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This little vignette from Civil War England pretty much sums up the position of the artist. Alternately flattering the crowd's hopes and taunting them with intimations of what they fear, playfully disestablishing and soberly re-enacting the enduring rituals of authority, cheerfully enduring regulation and fitfully daring open defiance.

Happy New Year's all.

Celebrate with spontaneous pantomimes, rope dancing, and keep crowning and decrowning those monarchs.

New Year's Day Holiday, 1649. The king is to be tried for treason. But with Army and Parliament in conflict, and fugitive Royalists stirring up trouble, how are theatre people going to take advantage of the situation? Put on a show!

"... actors and audiences had grown so bold that by the New Year four of the old theatres were open. This defiance of an ordinance against play-acting in force for the last seven years, could not go unpunished. Two parties of soldiers were despatched to break up the performances. At the Fortune theatre they found nothing but a rope dancer, and at the Red Bull no one at all for actors and audicence had been forewarned and had quickly vanished. But at Salisbury Court [site of early Restoration performances IIRC] they found a play in full swing, interrupted the performance and carried the players prisoners to the Headquarters at Whitehall in their theatrical finery. It was not an ill-natured business; all down the Strand people cheered the actors, the soldiers allowed them to respond and even to perform a sort of spontaneous pantomime as they went along. One of them was in crown and robes, and his attendants alternately discrowned and re-crowned him with appropriate getures, eliciting groans, jeers, laughter and applause from the crowd. Only at the fourth theatre, the Cockpit, did the actors show fight, a mistaken policy as they were roughly handled, were arrested and had their wardrobe and properties confiscated."

Wedgwood, C.V. The Trial of Charles I. London: Reprint Society, 1966.

Dangers of Putative Cross-Cultural Dialogue

"[Putative] Cross-cultural dialogue is the disaster site where multiple God's-eye solipsisms explode into politics"

What could be bad about cross-cultural dialogue? When it is undertaken in a certain way, the exchange of platitudes and the simulacrum of listening is perhaps worse than respectful silence or wary distance. So argues Aubrey Neal.

"I believe that Westerners habitually use the God's-eye view on each other with devastating consequences for interpersonal understanding." (235)

If there is an enduring problem with the person-to-person view inside Western culture, what can be expected of Western/Non-western dialogue. Very little, according to Neal. Especially given the history of dislocation, genocide, and attempted assimilation of Native peoples.

"The toolbox paradigm of universal practical reason can be sternly and sadistically misapplied under the assumption that a cross-cultural core of generic reason awaits the persistence of the patient positivist. (226)

Neal provides a cautionary note to utopias of dialogue and exchange. The very notion of inter-personal exchange, and derivative notions of inter-cultural exchange is culturally particular. There is no universally applicable standard of what it means to be "equal" or to "exchange" or "share."

"Because concepts are integral to experience and not external like a tool, the structure of intersubjectivity varies between
cultures." (225)

Too often dialogue is instumentalized as a way to still social conflict or ongoing dissensus. How to move away from dialogue-as-tool to dialogue-as-instigator-of-change?

"In cross-cultural dialogue an idealized fantasy of a middle-class lifestyle can snare the gaze of the encultured beholder." (235)

So where to begin? The physician's "first, do no harm" maxim might be a good place. But for any employees of the Ideological State Apparatuses [that's me], they might begin by not expecting that everyone who gets pushed through their system will interact with them after the fashion of a seminar discussion or a CBC/NPR radio interview.

One piece of advice to follow might be "perceive like a phenomenologist": "Understanding the emotional world which is
culturally prefigured in skill repertoires establishes the possibility for either cynical exploitation or meaningful dialogue." (237)

So, look at what people are doing and try to reach them, if you must, in reference to those activities. You try to infer the emotional world in which those activities are invested, but never assume that the emotional matrix in which those practices are anchored corresponds to yours.

The note of pathos for the "service professional" in this passage makes me a little uneasy. It absolves we ISA-employees of responsibility. But I'll turn the idea around a little. If you want to get out of your perceived helplessness then start by approaching the emotional needs of your clients without bad faith dismissal of their and YOUR emotional reality.

"All service professionals, including academics, must accommodate the suspicion that even with the most generous of good wishes, their toolbox is not emotionally neutral. The subjective detachment of a traditional logic suitable for tools, not people, often treats human problems in bad faith, creating a policy world of Schneiders [a famous WW I case of brain damage] who are "unable to bring their own thoughts before themselves". These policy makers are snared in the same helplessness  as their victims." (237)

The last bit, though, makes a simple point. Just because your are part of a system guided by reference to evidence, or rationality-as-systematicity&regularity does not mean that you are not part of a culture. As transparent/glassy/networked/techno/neon/glassbrick/cyber as your apparatus may be, it is still an institution with its ritualizations, its taboos, its doxa.

"Professionals have to understand that they have a culture, too." (237)

"Apraxia: The Phenomenology of Acculturation", Canadian Journal of Native Studies X, 2, 1992.

For Reals

Initially, this was an on-line commonplace book. Whatever thoughts or scraps came by when I was near a terminal, I did some posting.

However, reinventing my way of thinking and reading as taken a lot of time. So no time for random goofiness.
"The charm which M. Sardou is not of a very high quality; he makes a play very much as he would make a pudding; he has his well-tested recipe and his little stores of sugar and spice, from which he extracts with an unimpassioned hand exactly the proper quantity of each. The pudding is capital, but I can think of no writer of equal talent who puts so little of himself into his writing."

-HJ, "The Parisian Stage" (1876)

Henry James Liked Pudding. And Theatre.

"Realism is a very good thing, but it is like baking a pudding in a porcelain dish; your pudding may be excellent but your dish gets cracked. An actor who attempts to play Shakespeare must establish for himself a certain Shakespearean tradition; he must make sacrifices. We are afraid that as things are going, most actors find it easier to sacrifice Shakespeare than to sacrifice to him."

HJ in "Mr. George Ringold" (1875)
So many games, especially those with a Wild West settings like the Doomtown CCG, or Dust Devils RPG rely on poker mechanics. (I have been a fan of both games for years).

You realize Faro was the big social card gambling experience in early 19th centuryAmerica? From Arizona to Civil War battlefields, the game was everywhere. Dealers walking around with fancy Faro sets and boxes. I cannot remember a single cowboy movie where they are playing the game.

It seems to me there are a number of antique card games that might be used in conjunction with historical settings and themes:

  • There is conquin which indigenous North Americans remade as Coon Can (or Koon Kan) and is part of the Rummy family.

  • The multi-stage gambling game from Germany Poch, remade as Tripoley. If you are doing a 15th or 16th century setting, it is a possible choice, along with other games documented here.

  • And the 3-way game Ombre has an interesting property: The Ombre is in a position of competition against the other 2 players. Any game in which the Black Queen trumps all other cards is one with a lot of thematic resonances. Solo takes away the stable role of the Ombre, and all players compete against each other and in which there are no fixed partnerships but fixed partnerships may arise in play. Sounds like a great game for competition and scheming.

Speculating about Objects

The Speculative Turn collection addresses the issue of objects.

How are objects to be given their due? By "explaining their existence in terms of a deeper material basis" or "letting them exist only in their appearances, relations, qualities, or effects"? Neither, replies Harman, taking the actualist position. Neither, replies Grant, from a realist position. There is an outside to objects and an anteriority to them, but not a substance like that of the object. It is a real domain of "pure productivity" that is "irreducible to fully constituted objects" (26).

The challenge is how to examine the history of objects as worked with and perceived by embodied persons which achieves some kind of actualism, never mind a more comprehensive realism.

Excited about Speculative Realism? Me Too!

From the intro to a great open access book from re-press.org: The Speculative Turn: Continental Materialism and Realism.

The Zero Books blog characterizes speculative realism as a "contemporary philosophy which defines itself loosely in its stance of metaphysical realism against the dominant forms of post-Kantian philosophy or what it terms correlationism."

And it sounds like this:

"Freud's death drive ... argues that the disspiative tendency towards death must neccessarily be channelled through the available affordances of the organism. It is this system of affordances that Negarestani labes the 'necrocracy' and it is the organism's local necrocracy which determines the possibilities and limites of any emancipatory image. Capitalism, as a necrocratic regime, is therefore a restrictive and utterly human system which binds the excess of extinction to a conservative framework grounded upon the human's means of channelling the death drive. As such it remains incapable of any truly emanicpatory potential, even in its accelerationist variants."

Right on.

These folks?


The Speculative Turn: Continental Materialism and Realism
Levi Bryant, Nick Srnicek and Graham Harman (eds.)

Continental philosophy has entered a new period of ferment. The long deconstructionist era was followed with a period dominated by Deleuze, which has in turn evolved into a new situation still difficult to define. However, one common thread running through the new brand of continental positions is a renewed attention to materialist and realist options in philosophy. Among the current giants of this generation, this new focus takes numerous different and opposed forms. It might be hard to find many shared positions in the writings of Badiou, DeLanda, Laruelle, Latour, Stengers, and Zizek, but what is missing from their positions is an obsession with the critique of written texts. All of them elaborate a positive ontology, despite the incompatibility of their results. Meanwhile, the new generation of continental thinkers is pushing these trends still further, as seen in currents ranging from transcendental materialism to the London-based speculative realism movement to new revivals of Derrida. As indicated by the title The Speculative Turn, the new currents of continental philosophy depart from the text-centered hermeneutic models of the past and engage in daring speculations about the nature of reality itself. This anthology assembles authors, of several generations and numerous nationalities, who will be at the center of debate in continental philosophy for decades to come.

Histories of Perception: The Challenge

"[T]here could be ... reinterpretation of the history of perception such that both its micro and macro characterstics are accounted for." (56)

OK: who's got that theory?

Ihde, Don. "Is There Always Perception?" Consequences of Phenomenology. Albany: State University of New York P, 1986. 48-67. EPUB file.

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