Wednesday, December 14, 2011

boundless and contagious

boundless and contagious

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Some time alone

some time alone

Thursday, December 08, 2011

“Enduring trove of wars”

enduring trove of wars

Friday, December 02, 2011

One more time

In my other life
my hands don’t shake.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

And I am a fool

(Some days it’s like this.)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

It is hard to say

it is hard to say folded

Friday, November 18, 2011

In the end

Time is the condition of delightfulness and of perishing both.

— Anne Carson, Eros the Bittersweet

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

APT No. 1, “Republic”

apt 1 october 2011 front and back

“... everybody chicken think they could just walk in my yard, as if my yard is a republic.”
—V.S. Naipaul, The Suffrage of Elvira

Saturday, November 05, 2011

A difficult position

“I can’t quite accept what seems to be a fairly conventional notion of poetry as that which bolsters us up in what we already know. I am less interested in that than in poetry that puts us in a difficult position and makes us think about how things are.”

—Paul Muldoon, quoted in a review of Maggot by Nick Laird, in The New York Review of Books, 23 June, 2011.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The thing is

All I can say is what I can say.
What I can say is all I can say.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Totally / Trusted- / targets’

totally trusted

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Who ever desires what is not gone? No one. The Greeks were clear on this. They invented eros to express it.

— Anne Carson, Eros the Bittersweet

Monday, October 24, 2011

higher states of / jackpot

higher states of jackpot

Sunday, October 23, 2011


yes til no/yes til now 
Ink on card, applied with hand-cut rubber stamps, double-sided.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The map reader

the map reader

Where next? Looking down from the top of the Eugen-Keidel Tower on the summit of Schauinsland, near Freiburg im Breisgau; 5 October, 2011.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011


I am thinking about all the different meanings of “forged”, the first word in the national anthem of Trinidad and Tobago.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The right to question

“[Attorney general Anand] Ramlogan said citizens’ rights are not suspended during a State of Emergency, but rather the police’s powers are bolstered.

“‘It is not that your Constitutional rights are suspended,’ he said.”

— “Cops can arrest without charge”, by Andre Bagoo;
Trinidad and Tobago Newsday
, 23 August, 2011

“Ramlogan said the public’s constitutional rights have not been suspended in the situation.”

— “The war is on ...”, by Gail Alexander;
Trinidad and Tobago Guardian
, 23 August, 2011

Trinidad and Tobago is in a state of emergency, a constitutionally defined legal situation in which basic civil rights may be temporarily curtailed or suspended in the interest of public order and safety. The government says this “very decisive action” is necessary to deal with violent crime and gang activity, which have proliferated alarmingly over the past decade.

This is a strategy some prominent citizens have recommended in the past, and many now agree that drastic action is justified, with two recent murder sprees adduced as evidence that gang-related killings are out of control. The government says the police need additional powers of search, arrest, and detention, and the state of emergency also makes it possible for the Defence Force to exercise police powers. It has also made it possible to declare a nighttime curfew in “hotspot” areas, which include Port of Spain, its closest suburbs, San Fernando, Arima, and Chaguanas.

Ordinary Trinidadians have been most immediately affected by the curfew, which disrupts our daily activities and economic productivity. And the authorities maintain that, the curfew aside (a major aside), “law-abiding” citizens will not be affected by the state of emergency. But this is a deliberate obfuscation of the scope of the Emergency Powers Regulations now in force, which suspend or curtail habeas corpus and our rights to free movement, expression, assembly, association, and privacy — for all citizens, not only “criminal elements”.

“Ramlogan said in the last nine years the country was in an ‘undeclared state of emergency’ and people have used self-imposed curfews to stay safe.”

— “AG vows to make country safe again”, by Renuka Singh;
Trinidad Express
, 22 August, 2011

I have no legal training whatsoever, but I understand this: democracy requires negotiating a balance between individual rights and needs and a community’s common good. Every society grapples with this negotiation in its own way, according to its circumstances, and the process is continuous (because history is restless). This balance is expressed in written laws and unwritten conventions, in which every citizen has a vital interest. In a healthy democracy, citizens recognise and assert this interest, and any change in that balance between individual rights and the common good should be accompanied by vigorous and informed debate. A healthy democracy requires dissent.

It also requires that citizens ask questions. So here are some of mine.

Why is the attorney general — a very smart man and clearly also a smartman, as all lawyers perhaps must be — actively misleading the public about the extent to which the “fundamental rights and freedoms” recognised in section 4 of the constitution have been derogated by the Emergency Powers Regulations? It is simply not true that “the public’s constitutional rights have not been suspended”. Temporarily suspending or limiting constitutional rights — shifting the balance between citizens and authorities — is the whole point of the regulations.

Why did the government declare the state of emergency in the absence of the commissioner of police and his deputy, considering that the Emergency Regulations give the commissioner significant and augmented powers of discretion over citizens’ rights? Whether or not you agree that a foreign citizen should have been appointed commissioner, whether you think he has done a good or bad job, it ought to concern us that the government did not request the commissioner’s immediate return under these extraordinary circumstances.

Why — if the objective of the state of the emergency is to give the police temporary special powers to round up illegal arms and disrupt gang activity — were the Emergency Powers Regulations not drafted more narrowly so as to impinge on as few basic rights as possible? What does a ban on public meetings “held for the purpose of the transaction of matters of public interest or for the discussion of such matters” have to do with rooting out crime? Or a ban on “any document ... likely ... to cause disaffection or discontent among persons”? Many works of literature make me feel disaffected or discontented. Are novels to be confiscated? The regulations are drafted with sufficient breadth that the authorities may forbid almost all forms of expression. Do circumstances really justify such broad powers?

The authorities assure us that the police and Defence Force will operate within strict guidelines and with respect for citizens, and that the state of emergency will last no longer than absolutely necessary. Maybe — I hope — these assurances are reliable. They also say these extreme steps are in the interest of public safety. But I feel dreadfully and profoundly unsafe knowing that so many of my basic civil rights have been derogated, with no certainty about when they will be restored.

These rights only exist because of a hard-won consensus on human nature and our moral obligations to each other that has taken centuries to thrash out — in philosophical treatises, political tracts, and theological texts, in legislation and judicial rulings from many jurisdictions, in confrontations between citizens and their rulers, and in the everyday actions of ordinary people. They can continue to exist only if citizens are vigilant, informed, and unafraid to exercise their duty to ask questions and express dissent to the governments they elect to serve them.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The man who kept a diary of mistakes he was yet to make, accidents yet to take him by surprise. —Hope for the future.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Another brief definition of the novel

Some people are less boring than others.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The rest of my life


Saturday, April 02, 2011

Thursday, March 24, 2011

“What if we asked how we want to read and write?”

Blogs are a received digital format that’s not necessarily well-suited to the rapid exchange of complex intellectual ideas.... They are the accidents of a handful of simple software infrastructures built to allow individuals to update webpages in a diary-like format, but one with no logical end....

I wonder what a writing and discussion system would look like if it were designed more deliberately for the sorts of complex, ongoing, often heated conversation that now takes place poorly on blogs. This is a question that might apply to subjects far beyond philosophy, of course, but perhaps the philosopher’s native tools would have special properties, features of particular use and native purpose. What if we asked how we want to read and write rather than just making the best of the media we randomly inherit, whether from the nineteenth century or the twenty-first?

I wish these were the sorts of questions so-called digital humanists considered, rather than figuring out how to pay homage to the latest received web app or to build new tools to do the same old work. But as I recently argued, a real digital humanism isn’t one that’s digital, but one that’s concerned with the present and the future. A part of that concern involves considering the way we want to interact with one another and the world as scholars, and to intervene in that process by making it happen. Such a question is far more interesting and productive than debating the relative merits of blogs or online journals, acts that amount to celebrations of how little has really changed.

— Ian Bogost, from his post “Beyond Blogs: How do scholars want to read and write?”.

Friday, March 18, 2011


I collapse on a settee and accidentally write three erotic short stories that will be falsely attributed to Michel Houellebecq by Le Monde.

— Perhaps my favourite sentence this week, from David Orr’s “Not At All Unusual Day in Culture”.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

“I was asked to address wedding invitations”

When I was in high school, I chanted Thomas Wolfe and burned as I thought Pater demanded and threatened the world as a good Nietzschean should. Then, at college, in a single day I decided to change my handwriting . . . which meant, I realized later, a change in the making of the words which even then were all of me I cared to have admired. It was a really odd decision. Funny. Strange. I sat down with the greatest deliberation and thought how I would make each letter of the alphabet from that moment on. A strange thing to do. Really strange. And for years I carefully wrote in this new hand; I wrote everything — marginal notes, reminders, messages — in a hand that was very Germanic and stiff. It had a certain artificial elegance, and from time to time I was asked to address wedding invitations, but when I look at that hand now I am dismayed, if not a little frightened, it is so much like strands of barbed wire. Well, that change of script was a response to my family situation and in particular to my parents. I fled an emotional problem and hid myself behind a wall of arbitrary formality. Nevertheless, I think that if I eventually write anything which has any enduring merit, it will be in part because of that odd alteration.

— William Gass, interviewed by Thomas LeClair in The Paris Review, 1977.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Another brief definition of the novel

Things tend to go wrong.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Dozens? hundreds?

The research suggests that 93% of all humanities articles go uncited. Though it is likely impossible to measure, this statistic leads me to wonder how often the typical humanities article is even read. Obviously all articles are read by someone: editors, reviewers, etc. Does the typical humanities article have a readership in the dozens? the hundreds? Certainly not more than that....

It would seem to me that the average academic (or academic journal) seeks to avoid exposure. Publishing an article in the "Journal of narrowly-focused humanities studies" is a good way to hide. Those who do manage to find you will probably be sympathetic. Plus you always have the shield of peer-review: clearly someone thought what you said was ok. Even if someone disagrees with you, the differences will likely be on details that very few people will know or care about. Besides, by the time that person manages to write and publish a response, your article is in the distant past. In any case, this almost never happens. Since 93% of humanities articles are never cited you can safely publish with the assumption that no one will ever mention your article again. Phew!...

To think about such matters from the perspective of assemblage theory, we should be able to see that the material and expressive segments of a journal serve a strong, territorializing function, reaffirming the boundaries of discipline and the identities of participants. Sitting behind a paywall, available primarily through academic libraries, one can be fairly certain that no one will even accidentally encounter the text (and even if they did, the discourse would likely turn them away). There are good reasons for doing this kind of writing, but I would suggest that it is not the only kind of writing humanists should do. On the other hand, the functionality of the blog has a strong, deterritorializing function. It is designed to carry the media away via RSS feeds, to go viral via Twitter and Facebook, and so on. It is public and available via Google. And while its discourse can be variable, and potentially as esoteric as any journal article, the culture of blogging in general invites participation and sharing.

— Alex Reid, “On the value of academic blogging”.

Monday, February 28, 2011

No excuse

I simply don’t understand why anyone engaged in intellectual work should choose to restrict access to their ideas to a privileged audience. Perhaps I feel so strongly about this because I am myself situated outside the academy. I’m not naive — of course I understand that intellectual and indeed creative economies depend in part on people paying for books, journal subscriptions, and so on. But I believe that any scholar whose work is directly or indirectly supported by public funding should feel an ethical obligation to make the products of that work broadly accessible. The obligation is particularly acute in the Caribbean, where excellent libraries and bookshops are few. In the year 2011, anyone who can use a basic word processor can set up a simple website. There’s no excuse for not using the medium to advance the democracy of ideas.

— That’s me, singing an old song, in a conversation with Kelly Baker Josephs (“The Democracy of Ideas”) published in the February 2011 sx salon.

It appears in a special discussion section on “Caribbean Arts and Culture Online”, which also includes contributions by Geoffrey Philp, Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert and Ivette Romero-Cesareo, Frederic Marc, and Edwin STATS Houghton and Rishi Bonneville.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Small / champions

small champions pure and trim

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Les maîtres

Who established the Truths governing Art? Who?
The Masters. They had no right to do so and it is dishonest to concede this power to them.

— Erik Satie, from a text written on the cover of the manuscript notebook for Mort de Socrate.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Tomorrow and the world

Some further thoughts on reading Martin Carter and watching recent events in Egypt, published this week in the CRB.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Notes on Egypt

I switched off Al Jazeera and ignored Twitter for fifteen minutes, trying to get something written, and I missed it. By the time I plugged back in, people were already celebrating in the streets of Cairo.

As I type this, it’s more than three hours since Hosni Mubarak’s resignation-by-proxy. Right now I’m watching and hearing hundreds of thousands of people — millions, for all I know — singing and dancing, waving flags, setting off fireworks and aerosol torches. I am six thousand miles away, and finding it hard to get back to work.

The Wall Street Journal reporter Tamer El-Ghobashy, via Twitter:

soldier, away from crowds, on cell phone, crying: "mom, i want to celebrate with the people"

Martin Carter: “Mankind is breeding heroes every day.”

The Jamaican writer Marlon James, via Facebook:

“I never thought in my lifetime that these words would mean anything to me, but goddamn it, Power To The People.”

Al Jazeera reporter Jamal Elshayyal, on the celebrations in Alexandria:

“... every meaning of the word hope.”

I find myself thinking that the nearest equivalent to this mass euphoria that I’ve ever seen in my own country was when Trinidad and Tobago qualified for the 2006 FIFA World Cup. I ponder this. I think about all the ways that my country is nothing like Egypt. I think about why I’ve been so anxiously, obsessively following events six thousand miles away over the past eighteen days. I think about my own jadedness and alienation from the political realities of my here and now.

I think about Martin Carter’s phrase, “a free community of valid persons,” and its four difficult words. Free. Community. Valid. Persons.

Freedom, community, validity, and personhood are all hard work.

Six thousand miles away, it is hard to get back to work.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The right to the unknown

don't know what will happen. pre #Jan25 I could predict tomorrow will be like today and yesterday, we revolt to gain the right to unkown

— Alaa Abd El Fattah, @alaa
Da, chital

There’s a way in Russian of saying that you’ve read something without specifying that you've completed it. Think about how nice a distinction that would be to have at one’s fingertips! Did you read that book? Yes, I did. (Da, chital, which, I suppose, if you want to get technical, would mean something like, “Yes, I engaged in the activity of reading,” without particular reference to one stage of it or another, especially its completion.)

Russell Scott Valentino, at the Iowa Review blog.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Domesticate the demon

Virginia Woolf has that great line in The Common Reader, that try as we might to read impartially, “there is always a demon in us who whispers, ‘I hate, I love.’” I’ve always hoped that it might be possible to domesticate the demon, and that if we can understand what in us quickens or recoils and why, some larger truth can be extracted — even if it’s just about our own tastes. How do I know if I have accomplished this? I don‘t.

— Parul Sehgal, interviewed by Scott McLemee.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


Only because I am a bad swimmer.

Only because I cannot draw.

Only because I cannot walk a tightrope.

Friday, January 14, 2011

A brief definition of the novel

Some things can be helped, other things can’t be helped.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

In other words

All my best lines are mistakes.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

At the turn of the year

John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman