Monday, June 19, 2006


The original Song Laibach was making fun of.

The Laibach version

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Ukrainian Stamps

Two Good Posts

on the shortcomings of legal education, and

taxation during wartime

"Politicians have chosen to fight without increasing revenue, imposing rationing, or deferring projects and activities...I happen to think that politicians are reluctant to do what needs to be done because they are more concerned about maintaining their position in office...So our national leaders have chosen to put the cost of the current war on our children and grandchildren. "

I am surprised that this idea never occurred to me. Borrowing to finance the war in Iraq is a brilliant move on Bush's part because it keeps us from feeling the true impact of the war. If, as this professor suggests, the cost of the war were taken out of the economy, it would have a drastic effect on our daily lives. If only Ghandi had known - gas rationing will stop a war faster than childish arguments about “death” and “needless suffering.” Take away people’s ability to spend their weekends buying useless shit at the mall and you may have a revolutionary situation. This might be a good strategy for the democratic party, but I doubt they would ever interfere with the American public's ability to shop.

Thursday, June 08, 2006


Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Preliminary Thoughts

I would not want to judge all works of art by how well they “make strange” because doing so would exclude a portion of the art that I enjoy. To judge art in such a manner would be too harsh. Sometimes we like a piece of art because it reminds us of something. I would call this “nostalgia.” We could enjoy a certain kind of movie because it reminds us of the first time the genre made something strange for us, or because the movie reinforces images that we just like to have reinforced. Noir would be my example of this. It is an extremely limited genre, yet it only takes a small variation to make it interesting. L.A. Confidential is a typical noir film, yet it is a great film as well. Ultimately, I would like to use these theories to show that repetitively viewing formulaic movies and sitcoms is a bad thing because they reinforce automization, but by doing so I will be condemning some of my own tastes.

I am fascinated by these views because I think they have implications that extend well beyond literature and poetry. I think we are constantly fighting the process of “automization,” and it is a losing battle. Anything that can make us stop and begin to enjoy and appreciate our existence is invaluable. I think reading this stuff has made me realize why I watch movies, read books, or listen to music. Repetition is painful to me. The same reason why I found answering phones at the Art Museum excruciating is the reason why I cannot abide formulaic action movies. My mind rebels. I remember as a kid my father getting mad at me because every time he took me to play baseball I wanted to make up new games or variations on the game.

Variation also does not have to be extreme. The formalists like to point to a lot of extreme examples such as Trsistam Shandy or Finnegans Wake. While these examples are helpful to describe what the formalists stand for, they are extreme examples that are not the norm. Perhaps the best variations are the subtle ones; the variations that occur almost without us noticing them.

The question I ultimately want answered is whether these theories really can set a standard for what is good art. Am I being a snob by calling out people who can watch the same action movies with different characters over and over again? Is their taste any better or worse than mine?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Makin' Strange

“Shklovsky’s theory of ‘making strange’ the object depicted switched the emphasis from the poetic use of the image to the function of poetic art. The trope was seen here as one of the devices at the poet’s disposal, exemplifying the general tendancy of poetry, indeed all art. The transfer of the object to the sphere of new perception, that is a sui generic “semantic shift” effected by trope, was proclaimed as the principle aim, the raison d’etre of poetry.

“People living at the seashore,” wrote shlovsky, “grow so accustom to the murmur of the waves that they never hear it. By the same token, we scarcely ever hear words which we utter…We look at each other, but we do not see each other anymore. Our perception of the world has withered away, what has remained is mere recognition."

It is this inexorable pull of routine, of habit, that the artist is called upon to counteract. By tearing the object out of its habitual context, by bringing together disparate notions, the poet gives a coup de grace to the verbal cliché and to the stock responses attendant upon it and forces into heightened of things and their sensory texture. The act of creative deformation restores sharpness to our perception, giving density (faktura) to the world around us. “Density is the principle characteristic of this peculiar world of deliberately constructed objects, the totality of which we call art.”

Making strange did not necessarily entail substituting the elaborate for the simple; it could mean just as well the reverse”

“But on the whole, Shklovsky’s argument was more typical of Formalism as a rationale for poetic experimentation than as systematic methodology of literary scholarship. The formalist attempt to solve the fundamental problems of literary theory in close alliance with modern linguistics and semiotics found its most succinct expression in the studies of Roman Jakobson.

‘The function of poetry,’ wrote Jakobsen in 1933, ‘is to point out that the sign is not identical with its referent. Why do we need this reminder? ‘Because’ Jakobsen continued, ‘along with the awreness of the identity of the sign and the referent (A is to A1), we need the consciousness of the inadequacy of this identity (A is not A1); this antinomy is essential, since without it the connection between the sign and the object becomes automatized and the perception of reality withers away.”

Russian Formalism History – Doctrine by Victor Erlich p. 176-181


Остранение - Остранение - выделение того или иного предмета или явления из привычного контекста, чтобы отнестись к нему как к новому, увидеть в нем новые свойства. При учете этого эффекта строил свою концепцию эстетического восприятия Д. Дьюи - . Б. Брехт определял данный эффект следующим образом: ""вещь... из привычной, известной... превращается в особенную, бросающуюся в глаза, неожиданную. Само собой разумеющееся становится непонятным, но это делается лишь для того, чтобы оно стало более понятным"".
Шкловский В.Б. Теория прозы. М., 1925.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Some Semiotics

Views on Literature

Viktor Shklovsky: The devices of art have the central function of "making strange," causing a renewal of perception against the background of the process of automation in which we become used to everyday actions and perceptions.

Yuri Tynyanov – “Theory of Literary Evolution” – Literature is a system whose devices tend to become automated…as a consequence new innovative devices are introduced within the system to guarantee its literariness.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Estate Tax Bullshit

"The mere fact that the prospect of permanently repealing the Estates tax is on the table is deeply troubling enough, and speaks volumes about the current ills of democracy in America. In particular the extent to which a few wealthy families can wield so much political power."


Saturday, June 03, 2006

Moscow Stories - Loren Graham

I finished “Moscow Stories” by Loren Graham today. I picked it up at random at my local public library, which surprisingly stills carries books and not just trashy DVDs. The book seemed to be unexceptional at first glance; an American scientist writes about his experiences in Russia from 1960 to 2005. However, the book turned out to be something more than a tourist mundanely relating his experiences. Graham lived and studied in the Soviet Union at a time when very few people could, and he writes about not only what he saw, but also his friendships at the time, and how those friendships eventually turned out. A interesting story about an amazing life.