February 10th, 2014 / 3:40 am

Shot & a beer back


In case you missed it (I almost did), “On Smarm” is an important essay.

Speaking of the Believer, do you remember that Philip Seymour Hoffman interview? I will miss him. That seems strange though, even impossible, because that Philip Seymour Hoffman, the one I know, exists in images projecting from themselves. And those will go on sparkling, like prisms in post-loop pulse ad infinitum.

So I cannot actually miss Philip Seymour Hoffman, because the Philip Seymour Hoffman I know will continue to exist. In fact, he will be hard to kill. If I had met the actual Philip Seymour Hoffman, I would still miss a roll of images and sensations, facial expressions lodged in memory (a word that precedes words, a concept which, if it had no name, would affect us no less), perhaps the feeling of a body in space, skin, a roll of tin foil left to dry in the rain, a private film. What we miss when we miss, I think, is really the part of ourselves that will no longer be there pretending to be the person we experience, the part that, for us, is the person we miss. We have to unlearn that part of ourselves, and that part is painful. As Walser says, “The same blurry distances and colors as back then shine across it now, and the same sun. The castle still stands too, but it’s empty.” But then Walser didn’t say that. He said something in German.

Lauren Berlant might say I learned Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death but that does not mean I have unlearned his life. All the more so, since I never knew Philip Seymour Hoffman as an actual, living, breathing human animal. I knew him as an imitation of one. I met Lauren Berlant last night. I did not tell her my name. She did not ask. I felt barely there. I asked her a dumb question about the difference between work and labor. She referred me to the work of Kathi Weeks. I told her labor seemed wrapped up in Marxism. “What does that mean to you,” she asked. I didn’t know, or couldn’t say. She asked me “What do you do?” I told her I am a writer, or that I write, and that I work in childcare, part time. I told her I pay myself to write with the misery I incur as a result of not working full time. Maybe this is why I do not feel that writing is work. It feels like I am getting away with something when it turns into money. It feels like magic, or at least alchemy. And when it doesn’t, it feels like fun or something less than fun and more than work, being maybe, a proof of existence, a selfie of the mind.

With anal play the child is already becoming a philosopher of the human condition. But like all philosophers he is still bound by it, and his main task in life becomes the denial of what the anus represents: that in fact, he is nothing but body so far as nature is concerned.

Ernest Becker

I found an old photograph of myself the other day. It was a slide. It is. It brought me back to a time when I had less control over my selves. It was around that time I felt I could definitely die in a quest for the space between living and dying. I knew a guy who had overdosed his first time, because he didn’t know heroin and pills together make worm’s meat of you. Shortly after my friend found him, I threw my phone in the trash and went to rehab. I put the picture on my window sill so the sun can shine thru me when it finally kills the clouds. The root of “missing” is “to change.”

Meeting people implies missing them. We don’t actually “meet” people. We “come near to” them, and are forever unable to deny the physical yesness of this other being. Even if we put part of them inside us, or part of us in them, words even, we are always outside, rubbing up at best, just missing them. A lot of people would disagree with this. A lot of people would say you only miss the ones you love. But this ignores other kinds of missing. I miss everyone I have ever met.

Getting back to the physical impossibility of missing Philip Seymour Hoffman. As Berlant says it’s the unlearning of things we have to walk around with, and talk with, in order to convince ourselves that the story of we is consistent with this new idea we are trying to incorporate in our various selves. We must modify our speech, our face, our beliefs, before we can modify ourselves. And when that is done, we are just a breath of air in a word or three, a name. And what is that but a picture of a picture, taken before it even was.

Marcus says “Names should be hundreds of pages long. Or perhaps a person’s name is overstated? A little bit wordy? Perhaps a two word name is too much. Maybe I haven’t earned it yet. I don’t know. I find my personal name uncanny and disturbing and wildly inaccurate.”

I’ve always felt more like Gregor Samsa than Ishmael, but that’s just me.

2014 Sundance TIn Type Portraits - Philip Seymour Hoffman

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  1. E.A. Beeson

      1. Every creative writing workshop I ever attended: “The evasion of disputes is a defining tactic of smarm. Smarm, whether political or literary, insists that the audience accept the priors it has been given. Debate begins where the important parts of the debate have ended.”

      2. This guy.

      3. “A man who finds himself among others is irritated because he does not know why he is not one of the others”

      4. Miss Joanne, the woman three doors down, puts most of her energy into tidying the sidewalk in front of her house and the three houses either side of hers. Gutters, stoops, driving strips: the whole nine yards. On any given afternoon she can be seen in a housedress, Roundup®ing anything green that dare break the concrete surface, checking the neutral ground for dog shit, and hunting cracks and creases for cigarette ends. Sometimes, smoking on my stoop at 5 am, I am inspired to flick the butt as far as possible or into a strange corner to give her a challenge. Does Miss Joanne perform work or labor?

      5. Evan Williams Green Label (Ol’ Greensleeves) and NOLA Hopitoulas.

  2. reynard seifert

      1. Yes

      2. Yes!

      3. (See 2)

      4. Miss Joanne is nearly crazy.

      5. Dry ice / I miss New Orleans

      6. Bathroom’s on the left

  3. E.A. Beeson

      Do work son:

      ‘And they come, the family and the village elders, and undress me; a school choir led by the teacher stands before the house and sings an exceedingly simple melody to the words:

      Undress him and then he’ll heal,
      And should he not, then kill him!
      It’s only a doctor, it’s only a doctor.

      Then I’m undressed and look, my fingers in my beard and my head cocked, quietly at the people. I maintain my composure throughout and consider everything, and stay that way, even, but it does nothing, as they take me now by the head and feet and carry me to the bed. They lay me against the wall on the side of the wound. Then they all leave the room; the door is shut; the song dies away; clouds move in front of the moon; the bedclothes are warm around me, the horse heads sway shadow-like in the windows. “Do you know,” I hear spoken into my ear, “my faith in you is very slim. You were simply shaken out from somewhere else, you didn’t come here on your own feet. Instead of helping, you crowd my deathbed. It would be best if I just scratched your eyes out.” “True,” I say. “It is a disgrace. But I am only a doctor. What can I do? Believe me, it’s not easy for me either.” “Should I be satisfied with this excuse? O, but I must always just be satisfied. I came into this world with a pretty wound; it was all I was furnished with.” “Young friend,” I say, “your problem is: you have no perspective. I, who have been in all sickrooms far and wide, say to you: your wound is not so bad. Hewn in a tight angle with two stokes of the axe. Many people offer up their sides and hardly hear the axe in the forest, much less that it is coming closer.” “Is it really so, or are you deceiving me in my fever?” “It is really so, take an official doctor’s word of honor.” And he took it and was still.’

  4. deadgod

      If you can’t say something nice, say something accurate. And if there emerges a competition for ‘accuracy’, if more or less ‘accuracy’ is matter of a struggle for power (as well as a matter of disclosure), good.

      Fun, to think of “snark” as a grease solvent, to be squirted where oleaginous goo thickens and glues impassably.

      But I think a lot of snark isn’t aimed at or catalyzed by smarm (“snark” as a ‘theory of smarm’); sometimes rage and contempt are triggered by other rage/contempt, or by inertia (where Scocca’s idea of “smarm” is of an activity), or–often–by hyped, and therefore egregious, incompetence.

      For me, when it does, snark fails mostly–and most–when it’s inaccurate: when scorn, buoyed by self-righteousness, is factually wrong about its target (or the scornful seems to be faking her or his take).

  5. deadgod

      When one says they “miss” someone, especially someone who’s died young or in productive middle age, what’s indicated is not erasure, but rather, truncation. Not ‘I miss X and don’t have even memories of X.’, but ‘I won’t get to have new experiences with or of that person that, without having expected them specifically, I could reasonably have expected to have had.’. Not ‘I miss Hoffman and his filmed performances have been deleted.’, but ‘I miss Hoffman in the sense that I won’t be able to enjoy performances he could reasonably have been expected to offer.’.

      –as though that person’s yet-to-live works and days were a paining phantom limb of the still-quick.

  6. mimi

      Toni Morrison’s dedication to her novel Sula:

      It is sheer good fortune to miss somebody long before they leave you. This book is for Ford and Slade [her sons], whom I miss although they have not left me.

      She put into words how I feel always toward my own children. Why do I ‘miss’ them so deeply, although they have not ‘left me’? I am fortunate.