PIZZA IS AN ASSEMBLAGE, in the philosophical sense that it is a collection of individually discrete items, brought together and consisting of a unified whole, that can be understood at many levels simultaneously—grouped ingredients and whole-of-dish. It exists as the platonic ideal of a round, baked flatbread with toppings, as a process of putting-together, as the embodied final outcome which is this evening’s dinner, and as mistake: incorrect pizzas with inauthentic aspects make Italians mad. I make dough, I put ingredients on it, I bake it, I photograph it for my neglected blog; at which point has the pizza come into being?


What I'm Reading: 'the problem of coming up with suggestions for alternate ways to be'

On Heteropessimism, in the New Inquiry (by Indiana Seresin):

Quite often framed as an anti-capitalist position, heteropessimism could be read as a refusal of the “good life” of marital consumption and property ownership that capitalism once mandated. Yet this good life, which was always withheld from marginalized populations, is now untenable for almost everyone. If the couple was the primary consumer unit of the past, today this has collapsed, or more accurately been replaced by a new dyad, the individual consumer and her phone…
…As we are living now, when privilege unravels it goes out kicking and screaming, and people lose confidence in how to be together, uncertain about how to read each other, and incompetent about even their own desire…

It seems, though unacknowledged, a companion piece to Amia Srinivasan’s Does Anyone Have The Right To Sex? in the 22 March 2018 edition of the LRB.

It is striking, though unsurprising, that while men tend to respond to sexual marginalisation with a sense of entitlement to women’s bodies, women who experience sexual marginalisation typically respond with talk not of entitlement but empowerment. Or, insofar as they do speak of entitlement, it is entitlement to respect, not to other people’s bodies…

Finally, a pair of articles on Achewood, my own problematic fave, by Keith Pille (discussed in a lengthy thread at Metafilter): The Complicated, Slightly Better Manhood of Achewood, and Ray Smuckles: Nobody’s Role Model.

Hemingway’s books serve as vivid indictments of what we now frame as toxic masculinity (I think Hemingway knew that something was bad about what society expected from men, but was too trapped in his own time and culture to be able to formulate it in an explicit way, instead just sort of accidentally smearing a composite portrait through his entire body of work). The same thing is going on in Achewood, except with a touch more intentionality and with a little bit of progress on the problem of coming up with suggestions for alternate ways to be.


Achewood smell jokes

RUNNING FROM 2001 TO 2016, more or less, Chris Onstad’s webcomic Achewood was one of the more remarkable cultural artefacts of the 2000s web. While a lot of it hasn’t aged well, there are other elements to it that remain incredibly powerful (the Michael Jackson strip from 2009 manages to sit in both columns). Roast Beef’s depression and anxiety, which are played on as subjects for jokes, are also treated far more seriously and humanely than in far ‘better’ works of literature. It’s completely internally inconsistent, surreal, some of it’s over-written, and ought to sit with the greats of Americana.

At a fundamental level I am an immature person and have always appreciated an under-recognised part of Achewood’s running humour—jokes based on the sense of smell.

'Smells like someone sauteéd a racoon'

'What's that smell? Did you ride the bus today?'

'It's like I'm being stung by Marlboro Lights'

'You smell like six asses. What happened to you?'

'His lavatory mists evoke tripe boiled in bourbon...

'It smells like someone's working on ac car'

The fart joke is one of the standards of comic writing, and should be treated as fundamental to literature as a 12-bar blues riff is to music.


What I'm Reading (late August)

THE AMERICAN AFFAIRS JOURNAL was at least until quite recently a safe haven for political ideas of the American conservative-establishment Right and was ambivalent, at best, about the election of Donald Trump. It smells of cigars, well-heated offices, and careers full of sinecures.

A pair of articles in its most recent edition, though, show the kind of sharp swing to the left normally associated with a football winger, stepping inside a defender to pass. The italics are mine:

The Financialisation Of The American Elite:

Many structural reforms are necessary to change this. With regard to education, it is time to reform the top MBA programs. These schools shape our business culture, and, in so doing, exert an outsized influence on the business practices and the career pursuits of some of our most talented young people.
The schools should begin with an explicit renunciation of share­holder capitalism. This will be the easy part.

The New Gilded Age Or Old Normal:

The longer-term trend toward more inequality in capitalist economies, which prevailed before this period, has re­sumed after it. That leads us to conclude that there may well be no technocratic or tax policy fix for capitalism’s tendency to generate ever more inequality. This conclusion is obviously less optimistic than the one reached by Thomas Piketty in his seminal 2014 study of income inequality, which argues for ameliorating income share out­comes by raising taxes on the rich.

Irving Kristol, the neoconservative, famously described the turn of his intellectual life as that of a ‘liberal mugged by reality’. Read closely and there’s a lot more mugging going on.


What I'm reading (August)

HERE IS A PAIR of articles by Will Davies, both on Brexit, but both also on a broader sense in which negotiation and politics are now strangers to each other.

England’s new rentier alliance

This suggests that Johnson/Farage is a symptom of prolonged financialisation, in which capital pulls increasingly towards unproductive investments, relying on balance sheet manipulation, negative interest rates and liquidity for its returns (aided substantially by quantitative easing over the past decade). To put that more starkly, these are seriously morbid symptoms, in which all productive opportunities have already been seized, no new ideas or technologies are likely, and no new spheres of social or environmental life are left to exploit and commodify.

Leave, and Leave Again

For the time being, Britain appears to be heading towards one of two negatives: ‘no deal’ or ‘no Brexit’. The inability to convert Brexit into an agreed set of tolerable policies tells us something crucial about what sort of thing Brexit is: an ideal of withdrawal that is at odds with basic realities of government and politics.


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