Log24

Monday, August 30, 2021

Down, or: A Black Box for Didion

Filed under: General — Tags: , — m759 @ 12:28 PM

From "Why I Write," by Joan Didion —

"I am not a scholar. I am not in the least an intellectual, which is not to say that when I hear the word 'intellectual' I reach for my gun, but only to say that I do not think in abstracts. During the years when I was an undergraduate at Berkeley I tried, with a kind of hopeless late-adolescent energy, to buy some temporary visa into the world of ideas, to forge for myself a mind that could deal with the abstract.

All I knew then was what I wasn’t, and it took me some years to discover what I was.

In short I tried to think. I failed. My attention veered inexorably back to the specific, to the tangible, to what was generally considered, by everyone I knew then and for that matter have known since, the peripheral. I would try to contemplate the Hegelian dialectic and would find myself concentrating instead on a flowering pear tree outside my window and the particular way the petals fell on my floor. I would try to read linguistic theory and would find myself wondering instead if the lights were on in the Bevatron up the hill. When I say that I was wondering if the lights were on in the Bevatron you might immediately suspect, if you deal in ideas at all, that I was registering the Bevatron as a political symbol, thinking in shorthand about the military-industrial complex and its role in the university community, but you would be wrong. I was only wondering if the lights were on in the Bevatron, and how they looked. A physical fact.

I had trouble graduating from Berkeley, not because of this inability to deal with ideas—I was majoring in English, and I could locate the house-and-garden imagery in The Portrait of a Lady  as well as the next person, 'imagery' being by definition the kind of specific that got my attention—but simply because I had neglected to take a course in Milton. For reasons which now sound baroque I needed a degree by the end of that summer, and the English department finally agreed, if I would come down from Sacramento every Friday and talk about the cosmology of Paradise Lost , to certify me proficient in Milton. I did this. Some Fridays I took the Greyhound bus, other Fridays I caught the Southern Pacific’s City of San Francisco on the last leg of its transcontinental trip. I can no longer tell you whether Milton put the sun or the earth at the center of his universe in Paradise Lost , the central question of at least one century and a topic about which I wrote ten thousand words that summer, but I can still recall the exact rancidity of the butter in the City of San Francisco’s dining car, and the way the tinted windows on the Greyhound bus cast the oil refineries around Carquinez Strait into a grayed and obscurely sinister light. In short my attention was always on the periphery, on what I could see and taste and touch, on the butter, and the Greyhound bus. During those years I was traveling on what I knew to be a very shaky passport, forged papers: I knew that I was no legitimate resident in any world of ideas. I knew I couldn’t think. All I knew then was what I couldn’t do. All I knew then was what I wasn’t, and it took me some years to discover what I was."

"I knew that I was no legitimate resident in any world of ideas."
— Joan Didion, December 5, 1976

"In the 1988 interview with Scripps Howard, Mr. Poynter mused
about the device he wanted to invent for his own tombstone.

'When you walked up to it,' he said, 'you’d activate
an electronic voice. And it would say, "Come on down."’”

New York Times  obituary yesterday

And add, "We all float down here"?

For other, better, remarks about ideas by Didion
see "Freeze the shifting phantasmagoria," a phrase
from her 1979 book The White Album.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Near Zero

Filed under: General — m759 @ 1:00 PM

See "freeze the shifting phantasmagoria" in this journal.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Sermon

Filed under: General — Tags: , , , — m759 @ 11:00 AM

The Ideas

“We tell ourselves stories in order to live….
We interpret what we see, select the most workable
of multiple choices. We live entirely, especially if we
are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon
disparate images, by the ‘ideas’  with which we have
learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria
which is our actual experience.”
— Joan Didion

See Didion and the I Ching  and posts tagged Plato in China .

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Principles of Aesthetics

Filed under: General,Geometry — m759 @ 2:45 PM

Or:  Phantasmagoria Meets Pandemonium

Part I: Phantasmagoria

Rebecca Goldstein on first encountering Plato —

“I was reading Durant’s section on Plato, struggling to understand
his theory of the ideal Forms that lay in inviolable perfection
out beyond the phantasmagoria. (That was the first, and I think
the last, time that I encountered that word.)”

Screenwriter Joan Didion —

“We tell ourselves stories in order to live….We interpret
what we see, select the most workable of multiple choices.
We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition
of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the ‘ideas’
with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria
which is our actual experience.”

Part II: Pandemonium

Terry Teachout in Commentary  on Oct. 1, 2014:

“When making art or writing about it, the aesthete
tries never to moralize. Nor will he look with favor
upon artists who do so, no matter whether their
particular brand of moralizing is religious or secular.
But he can and must be fully, intensely alive to the
moral force of art whose creators aspire merely to
make the world around us more beautiful, and in
so doing to pierce the veil of the visible and give us
a glimpse of the permanently true. That is his job:
to help make sense of the pandemonium amid which
we live.”

Rivka Galchen in The New York Times Sunday Book Review
issue of October 5, 2014 (online Sept. 30):

“The story describes honestly something that is,
which is very different from proposing what ought to be.”

See also Pandemonium in this journal.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Ideas

Filed under: General — m759 @ 8:48 PM

We tell ourselves stories in order to live.
The princess is caged in the consulate.
The man with the candy will lead the children into the sea.
The naked woman on the ledge outside the window
on the sixteenth floor is a victim of accidie, or
the naked woman is an exhibitionist, and it would be
‘interesting’ to know which. We tell ourselves that it makes
some difference whether the naked woman is about to
commit a mortal sin or is about to register a political protest
or is about to be, the Aristophanic view, snatched back to the
human condition by the fireman in priest’s clothing just visible
in the window behind her, the one smiling at the telephoto lens.
We look for the sermon in the suicide, for the social or moral
lesson in the murder of five. We interpret what we see, select
the most workable of the multiple choices. We live entirely,
especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line
upon disparate images, by the ‘ideas’ with which we have learned
to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual
experience.”

Joan Didion

This evening’s New York Lottery:  659 and 7326.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Omega Story

Filed under: General — Tags: — m759 @ 1:00 AM
 

"We tell ourselves stories in order to live…. We interpret what we see, select the most workable of multiple choices. We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the 'ideas' with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience."

Joan Didion

See also a post from May 4, 2011 (the date, according to a Google
search, of untitled notes regarding a matrix called Omega).

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Unity and Multiplicity

Filed under: General — Tags: — m759 @ 9:00 AM

Continued from Crimson Walpurgisnacht.

EpigraphsTwo quotations from  
Shakespeare's Birthday last year

Rebecca Goldstein
   on first encountering Plato
 

"I was reading Durant's section on Plato, struggling to understand his theory of the ideal Forms that lay in inviolable perfection out beyond the phantasmagoria. (That was the first, and I think the last, time that I encountered that word.)"

Screenwriter Joan Didion

"We tell ourselves stories in order to live….

We interpret what we see, select the most workable of multiple choices. We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the 'ideas' with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience."

From Thomas Mann, "Schopenhauer," 1938, in Essays of Three Decades , translated by H. T. Lowe-Porter, Alfred A. Knopf, 1947, pp. 372-410—

Page 372: THE PLEASURE we take in a metaphysical system, the gratification purveyed by the intellectual organization of the world into a closely reasoned, complete, and balanced structure of thought, is always of a pre-eminently aesthetic kind. It flows from the same source as the joy, the high and ever happy satisfaction we get from art, with its power to shape and order its material, to sort out life's manifold confusions so as to give us a clear and general view.

Truth and beauty must always be referred the one to the other. Each by itself, without the support given by the other, remains a very fluctuating value. Beauty that has not truth on its side and cannot have reference to it, does not live in it and through it, would be an empty chimera— and "What is truth?"

….

Page 376: … the life of Plato was a very great event in the history of the human spirit; and first of all it was a scientific and a moral event. Everyone feels that something profoundly moral attaches to this elevation of the ideal as the only actual, above the ephemeralness and multiplicity of the phenomenal, this devaluation  of the senses to the advantage of the spirit, of the temporal to the advantage of the eternal— quite in the spirit of the Christianity that came after it. For in a way the transitory phenomenon, and the sensual attaching to it, are put thereby into a state of sin: he alone finds truth and salvation who turns his face to the eternal. From this point of view Plato's philosophy exhibits the connection between science and ascetic morality.

But it exhibits another relationship: that with the world of art. According to such a philosophy time itself is merely the partial and piecemeal view which an individual holds of ideas— the latter, being outside time, are thus eternal. "Time"— so runs a beautiful phrase of Plato— "is the moving image of eternity." And so this pre-Christian, already Christian doctrine, with all its ascetic wisdom, possesses on the other hand extraordinary charm of a sensuous and creative kind; for a conception of the world as a colourful and moving phantasmagoria of pictures, which are transparencies for the ideal and the spiritual, eminently savours of the world of art, and through it the artist, as it were, first comes into his own.

From last night's online NY Times  obituaries index—

http://www.log24.com/log/pix11A/110503-NYTobits.jpg

"How much story do you want?" — George Balanchine

Friday, April 23, 2010

Phantasmagoria

Filed under: General — m759 @ 9:29 AM

Today's NY Times obituaries —

Image-- John Carl Warnecke, Architect to Kennedy, Dies at 91

Warnecke died April 17, last Saturday.
From an entry linked to on that date

Rebecca Goldstein
   on first encountering Plato

"I was reading Durant's section on Plato, struggling to understand his theory of the ideal Forms that lay in inviolable perfection out beyond the phantasmagoria. (That was the first, and I think the last, time that I encountered that word.)"

Screenwriter Joan Didion

"We tell ourselves stories in order to live….

We interpret what we see, select the most workable of multiple choices. We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the 'ideas' with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience."

Happy Shakespeare's birthday.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Wednesday October 24, 2007

Filed under: General — Tags: , — m759 @ 9:26 AM
Adieu:
A Story for Dobbs

Internet Movie Database on screenwriter Lem Dobbs:

"Trivia:
Son of painter R.B. (Ron) Kitaj.

Took his pseudonym from the character Humphrey Bogart played
in 'The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.'"

Bogart and Robert Blake in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

Click for details.

NY Lottery Oct. 21, 2007: Mid-day 512, Evening 430

October 21 was the day
that R. B. Kitaj died.
For what Kitaj called
"midrashic glosses"
on the numbers and
the lucky sums, see
4/30, 5/12, and
Eight is a Gate.

Screenwriter Joan Didion:

"We tell ourselves stories in order to live….

We interpret what we see, select the most workable of multiple choices. We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the 'ideas' with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience.

Or at least we do for a while. I am talking here about a time when I began to doubt the premises of all the stories I had ever told myself, a common condition but one I found troubling."

David Cohen on R. B. Kitaj:

"He has come to be fascinated… by the kabbalah, finding in it parallels to the world of art and ideas. Every morning, after a long walk, he winds up at a Westwood café surrounded by pretty UCLA students where he studies the writings of Emmanuel Levinas, before working for an hour on his memoirs."

Levinas Adieu:

Levinas, and Derrida, on the Adieu

Click for source.

"There is no teacher
but the enemy.
"

— Orson Scott Card,  
Ender's Game

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Tuesday December 5, 2006

Filed under: General — m759 @ 5:01 AM

Today in History
(via The Associated Press)

On this date (Dec. 5):

In 1776, the first scholastic fraternity in America, Phi Beta Kappa, was organized at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va.

In 1791, composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart died in Vienna, Austria, at age 35.

In 2006, author Joan Didion is 72.

Joan Didion, The White Album:

“We tell ourselves stories in order to live….

We interpret what we see, select the most workable of multiple choices. We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the ‘ideas’ with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience.

Or at least we do for a while. I am talking here about a time when I began to doubt the premises of all the stories I had ever told myself, a common condition but one I found troubling.”

An Alternate History

(based on entries of
the past three days):

“A FAMOUS HISTORIAN:

England, 932 A.D. —
A kingdom divided….”

Introduction to “Spamalot”

A Story That Works

  • “There is the dark, eternally silent, unknown universe;
  • there are the friend-enemy minds shouting and whispering their tales and always seeking the three miracles —
    • that minds should really touch, or
    • that the silent universe should speak, tell minds a story, or (perhaps the same thing)
    • that there should be a story that works, that is all hard facts, all reality, with no illusions and no fantasy;
  • and lastly, there is lonely, story-telling, wonder-questing, mortal me.”

    Fritz Leiber in “The Button Molder

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Sunday December 12, 2004

Filed under: General — Tags: — m759 @ 7:59 PM

Ideas, Stories, Values:
Literati in Deep Confusion

Joan Didion, The White Album:

“We tell ourselves stories in order to live….

We interpret what we see, select the most workable of multiple choices. We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the ‘ideas‘ with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience.

Or at least we do for a while. I am talking here about a time when I began to doubt the premises of all the stories I had ever told myself, a common condition but one I found troubling.”

Interview with Joseph Epstein:

“You can do in stories things that are above those in essays,” says Epstein.  “In essays and piecework, you are trying to make a point, whereas in stories you are not quite sure what the point is. T.S. Eliot once said of Henry James, ‘He had a mind so fine no idea could violate it,’ which, I think, is the ultimate compliment for an author. Stories are above ideas.”

Harvard President Lawrence H. Summers, Sept. 12, 2004:

“You are entering a remarkable community, the Harvard community. It is a community built on the idea of searching for truth… on the idea of respect for others….

… we practice the values we venerate. The values of seeking truth, the values of respecting others….”

Paul Redding on Hegel:

“… Hegel discusses ‘culture’ as the ‘world of self-alienated spirit.’ The idea seems to be that humans in society not only interact, but that they collectively create relatively enduring cultural products (stories, dramas, and so forth) within which they can recognise their own patterns of life reflected.”

The “phantasmagoria” of Didion seems related to the “phenomenology” of Hegel…

From Michael N. Forster,  Hegel’s Idea of a Phenomenology of Spirit:

“This whole system is conceived, on one level at least, as a defense or rational reworking of the Christian conception of God.  In particular, its three parts are an attempt to make sense of the Christian idea of a God who is three in one — the Logic depicting God as he is in himself, the Philosophy of Nature God the Son, and the Philosophy of Spirit God the Holy Spirit.”

and, indeed, to the phenomenology of narrative itself….

From Patrick Vert,
The Narrative of Acceleration:

“There are plenty of anecdotes to highlight the personal, phenomenological experience of railway passage…

… a unique study on phantasmagoria and the history of imagination. The word originates [in] light-projection, the so-called ghost-shows of the early 19th century….

… thought becomes a phantasmagorical process, a spectral, representative location for the personal imagination that had been marginalized by scientific rationalism….

Truly, ‘immediate experience is [or becomes] the phantasmagoria of the idler’ [Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project.  Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999.  Page 801.]….

Thought as phantasm is a consequence of the Cartesian split, and… a further consequence to this is the broad take-over of perceptual faculty…. What better example than that of the American railway?  As a case-study it offers explanation to the ‘phantasmagoria of the idler’….

This phantasmagoria became more mediated over time…. Perception became increasingly visually oriented…. As this occurred, a narrative formed to encapsulate the phenomenology of it all….”

For such a narrative, see
the Log24.net entries of

November 5, 2002, 2:56 AM,
November 5, 2002, 6:29 AM,
January 3, 2003, 11:59 PM,
August 17, 2004, 7:29 PM,
August 18, 2004, 2:18 AM,
August 18, 2004, 3:00 AM, and
November 24, 2004, 10:00 AM.

Tuesday, December 7, 2004

Tuesday December 7, 2004

Filed under: General — m759 @ 1:00 PM

White Christmas

Starring W. V. Quine as
the Ghost of Christmas Past

“Birthday, death-day —
   what day is not both?”
   — John Updike

“We tell ourselves stories in order to live….

We interpret what we see, select the most workable of multiple choices. We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the ‘ideas’ with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience.

Or at least we do for a while. I am talking here about a time when I began to doubt the premises of all the stories I had ever told myself, a common condition but one I found troubling.”

Joan Didion, The White Album

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Quine’s Shema

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