Ken Baumann is.
Ken Baumann is.
Between July 9th and August 5th , Alec Niedenthal and I had a long & blabby conversation that began when Alec enthusiastically responded to me saying “I’m almost completely gagged now by fucks like Deleuze.” Knowing Alec mostly as a fellow young philosophy & theory head, I asked after his newfound disillusionment with the stuff.
That conversation posted here—mostly unedited—in hopes you find it useful or rousing.
Ken: What literature strikes you as bullshit now?
Alec: Your question is great, but I’m not sure that I’m equipped to answer it. I’ll explain why. First, I’m not sure how possible it is today to talk about what sort of art is valueless, ie bullshit, when the role of art is so unclear and, less evidently but no less significantly, when we as avant-garde writers are unsure whether there should be an institution called “Art” any longer. That’s to say, it’s hard to even talk about what literature should be doing when the “should”-level claim about literature in general—basically, what it ought to depict and how to depict it—is supposed to be. READ MORE >
Jesse Hudson, one of the most monastic and scholarly people I know, started talking about Hegel on Facebook. Hegel’s work has always felt intimidating to me, and often when I read his writing, I think that he’s totally full of shit—that he took simple, intuitive ideas and hyperinflated their elucidation to appear logically rigorous and philosophically masterful. Basically, I got thinking that Hegel was a damned charlatan.
But I also knew that Jesse deeply responded to Hegel’s philosophy. So I asked him some questions for the Hegel-averse and uninitiated, following the format of The Beginner’s Guide to Deleuze with Christopher Higgs. Here we go:
Why should we read Hegel?
Hegel is fucking difficult, right?
In order to proclaim the importance of reading Hegel, the initial hurdle to overcome is the impression one initially has in regards to the supposed difficulty (or, stated more extremely, incomprehensibility) of Hegel’s texts. This isn’t necessarily a misinformed opinion of Hegel since, without doubt, Hegel’s texts are extraordinarily rigorous and densely packed. It isn’t uncommon to spend hours (or hours and hours over the span of several days) unpacking a mere page or two of his Phenomenology or Logic. This is due, in large part, to the fact that Hegel (like, it must be admitted, any other philosopher) writes with his own peculiar terminology. Derrida has differance; Deleuze has rhizome; Hegel has being-for-self, negation of the negation, positing presuppositions, ‘sublation’, being-in-and-for-self, etc. Hence, reading Hegel involves a great deal of work that is not unlike the work involved in learning a new language. But, to paraphrase Derrida, you wouldn’t necessarily decry the difficulty of a thermonuclear physics text or a text discussing the subtleties of semiotics and differential calculus. Therefore, the cries of anger and frustration seem a bit odd when directed towards philosophy (texts that are undoubtedly as theoretical and ‘specialized’ as the previous examples). READ MORE >
As I get older, sicker, and more beset with claims on my attention, I find myself dreaming up simple rules for gracefully consuming my way through the world. As a person reliant on deeply industrialized and entangled societies for money, food, medicine and entertainment, I find that simple tricks help me feel sane. Heuristics are useful when navigating complex systems, be it 21st century America or your personal ethics.
The following rules of thumb might help if you feel overwhelmed with the incomprehensible amount of interesting culture to eat and be eaten by. Because books are the media that I chase and covet the most, I’ll use them here. Altering the immortal words of Gale: “So many books, so little time.”
1. When in doubt, don’t read it.
Err on the side of omission. You might die tomorrow—hell, you might die tonight—and wouldn’t you regret it if you slogged through fifty more pages of some book that just feels serviceable?
2. If the author’s a bigot, don’t read it.
This applies to Mein Kampf all the way down to that writer that said “I just can’t fuck any more NYU students with Jim Morrison posters on their wall.” With so much potentially transcendent literature written by not-immediately-obvious-assholes just waiting in libraries and in book stores, feel free to judge with severe intolerance.
3. If it’s new, don’t read it.
Like evolution, time is a critic without aim, but there’s a lot of literature that has been retold, copied, salvaged and painfully rebuilt because it’s wildly powerful or innovative to most people that engage it. The newer the book you’re reading, the more likely it’ll be buried by the sands of time.* Lately, I’ve been reading mostly ancient literature and looming works from a few centuries ago, and I’m having trouble returning to contemporary stuff. But this difficulty feels nice.
Michael Seidlinger is giving away 5 copies of MY PET SERIAL KILLER, which is out today. Comment to enter, check back in a week to see if you won, you know the drill:
If any serial killer could “be yours”, who would it be?
The Milan Review publishes pretty books.
Its newest pretty thing is a book by Clancy Martin.
It’s like this: you’re working for a potentially—fuck it, most likely—criminal enterprise, morally criminal if not legally, and details start to coalesce as a guide that saves you from the impending organizational explosion.
I began to feel the details swarm in my first official meeting as LPL’s VP of SEBA. We were in the offices of a major… bottled product conglomerate. The receiving executives were young, fresh faced, their dumb smiles free of the shitjargon that was to blast out of Pontius’s mouth when given some nod, the masochistic invitation to pitch. At this point, if you can’t tell, I’m starting to hate myself.
“The brandlandish—but true!—claims your previous executive product development team failed to recognize have come around—luckily for [COMPANY NAME REDACTED]— and I praise you infamous men for giving it a second look,” Pontius began, advancing past the slide with long-necked giraffe I’d come to loathe.
“The era of terroir tap water is about to begin. You can either claim to own their flavorful pipes, or lose out to your competitors. Who will bottle nether-regions of Brooklyn? Who the Western Addition of San Francisco, The Missionary District? Gentlemen. You already own the glass, you own the distribution… now own the tasting notes for America’s nuanced tap-water economy!”
He advanced the slide again, and the precious mock-ups (hand-drawn?) of “The Taste of America” bottles appeared on the flatscreen.
It is very hard not to palm one’s face in a meeting like this. And this was just one of many. READ MORE >
My wife and I flew into Atlanta.
We were told we had a driver waiting for us by Mackie Wallace who, no shit, signed out on the bottom of our travel itinerary email with Executive Chief of Staff, and so we entered the baggage claim expecting a dude in a white and black suit, holding a paper sign. Instead, we saw pink.
At first, it scared the shit out of me—is this the same guy from the premiere? I stared at him, saw his sign (Mr and Mrss Baumann, misspellings as is), and really tried to figure out if it was the same guy. No. They both had a rough air, kind of dirty. But this gentleman had recently shaven, was a bit shorter. And he looked four thousand times more nervous. He stuttered out a hello, and escorted us outside to the temporary parking. I noticed the guy was wearing leather loafers with a hole near his right big toe when Aviva said, “Whoa.” A white on white on white Bentley—white paint, white leather interior, white rims. I like cars, but I felt totally inadequate for this sort of coach, especially considering that I am not Prince. READ MORE >
I received a business card.
I was at the premiere for The Descendants and a man in a pink shirt bumped into me. Hard. Oh god I’m sorry, I said. He didn’t apologize, didn’t walk on—he was staring at me. Then I really looked at him; wrinkled pink dress shirt, beard, food in his teeth. In retrospect, I think he had food in his pockets. Movie premieres, and this one in particular, have pretty heavy security, so I thought at worst this guy was just pickled and made eccentric by enormous, casual wealth. Who knows anymore.
Are you Ken? READ MORE >
from da generous Shane Jones: I have a lot of author copies for Daniel Fights a Hurricane and I want to give a few away. I was thinking a contest at HTMLGIANT where people can win a copy by creating a new kind of weather in the comments section and say what its effects are. I’ll pick three “winners” and send the copies out this weekend.
I’m giving away two copies of THE SKY WENT RED WHILE HE WAS INSIDE, a small book produced by Kiddiepunk. The man behind Kiddiepunk and the cover artist/brilliant artist in general is Michael Salerno. This book is made of edited sections from CALL OUT, a novel I wrote. To enter: comment! I’ll randomly pick two people and hunt their e/meat addresses down. Thank you.