|December 21, 2012|
Nostalgia No. 3, Ma Leonn, 2006
Throughout the 20th Century, the preservation of individuals’ memories became cheaper and so more ubiquitous, but it wasn’t until the last decade that the seamless interconnection of mobile recording devices with the world wide web allowed for the retention of the past almost in its entirety.
It is well over a decade now since the philosopher Jean Baudrillard began arguing that reality itself had been fundamentally altered by a highly mediatised world – indeed, that there was no objective reality anymore, only a reproducible simulacrum, the nature of which is determined by large-scale corporations and their allied governments.
But the world of photo-messaging and Facebook, of YouTube and Google, is not one defined by the manipulation of the masses alone – rather, it is conjured up by the digitations of the great mass of individuals.
Perhaps the reason I feel quite so liberated from the present while more and more attached, not to individually-recalled “good old days”, but to a collectively attested and ever-present past, is because the hard drive of my computer is overloaded with digital images of the places I’ve been and the people I’ve met, all of them time-coded to a 10th of a second. There are also audio files of conversations I’ve had, and an email trail leading back to 1996 comprised of many, many thousands of ephemeral traces.
In this brave old world, I can employ a few keystrokes and so correlate my personal recollection of what was happening on that day, at that very hour, with public events in Birmingham, Bratislava or Beijing.
Because of this, it seems to me that in the past decade or so, the half-life of our memories has become artificially extended. Instead of curling photographs and yellowing newspapers, we are possessed of a shiny and permanent now, one we flit-click about and so delude ourselves as to our own eternal youth – until, that is, we look down at the wrinkled and liver-spotted hands that rest on the keyboard.
Inherent Vice’s Two Directions
The jokes certainly strike one as sophomoric and the latter one as clichéd, further below Pynchon’s intelligence than one would like to think he would stoop, at least in print. Discounting them and moving on, or throwing the book across the room as Parker half implies we should do, however, would be to lose sight of “that high magic to low puns”.
Auden, Larkin and Love
I was prompted to revisit these ancient questions anew by a long footnote about a single line in the new Complete Poems edition of Philip Larkin’s poetry. The footnote refers to “An Arundel Tomb” contains a provocative remark about that the poem’s celebrated, controversial, closing line, the one about the true nature of immortality: “What will survive of us is love.”
Plato, Our Comrade?
Not surprisingly, there have already been critics of Badiou’s translation. The first is that his translation breaks the formal rules of translation to such a degree that the original meaning of the text has lost its significance. But this critique is inadequate at face value because Badiou’s hyper-translation is forthright in its intention of taking Plato’s concepts and modifying them into his own lexicon.
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Jean Améry titled his renowned book on voluntary death, Hand an Sich Legen - To lay Hands on Oneself. Beyond the argument of Amery (who killed himself in 1978), I've always found this image very appropriate. It describes with precision and grace a terrible gesture; it highlights the movement, inscribes it in time. It emphasizes, in particular, its slowness: the hand must be raised – it is consciously raised – and then it falls and hits.
Always attach yourself to the best master and, following him everywhere, it would be unnatural for you not to take on his manner and his style’ writes Cennino Cennini in his ‘Libro dell’arte’ at the end of the fourteenth century. What is this style? Perhaps no more than the artists’ hallmark that can be acquired by others.
Herb and Harry were the names of our two steers, the one a Hereford, the other a Holstein. They did not do much but stand, bovine and stoic, from one day to the next. They sculpted strange rolling shapes into the salt lick with their fat blue tongues, and delighted, with minimal expression, in the delivery of fresh hay. My father liked to joke that they were 'out standing in their field', and they were. They excelled in matters of bovinity, one could not dream of surpassing them.