Archive for December, 2015

Disposable Sublime


Riddles, allusions, elisions, omissions – dreams, jokes, slips and symptoms

all the stuff of bucolic self come bubbling up for neural health.


“Every sperm is sacred. Every sperm is great. If a sperm is wasted, God gets quite irate.

Monty  Python – “The Meaning of Life”

Sublime: exalted, elevated, noble, awe-inspiring, majestic, glorious, transcendent.

Fecund:  Able to produce many offspring

499,999,999 sperm are wasted in every sex act that gives rise to a new human life and 500 million in each one that doesn’t result in fertilization. Cosmo ( JB God)  does not care about this incredible waste. Cosmo throws a colossal avalanche of spaghetti against the wall hoping one piece will stick. Cosmo is oblivious to the value of a single individual even though it expresses Cosmo’s own wonder-beauty-sublimity.

A sea turtle lays 150 eggs, 75 of these eggs survive bird and lizard and raccoon predation hatching in a timely manner. The baby turtles crawl a hundred yards across the sand to the surf and swim forward into the open sea where they immediately become food for sharks, dolphins and any fish that can lock its jaws around them. Two or three individuals from each nest will live through infancy in the open ocean growing to maturity to reproduce.

A baby sea turtle is a sublime thing comprising a multitude of miraculous biochemical pathways, complex organ systems and physical beauty evolved over 250 million years yet its existence on earth is tenuous, filled with danger with zero guarantee for a full life. Only a few of these small  miracles survive to produce their own offspring thus boosting their evolutionary potential.

Fecundity-disposability of the sublime is played out in most species of plants and animals. It is sadly wasteful but who would want to see the ocean jam-packed with shore to shore sea turtles or look out to the horizon across a salty writhing mass of 100,000 species of sea animals and plants. Balance requires brutality. Brutality ensures balance and it ensures some open ocean for the strong and lucky survivors to fight-flee seduce and mate.

Species not only dodge, fight and flee from predatory species but also fight and flee their own kind for survival and the opportunity to reproduce. One of the larger questions  for chordates is “Who gets the girl?” Intraspecies conflict is a big driver of evolution.

People create sublime things in the manner of nature: great paintings, music compositions, films, aircraft, I-pads and disposable razors. Only a very tiny percentage of sublime creations ever have a public moment. For the one tenth of one percent that do go into our public arena as products vying for mental shelf space, this glorious debut moment passes and the sublime thing is soon forgotten. A small army of talent creates a movie,  this cinematic treasure spends ten days at the multiplex then it’s gone. It is sublime. It is disposable. Sublime disposability drives people to madness. An architect works for three years on a big contract for the Navy – one million square feet of office and warehouse space. The project is shelved – forever. A composer working as a music professor draws out his finest musical ideas for years  writing his symphony and no one ever hears it. Disposable sublimity occurs so often in the arts, the professions and industry that it is cruel to even bring it up. A difficult subject on all counts. It fills psychiatrist’s couches.

There is intense intraspecies competition among humans to write the music that reaches the public, the book that finds a publisher and a public,  to design the building that gets built and used by a family or by millions of people. The 10,000 screenplays submitted to Hollywood movie studios each year  that never reach the cineplex are brothers to those  499,999,999 sperm that didn’t fertilize the egg. Funny how important we think our screenplay, novel or symphony is when it is one gazillionth as complex, as miraculous as a single sperm or any one of a million species of single cell animal or plant or bacterium or virus.

It is easier for us to adjust to the inequities of small turtle travails, the brief life of a cherry blossom or the waste of sperm than to the brief  life of one’s cherished artistic creation. How many wannabe  “Great American”  novels have hit the remainder bin after selling 500 copies ensuring the brilliant, imaginative author will remain a wandering nobody in the bustling halls of academe  not only not in the canon but not even a particle of gunpowder.

Life is brutal-pass the bottle

bein’ brilliant isn’t what’ll

get me up into the bracket

where I just can’t  hear the racket

  • Mr. Gasoline lyrics

Media professionals design their product to hit the market and get out. A movie studio knows that its 75 million to 300 million dollar product has the shelf life of a baguette. They know the entertainment ecosystem  is shark infested, a relentless, vicious, winner take all competition every weekend. Movies, music and theater are designed to seduce immediately in order to simply get to the starting gate. Sublimity is always lost. Sex with no love, violence with no purpose, stories with no roots in the heart. Form with very little content. Delivering a shred of honest emotion  earns a Grammy, Emmy or Academy Award nomination.

Humans are miracles of nature little different from sea turtles or any organisms. We are all sublime beauty and wonder all the way down to the biochemical interactions of our molecules and beyond, yet entire populations of humans are allowed to waste in squalor without cleanliness, health, education or any degree of welfare. Entire classes of Americans become prison industrial complex fodder,  lost to financial predators in the loan-sharking or the wall street banking class, poisoned by the manufacturing class and brainwashed by the media class.  We are  sublime. We abuse and bury our sublimity.

God throws you against the wall of life like so much spaghetti,

it’s up to you to figure out how to stick


We insist upon and try to cultivate our own sublimity once we know it is our resposibility. Cosmo turns away at birth and family loosens reins during adolescence.  Cosmo does not care if you are the turtlette who gets snatched by a crab as you flipper-flop through the dangerous sand to the dangerous surf or if you are the sea turtle who survives in the open ocean for 30 years reaching reproductive maturity dodging sharks, killer whales, boat propellers, shrimp nets and plastic pollutants mistaken for food. Cosmo does not care if you endure a stunted human life through psychological abuse, physical violence, obesity, alcoholism, drug addiction, hate, jealousy, assault or wither within the corrosive prison  of a troubled marriage. Cosmo don’t care, don’t give a damn, you are on your own. Are ya feelin’ lucky?

There are many thousands of sublime works created each year that will never see the light of a coffee shop wall or resonate on a streetcorner. Sublimity and self-promotion are mutually exclusive yet we demand that a single person harness  tools of self promotion to capitalize their sublime works. This is the stuff of the schiz-mind fry for Modernists – those who can handle lots of ambiguity, uncertainty and change, the pitch-yaw-roll of Postmodern life will thrive.



Poststructuralism is a precursor to  1965/1980 postmodernism that focuses specifically on linguistic matters of a synchronic sort emerging from Saussure. One’s text must contain a dollop of rebellion from mid-century social sciences icon Claude Levi-Strauss, himself a disciple of Saussure. A postructuralist never writes so clearly that multiple interpretations cannot be fussed out of the text.

“Language is not a pane of clear glass”

“Priority belongs to language itself. We learn to mean.”

“Meaning is an effect of the signifier”

It is asserted by poststructuralist Jacques Derrida that the idea is not independent of the word and to suggest such makes one logocentric. If one brands the word “Hot” onto the surface of a person’s thigh does the brandee need to know the definition of the word hot, it’s spelling and pronunciation in order to understand the heat and pain?

“The trace of otherness lays all oppositions open to deconstruction, leaving no pure or absolute concepts to be taken as foundational. Meanings, not only art, democracy, terrorism, human rights are not individual personal or subjective since they emanate from language but they are not given in nature or guaranteed by any existing authority either.” Catherine Belsey summing key Poststructural concept.

Art, democracy, terrorism and human rights are evidence of mankind trying to establish  sublimity. Terrorism in the service of sublimity is an irreconcilable opposition.

JB Questions-Observations:

  1. Can your flu catch a cold? Can your Toxoplasma gondii cerebral parasites catch a virus? Do viruses infect other viruses for ill effect on one’s health. Could this cascade of infection go 5 organisms deep given they are only inserting RNA or DNA into one another?
  2. Did Hungarian Communist party apparatchik art cop, Georg Lukacs have a role in Trotsky’s assassination during his stay in  Russia?
  3. Did anything ever de-fang capital “A” Art as much as 30th century interwar communist politics: prole as audience vs oppressive capitalist – UGH ! see: Lukacs-Brecht-Adorno dialectics
  4. Is there such a thing as an “archaic” myth? Aren’t all myths ingrained at different levels in the history of a culture and also at different levels of present consciousness-unconsciousness. Do myths come and go or accrue?  When and how might a myth die, dissolve, evaporate? When will the myths surrounding The Bill of Rights evaporate?
  5. Review the evolution of the definition of myth from Benjamin-Adorno to Jung to Barthes – Joseph Campbell et al.
  6. Piling on the commie way: Perry anderson on Adorno, Adorno on Lukacs, Adorno on Benjamin: A Marxist Brothers comedy.
  7. There is a sort of philosophical discourse whose purpose is to register membership in a club rather than to explore ideas. Adorno writing to Benjamin is like a kid sending a secret club code or giving the secret handshake. He peppers his text with as many commie buzzwords as his light ideas can carry. The Brecht-Adorno-Benjamin axis of 3d generation commie claptrap of mid-late 1930s re: commodity capitalism, division of labor, use-value proving to one another they have been good boys and done their Marx homework. Perry Anderson as a 4th generation Marxist  is even more pompously prolix.
  8. Aztec-Inca gold financed the European Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution as it financed manufacturing throughout europe of weapons, tools, ships, textiles and global exploration. War and commerce flourished with the avalanche of Aztec capital. The engine revs up on central American fuel. Bottom line: Latin American booty enables Commodity Capitalism to evolve with great vigor in Baroque Europe.
  9. It is human nature to project the death of one’s own neurons onto the entire culture as one notes the dissolution, the catastrophes, the failure of much that was good: millennial unawareness of Sergeant Pepper, the loss of factory jobs to digital technology, the replacement of wood with plastic, the computerization of cars and all communication. As neurons enter necrosis-apoptosis, the individual affected begins to see loss of quality all around. We project our loss out to the world forgetting that renewal is all around.
  10. Compare and contrast two concepts of myth: the Levi-Strauss-Joseph Campbell strain ( all-encompassing, transcultural, one story serves all) vs the Roland Barthes-Gilles Deleuze-Baudrillard version that ascribes myth to all aspects of a culture system: religion, law,philosophy,art, advertising, entertainment, car sales – commodity manufacturing, use and fetishization. The deep vs the deep and shallow together.  Levi-Strauss: Myth can be separated from marriage rites, plant medicine, lineage tracking where Barthes et al it is ALL myth all the time. If humans believe it, watch it, eat it, do it then it’s myth.
  11. Hegel’s idealism-dialectical materialism defangs Christian Fundamentalism at pre-Victorian era. Hegel provides rocket fuel for Victorians Carlyle, Marx, Darwin, Ruskin and later Nietzsche. Cracking the Christian hegemony at European Zeit opens the door for emergence of Jewish thinkers into late 19th century discourse and their major role as members of the Titanic 12.  Adam Smith vs Marx: choose sides – yin or yang – commie or cappie – Christian or Jew. ultramodernist or citramodernist. Richard Meier or Frank Gehry?
  12. As dogmatic Christian belief dissolved across the 19th century due to secular Enlightenment notions gaining traction previously marginalized jews saw an opening encouraging emergence from the cloistered shadows of the arcade ( see: Benjamin) and compete for center stage in intellectual discourse. Judeo-Christian Yin Yang was thus animated for all 20th and 21st century discourse.


December 21, 2015  10:54PM


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Name That Zeit


Signs are commodities – JB


Mythology: Roland Barthes and Poststructuralist’s definition –  “The common practices of our society that are neither true nor false but carry meaning and values we may not have consciously chosen.” – Catherine Belsey

Culture:  The unspoken ( mythology) and the spoken ( ideology) – JB

Modernism: The features of the descended grid: fixed station point and all it enabled: double-entry bookkeeping, cartesian navigation, musical notation, linear perspective, scientific method, rights of man,

Postmodernism: The ideas discovered, cobbled, invented by the Titanic Twelve in 1912 –  all ideas here are products of the unpinned station point – a deep, fundamental difference from modernism

Citramodernism: Postmodernism between Titanic Postmodernism and the postmodernism spawned by One twelfth of the Titanic group – Ferdinand Saussure – postmodernism between 1912 and 1966. Postmodernism from 1966 to its demise in 2000 let’s call PoMo. Without names for this stuff we’re sunk !

Ultramodernism: Modernism ( The stuff of The Descended grid) manifest between 1912 ( when it lost its primacy) to the present day where it flourishes in combination with all things Postmodern in a new episteme driven by the digital world/social media and the 8 second attention span

Structuralism: The search for eternal man, for overarching definitions, for binary oppositions: the raw- cooked, legitimate-forbidden, nature-culture, hostility-reciprocity i.e.  for the universal. “Nothing between the universe and a bean” Barthes on the absurdity of Structuralist thought of Levi-Strauss. Note: Levi-Strauss swam in Saussure’s lake as did Barthes but at a greater depth with less light and more pressure. Barthes is light, sunny, witty, humorous, arch, wry, ironic, snarky, looser, more playful. Dolphin vs whale Levi-Strauss had a more serious project, a larger point to make. Barthes lived to deconstruct Levi-Strauss as he filled in the colorful details of our various myths that bring them to life.

Poststructuralism: The search for specific man, for the detailed story, for the specific – see: Roland Barthes.  Replace all active usage and usage back to 1966 of the word Postmodernism with Poststructuralism; any use of the word postmodern that implies or asserts origins of Postmodernism begin with the Fab French invasion of 1966.

Bottom line: Postmodernism began in 1912 with the Titanic Twelve: W. Wright, Freud, F.L.Wright, Saussure, Einstein, Schoenberg, Melies, Tesla, Duncan, Joyce, Cocteau, Cezanne-Braque-Picasso,  not in 1966 with  the French Eight i.e. Barthes, Derrida, Foucault, Lyotard, Lacan, Debord, Baudrillard, Deleuze and or Guattari.

Foucault, like Venturi can claim: “I am not a Postmodernist”  as he, Foucault, was, like Venturi, all about a critique of notions born of the Enlightenment – JB

“Lacan reinterpreting Freud in the light of Saussure and Levi-Strauss” (Belsey) is like Frank Lloyd Wright reinterpreting himself ( Prairie Style) in the neo-Loosian terms of Neutra and Schindler via Corbu and Mies @ Wesselhoff. Get thee to a scorecard ! – JB

Note to self (JB) Poking holes in recent ( since 1966) definitions of Postmodernism and Poststructuralism is taking away the toys of a generation of intelligent, well-read, hard-thinking ( though occluded) imaginative, high-spirited academics.

Did a feminist or a gay rights activist ever claim to be a postmodernist?  How did this become a part of postmodernism? It occurred during the PoMo era 1966-2000.

Norman Rockwell Saturday Evening Post covers and Soviet worker realism – both paintings of totalizing ideologies.

Human culture is a tall tub with a convection current circulating around in a giant ring from surface to depths. This grand convection moves in time through history and individuals, families, neighborhoods, cities whole populations, nations rise and fall at varying rates in the turbulence. Each zone of this tub has qualities that may be seen as modern or postmodern in character. Mo and PoMo are happening somewhere in this current at all times and have been since plants were domesticated in southwest Asia 10,000 years ago. there were postmodern Assyrians and modern ancient Egyptians. PoMo ideas such as multiculturalism and defiance against the powers that be are always afloat in steerage where they give birth to a wealth of new ideas that are carried up on social convection currents and locked into the zeit of dominant rationalists – the purveyors of power. The tenets of 1960s-90s PoMo are not even new with the Titanic 12. These ideas were popular when Irish and Jewish immigrants sailed to America in the 19th century. They were not new with either Marx or Darwin or Freud or Saussure. they are part of the phenomenon of individuals and classes falling into depths ( see USA sinking middle class 1980-2015) of the silent majority. Treating the concepts of PoMo.

Epochs get new names such as Medieval, Modern, Postmodern after an accretion of new ideas in religion,human rights,  politics, economics, art, literature, science and technology. It is the combined power of a few of the more prominent of these ideas that launches the naming of a new era, typically many years after the ideas emerged. As a new epoch progresses there are many changes throughout a society. Change itself is a given. Change is continuous. Change during the past few hundred years has been accelerating at an asymptotic rate. All change in an era is not necessarily in the spirit of that age but gets included. It goes along for the ride. Postmodernism is about things fundamentally unpinned not anything that occurred between 1966 and 2000 or between 1912 and 2000.

Scholars have confused the ideas, innovations and inventions that are the core of much subsequent change with the thought-trends that get the most attention during  early academic careers. Scholars define their operative zeit as if it were foundational when its status  is tertiary or secondary but rarely primary. We now have the much tortured, misnamed  postmodernism and poststructuralism both spawned by the Titanic Twelve.

The core marker for the Postmodern, the unpinned station point is best seen in analytical cubism was also expressed in a cluster of secondary and tertiary signs such as gender, ethnicity, sex, and race. These are qualities of late 1960s politics. They are expressions of the 1912 PoMo idea in a non-visual realm. There are no PoMo principles as these all reside with the titanic Twelve. there are only features not principles.

Modernism, in one of its more fundamental definitions ( there are sooo many), began when Filippo Brunelleschi pinned the station point in 1412 as he established the core idea of his great invention linear perspective. This fixing of man in a single spot allowed  many aspects of the real world to come into focus: cartesian navigation, double-entry bookkeeping, the picture plane as window, the scientific method, musical notation. If you just hold still – you can see a lot. This towering, paradigm-shifting event PSP meaning the pinned station point – mankind remains stationary and looks out at the world and begin to define it and to measure it and to catalog and analyze its contents. Man creates an array of  grids for making sense of the world; the navigation grid of longitude and latitude, the music grid of pitch and duration, the numerical grid of money spent and money owed, the spatial grid in two dimensions that allows the conception of buildings in an abstraction of 3-D space.

During the 19th Century the station point was unpinned by Charles Darwin and Karl Marx. This grand unpinning was manifest in ten realms in 1912. These 12 realms and their associated genius are as follows: 

The Titanic Twelve:

  1. Wilbur Wright – Pitch-yaw-roll controlled flight
  2. Arnold Schoenberg – Atonal music composition  
  3. Albert Einstein – Post-Newtonian physics
  4. James Joyce – Post narrative fiction
  5. Jean Cocteau – Post 3-act drama  
  6. Nicola Tesla – Radio-A/C current
  7. Georges Melies – Motion pictures
  8. Sigmund Freud – subconscious realms
  9. Ferdinand Saussure – Lateral linguistics ( synchronic)
  10. Isadora Duncan – Post Baroque dance
  11. Cezanne-Picasso-Braque – Unpinned pictorial space
  12. Frank Lloyd Wright – Dynamic symmetry

Note that Charles Darwin and Karl Marx’s shift of locus of Victorian culture from the ecclesiastical to  the temporal secular realm of science, industry, labor and class conflict as the arena of mind-soul-heart of Western man precedes the reifications of The Titanic Twelve. See the writings of Carlyle, Arnold, Ruskin and Morris for details of this shift. The  scarifying of the zeit, the plowing aside of the reigning Modern episteme for new spiritual-intellectual growth.

The Edwardian blossoming of human innovation in 1912, the year the Titanic sank. The work of The Titanic Twelve  is at the core of half of 20th century thought,  including Poststructuralism and Postmodernism.  The loss of the Titanic symbolic of the loss primacy of The Enlightenment Project. The world’s stage is shared from 1912 onward to today. Due to the continued dominance of enlightenment ideas, the postmodern should be seen as a diverging arrow that is one third the width of the Modern but growing rapidly.

Our age became schizoid in 1912 as two parallel tracks emerged from WW One evolving in tandem, giving rise to two Modern architectures; one pinned and one unpinned i.e. one based on classical Brunelleschi orthography ( plans, sections and elevations) and one based on Cubism ( pitch, yaw and roll around the object, best represented in models). Two modern paintings: One born of Cezanne’s deconstructed picture plane ( Mondrian, Malevich, Pollock, de Kooning, Schnabel)  and one informed by Freud and Marx: Duchamp, Surrealism, Dada, Warhol, minimalists, gendo-politico-sexo art projects 1970-2015.  Of course Venturi is not a Postmodernist as he always cleaved to Brunelleschi and the rationalities of The Enlightenment though his works are coated with pastiche born of notions unpinned from Modernist dogma. Though Le Corbusier is seen as a founder of hard line Modernism, he was a Cubist at heart and after his butchering by that motor yacht  while swimming in the mediterranean in 1953 his Cubist soul  became manifest in his late work best exemplified by Ronchamp and Carpenter Center.

One cannot clearly discuss either Poststructuralism or Postmodernism or any aspect of either without understanding, incorporating and addressing one’s root precursor(s) among The Titanic Twelve.

The great bifurcation from the PSP episteme into the age in which PSP (pinned station point)  is shared with UPSP (unpinned station point) was at 1912 not at 1946 ( Levi-Strauss) 1957 ( Barthes) or 1962 ( Foucault) 1966 ( Derrida) or 1971 ( Deleuze, Baudrillard). The Postmodern world did not begin with Barthes, Derrida, Venturi or Jacques Derrida as architecture historian Charles Jencks or Paul DeMan or Richard Rorty might lead one to think the postmodern began at the great bifurcation, the birth of the Titanic Twelve, the sinking of the Titanic. The whole 1960s version of Postmodern semiotics was a development of only two twelfths of the idea package, that of Saussure and his followers of the next 50 years in Germany and the USA.

In locating the birth of Postmodernism at 1912 rather than mid 1960s one can resolve the scatter of anomalies, inconsistencies and exceptions that riddle PoMo thought from 1965 to the present as its demise is now widely heralded.

To further clarify Modernism as it continues through the 20th century colored by all things PoMo let’s call all post 1912 Modernism ( given that MOdernism began in 1412 with Brunelleschi)  Ultramodernism in order to distinguish it from any shades of pre 1912 manifestations of which there are countless. Without names there is chaos. All this naming may seem precious, obsessive, annoying but without names there is muck, mud, confusion as is seen in 100% of ALL writing on Postmodernism.

Since a misconception of the start point of Postmodernism is now enmeshed, ensconced, solidified into the discourse, we need a name for Postmodern stuff between 1912 and when the misinformed began to hold forth in the mid-1960s. Call PoMo between 1912 and 1965 CitraModernism.  OK – Modernism split apart in 1912 under the paradigm shifting force of the titanic Twelve creating two Modernisms: UltraModern = traditions extended ( Gropius and Mies were UltraModernists) and CitraModern = unpinned, Cubist, ambiguous, Contradictory, complex world of Russian Constructivists, late Corbu and Frank Gehry.

As for ideas such as the dissolution of grand narratives, the women’s movement, the gay rights movement, the all- inclusive multiculturalism of the visual arts and anthropology, sociology, these are social evolutions-revolutions that took place in the water-episteme-spectacle of the unpinned station point but are not directly tied to a single one of The Titanic Twelve though they DO manifest CitraModern notions. The gas emitted by The Titanic Twelve colors everything, even the Modern, creating the UltraModern The water of the new paradigm was first poured by Darwin and Marx ( The Towering Two)  followed 50 years later by the reifications of The Titanic Twelve and then all members of Western civilization  as we all swim in this water no matter what our unique concerns.  No wonder so much PoMo writing is confused – some write of Darwin / Marx,  some of the Titanic Twelve and their followers and some of those simply swimming in the PoMo water. They were on the floodplain when the river flowed  and got wet but were not otherwise close to foundational ideas of the fourteen. The whole group that includes Darwin and Marx –  henceforth:  The all-inclusive Fab-14.

At least two generations of literary theorists, critics, architects and artists have tried to package these social developments as Postmodernism. they have tried to place Roland Barthes in the same corral as Michel Foucault. They don’t belong together other than as generational cohorts. Barthes has direct ties to one of The Titanic Twelve in Saussure, Foucault has no direct link. Foucault is a critic of the Enlightenment not a founder of the Postmodern. Barthes and Derrida have direct links to Saussurean semiotics, Deleuze has links to both Saussure and Wilbur Wright. Deleuze ( with Guattari) weaving their rhizomic cocoon all around the towering commodity capitalism and its contingent myths.Any scholar delving into the current morass of contemporary discourse that I have parsed as  Mo, UltraMo, CitraMoPoMo must ask the following questions:

  1. Is the idea / subject at hand pinned or unpinned? How can one tell?
  1. Pinned is the stuff of Brunelleschi, the Descended Grid, Rationalist thought, the Scientific method, hierarchies, power centers, exceptionalism
  2. Unpinned is the stuff of Darwin, Marx, The Titanic Twelve, relativity, free dance, Cubism, multivalence, ambiguity, pitch-yaw-rolling around the subject from multiple points of view.  
  1. Which of the Titanic Twelve most fits your area of exploration? Pick three or more.

In the realm of Saussure if I am involved in any of the following:

  1. Culture as text, culture as myth – Barthes
  2. Any aspect of synchronic linguistics including all of Chomsky
  3. Semiotics in lit-crit, architecture

In the realm of  Wilbur Wright ( simultaneity, pitch-yaw-roll forming multiple viewpoints

  1. Into gender, feminism, race, ethnicity
  2. multiculturalism
  3. Aeronautics, aircraft manufacturing-fixed wing

If I write novels I read Grant’s civil War Memoir, Twain, Hemingway, Nabokov. I seek a swerve from these precursors and their spawn ( see: Harold Bloom for the mechanics of poetic invention) Pynchon, Delillo, Barth ( not Barthes) Coover. Do the PoPoMo.

A lesbian feminist artist would go all the way back to Marx, mix in a bit of Wilbur for a contemporary swerve on power narratives and to Darwin and Stephen Jay Gould for notions of evolutionary change ( it’s not all the same – different strokes for different species, some change is abrupt ( saltational) some is by invasion of another ( symbiosis) and some from genetic mutation. All living things evolve. You have returned to the roots of the roots.

Note to academics: Please stop trying to cram the women’s and gay rights movements into the Saussure-Barthes-Derrida bag as it does not fit. Try Foucault and his Modern, post 1412,  antagonists.

Is everything and anything that happened between 1965 and 2001 postmodern? Can one describe any development in economics, politics, art, science, liberal arts during this time as postmodern?  Many try. There ARE qualities of postmodernism other than simply the place in time of an event. We are too close to the rich sources of postmodernism to lose all meaning so soon. The word modern is long gone and must be qualified-explained on a few levels before proceeding. Postmodern is a dumb word to begin with as every age considers itself modern i.e. what’s happenin’ now thus every age forever has had its own postmodernism. It’s a total garble but I try. By my definition in this essay is everything between 1912 and 2001 postmodern? NO you haven’t been paying attention. The modern was cleaved by The Titanic Twelve plus Two i.e. The Fab 14. into UltraModern and CitraModern then in 1965 into faux-provisional-misnamed, phony-ass, superficial Postmodern.

It is painful to read any text on postmodernism from richard Rorty to Perry Anderson and Richard Butler and watch all of these men try to cram every social-political-artistic idea from 19654 to 1980 into the Saussure bag. It’s always at least ten pounds of ideas in a five pound bag. One must encompass at least one or two of  the other Titanic Twelve if not the whole Fab-14. Turn to Marx for foundational text re: power narratives and social stratification to Darwin for notions of evolutionary change, to Gould and Eldredge for notions of abrupt change as all living things evolve or go extinct. Explore the roots of the roots.

When poster boy of postmodern architecture Robert Venturi decries on the cover of top architecture magazine “I Am Not A Postmodernist” he means just that. Venturi’s work, though of pastiche, parody and snark, seen by many as hallmarks of postmodernism, is essentially of the grid, the ethos of the enlightenment, the orthogonal and defined clearly by orthographic projection: Plan, section and elevation. Venturi is of the PSP not the UPSP. Venturi swims in Ultramodernism the branch that has not been colored by Cubism at all. Venturi is a child of Brunelleschi not of Cezanne. for UPSP Citramodern architecture see the Russian Constructivists and late Corbu ( after his motor yacht trauma that re-arranged his creative consciousness via big brass propeller to the head ( and body). For more Citramodern see: Frank Gehry, Coop Himmelblau, Rem Koolhaas and Wes Jones.

To reiterate:

  1. Address your subject
  2. Locate its link among the Titanic Twelve and at least one of the Towering Two. Darwin is connected to every thought of the past 150 years and Marx to at least half of them.
  3. Identify the proponents in the generation preceding your own and ideally practitioners and theorists in every 20 year period between your founding genius member of the 12 Titans
  4. Do not confuse the flurry of French philosophers, all children of Saussure for all 12 Titans. Allow the Titans first to exist in their hard won pantheon and then the breathe with intellectual space around each one. they are all foundational to 20th century thought and achievement in all matters of culture: Art, Science, technology, law, ethics, entertainment. Ask yourself the deepest meaning of maneuverability for man on all three axes. That third dimension of movement was revolutionary in the deepest sense and Wilbur Wright invented it as well as patented it.
  5. Easy rule of thumb. 1412 saw the birth of the modern. It grew for 500 years to maturity. In 1912, the year the titanic sank, is the year the modern sank ( more accurately, was joined by a new episteme) The two running side by side in parallel from 1912 until they merged during the new millennium as digital tech and social media have rewired the human mind.

When Picasso referred to his partner in paint Georges Braque as mon frere Wilbur, after french aviator Charles de Lambert circled the eiffel tower in 1909 in a Wright Brothers Flyer using Wilbur’s great invention: linked aileron-rudder assembly that allowed controlled flight in three dimensions, Picasso was (unwittingly?) acknowledging the essence of analytical Cubist ideas he and Braque ( together and henceforth-Braquasso) were then exploring: 1. moving around the subject to capture its three dimensional essence from multiple points of view and capturing this multiplicity on a single canvas thus spawning the idea of simultaneity. Analytical Cubism i.e. Cezanne shorthand at the root of all post Edwardian 20th century notions of multiple, simultaneous seeing. Seeing all cultures simultaneously, all religions, all skin colors, all sexual orientations. Claude Levi-Strauss synthesized Braquasso and Saussure in his analysis of hundreds of ethnographies of indigenous peoples from melanesia, South America, Australia, North America and Africa and noting equal cultural complexity in one way or another in all cultures. Jared Diamond drives home the point in his Pulitzer Prize winning book “Guns, Germs, and Steel” noting the primacy of geography and timing over any innate neuronal wiring in defining differential cultural fates.

It is difficult for literature academics to relinquish credit for what they believe to be the foundational ideas of 20th century thought, the core of their field of study to masters of the visual arts or to a scientist ( Darwin) but alas, they must.  Primacy of mid 20th century lit theory-semiotics belongs to Brunelleschi and Darwin and then to Cezanne and Braquasso not to the Beatles of 20th century philosophy – the French Invasion of Barthes, Foucault, Derrida and Baudrillard. The American intellectual establishment was permanently seduced ne, overpowered in 1964-1966 when Paul DeMann of Yale opened the doors. to paraphrase Victor Hugo speaking of the Renaissance. “It was the setting sun all Europe mistook for dawn.”

Braquasso were popularizers of the more foundational Cezanne as Barthes and Derrida were explainers of Saussure. Neither Braquasso nor Barthes were founders, they were explainers-synthesizers. Frank Lloyd Wright was a great synthesizer of John Ruskin and William Morris as well as of everything he laid eyes on as a young architect. Founders shift paradigms, entire bodies of thought get re-visioned in a new lens, the world is seen in a new way forever after. Foundational thinkers deliver new tools, new heuristics. Several of the Fab-14 generated their great new idea by synthesizing and explaining many ideas composing their operative episteme. Whether one is foundational like Darwin and Saussure or secondary like Barthes and Derrida has to do with scale of synthesis. Darwin summed up 150 years of enlightenment science from geography to animal husbandry. Barthes explicated one aspect of the work of a single thinker. Matisse was foundational. He synthesized the Enlightenment achievement in 100 different ways. Secondary figure richard diebenkorn ( no slouch in the annals of modern painting) based his entire career on the background of a single Matisse painting. Ocean Park series riffing on background of “Zora On the Terrace”

The system invented by Wilbur Wright from his intense study of birds in flight enables a man to move along three axes all around a place or an object such as the Eiffel Tower. Wilbur’s system remains a part of every single fixed-wing aircraft in the world.  It was from imagining themselves flying around the eiffel Tower that enabled Picasso and Braque to imagine flying around a kitchen table with its newspaper, pipe, cup of coffee and clarinet.

In closing: go to the source. Go to the expansion valve that transforms fluid into vapor, that changes states of substance. The expansion valve of 20th century expansions of the modern both ultra and citra – pinned and unpinned was the combined effect of the Fab 14 with an especially useful focus on the Titanic Twelve who delivered useful tools for translating zeit into the stuff of life. The expansion valve for what is commonly if erroneously called Postmodernism was the Titanic 12 not the Fab French Four or Six or Eight.  I write this to supply a tool for unjamming the modern-postmodern discourse. As long as one thinks postmodernism began in the mid-1960s the discourse is confused chock full of exceptions, excuses, pulled punches, qualifications, reservations. It’s time to pull the detritus from the weir to make way for still another swerve on modernism, that of the eight second attention span. Remodernism: 2000-Present


December 3, 2015   6:24 PM

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