Obama on The Waste Land (in a letter to his girlfriend Alex McNear):
T S Eliot … retains a grounding in the social reality/order of his time. Facing what he perceives as a choice between ecstatic chaos and lifeless mechanistic order, he accedes to maintaining a separation of asexual purity and brutal sexual reality. And he wears a stoical face before this. Read his essay on Tradition and the Individual Talent, as well as Four Quartets, when he’s less concerned with depicting moribund Europe, to catch a sense of what I speak. Remember how I said there’s a certain kind of conservatism which I respect more than bourgeois liberalism—Eliot is of this type. Of course, the dichotomy he maintains is reactionary, but it’s due to a deep fatalism, not ignorance. (Counter him with Yeats or Pound, who, arising from the same milieu, opted to support Hitler and Mussolini.) Eliot’s fatalism is born out of the relation between fertility and death - life feeds on itself. A fatalism I share with the western tradition at times.
(art by shaun ferguson)
Zizek on what causes desire:
The object of desire is simply the desired object: let’s say, in simple sexual terms, the person whom I desire. The object cause of desire, on the other hand, is that which makes me desire this person. And the two are not the same. Usually, we are not even aware of what was the object-cause of desire - it requires psychoanalysis to learn what, for example, made me desire that particular woman. This is something along the lines of what Freud already called the unary feature - and on which Lacan later developed a whole theory: i.e. some feature which triggers my desire in the other. And I think this is how one should read Lacan’s statement that there is no sexual relationship. This means precisely that it is never simply me and my partner. There is at the centre of any relationship the object-cause of desire.
What should I be but a prophet and a liar,
Whose mother was a leprechaun, whose father was a friar?
Teethed on a crucifix and cradled under water,
What should I be but the fiend’s god-daughter?
And who should be my playmates but the adder and the frog,
That was got beneath a furze-bush and born in a bog?
And what should be my singing, that was christened at an altar,
But Aves and Credos and Psalms out of the Psalter?
You will see such webs on the wet grass, maybe,
As a pixie-mother weaves for her baby,
You will find such flame at the wave’s weedy ebb
As flashes in the meshes of a mer-mother’s web,
But there comes to birth no common spawn
From the love of a priest for a leprechaun,
And you never have seen and you never will see
Such things as the things that swaddled me!
After all’s said and after all’s done,
What should I be but a harlot and a nun?
In through the bushes, on any foggy day,
My Da would come a-swishing of the drops away,
With a prayer for my death and a groan for my birth,
A-mumbling of his beads for all that he was worth.
And there’d sit my Ma, with her knees beneath her chin,
A-looking in his face and a-drinking of it in,
And a-marking in the moss some funny little saying
That would mean just the opposite of all that he was praying!
He taught me the holy-talk of Vesper and of Matin,
He heard me my Greek and he heard me my Latin,
He blessed me and crossed me to keep my soul from evil,
And we watched him out of sight, and we conjured up the devil!
Oh, the things I haven’t seen and the things I haven’t known.
What with hedges and ditches till after I was grown,
And yanked both ways by my mother and my father,
With a “Which would you better?” and a “Which would you rather?”
With him for a sire and her for a dam,
What should I be but just what I am?
—Edna St. Vincent Millay
Zizek on self-violence and feminist dilemmas:
Deleuze elaborated this aspect in detail: far from bringing any satisfaction to the sadistic witness, the masochist’s self-torture frustrates the sadist, depriving him of his power over the masochist. Sadism involves a relationship of domination, while masochism is necessarily the first step towards liberation. When we are subjected to a power mechanism, this subjection is always and by definition sustained by some libidinal investment: the subjection itself generates a surplus-enjoyment of its own. This subjection is embodied in a network of ‘material’ bodily practices, and, for this reason, we cannot get rid of our subjection through a merely intellectual reflection-our liberation has to be staged in some kind of bodily performance, and, furthermore, this performance has to be of an apparently ‘masochistic’ nature, it has to stage the painful process of hitting back at oneself. … Marx characterizes as the exemplary petty bourgeois procedure: distinguishing in every phenomenon a ‘good’ and a ‘bad’ aspect, and then affirming the good and getting rid of the bad-in our case, struggling to keep the ‘good’ aspect (awareness of oppression) and discard the ‘bad’ one (finding pleasure in oppression). The reason this ‘untying of the knot’ doesn’t work is that the only true awareness of our subjection is the awareness of the obscene excessive pleasure (surplus- enjoyment) we gain from it - which is why the first gesture of liberation is not to get rid of this excessive pleasure, but actively to assume it. If, following Franz Fanon, we define political violence not as opposed to work, but, precisely, as the ultimate political version of the ‘work of the negative’, of the educational self-formation, then violence should primarily be conceived as self-violence, as a violent re-formation of the very substance of subject’s being.
Professor Ilchenko of the Moscow Conservatoire plays the violin for Russian troops posted to the southern front
In a photograph by one of the most famous Soviet war reporters (Anatoly Garanin), an infantry division listens to music after a day of fighting.
Photography by Saul Leiter
Hand painted Brazillian vernacular photograph from rosegallery.net - retratos pintados. Titus Riedl’s collection