This was 13 years, 1 month, 12 days ago

lately: distracted, restless, vibrating. like my presence shifts from here to off-here, not quite snapping into place, oscillating side-to-side like a tuning fork.

presence? truth? solidity? these second-guessings, this eternal guardedness proves to be paralyzing, paralyzing.

there is always value to be had in creating something over sitting back and enjoying that something which is created.

always? always?

a week ago I was dreaming, delirious, woke up in the dim light of my blinded-shuttered room uncertain what time it was. the clock across the room was covered by a sweater tossed on it. in a flash of ingenuity I went to sleep, googled 'time in new york', and through this oneiric haze saw the resulting letters announce "11:30am". waking up I threw off this sweater to a red-eyed clock that told me it was nine instead.

I watched synecdoche, new york this weekend.

I wanted to like it, I really did. Instead I was struck by the series of points at which there were a series of specifically orchestrated moments, in which the camera would zoom in, closeup face shot, low depth of field, jon brion's light piano chords touching into the scene, saying this is important -- pay attention to me. I am trying to say something important. The comedic touches throughout could have been great -- but for some reason they fell too far, laughter for the sake of laughter. In the end I left the theater wondering if Charlie Kaufman actually wanted me to have a sort of urgency and desperation, or if this half-flippant, eventually unidentifiable association with mr. cotard was really what he wanted me to have.

I guess what strikes me more was how each of the characters really felt transparent, as fleshed out as characters you perceive only as characters would be; each time anyone spoke we understood this all to be Cotard's thoughts, or even Kaufman's. If the film stood for anything it was to get to this message that Kaufman wished to say; or rather, the film presented this notion of 'nuggetry', a flimsy veneer designed to be seen through, the allure of a hidden truth which one must find in an archeological expedition of thought and mulling-over you might take, maybe alone, watching the credits scroll, or maybe while walking with friends back to the subway station. If there's something to be had, the movie says, it's my secret which you should think about afterward. Unlock me. And I'm trying to do that, so, so.

If I want to end whatever I write with a quote it's because quotes solidify, they anchor things down, they say somebody else wrote this so this has legitimacy; pay attention to this, notice this. In a way, it's self deprecating, like if you introduced yourself saying, my name is Dan Taeyoung Lee, and I'm a friend of the famous celebrity Bobby Smith. Legitimacy on the basis that you refer to somebody else. According to well-respected X, a is true, and so therefore he/she backs my opinion up.

So here's a quote from myself. I wrote this in response to someone's question about a certain philosophy book being 'legitimate':

When you ask "is it legitimate", you're really asking one of these things:

a) Does it make sense?
In other words, are there any serious logical fallacies? Does it misquote authors? Does it read like the writing of a relatively coherent, logical person rather than the rantings of a madman?

b) Is it properly applicable?
Does it help me, as philosophy? Does it make sense and fit into my worldview? Do I agree?

c) Is it accepted by the general philosophical discourse?
Is it taught in universities? Do other philosophers debate with or base their work off of him? Are papers about him published in philosophical journals?

For A, I don't mean "is he wrong in his deductions", I mean, is he blabbing out loud? Is he totally off his rocker? Clearly, he isn't. Let's strike that off the list.*

B: this is a completely personal thing, so legitimacy doesn't really enter into the equation. You'd say that a massage was legitimate in some way or another if you felt relaxed and less tense afterward, but you'd also understand if it didn't work on someone else for some reason. Whatever.

C's really the clincher here. Is it legitimate == Is it accepted? What we consider legitimate is only legitimate in so far as it's been validated by a community -- the philosophical community, at large.

Here's a good example. Comic books often aren't considered "legitimate" literature because the literary community (both academic and not) doesn't consider them literature. They're very very rarely studied and analyzed academically, except from an anthropology/sociology/cultural studies angle. Comics aren't considered literature not because they're not emotional, meaningful, original, ingenious -- some of them are -- it's because they don't have any "literary value", and that's because "literary value" is defined by the shared qualities that a certain arbitrary group of works (literature) has.

It's like, say, stumbling upon a plant and saying, "That's not a weed -- that doesn't look like other weeds, it isn't at all around the same height and shape and color as other weeds!" But really -- the definition of a weed is simply a plant you don't want. And to not recognize this process of definition based on an arbitrary criterion -- desire -- would lead to wrong conclusions in regards to what is or is not a weed.

Clearly I'm not equating literature and weeds. What I mean is that the question of legitimacy runs the same way -- It's legitimate because a large community of people consider it legitimate, not because it has certain values or characteristics. The criterion of legitimacy is respect, or more accurately 'communal respect'.

And respect, too, is tricky -- respect from whom? how? It's possible that the philosophical community loves this writer, and most casual readers hate him. In this case, then, he is a legitimate philosopher within philosophy, and a crackpot/fraud to everyone else. But the matter is that academic communities hold sway and power over the general community, so the general community might take him as a philosopher, albeit a really bad one. There are these power dynamics, always.

So, then the next question would be -- is it respected, and if so, which communities is it respected by? Is it respected by the philosophical community?

Those are separate questions that I can't answer very well.

*and even more accurately, "blabbling out loud" and "totally off your rocker" are also defined relatively in terms of a language, or in terms of a majority discourse which determines what is language and what is not language. I shall quote(!) Ranciere and his definition of 'disagreement' as the basis of all political activity:

Disagreement is a determined kind of speech situation: one in which one of the interlocutors at once understands and does not understand what the other is saying. Disagreement is not the conflict between one who says white and another who says black. It is the conflict between one who says white and another who also says white but does not understand the same thing by it or does not understand that the other is saying the same thing in the name of whiteness.

And so notions of "blabbing" and "crazy" are shifting, sliding, no longer possibly existing on any sort of foundational argument for "outside the realm of coherent meaning". I contradict myself by quoting someone else. I go to sleep now, at 3:39am.