Tag Archives: adorno

Tea With Chris: The Ratification of Imbecility

Tea With Chris is a roundup of recommended links, posted every Thursday. Here are a few of our favourite things from the Internet this week:

Carl: Abstruse Germanic theory as light aperitif? Yes, please. So I’m grateful that someone on Facebook alerted me to this link to Theodor W. Adorno’s 1956 essay on “Punctuation Marks,” which combines the Frankfurt grump’s characteristic ideological and rhetorical extremism with an atypical user-friendly concision. As a guide to usage and grammar, not so practical; as comedy, though, it is Richard Pryor – hilarious and disturbingly true. A couple of highlights:

“To the person who cannot truly conceive anything as a unit, anything that suggests disintegration or discontinuity is unbearable; only a person who can grasp totality can understand caesuras. But the dash provides instruction in them.”

‎”It starts with the loss of the semicolon; it ends with the ratification of imbecility by a reasonableness purged of all admixtures.”

“The writer is in a permanent predicament when it comes to punctuation marks; if one were fully aware while writing, one would sense the impossibility of ever using a mark of punctuation correctly and would give up writing altogether. For the requirements of the rules of punctuation and those of the subjective need for logic and expression are not compatible: in punctuation marks the check the writer draws on language is refused payment.”

What does that mean? It’s only six pages, so go read for yourself. You will never see the distinction between the Greek semicolon and the Anglo-German semicolon the same way again.

Chris: In the spirit of Carl’s burnt offering, I give you Walter Benjamin’s “On Hashish,” where the comedy seems to be rather more intentional. And since we’ve assembled an accidental tasting menu this week, why not follow it with this Gender Trouble PDF?


Filed under carl wilson, chris randle, linkblogging, margaux williamson

Tea With Chris: Oh Baby

Tea With Chris is a roundup of recommended links, posted every Friday. Here are a few of our favourite things from the Internet this week:

Chris: I would happily watch all zombie-related culture from the past 30 years disappear, but Zora Neale Hurston talking about them? The best.

No, wait, maybe 2:14 of this music video is the best:

Never mind.

Margaux: A refreshingly big picture artist interview that covers class, “the Real” and the boring old art world: Rosemary Heather interviews Ken Lum

Ken Lum, Mirror Maze with 12 Signs of Depression, 2002

Carl: Mark O’Connell published a lovely essay in The Millions about his agnostic adoration of the story of the Fall from the Book of Genesis this week. There are good bits about spider limericks and blowjobs and childhood fears but my favourite passage is this: “I was touched by how the story captures the way in which our alienation from our own nature seems, paradoxically, to be a basic condition of that nature. It expresses, in its simple yet enigmatic way, our enduring sense that it wasn’t meant to be this way, that we must have gone wrong somewhere too far back for anyone to remember. That we lost our innocence somehow, or threw it away, or allowed ourselves to be cheated out of it. That all this — mortality, sickness, misery, evil, boredom, war, drudgery — must surely be some mistake.” Know that feeling?

Speaking of childhood and innocence lost and well-known tales, I also really enjoyed Joshua Ostroff’s piece about his obsession with The Wizard of Oz and his relish in passing it along to his own kid.

I was thrilled and moved by Seth Colter Walls’ sensitive account on The Awl today of what transpired outside Lincoln Center in New York last night – a thematically appropriate encounter between Occupy Wall Street, NYC cops, Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson, Philip Glass and Glass’s opera Satyagraha, which is about Tolstoy, Gandhi, MLK and the tradition of non-violent resistance in general.

I would respectfully disagree with Walls, however, in his Adorno-esque attempt to paint suspicion of cultural elitism at the opera (and like levels of “high” culture) as a propaganda conspiracy by the “titans of corporate pop culture” — certainly there have been movies and TV shows that perpetuate the stereotypes, but I’m afraid they only pander to an already existing popular sentiment. The argument has been mounted much more so by populists right and left (and some more sophisticated left thinkers too). While some of it is simple-minded and anti-intellectual, for sure, at the same time it’s also for good reason.

The fact that there are cheaper seats and that institutions like the Met have made great initiatives to open the work up to a broader public doesn’t mean that there isn’t an accessibility problem in opera, ballet, etc. – accessibility doesn’t amount only to ticket prices, and only someone very comfortable in those environs would imagine otherwise. I’m a middle-class cultural professional and I still feel like a self-conscious plebian, ignorant slob when I go to an opera house. It is intimidating on multiple social levels.

That doesn’t make it automatically politically retrograde, but it’s a factor to be taken into account. Still, that’s only a small part of Walls’ argument. And on his page you get to watch Lou Reed use the human microphone.

Meanwhile, over in Famous Monsters of Realityland territory, the Republicans are working overtime to come up with ways to spin Occupy Wall Street, which veteran strategist Frank Luntz says has him ” frightened to death.” Really? That’s great!

It makes me want to talk about love as a political force with Lauren Berlant and Michael Hardt, although I haven’t gotten around to reading their dialogue yet. Meanwhile, who wants to go to this food court with me?


Filed under carl wilson, chris randle, linkblogging, margaux williamson