Briefly discussed in this post: 14 books (Legacy; Planta Sapiens; The Language of Landscape; Rain; Disgust; On Kindness; The Shadow of the Object; Capitalism and Freedom; The Road to Serfdom; Offshore; You Are Your Best Thing; London Ontario’s Unrepentant Confederates; The Marquise of O—; and Hell-Bent); 5 movies (The Tale of King Crab; Bardo; Gwledd/The Feast; The Pope’s Exorcist and Blue Valentine); and 2 documentaries (Fighting Indians!; and I Will Be Murdered).Continue reading
Briefly discussed in this post: 11 books (God, Justice, Love, Beauty; Status Anxiety; Capital Hates Everyone; The State in Capitalist Society; Had It Coming; Attachment and Loss Vol. 1; The White Birch; Pedro Paramo; Liquidation; The Great Longing; and The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil); 7 movies (Ma; Sick; Hell or High Water; Eden Lake; The Proposition; The Stranger; and Scream VI); and 4 documentaries (Money Shot; Orgasm Inc.; Descendant; and Hazing).Continue reading
Briefly discussed in this post: 13 books (Helgoland; Black Sun; A Brief History of Neoliberalism; On Necrocapitalism; The Old is Dying and the New Cannot Be Born; The Precariat; On The Take; Dismantling a Nation; The Normal and the Pathological; Enchanted Hunters; Lost Time; Case Study; and Inward); 5 movies (Possessor; Infinity Pool; Knock at the Cabin; Emily the Criminal; and Bones and All); and 7 documentaries (Pamela; The Cleaners; The Order of Myths; The Troubles We’ve Seen; MH370; Love in the Time of Fentanyl; and I Got a Monster).Continue reading
Discussed in this post: 6 books (Acts of Resistance; Rent; State of Insecurity; Rentier Capitalism; On the Golden Porch; and American Innovations); 4 movies (Crimes of the Future; The Banshees of Inisherin; Speak No Evil; and First Cow); and 2 documentaries (Phoenix Rising; and Harvard Beats Yale 29-29).Continue reading
He Awoke From a Dream that Left Him Unsettled
He awoke from a dream that left him unsettled and longing to return to it. He debated on whether or not he should go to the bathroom or if he was too tired. To sleep fitfully or to fully awaken—if only he could return to that dream about, about something he forgot about or maybe only remembered in the nonverbal part of his brain. He thought about keeping a dream journal but he didn’t want to wake all the way up. He was tired of feeling tired. He didn’t’ go to the bathroom. He didn’t think he fell fully asleep but he must have because it was dark and then it was light and he didn’t remember anything from the in-between. There was a lot of things he didn’t.
“I mean, I mean what I guess I mean, I mean—are you even listening to me?” she said as she licked her finger, ran it around the inside rim of the plate, and then rubbed her gums. “I’m trying to tell you something. Something important. Something like, something like, I mean, I don’t even know how to even say it, know what I mean? Something that important.” She paused as she ran her tongue over the space between her teeth and her lips. “I mean, come on,” she resumed, “you have to know what I mean.”
And then it was like she was there and then she wasn’t there and he was alone in the bedroom of this guy’s apartment who was a friend of a friend and everyone else was out on the balcony smoking cigarettes as the sun came up and she was there too with her friend who was friends with the guy who owned the apartment and the guy who owned the apartment was there too and there were probably another four or five people, including the guy with the handguns who brought the coke which he hadn’t actually chipped-in for but which nobody seemed to care about and he wondered if he looked to them the way they looked to him or if maybe he was out-of-control but just didn’t know it and maybe they wanted to avoid him or maybe he was a ghost but he felt marked somehow, like even in the company of the most lonely people he was still on the outside, like there was still something about him that made others stay away. What did others see when they looked at him? And why isn’t this coke doing anything for me? And then he remembered his friend’s dog, four thousand kilometres away in New Westminster, and this dog looking at him and peeing on the kitchen floor then yelping and running away, and then the cat hiding under the bed and refusing to come out even for tuna, and his friend utterly mystified but he didn’t tell his friend that the crows had started attacking him when he left his basement apartment. The first one hit him in the back of the head. He threw a rock at that crow. The next day there were three crows divebombing him. The day after that, six or seven. He took to carrying rocks in his pockets so that he could toss them and catch them when he got close to his apartment. The crows stayed away then. Watching from the wires strung across the back alley. Perched in the branches of the cedars. They watched and they remembered. “But me,” he thought to himself as he smoked the last of his cigarettes on the balcony of the apartment of this guy who was a friend of a friend, “I want the opposite.”
He had only just gotten to sleep when the carbon monoxide detector began to beep. Still drunk and covered in a layer of sweat and stale smoke, he pulled the device from the wall socket and threw it in the back of the fridge. It continued to beep there. He could hear it. So he got up again and took the device out into the yard and buried it under the garbage bags overflowing in the trash bin. He returned to bed. When he got up at 9PM, the first thing he did was retrieve the carbon monoxide detector from the trash bin and replace the battery. Why the fuck does a device that plugs into the wall, also use a battery?
By 1030PM, he felt able to eat and so he dressed and went to the bar.
There’s this old man who pulls out twenty-year-old pictures of his kids to show him on the patio. Both of them smoking, pint glasses in hand, the old man talking about how much he misses them and how he would do anything except stop drinking and start owning his shit and the years of abandonment and the reckoning with the fact he felt so overwhelmed by his own anger and pain, his own grief and loss, that he chose drink over fatherhood but he doesn’t say that, he blames his kids’ mom and says the legal system is biased against men and he did all he could and it wasn’t enough and isn’t that the way everything is going these days so might as well just have another beer, cheers, brother, but he really would do anything, he really did to everything he possibly could except the stuff he doesn’t mention to never lose them, to see them again. He doesn’t say much while the old man talks. Smokes and drinks and listens. Looks sideways at the stuffed monkey he hid in the bushes last week. Lights another cigarette. That’s hard, man. Fuck. Oh shit. My heart aches for you. Things like that. He doesn’t think about his infant son or his wife. He misses his lover who is at home with her boyfriend sleeping. Orders another beer. Stares up at the night sky. Works his way to blackout.
Years later he would try to remember what it was that was important about this. But he wouldn’t.
Discussed in this post: 17 books (Tales of Love; Three Characters; Attachment and Loss, Vol. II; Lustmord; Health Communism; Homo Juridicus; A World of Becoming; Call Them By Their True Names; The Lying Lives of Adults; A General Theory of Oblivion; The Dinner; The President; After Midnight; The Flame; To Urania; Powers of Congress; and Josephine Baker); 8 movies (Triangle of Sadness; Pearl; Don’t Worry Darling; Moloch; Pleasure; The Menu; M3GAN; and Aftersun); and 4 documentary (FIFA Uncovered; Brainwashed; What Happened in Vegas; and Pepsi: Where’s My Jet?).Continue reading
At their root, all of our addictions, self-harming behaviors, neuroses, and mental illnesses, arise and then come to dominate us, when we feel as though we are completely alone in the experience of something unbearable, something devastating, something terrifying, or something incomprehensibly bad.
We associate loneliness with being abandoned by others, but there is more to the harm caused by loneliness than simply feeling unloved by others. An essential component of loneliness is the repudiation of one’s efforts or ability to love and, more specifically, to still be capable of loving in the midst or aftermath of the unbearable, devastating, terrifying, or incomprehensibly bad. Loneliness cuts us to the core precisely because when we reach to others to try and love them, we discover that our best efforts to love are treated as undesirable, inappropriate, grotesque, or repulsive.
Freud comments on this: “The realization of impotence, of one’s own inability to love… has an extremely debilitating effect on self-feeling.”
We witness the outcome of this in the lives of people who are deprived of housing whom the City classifies as non-compliant, as those who are deviant because they, in the words of City bureaucrats, “choose homelessness” and refuse the help offered to them (a hotel room, a cot at the Salvation Army, and so on). Apart from a good deal of practical reasons people have to refuse that help—such places might be unsafe for the person, the person may have been treated in a violent and dehumanizing manner last time they stayed at one of those places, the person may not want to be separated from their life partner or animal companion, or whatever else—refusal to accept help at the level of basic needs (in terms of Maslowe’s Eurocentric, post-Enlightenment hierarchy of needs), can be a way of asserting one’s basic human dignity and that, first and foremost, a person must be treated in a way that demonstrates they are considered a person worthy of being loved by others and capable of loving others.
I was prompted to think about this when I encountered the following quotation from Lacan’s lectures on the psychoanalytical concept of transference. Lacan says that “it is so desire which goes beyond demand not be extinguished that the subject who is hungry does not let himself be fed… libido refuses the satisfaction of need to preserve the function of desire.”
In other words, our core desires, the central demands we make of others, are not strictly about food and shelter and socks and gloves. They are about how we are or are not treated as members of a beloved community. And if someone thinks they can be over and done with me and my needs simply by offering me some granola bars and a cot in a church basement, I might very well refuse that offer so that people recognize, hey, there’s a lot more to me than my hunger and my exposure to the cold. Or, in Lacan’s language, I refuse the satisfaction of basic needs to prevent the other person from thinking they have satisfied my core desires. I refuse to accept your provision for my basic needs unless you first recognize not just that I am a person who deserves to be well loved but equally a person who is capable of loving well. If that does not occur, then I am just being offered charity by a cruel people in a comfortless world—a world I will then refuse to join.
And comfort, it should be added, is an essential part of love. Russ Leander, an art therapist working in the AIDS ward of a Chicago hospital during the AIDS epidemic, has this to say on the subject: “For me, the ultimate message, meaning gift, whatever of this epidemic is that there are many different ways to heal. If you can’t heal or cure, then comfort. Truly care for people.”
So, also, in our current epidemic of COVID, housing deprivation, austerity, and greed. There are many different ways to heal. Are there are many avenues people pursue for comfort in a comfortless world. Substance use, self-harm, and going mad are all ways to pursue that when you feel all alone. As Christopher Bollas says in Three Characters, “At the root of all character disorders there is mental pain… each disorder is an intelligent attempt to solve an existential problem.” And if we, in the limited companionship we offer to others, cannot heal or cure, then at least, in the midst of their addictions, their self-harming behaviours, their neuroses, and their madness, let us offer people comfort and the opportunity to comfort us and others in return.
On Love: Grief, Loss, & the Un/making of Selves
Introduction: Or, Just Me and My Unconscious
At the beginning of the last year that Jess and I spent together, I wrote the following poem:
I have spent seven years
Trying to memorize the contours of your body
Your textures, shapes, and spaces
With my lips and fingers
And the palms of my hand
But no matter how hard I try
I cannot hold you
Cannot kiss you
Cannot recreate you
When you are not here
I have spent seven years
Trying to memorize the sound of your voice
Pitch and timbre, intonation
Seven years spent
With the smell of your hair
And the space at the back of your neck
Trying to memorize
The way you look when you are astride me
And the taste of your sweat
To recall the way you fit within my arms
When I first get home
And the burst of your laughter when you are delighted
And I am ridiculous
But when you are gone
And I cannot bring you back
Not one part of you
I am impossible
Without youContinue reading
Reviews in Review 2022
Well, life happened and my monthly reviews went to the wayside in 2022. However, I am still posting a brief year end summary. In 2022, I read 130 books, watched 29 movies, and watched 31 documentaries. Different genres trend at different levels for me year-to-year and this last year, I was pretty heavy on reading in the psy disciplines and poetry and read much less in other domains of theory and even literature than usual. In terms of movies, I watched a lot less of the international (i.e. subtitled) films and film fest circuit movies and a lot more horror, including mainstream horror (which I watch weekly in a rooming house with some fellows I support through my job). Documentaries were more dependent than usual on what Netflix has on offer. Not the best year, but I survived it. Here, then, are the best of the best and the worst of the worst.Continue reading
A Void Which Nonetheless Contained Everything
In his fortieth year, Dr. Ivan Knežević unexpectedly and irrevocably lost his ability to recognize or understand clothing. He could no longer comprehend that something like a shirt or a dress is the kind of thing worn over bodies and that, when this occurs, bodies continue to exist beneath the clothes. This did not so much provoke a crisis related to clothing itself—Dr. Knežević continued to dress himself according to the demands of the weather—as it provoked a crisis related to questions of embodiment and what it means to be human. Whereas before, people had appeared to be singular units and clearly delimited wholes, they now appeared to be strange and ever-shifting conglomerates of partial objects. Hands floated in the air, roughly halfway between the ground and the faces or heads that floated above them. During the winter, those same hands disappeared entirely for long stretches of time (thanks to gloves or mittens) while, during the summer, wrists elongated into forearms and then biceps and triceps and shoulders became present, as rising temperatures made sleeves ever shorter. In especially cold weather, or at higher altitudes, people existed only as eyes (or, if they wore ski goggles, became not so much invisible as existents whose presence could not be registered). But, when things were very warm and the sky was blue and cloudless, and the tourists were flocking to the beaches of the Makarska Riviera, bodies grew rapidly. They emerged seemingly from nowhere in spaces that, just a moment before, had appeared empty. Large central masses presented themselves, appendages stretched and connected and, at least for a moment, all the pieces came together—until the end of the day when dusk settled, the water chilled, and all the pieces didn’t so much fly apart as lose their physical connectedness as family units (conglomerates of conglomerates) packed themselves into their Suzuki Grand Vitaras, or their Renault Clios, or their Volkswagen Golfs. Then, sometimes two hands, sometimes one (with two other hands now entwined on the centre console), would hook themselves onto various steering wheels and guide the multitudinous conglomerates of living parts, back to Split or Mostar or sometimes Dubrovnik.Continue reading