly and without warning. To imagine it does is to be fooled by popular misconception, and thus fail to recognize the larger picture. The end of the world is an ongoing process. It starts slowly, imperceptibly and blossoms unnoticed in our very midst until it has engulfed all that there is and none is free from its spell.
Hear now my words and heed them well - all that you think is great and mighty is but a disease upon life and must be made to perish if life is to continue. That which seems grand and noble is but an affliction. All that appears to grant freedom to mankind has in fact ordained its enslavement, impairing and crippling from within while outwardly bearing the banner of liberty. The body of humanity has been poisoned even as it strives for new horizons and constant advancement. Rigor mortis has proceeded the approach of death and the lives of men are dragged into the grave along with it. Seek now those motions which sow for humanity the seeds of death, as they will harvest for you the bounty of life."

Jul 10, 2010, 4:12pm Top

Z - you've been missed.

Jul 11, 2010, 11:26am Top

Thank you Daniel.

Edited: Jul 11, 2010, 12:14pm Top

A few randon thoughts and quotes which have been collecting in my head.

First, of all the 99%'ers - who are, seemingly, relatively few in number, but who do tend to congregate in certain areas & milieus - the one that feels most like me (although I hasten to claim no ability comparable to his) is - not Proust as you may hazard as a result of the length of this sentence - but Robert Musil himself. I perhaps see him as the epitome of a 99%'er - for better or worse.

His diaries - particularly when he writes down events or scenes he has observed, are very familiar to me. Not from my having read them over and over. Even the first time I read them they appear familiar.

From when Musil was in the Austrian army, in northern Italy, in WW1:

"A pretty sight, each time horses arrive. Stand on the meadow, lie down. Always form irregular groups receding into the distance (as if according to some aesthetic law)."

And an explanation how it feels being under shell fire:

"The sound that the projectile makes is a whistling - in which the 'i' note is not fully formed - that gets louder and louder then, when the shot passes over one, fades away. With big shells that do not pass very high over one's own position the sounds swell to a roar, in fact to a throbbing of the air that has a metallic note in it. This was how it was yesterday on the Monte Carbonile when the Italians fired from the Cima Manderiolo at the Pizzo di Vezzena and the troops on the Panarotta fired over our heads at the Italian positions. The impression was one of an uncanny turmoil in nature. There was a rushing and roaring in the rocks. Feeling of malignant futility."

A raising of the significance of the obscure and unimportant, and an attempt to move the matter of fact and everyday into something impressionistic, even mythical.

Edited: Jul 11, 2010, 12:27pm Top

And on observations and meetings with the natives as part of the soldiers' lot in war.

"I ask about a strange peasant woman who looks rather like an Aztec. 'She never knows what she's saying. One word here, the next over the mountains.' "


"When one said to her 'Come into the hay' she gave a merry snort with nose and eyes. Movements like those in the Comic Opera."


"Nice gesture: with a playful word of flattery I reach out to touch the chin of a peasant girl. She grasps my hand to stop me but as it sinks down keeps hold of it smiling."

This latter brings to mind Baudelaire's 'To a woman passing by' - a record of a meeting in passing with a woman whom he will never see again, but will seemingly never forget:

"Far from this place! Too late! Never perhaps!
Neither one knowing where the other goes,
O you I might have loved, as well you know!"

Jul 14, 2010, 6:16am Top

It's great to have you back Zeno. I love reading your posts. Proust, Baudelaire and Musil. Few things better.

Edited: Jul 15, 2010, 5:09pm Top

Thanks Murr.


The indomitable zero/zanix recently recorded a Colette read on his thread. This reminded me that I had Colette's description of Proust (whom she knew for a time).

Having dug out my copy Earthly Paradise I dived back into the Colette world.

The most powerful pieces for me are those written about Sido. The description of her in old age she reminds me of the Grandmother in Combray.

"The time came when all her strength left her.She was amazed beyond measure and would not believe it."

Just as the Combray narrator's grandmother was an independent spirit, walking outside in all elements, coming in to be teased by the others (daniel - you picked up the exact same passage in another thread), so Sido's spirit continued to battle on:

"Her illness knew many respites, during which the fire flared up again on the hearth, and the smell of fresh bread and melting chocolate stole under the door together with the cat's impatient paw. These respites were periods of unexpected alarms. My mother and the big walnut cupboard were discovered together in a heap at the foot of the stairs, she having determined to transport it in secret from the upper landing to the ground floor. Whereupon my elder brother insisted that my mother should keep still and that an old servant should sleep in the little house. But how could an old servant prevail against a vital energy so youthful and mischievous that it contrived to tempt and lead astray a body already half fettered by death? My brother, returning before sunrise from attending a distant patient, one day caught my mother red-handed in the most wanton of crimes. Dressed in her nightgown, but wearing heavy gardening sabots, her little grey septagenerian's plait of hair turning up like a scorpion's tail on the nape of her neck, one foot firmly planted on the cross piece of the beech trestle,her back bent in the attitude of the expert jobber, my mother, rejuvenated by an indescribable expression of guilty enjoyment, in defiance of all her promises and of the freezing morning dew, was sawing logs in her own yard."

Jul 15, 2010, 11:41pm Top

I've had almost no time to devote to Librarything for more than a month now. How lovely that when I finally peek in, I'm drawn to your thread, Zeno. I'm skipping between about 5 books right now and one of them is my first Colette, The Vagabond, which is a revelation. Ah, Proust, maybe one day soon. My best.

Jul 16, 2010, 3:42pm Top

Thanks for those kind words t. Nice to hear from you, and glad you are enjoying your first Colette.

Colette on Proust:

"Trust the portrait of him by Jacques-Emile Blanche. That narrow mouth, that mist around the eyes, that tired freshness, both the features and the expression really are those of the young Marcel Proust."

Edited: Jul 16, 2010, 5:03pm Top

On meeting Proust several years later:

"Our host stood listening to me, in front of the Ritz colonade. The silence of the night, and the mist cutting off our view of the square, surrounded Proust with a halo exactly suited to his decline and his prestige....He greatly enjoyed my little barefoot beggar story. and when he exclaimed: 'No, really, do you?' a smile I could not describe, a sort of youthful astonishment, remodelled all his features. As we finally took leave of him, he stepped back, waved goodbye with one hand, and the darkness once more hollowed out the deep sockets of his eyes and filled with ashes the black oval of his mouth, gaping in its quest for air."

Edited: Aug 14, 2010, 4:05pm Top

I have thought a fair bit about drones recently.

Drone music is characterised by repeated or sustained notes. The didgeridoo is a good example, and bagpipes actually have drone pipes which provide the background hum whilst the piper sounds other, more colourful notes.

In modern music the Beatles used the principle of drone music, and influenced others. Drone music now is asscoiated with ambient, industrial and underground genres, and the concept of 'found sounds'.

Edited: Aug 14, 2010, 4:04pm Top

Drones are also found in the world of bees.

Drones are male bees, developed from unfertilized eggs (according to Wikipedia). Drones do not have a sting (a bee's sting comes from a modified egg laying organ).

Edited: Aug 14, 2010, 4:01am Top

Drones are also members of the Drones Club, a gentlemens club in London.

Aug 14, 2010, 4:39am Top

Drone is also a term for remotely controlled attack or reconnaissance aircraft. The sort of thing which may be the stuff of nightmares, if not for the fact that they seem to be the domain of our side only.

Aug 14, 2010, 4:42am Top

I also wonder if the 'messengers' in Kafka stories are a type of drone?

Edited: Aug 14, 2010, 3:13pm Top

And talking of Kafka world, I have in my mind a world that sits somewhere within a continuum that begins at this extreme:


...has this background music:


and ends in some landscape like this.

Aug 14, 2010, 4:16pm Top

'I perceive', says I, 'the world has become so mechanical that I fear we shall quickly become ashamed of it; they will have the world be in large what a watch is in smaqll, which is very regular, and depends only on the just disposing of the several parts of the movement. But pray tell me, madame, had you not formerly a more sublime idea of the universe?'

Bernard Fontelle, 1686

Quoted in Critical Mass by Phillip Ball.

Aug 17, 2010, 2:51am Top

I love the way you pursue a thing, zeno. This is great.

Aug 17, 2010, 7:33am Top

Thanks Rena.

The pursuit is the thing. When there are no correct answers we can retain that more sublime idea of the universe.

Aug 20, 2010, 5:34pm Top

Interregnums have always interested me. The gaps between two worlds, two ages: the age before and the age to come.

The S - bend that joins two discordant histories.

I was reminded of this when idly skimming through A Dark Stranger. My first experience of Gracq.

"What moves me most of all in the story of Christ is the short period between the Resurrection and the Ascension, surprising with all its mysteries, those uncertain fleeting appearances, twilit, so irrevocably the last ones, so heartbreaking with their air of departure - and that incredible sense of nonchalance, the last chance, the last-minute whim, divine insouciance. It's him and it isn't him - suddenly it's a face that hides for a split second, which blazes behind another; the feverish victory cry of a ghost, cut off from eternal rest by such idyllic, limitless affection...the evening is so mild, everything is just as usual - then at last they saw him, or what's called seeing, some distance away. And those suddenly dazzling words that shatter the perpetual twilight, the peace of fields after the harvest where a solemn hand rises, where a pale footprint glides, in the fear that rises from the depths of time: "Abide with us: for it is toward evening", and the final words, the most savagely beautiful to come from the lips of man: "Touch me not."

Sep 3, 2010, 4:56pm Top

This message has been deleted by its author.

Edited: Oct 19, 2010, 5:02am Top

Cities. What are they? What do they represent?


Sep 3, 2010, 5:26pm Top

Where is that photo taken?

Sep 3, 2010, 5:55pm Top

Rebecca - it is Paris. Atget worked in Paris from the end of the nineteenth century through to the 1920s.

Sep 3, 2010, 6:03pm Top

Thank you. It's a wonderful, evocative photo.

Sep 3, 2010, 6:05pm Top

It is. Atget was the master of such things.

Sep 5, 2010, 2:54pm Top

"It is no doubt not to the taste of everyone, but for the real London-lover the mere immensity of the place is a large part of its merit. A small London would be an abomination, as it fortunately is an impossibility, for the idea and the name are beyond everything an expression of extent and number."

Extent and number, the crowd, anonymity, the impersonalisation of everyday relations.

The Londoner "fancies himself, as they say, for being a particle in so unequalled an aggregation; and its immeasurable circumference, even though unvisited and lost in smoke, gives him the sense of a social, an intellectual margin. There is a luxury in the knowledge that he may come and go without being noticed, even when his comings and goings have no nefarious end."

Henry James, From London.

Edited: Sep 5, 2010, 3:42pm Top

"...in the pit's deepest dark, I distinctly see strange worlds."

Baudelaire, 'La Voix'.

Sep 5, 2010, 3:47pm Top

Of the several known influences on Baudelaire's life and work, Poe looms large:

"Imagination is not fantasy....Imagination is an almost divine faculty which perceives...the intimate and secret relations of things, the correspondences and the analogies."

Baudelaire, 'Notes nouvelles sur Edgar Poe'.

Edited: Sep 5, 2010, 5:26pm Top

And mid nineteenth century Paris had Baudelaire living within its compass:

"Baudelaire walked about his quartier of the city at an uneven pace, both nervous and languid, like a cat, choosing each stone of the pavement as if he had to avoid crushing an egg."

From The Arcades Project

Edited: Sep 5, 2010, 5:26pm Top

The crowds of Paris, as viewed through Baudelaire's work:

"...they are the newest drug for the solitary. Second, they efface all traces of the individual: they are the newest asylum for the reprobate and the proscript. Finally, within the labyrinth of the city, the masses are the newest and most inscrutable labyrinth. Through them, previously unknown chthonic traits are imprinted on the image of the city."

Benjamin, The Arcades Project

Sep 5, 2010, 9:58pm Top

I went to an old-fashioned turn-of-the-century show in an old theater in one of those arcades. Maybe the one pictured. Well, no, not a theater so much as a mirrored room in which everyone stood while light and sound bombarded us from all sides.

Sep 6, 2010, 5:34pm Top

Peter - welcome back.

Does that arcade still exist in its original state and as a going concern - or is it a museum piece? And what was with the show you went to see?

I've never noticed the arcades in my couple of visits to Paris - but then I was nver looking for them either.

Edited: Sep 7, 2010, 12:52pm Top

It was restored, certainly, to capture the way it was back then, but it wasn't a museum. It was a "sound and light" show to which you bought tickets, waited for the previous crowd to file out (there were separate doors for entering and leaving, on opposite sides of the room), then stood in the mirrored room and waited for the show to begin. It was interesting not just because the "high tech" of the time seemed quaint--though the changing lights, reflected off the mirrors on the walls and ceiling, were in fact impressive--but because the whole experience so clearly reflected another era, one in which people might patiently stand shoulder-to-shoulder, with none of the modern bullshit purposely intended to distract and fill every moment. You were just there with other people.

This was in one arcade among several in, I think, the 2nd or 3rd Arrondisement. These would be more difficult to find when you visit Paris than the arcades on Boulevard St. Germain, in the 6th Arrondisement. I recall one, not far from rue Mabillon, on the north side of the boulevard, containing a store selling movie posters, a modest tea shop, and several private offices, though there was a serious restaurant near the entrance, on the boulevard but extending into the arcade.

A literally quiet pleasure to these places is that they're a relative island of silence in the heart of a busy city.

Sep 7, 2010, 7:58am Top

Peter - you are doing a great selling job. I want to visit them now.

Sep 7, 2010, 9:08am Top

Concerning an appreciation of aesthetics and the preservation of old things, no one holds a candle to the French.

Sep 7, 2010, 11:33am Top

Hear hear, to both 150 and 151.

Sep 13, 2010, 5:45pm Top

A soundtrack to the works of WG Sebald.


Autumn and the onset of winter.

The spare Anglian coastline.

The paper width between outside reality and inner interpretation.

The dusky corner of each passing moment.

Sep 16, 2010, 5:15pm Top

...saints and sinners reconciled....

Sep 16, 2010, 5:24pm Top

"Photography has made it possible to preserve permanent and unmistakable traces of a human being.”

Walter Benjamin.

Edited: Sep 19, 2010, 6:56am Top

A book review in the Guardian yesterday on Will Self's latest book Walking to Hollywood first caught my attention because of the black and white photograph lifted from the book. It loooked like an image straight out of W G Sebald's book The rings of saturn.

As it turns out, it is a travel book in much the same vein as Sebald. A fictionalised, inner monologue and travelogue in three parts.

The line in the review which caught my attention for its aptness to the world of the 99%er was this:

"The ghosts of other escapees, psychogeographers and internalised travellers, most dead, some not, lean over it - or more eerily, into it: WG Sebald, Werner Herzog, Iain Sinclair, Bruce Chatwin, Hunter S Thompson, Arthur Machen, Roger Deakin, JG Ballard."

Now, of these names, the one I had not heard of was Deakin, the only other I have not read is Machen, but all the others I have previously listed in my mind as a 99%er. I would add Paddy Fermor to the mix as well.

The interesting terms used here 'psychogeographers and internalised travellers' seem to me to capture the 99% sub-nation quite well.

Self is an interesting example of a 99% er. Like Hunter ST, he has a loud brash alter ego hiding an introverted sharp inner world.

I have read Self's thoughts on Orwell and Zamyatin and these had convinced me that he is of the 99% club

Edited: Oct 17, 2010, 5:45pm Top

"Common sense tells us that the things of the earth exist only a little, and that true reality is only in dreams."


Edited: Oct 19, 2010, 1:51pm Top

"The life of our city is rich in poetic and marvelous subjects. We are enveloped and steeped as though in an atmosphere of the marvelous; but we do not notice it."



The city, modernity, and the return of the marvelous.

Oct 17, 2010, 9:54pm Top


Zeno, your Baudelaire quotes reminded me of this from Wittgenstein:

The aspects of things that are most important for us are hidden because of their simplicity and familiarity. (One is unable to notice something because it is always before one's eyes.) The real foundations of his enquiry do not strike a man at all.

Oct 18, 2010, 2:13pm Top

Zeno - thanks, some things to think about. (Would he say the same about Houston, TX? )

Oct 20, 2010, 4:24pm Top

Zeno (and mr cat) lovely quotes.

I was doing some automatic writing this week that was really a bit dreamlike and reached similar conclusions about dream v's reality and about reality needed as a rest from the dreams.

Oct 20, 2010, 4:48pm Top

Tony - is that automatic writing in the style of the surrealists? A la Robert Desnos?

Edited: Oct 21, 2010, 6:01am Top

I'm not sure Zeno -- it was automatic writing of a creative writing class, given a word and just letting go with it for a while until given another word. I don't know how Desnos did it (about to google that). Hope I didn't make it sound grander than it was, it was tryign to write without forethought and consideration.

Edit -- I did look up Desnos -- I did know a little about this, but was not conscious of this when trying to write. Intesrting coincidence that it led me to cross your path.

Oct 22, 2010, 1:02pm Top

Murr - excellent quote and quite apropos.

Dan - Houston must have elements of the magical somewhere? I tend to look in the forgotten corners.

Tony - I don't read a great deal of poetry, the dada/surrealist poetry is about the only type I can get exhuberant about. Peret and Schwitters.

I do have a soft spot for a certain English pastoral poetry (Edward Thomas, Houseman, Rosetti (DG)).

Desnos has a hypnotic style which I quite like in certain moods.

Edited: Oct 22, 2010, 1:49pm Top

And of course Baudelaire.

Walter Benjamin is fascinated by Baudelaire and what he represented (in terms of what he was trying to say, what he was looking for).

One key motif for Baudelaire (in Benjamin's view) was the crowd. The modern city in B's time was a place of crowds, but they were a new phenomena which had to be understood as well as factored into the imagination.

Baudelaire dealt with this in his inimitable way.

Benjamin remarks:

"The masses had become so much a part of Baudelaire that it is rare to find a description of them in his works. His most important subjects are hardly ever encountered in descriptive form."

By not naming the crowd, or the city, B sought to 'implant the image' rather than hammer it home. Thus, in the sonnet 'A une passant' which we have mentioned before:

"The crowd is nowhere named in either word or phrase. And yet the whole happening hinges on it, just as the progress of a sailboat depends on the wind."

The sonnet begins:

"The deafening street was screaming all around me..."

The unknown woman emerges from the crowd, glances are exchanged, and she disappears back into the mass.

"Oh you I would have loved (O you knew it too!)" exclaims B.

As Benjamin adds, it was the lot of the new urbanised poet to delight in love 'not at first sight, but at last sight.'

Walter Benjamin, On some motifs in Baudelaire, Illuminations

Oct 31, 2010, 9:33am Top

"The living being is only a species of the dead, and a very rare species..."


Nov 5, 2010, 4:28pm Top

Only connect.

Nov 6, 2010, 11:00am Top


Nov 30, 2010, 5:00pm Top

A burning question over London resolved.

In Mayhew it is clearly stated that, in addition to replacing 'v' with 'w' the lower classes, costers, river rats and street urchins were wont to replace 'w' with 'v'.

This seemed a rather unlikely affectation to me. One comes across 'w' for 'v' often in 19th century literature - but the contrary version seemed too much like comic germanic.

However, the estimable Jerry White confirms that this was the case.

I can now rest easier.

Nov 30, 2010, 11:27pm Top

Oh how lovely! So Sam Weller is genuine! I hadn't realised how much of a burning question it was for me until you resolved it, thanks zeno.

Nov 30, 2010, 11:31pm Top

hang on, was there ever any doubt that Sam Weller was geniune? surely part of his enormous appeal was how real his speech was?

nice to have it confirmed by MAyhew, though.

Edited: Dec 13, 2010, 2:33pm Top

Zeno, I wanted to catch you before the year is over, just in case you disappear. If you haven't already, you might want to take a look at Best European Fiction 2010 published by Dalkey Archive Press. I think you might appreciate "Revelation on the Boulevard of Crime," by Julian Rios. It's written "around" the daguerreotype of the first photographed person and echoes the quote I mentioned way back in message 35.

Anyway, here's hoping you have a terrific New Year and that we continue to see you around LT.

Dec 13, 2010, 2:49pm Top

In the course of touring France, which I've done numerous times--renting a car and driving around for a month or so--I came upon the invariably almost empty Nicephore Niepce museum in Chalon-sur-Saone. Niepce produced "heliotypes" in 1824(!), and worked in association with Daguerre from 1829, in what Webster's Biographical Dictionary calls "experiments resulting in the invention of photography."

Dec 13, 2010, 2:54pm Top

Peter, I'm jealous. The restoration of Niepce's house:


It's fascinating.

Dec 13, 2010, 3:12pm Top

How cool! Thanks for that, Thea. The art of detection put to such fascinating use.

Dec 16, 2010, 8:37am Top

thea & peter - thank you both for those posts. Everything you both talked about is of fascination to me. The very earliest photographs or proto photographic images, and the struggles to get to proper photography (let us not forget Thomas Wedgwood and Humphry Davy here, and I'm sure there are a number of Europeans who were equally as illustrious) are a favourite topic.

I seem to remember Niepce was the inventor whilst Daguerre was the entreptreneur, going into partnership with the more talented but less commercially aware boffin. After Niepce died D. cut N's family out of the business.

The other French giant was of course Nadar - more as artist than inventor. He was friends with Baudelaire who appeared to have a love hate relationship with the photographic form.

Proust was another enchanted by the photographic process of his time. The link between photography as a record of times past and memory must have had some sort of resonance to P - I think there must be books or academic studies on this - it seems a rich area for speculation.

Anyway, as you can tell by my rambling on, I always have a lot to say on this topic.

Dec 16, 2010, 8:47am Top

Oh and I forgot to mention Herschel who I seem to recall nvented the term 'photograph' or was it the term 'negative' - possibly both.

The son of the royal astronomer to George III, and the subject of that splendid photographic portrait by JMC, whose family were justly famous over a number of generations.

By the way, if anyone finds themselves in the Isle of Wight I highly recommend the Julia Margaret Cameron museum - run as it is by a group of (slightly eccentric) enthusiasts rather than some national body like English Heritage or the National Trust. Along with the Gilbert White/Oates museum (also run by a group of slightly eccentric enthusiasts) it is my favourite in the UK.

Dec 16, 2010, 8:53am Top

And the Niepce museum has given me somewhere new to visit in France.

Thea - I like the sound of the book too. Thanks.

Edited: Dec 22, 2010, 3:19am Top

Denton Welch - A voice through a cloud.

I have known of Welch for some time, and understood he was a different phenomenon to most people. And so it turned out. A 99%er plus ultra - he finds himself in a situation where he can do none other than reside in his own mind after he is a victim of a severe road accident.

What makes Welch so interesting is the way he thinks - he sees behind people's masks almost immediately, and the way he takes in information - he analogises things he sees and pictures them as fantastic creatures in surreal settings. Add to this an active set of emotions (friends always seem to be either in or out of favour - usually out of favour - based on the slightest of pretexts), and a tacit homosexuality (as with Proust this is never explicit in his writing, at least in this book) and you have a rare creature who it is fascinating to spend time with.

I believe after reading DW you will see a different world, as almost certainly you will not have come across anyone before who sees the world quite like him.

I expect Denton was an INFJ - which helps explain his rarity. Proust may have been the same type - male INFJs are the rarest of the rare. If you know one count yourself privileged. Now who could we know who is such a creature? I wonder if Brent/EF as leader of Le salon could help us with that question?

Dec 22, 2010, 9:37am Top

#179 - Sounds fascinating Z.

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