Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Documentary about a WWII Poet/diarist turned Resistance Fighter.


This is a link to a forthcoming documentary about Poet Hannah Senesh. When she was 22 years old she went on a daring mission to save Jews during WWII, the synopsis is below:

Blessed Is the Match is the first documentary feature about Hannah Senesh, the World War II-era poet and diarist who became a paratrooper, resistance fighter and modern-day Joan of Arc. Safe in Palestine in 1944, she joined a mission to rescue Jews in her native Hungary. Shockingly, it was the only outside rescue mission for Jews during the Holocaust. Hannah parachuted behind enemy lines, was captured, tortured and ultimately executed by the Nazis. Her mother Catherine witnessed the entire ordeal - first as a prisoner with Hannah and later as her advocate, braving the bombed-out streets of Budapest in a desperate attempt to save Hannah. With unprecedented access to the Senesh family archive, this powerful story unfolds through the writings and photographs of Hannah and Catherine Senesh.

In the tradition of Lenny Bruce

Bill Hicks (1961-1994). Like Lenny, using the language of comedy to point out the problems in what our society deems sacred. Hicks talked about the nexus of capitalism, violence, and misused religion as forces of oppression.

Note: Bill swears a lot, if that's a problem for you.

On Marketers and Advertisers

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Great (short) video clip about language.

I know class is over, but I'm hoping people will still read this blog and continue to post interesting "scraps" about language.

This (short) clip is from the movie Waking Life. I really like it:

Monday, December 8, 2008

Only one more day of class...

That's depressing. This has probably been the best class I've taken so far at UVU. I wish it could be offered as an IS 350R class, that had a Fall AND Spring part to it, because we could take this class so much farther.

Anyway, only one more day of class left. We had some great students in the class as well. I'm sad to see it go...

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Artaud: Theater of Cruelty

Artaud in " Van Gogh the Man Suicided by Society" uses the word "erotomaniac" to capture what he saw in the psychiatrist that were treating him. I think our society at large is dominated by a similar erotomanism , and i think this short play/movie is pointing that out and the negative effects such a mind set produces.

Turns out I look like Artaud

What are the chances.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Caldiero and Deconstruction

I have always wondered why Caldiero resists Derrida and deconstruction so much? Any thoughts.

Where did these words come from

I would like to know the history of the work fuck and shit if any one has any knowledge. Where did they come from.

a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of

I don't want to discuss Alex Caldiero anymore. In a way it's like we've been discussing him all this time. I personally was discussing him before I ever knew who/what he was. There's too much to be said. There should never be too much to be said. It's impossible to say. What

Speak life? No. But why do you confront and re-confront over and over and never progress? This is what I mean. The conversation was going on for ages before we ever thought to get involved and no one will ever get the last word and the world will stay much the same. And a thousand rapturous puppets will rise up in our absence to parrot what we've already said, or to fill in whatever blanks we've left, and will disappear and make room for the next army of voices without faces.

I am waste and I have nothing more to add. If I ever make another post on Language Scraps, you're welcome to call me a liar. If I ever make another comment in class, feel free to tell me I'm full of shit. To my face. What can I possibly say that my open-mouthed silence won't say better.

....However, I know I won't really be able to leave it alone. Whatever part of me loves the confusion and the futility and the frustration and the humiliation and the repetition and the constant flailing about or steadily moving in a fixed circle will keep coming back for more and more. Sobeit. This class has been absolutely essential and my only gripe is that I'm not required to take it every semester. I don't know why I ever bothered trying to learn anything. Nothing ever stays with me unless it absolutely confounds me to the end of my wits.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Dancing with the Lizards

At the end of Spring semester 08, I recorded the album I always wanted to record. I planned nothing and did everything. I guess I planned on something, but in my head that equated to “nothing.” For one day I locked my self in a bedroom and with a microphone and a keyboard, pressed record, and then just let it happen. I let myself go somewhere I felt I couldn’t got or at least resisted going for an entire day. I let myself enter a creative mind set that when I exited I was physically and emotionally drained. It took me a whole day to recover. It felt like I let myself go insane and pressed record. Though I did record the album in one day, I periodically mixed it and listened to it through out the summer. I spent way more time mixing it and mastering it than I did recording it. I have been really hesitant to publish the album since recording it because I connected with my self in a way that until our section on poetry and madness I did not know how to be honest about it nor did I have the desire to finish it. I listen to the album now with great satisfaction. I think it is kind of radical. For any that listen, enjoy. Dancing with the Lizards is the name of it. It is about a 100 mb, so on a good internet connection it will take about 8 minute to download. Here is the link:

Thursday, November 20, 2008

¿ǝɹǝɥ sǝʇıɹʍ ǝslǝ oɥʍ

˙ǝsdɐlloɔ oʇ

ɟo ʎɹoʇsıɥ ǝɥʇ
ɹoɟ ƃuıʇıɐʍ
'ʍolɟ uı lɐɹʇnǝu
'pɹɐʍdn ƃuıʇlǝɯ
ƃuıpǝǝlq ɯoɹɟ
ƃuɐɥ suıɐʇunoɯ

8 ɹoloɔ ǝɥʇ sı ɥʇɐǝp

Monday, November 17, 2008

Lyrics with infinite meaning (Hopelandic)

In 2002, the band Sigur Ros, with their highly anticipated album "( )" - yes, the album title is *parentheses* - was released. Upon release, all tracks on the album were untitled, though the band later published song names on their website. All of the lyrics on ( ) are sung in Vonlenska, also known as Hopelandic, a constructed language of nonsense syllables which resembles the phonology of the Icelandic language. It has also been said that the listener is supposed to interpret their own meanings of the lyrics, which can then be written in the blank pages in the album booklet.

Here, the line between voice and instrument is blurred almost completely. Listen to the "lyrics" in the song below.

Song 1 from the album.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Foucault, Censorship, and "Patriotism".

Once again, a snippet from Foucault's "The History of Sexuality". I think it fit well into two themes we've recently discussed in class: Censorship and Patriotism.

I hope it doesn't seem out of context, given that most of you are probably not reading the book, but take it for what it is. Either way, I feel that it fits so well into the context of our class right now.

"One has to be completely taken in by this internal ruse of confession in order to attribute a fundamental role to censorship, to taboos regarding speaking and thinking; one has to have an inverted image of power in order to believe that all these voices which have spoken so long in our civilization - repeating the formidable injunction to tell what one is and what one does, what one recollects and what one has forgotten, what one is thinking and what one thinks he is not thinking - are speaking to us of freedom."

From Review of Roy Blount's New Book: NYTimes Book Review

Friday, November 14, 2008

America- Fuck Yeah!

I couldn't help but be reminded from our discussion in class today on patriotism of the 2004 satirical marionette movie Team America. The movie was written by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. Making a mockery of the patriotism, that I hope we concluded is outrageous and dangerous to society, the film's theme song is so eloquently titled "America, Fuck Yeah!" Which basically states that since we are American we do whatever we want and are proud to do so, but if you are not American, well then, fuck you. Simple, yet accurate. Scary as hell since America so commonly hides hate and nonsensical violence behind the facade of patriotism.

Here is a video with the music, I think the actual scene from the film has been removed because of copyright, but this montage with stills from the movie is still good. I hope you can get a kick out of it.

Also here are the lyrics, enjoy:

America, FUCK YEAH!
Coming again, to save the mother fucking day yeah,
America, FUCK YEAH!
Freedom is the only way yeah,
Terrorist your game is through cause now you have to answer to,
America, FUCK YEAH!
So lick my butt, and suck on my balls,
America, FUCK YEAH!
What you going to do when we come for you now,
it's the dream that we all share; it's the hope for tomorrow


McDonalds, FUCK YEAH!
Wal-Mart, FUCK YEAH!
Baseball, FUCK YEAH!
Rock and roll, FUCK YEAH!
The Internet, FUCK YEAH!
Slavery, FUCK YEAH!


Starbucks, FUCK YEAH!
Disney world, FUCK YEAH!
Valium, FUCK YEAH!
Reeboks, FUCK YEAH!
Fake Tits, FUCK YEAH!
Taco Bell, FUCK YEAH!
Rodeos, FUCK YEAH!
Bed bath and beyond (Fuck yeah, Fuck yeah)

Liberty, FUCK YEAH!
White Slips, FUCK YEAH!
The Alamo, FUCK YEAH!
Band-aids, FUCK YEAH!
Las Vegas, FUCK YEAH!
Christmas, FUCK YEAH!
Immigrants, FUCK YEAH!
Columbine, FUCK YEAH!
Democrats, FUCK YEAH!
Republicans (republicans)
(fuck yeah, fuck yeah)

Zinn on Patriotism

Here is the quote I read today from Howard Zinn on patriotism.

"Patriotism to me means doing what you think your country should be doing. Patriotism means supporting your government when you think it's doing right, opposing your government when you think it's doing wrong. Patriotism to me means really what the Declaration of Independence suggests. And that is that government is an artificial entity....
In other words, the government is not holy; the government is not to be obeyed when the government is wrong. So to me patriotism in its best sense means thinking about the people in the country, the principles for which the country stands for, and it requires opposing the government when the government violates those principles."

It can be found in its entirety here: Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky rare joint interview.

I highly recommend checking out the article, which can also be listened to.

As the Web site states:

In a Democracy Now! special from Boston, two of the city’s leading dissidents, Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn, sit down for a rare joint interview. Noam Chomsky began teaching linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge over 50 years ago. He is the author of dozens of books on linguistics and U.S. foreign policy. Howard Zinn is one of the country’s most widely read historians. His classic work “A People’s History of the United States” has sold over 1.5 million copies and it has altered how many teach the nation’s history. Chomsky and Zinn discuss Vietnam, activism, history, Israel-Palestine, and Iraq, which Chomsky calls “one of the worst catastrophes in military and political history.”

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Degenerate Art

Degenerate art is the English translation of the German entartete Kunst, a term adopted by the Nazi regime in Germany to describe virtually all modern art. Such art was banned on the grounds that it was un-German or Jewish Bolshevist in nature, and those identified as degenerate artists were subjected to sanctions. These included being dismissed from teaching positions, being forbidden to exhibit or to sell their art, and in some cases being forbidden to produce art entirely.

Degenerate Art was also the title of an exhibition, mounted by the Nazis in the Haus der Kunst in Munich which opened on July 191937, consisting ofmodernist artworks chaotically hung and accompanied by text labels deriding the art. Designed to inflame public opinion against modernism, the exhibition subsequently traveled to several other cities in Germany and Austria.

While modern styles of art were prohibited, the Nazis promoted paintings and sculptures that were narrowly traditional in manner and that exalted the "blood and soil" values of racial puritymilitarism, and obedience. Similarly, music was expected to be tonal and free of jazz influence; films and plays were censored.

[for the rest of this article, see http://www.artandpopularculture.com/Degenerate_art

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Even Hitler had a Girlfriend

Here is an interesting song i came across oddly after the lecture/video today. Its called "Even Hitler had a Girlfriend" by, Mr. T Experience. It kind of sounds like an EFY song.

I still haven't found a girlfriend though I've tried a lot so can you help me please it's tougher than I thought. The odds are pretty good but the goods are pretty odd still at this point I'd take anything you've got. You see this all the time nice girls in love with jerks what could they be thinking tell me how it works. If I've got some problems well I wouldn't be the first but the ones I have in mind are even worse and even Hitler had a girlfriend who he could always call who'd always be there for him in spite of all his faults. He was the worst guy ever reviled and despised even Hitler had a girlfriend so why can't I? life is full of contradictions hard to understand and for every happy woman there's a lonely man. Nixon had his puppy Charles Manson had his clan but God forbid that I get a girlfriend. Even Hitler had a girlfriend who he could call his own to sweeten days of bitterness and feeling all alone. I'm not as bad as Hitler but it doesn't mean a thing since they'd rather be with Hitler more than me I don't see why they'd rather be with Hitler more than me.

Even Hitler Had a Girlfriend - The Mr. T Experience

Monday, November 10, 2008

Joe Scarborough says "Fuck you" on air

I'm calling this one a victory for obscenity. Bonus amusing follow-up story here:

Friday, November 7, 2008

The "N" WORD! today in class i was reminded of this scene in White Chicks. sorry to anyone who, like me, was unfortunate enough to spend money to see this movie, but this part is good. For those of you that don't see it, the synopsis is two black detectives played by the wayan brothers who have to go undercover as white girls in order to break a case. It's actually very interesting how the characters react to the word nigger

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Wish you were here.

Here's the video I mentioned in class, In it Lynda is sent to a psychiatrist concerning her behaviour.


Let Us Have Madness

Let us have madness openly.
O men Of my generation.
Let us follow
The footsteps of this slaughtered age:
See it trail across Time's dim land
Into the closed house of eternity
With the noise that dying has,
With the face that dead things wear--
nor ever say
We wanted more; we looked to find
An open door, an utter deed of love,
Transforming day's evil darkness;
but We found extended hell and fog Upon the earth,
and within the head
A rotting bog of lean huge graves.

Kenneth Patchen

How Strong is Language?

How strong is the value of language concerning when THE PROTECTION OF A DEFINITION OF A WORD becomes more important that EQUAL HUMAN LIFE?

You win. Language must be stronger than god if the definition of a word is worth discriminating against and hurting millions.

I've never been more unimpressed and impressed at the same time.

I've just realized the deeper meaning of INSANE. Pinch me when it's over.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Lenny Bruce

I think this is the bit that Alex wanted to play in class.

Monday, November 3, 2008

A Word About Silence from Foucault

This is an excerpt from Foucault's book "The History of Sexuality: An Introduction Volume 1".

Silence itself - the things one declines to say, or is forbidden to name, the discretion that is required between different speakers - is less the absolute limit of discourse, the other side from which it is separated by a strict boundary, than an element that functions alongside the things said, with them and in relation to them within over-all strategies. There is no binary division to be made between what one says and what one does not say; we must try to determine the different ways of not saying such things, how those who can and those who cannot speak of them are distributed, which type of discourse is authorized, or which form of discretion is required in either case. There is not one but many silences, and they are an integral part of the strategies that underlie and permeate discourses.

I added the bold. This paragraph is worth contemplating for a while. I know I have been doing so.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Fourteen poems, in translation, by Celan

Translations, by John Felstiner, published in "Janus Head":


Must It Always Be About Sex?

Adam Liptak

New York Times

Sundan, November 2

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court specializes in law, not lexicography. But it will soon have to consider the meaning of that most versatile of four-letter words.

Wesley Bedrosian

The Oxford English Dictionary’s three core entries on the word — noun, verb and interjection — are about six times as long as this article. That doesn’t count about 30 derivations and compounds, all colorful and many recent. The nimble word, the dictionary tells us, can help express that a person is incompetent; that another is not be meddled with; that a situation has been botched; that one does not have the slightest clue; and, in a recent addition, that someone has enough money to be able to quit an unpleasant job.

You know the word I mean.


Friday, October 31, 2008

Short "Poem".

Since we're discussing madness and poetry, I figure I'll post a (very short!) poem - if you want to call it that - that I thought up after class...

Beneath the eyes
Of many madman
Lies a smiling child
Born decades too early

and a Nietzsche quote:

"Madness is rare in individuals, but in groups, parties, nations, and ages it is the rule."
--Friedrich Nietzsche

And I must make an appeal that someone should get Alex on here to post his poem about "charging for human kindness" - or if somebody knows it, post it!

Paul Celan

Paul Celan was a German/Romanian

Jewish poet whose family was

annihilated in Nazi concentration camps.

He was writing his poetry, then, in the

language that had had a hand in

perpetrating the Holocaust. 

Exiled German philosopher Theodor

Adorno famously wrote that there could

be no poetry after Auschwitz. 

Like noone else, Celan felt that certainty;

and yet, till his suicide in 1970, he wrote

poems like this one (from the collection

"Die Niemands Rose," my translation):


Zur Blindheit über-

redete Augen.

Ihre – “ein

Rätsel ist Rein-

entsprungenes“ –, ihre

Erinnerung an

schwimmende Hölderlintürme, möven-


Besuche ertrunkener Schreiner bei


tauchenden Worten:


käme ein Mensch,

käme ein Mensch zur Welt, heute, mit

dem Lichtbart der

Patriarchen: er dürfte,

spräch er von dieser

Zeit, er


nur lallen und lallen,

immer-, immer-


(“Pallaksch. Pallaksch.”)


Eyes con-

vinced to blindness.

Their – “a

riddle is pure-

origin” –, their

memory of

floating Hölderlin towers, swarmed

by gulls.

Visits by drowned cabinetmakers while


diving words:

If a person were,

were to come,

if a person were to come to the world,

today, with the lightbeard of

the patriarchs: he could,

if he spoke of this

time, he


only babble and babble,

always-, always-


(“Pallaksch. Pallaksch.”)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Satirical Dada article

From The Onion: Republicans, Dadaists Declare War On Art

I wish I understood all the references.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Composing While Dozing (the art of sleep-writing)

Texts, when the pages are written or printed in a language I am literate in (English so far) form a sort of soul or essence, which is encoded within by the very act of being created (or written). If, as I said, this text happens to be written within my framework of understanding—that being, the English Language Framework—I am able to look at its surface and attain some knowledge about that surface; that being, a representation of its essence. However, the essence itself is not different than my own essence, though it is different than the text. It is one of an encoding nature. You cannot judge a book, by not only its cover, but by the visualization of its very words! To read the text is to insult the text. The text is not the meaning—the essence. The text is only a representation of its essence! Likewise, your face is not you, your face is a representation of your essence, which can only be miscalculated by those who think that objective knowledge is real. Objective knowledge is reading a text and saying, “Ah-ha!”—as if you have found some answer. As if you have found this text’s true essence. But believe me, you have NOT! However… you can. You can “find” its essence. In fact, you already have it! Because the text—like your face, your clothes, your words—IS A TRICK! You think that you are reading a text-book, but you aren’t. You think that this text is a text to be understood, but… you could never be a more mistaken! This text is simply a mirror of your face—not your essence. Any text is simply a reflection of your body, clothes, et cetera. To read Foucault, Artaud, Picasso, or Caldiero, is to be a goddamn moron. What do you think you are doing by reading these things? Do you think you are learning? You can’t understand a person simply by looking at them! Fool! YOU MUST BECOME… “IT”! Alas, you already ARE! You just need to realize that you are already a part of this, this, this… text. This thing we call text. This thing we think we can master. You already have mastered it by mastering over yourself as a slave. Fools. Trying to believe. To have faith. To find answers. You. Are. The. Answers. They’re right there, inside of you, outside of you: the essence! I’ve already told you! Pick up a book, an empty shell of text, and let it in, man. Become it—or that is to say… realize this essence. You want to understand Foucault? Derrida? van Gogh? Then don’t just stop at the face of the text. You must eat its soul. “Foucault” is just a word. If you want to get at the thing, you must become it. You already are.

the politics of language or, the language of politics

Once again I bring you the insight of Geoff Nunberg:

Monday, October 27, 2008


Sometime's language just jumps up and bites you in the ass, it's so great:
A PALINdrome: Wasilla's All I saw.


Saturday, October 25, 2008

World War 1 and the DaDa mindset

The following 13 pages are the introduction to this book:
The book was published in conjunction with a major exhibit of DaDa work in 2006 in Paris, Washington and New York. Leah Dickerman wrote this introduction. It communicates the DaDa mindset quite well. It will give a good context for future class discussions on DaDa, and also might put into context what we all experienced in class on Friday. The text refers to several photos (fig. 1, fig. 2...and so on), all of which are included in these scans except for fig. 9: a scan of Tristan Tzara's "Dada Manifesto, 1918". The scan in the book is in French and is a bit blurry too...so, you can find the translated text here (it is very much worth reading): http:www.391.org/manifestos/tristantzara_dadamanifesto.htm

So, when you come across "fig. 9" in the text, it is referring to that manifesto (linked above). Other references in the text are to the end notes which are all included in the last 2 pages. There are also some references to page numbers (that direct to other images in the book), I didn't include those here...you'll have to check out the book to see those...
Click each page to ENLARGE THEM to a readable size. Enjoy.
The two lines that got cut off there at the bottom between the two columns say: "...implicitly in its fragmented form-that there is nothing more macro, nothing more overarching about the idea of Dada. Dada's radical rethinking of art making is..."

The two lines that got cut off at the bottom of the second column say: "and the exis-tence of larger firms and new forms of transportation that increased distance between producers and consumers."

The two lines that got cut off of the bottom of the second column say: "...in a newspaper by Walter Serner. Baader disrupted a service in the Berlin Cathedral, an act that was widely reported in the press. In..."

What got cut off from the 2 lines of the left column is: "...maintain that novelty resembles life just as the latest appearance of some whore proves the essence of God. (footnote 47)."
And, what got cut off from the second column is: "...of the public. As a point of comparison, the Russian avant-garde, wholly contemporaneous with Dada, might be understood to mark the apogee of faith..."

Friday, October 24, 2008

How tough does a question have to be to kill?

I also had a former Iraqi general some of you may have heard of who was taken from my custody. I was told to keep him separated from the other noncombatants and give him everything he needs. If he asks for anything, hook him up, you know, take care of him, and don’t harass them. And I was like, well, I don’t need somebody to tell me to not harass somebody. He ended up—a soldier came up to me later and ended up telling me that, you know, hey, he died during questioning during his interrogation. And I’m thinking to myself, how tough does a question have to be to kill? I don’t know exactly what went on during his interrogation, but he was fine when I had him.

-Domingo Rosas. Sergeant with the U.S. Army 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, in Iraq from April 2003 to 2004

From his Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan testimony


In its basic form, it is the decision that my life is worth more than yours.
But we only denounce it when it takes a physically repulsive appearance that creates horror within us!
Like the Romans in the Coliseum, we applaud it when it isn’t bothersome to our conscience!
Our Coliseum is now in the mind. Every day we wage war in the boardroom –
We hold no tolerance for the avenues of the mind that do not flow like ours. We take sides, just as in war, and we take no prisoners! Our weapons are no longer swords and spears of metal. OUR WEAPON OF CHOICE IS TONGUES! We throw spears and darts and



And we care not for the maiming which occurs within the mind of our foe because, on the outside, our foe’s voice has been silenced
Animals maim and grotesquely destroy every day simply to survive, this isn't war - it is life.
We bring LANGUAGE into the fray.






Thursday, October 23, 2008

Thousands speaking a foreign language in unison?

All of my posts are about Radiohead, so... this one is about Radiohead.

It relates, though. I found it interesting that in this video, which was shot in Milan [where very few speak English well and most speak none at all (one of many sources confirming this: http://russell.dyerhouse.com/cgi-bin/log.cgi?log_id=6)] that thousands of people can still speak/sing a foreign language in unison, regardless of whether or not they understand what they're saying (though, they know how it feels).

So, here are a few hundred people from Milan (many of which who don't speak any English) singing in English, in unison, if you are interested.

Lyrics if you're interested:
Karma police, arrest this man, he talks in maths
He buzzes like a fridge, hes like a detuned radio
Karma police, arrest this girl, her hitler hairdo, is making me feel ill
And we have crashed her party
This is what you get, this is what you get
This is what you get, when you mess with us

Karma police, Ive given all I can, its not enough
Ive given all I can, but were still on the payroll
This is what you get, this is what you get
This is what you get, when you mess with us
And for a minute there, I lost myself, I lost myself
And for a minute there, I lost myself, I lost myself

For a minute there, I lost myself, I lost myself

Epic fail


This is an entire article devoted to the phenomenon of "FAIL" and internet language memes in general. I believe that the defining slang of this generation is being created on the internet, which is exciting, because it demolishes the concept of regional dialects. For the first time in history, people from all sorts of different backgrounds can use and understand the same words, assuming they all frequent the same sites. I'm extremely interested in seeing where language takes itself in the future, and it always warms my heart when a new word or usage enters the lexicon, especially when it's as fun to say as "fail".

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The devil made him do it?

I mentioned this guy in class and made a tit of myself when i couldn't remember his name, but I found the link to the youtube site with the trailer for "The devil and Daniel Johnston."

Some hail him as a genius songwriter and others just label him as pretty mad. I looked up several other interviews with him and i'm inclined to side with the latter, but who knows. It's an interesting documentary for a really interesting individual.


Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy

[From Nietzsche's introduction to a 1886 edition of the book first published in 1871]

. . . At any rate here a strange voice spoke (curious people understood that, as did those who found it distasteful), the disciple of an as yet unknown God, who momentarily hid himself under the hood of a learned man, under the gravity and dialectical solemnity of the German man, even under the bad manners of the followers of Wagner. Here was a spirit with alien, even nameless, needs, a memory crammed with questions, experiences, secret places, beside which the name Dionysus was written like a question mark. Here spoke (so people told themselves suspiciously) something like a mystic and an almost maenad-like soul, which stammered with difficulty and arbitrarily, as if talking a foreign language, almost uncertain whether it wanted to communicate something or remain silent. This "new soul" should have sung, not spoken! What a shame that I did not dare to utter as a poet what I had to say at that time. Perhaps I might have been able to do that! Or at least as a philologist—even today in this area almost everything is still there for philologists to discover and dig up, above all the issue that there is a problem right here and that the Greeks will continue remain, as before, entirely unknown and unknowable as long as we have no answer to the question, "What is the Dionysian?"


Indeed, what is the Dionysian? This book offers an answer to that question: a "knowledgeable person" speaks there, the initiate and disciple of his own god. Perhaps I would now speak with more care and less eloquently about such a difficult psychological question as the origin of tragedy among the Greeks. A basic issue is the relationship of the Greeks to pain, the degree of their sensitivity. Did this relationship remain constant? Or did it turn itself around? That question whether their constantly strong desire for beauty, feasts, festivities, and new cults arose out of some lack, deprivation, melancholy, or pain. If we assume that this desire for the beautiful and the good might be quite true—and Pericles, or, rather, Thucydides, in the great Funeral Oration gives us to understand that it is—where must that contradictory desire stem from, which appears earlier than the desire for beauty, namely, the desire for the ugly or the good strong willing of the ancient Hellenes for pessimism, for tragic myth, for pictures of everything fearful, angry, enigmatic, destructive, and fateful as the basis of existence? Where must tragedy come from? Perhaps out of desire, out of power, out of overflowing health, out of overwhelming fullness of life?

And psychologically speaking, what then is the meaning of that madness out of which tragic as well as comic art grew, the Dionysian madness? What? Is madness perhaps not necessarily the symptom of degradation, collapse, cultural decadence? Is there perhaps (a question for doctors who treat madness) a neurosis associated with health, with the youth of a people, and with youthfulness? What is revealed in that synthesis of god and goat in the satyr? Out of what personal experience, what impulse, did the Greeks have to imagine the Dionysian enthusiast and original man as a satyr? And what about the origin of the tragic chorus?

In those centuries when the Greek body flourished and the Greek soul bubbled over with life, perhaps there were endemic raptures, visions, and hallucinations which entire communities, entire cultural bodies, shared. What if it were the case that the Greeks, right in the midst of their rich youth, had the desire for tragedy and were pessimists?  What if it was clearly lunacy, to use a saying from Plato, which brought the greatest blessings throughout Hellas?

And, on the other hand, what if, to turn the issue around, it was clearly during the time of their dissolution and weakness that the Greeks became constantly more optimistic, more superficial, more hypocritical, with a lust for logic and rational understanding of the world, as well as "more cheerful" and "more scientific"? What's this? In spite of all "modern ideas" and the judgments of democratic taste, could the victory of optimism, the developing hegemony of reasonableness, practical and theoretical utilitarianism, as well as democracy itself (which occurs in the same period) perhaps be a symptom of failing power, approaching old age, physiological exhaustion, all these factors rather than pessimism? Was Epicurus an optimist for the very reason that he was suffering? We see that this book was burdened with an entire bundle of difficult questions. Let us add its most difficult question: What, from the point of view of living, does morality mean? . . .

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Nietzsche, Zarathustra, and Madness

In 1885, Nietzsche finished the fourth part of his "Thus Spake Zarathustra." It wasn't published till 1892. In Walter Kaufmann's translation, several of Zarathustra's teachings:

I say unto you: one must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.

No shepherd and one herd! Everybody wants the same, everybody is the same: whoever feels different goes voluntarily into a madhouse.

There is more reason in your body than in your best reason.

Of all that is written I love only what a man has written with his blood. Write with blood, and you will experience that blood is spirit. It is not easily possible to understand the blood of another: I hate reading idlers. Whoever writes in blood and aphorisms does not want to be read but to be learned by heart.

I would believe only in a god who could dance.

Have you never seen a sail go over the sea, rounded and taut and trembling with the voilence of the wind? Like the sail, trembling with the violence of the spirit, my wisdom goes over the sea -- my wild wisdom.

Thus I myself once sank
Out of my truth madness,
Out of my day-longings,
Weary of day, sick from the light --
Sank downward, eveningward, shadowward,
Burned by one truth,
And thirsty:
Do you remember still remember, hot heart,
How you thirsted?
That I be banished
From all truth,
Only fool!
Only Poet!

You higher men, what do you think? Am I a soothsayer? A dreamer? A drunkard? an interpreter of dreams? A midnight bell? A drop of dew? A haze and fragrance of eternity? do you not hear it? Do you not smell it? Just now my world became perfect; midnight too is noon; pain too is a joy; curses too are a blessing; night too is a sun -- go away or you will learn: a sage too is a fool.

O man, take care!
What does the deep midnight declare?
"I was asleep --
From a deep dream I woke and swear:
The world is deep,
Deeper than day had been aware.
Deep is its woe;
Joy -- deeper yet than agony:
Woe implores: Go!
But all joy wants eternity --
Wants deep, wants deep eternity."

Nietzsche and Madness

From Nietzsche's "Selected Letters," edited and translated by Christopher Middleton.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Novalis, Hymns to the Night

For a fascinating contemporary vision of the productive underbelly of Enlightenment rationality, of mourning and madness and sleep and opium and the night, see this long poem by Novalis called "Hymns to the Night" -- 1899 translation by George McDonald, for the entire translation, see http://www.george-macdonald.com/hymns_night.htm

This part of the mostly prose poem is a depiction of a vision the poet had after the death of his young beloved. 

. . .

Once when I was shedding bitter tears, when, dissolved in pain, my hope was melting away, and I stood alone by the barren mound which in its narrow dark bosom hid the vanished form of my Life, lonely as never yet was lonely man, driven by anxiety unspeakable, powerless, and no longer anything but a conscious misery;--as there I looked about me for help, unable to go on or to turn back, and clung to the fleeting, extinguished life with an endless longing: then, out of the blue distances -- from the hills of my ancient bliss, came a shiver of twilight -- and at once snapt the bond of birth, the chains of the Light. Away fled the glory of the world, and with it my mourning; the sadness flowed together into a new, unfathomable world. Thou, soul of the Night, heavenly Slumber, didst come upon me; the region gently upheaved itself; over it hovered my unbound, newborn spirit. The mound became a cloud of dust, and through the cloud I saw the glorified face of my beloved. In her eyes eternity reposed. I laid hold of her hands, and the tears became a sparkling bond that could not be broken. Into the distance swept by, like a tempest, thousands of years. On her neck I welcomed the new life with ecstatic tears. Never was was such another dream; then first and ever since I hold fast an eternal, unchangeable faith in the heaven of the Night, and its Light, the Beloved.

. . .
Hinüber wall ich
Und jede Pein
Wird einst ein Stachel
Der Wollust seyn.
Noch wenig Zeiten
So bin ich los
Und liege trunken
Der Lieb im Schoos
. . .

Over I pilgrim
Where every pain
[A prick] of pleasure
Shall one day remain.
Yet a few moments
Then free am I,
And intoxicated
In Love's lap lie.
Life everlasting
Lifts, wave-like, at me:
I gaze from its summit
Down after thee.
Oh Sun, thou must vanish
Yon yon hillock beneath;
A shadow will bring thee
Thy cooling wreath.
Oh draw at my heart, love,
Draw till I'm gone,
That, fallen asleep, I
Still may love on.
I feel the flow of
Death's youth-giving flood;
To balsam and æther, it
Changes my blood!
I live all the daytime
In faith and in might:
And in holy rapture
I die every night.

Madness and Poetry

Pieter Breugel's "Dulle Griet" or Mad Meg:

Hieronymus Bosch's vision of Hell:

Goya's "Madhouse"

and "Sleep of Reason" (1797
After thinking about these paintings, which for him represent two very different ways of thinking about madness, Michael Foucault writes in his conclusion to "Madness and Civilization" that

. . . the work of art and madness, in classical experience, were more profoundly united at another level: paradoxically, at the point where they limited one another. For there existed a region where madness challenged the work of art, reduced it ironically, made of its iconographic landscape a pathological world of hallucinations; that language which was delirium was not a work of art. And conversely, delirium was robbed of its meager truth as madness if it was called a work of art. . . .

. . . Artaud's madness does not slip through the fissures of the work of art; his madness is precisely the absence of the work of art, the reiterated presence of that absence, its central void experienced and measured in all its endless dimensions. Nietzsche's last cry, proclaiming himself both Christ and Dionysos, is not on the border of reason and unreason . . . it is the very annihilation of the work of art, the point where it becomes impossible and where it must fall silent; the hammer has just fallen from the philosopher's hands. And Van Gogh, who did not want to ask "permission from doctors to paint pictures," knew quite well that his work and his madness were incompatible. Madness is the absolute break with the work of art. . . .

. . . This is why it makes little difference when the first voice of madness insinuated itself into Nietzsche's pride, into Van Gogh's humility. There is no madness except as the final instant of the work of art -- the work endless drives madness to its limits; where there is a work of art, there is no madness; and yet madness is contemporary with the work of art, since it inaugurates the time of its truth. The moment when, together, the work of art and madness are born and fulfilled is the beginning of the time when the world finds itself arraigned by that work of art and responsible before it for what it is.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Hölderlin's "Bread and Wine"

An important elegy, the most Dionysian of Hölderlin's work, with Michael Hamburger's translation:

And, from Hölderlin's “Fragment from Hyperion” (his novel about a young German who goes to Greece to fight in the war of independence), a description of the three states of existence as he sees them:


There are two ideals of our being: a state of highest simplicity, in which, without any efforts of our own, through nature’s exclusive organizing, our needs reciprocally harmonize with themselves and with our powers and with everything we relate to, and a state of highest education or formation [Bildung], in which the same thing would take place, only with infinitely multiplied and strengthened needs and powers and through the organization that we are able to give ourselves. The eccentric path, along which humans, in general and individually, pass from one point (of more or less perfect simplicity) to another (of more or less perfected education or formation [Bildung]), seems, according to its essential directions, always to be the same.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Hölderlin Poems and Fragments

The first three poems here were translated by Michael Hamburger and published in 1968 as Friedrich Hölderlin, Poems and Fragments, The University of Michigan Press. The final fragment and prose piece "In the Woods," were translated by Richard Sieburth and published as Hymns and Fragments by Friedrich Hölderlin, Princeton University Press, 1984. 

Each of these is complicated, a rich text/textile that bears careful study. There are distinct pleasures awaiting curious and disciplined readers.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008



I remembered this from the long ago days of my music degree when Alex was doing his presentation on art and language. I think it ties in perfectly. Sorry for posting it so late.