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“Austrian Death Machine” [!!!! – grow up – Eds.]
Who is Your Daddy, and What Does He Do? [A question frequently asked by California state employees – Ed.]

When I was a little boy, I went to Grand Rapids with my family; there was a department store there like no other I had ever visited, and I had been to the various varieties of Macy’s (at that time, solamente NY and SF); fascinating fixtures outside, ovoid elegance within, delicious food of a type not available at the Battle Creek mall or Abraham and Strauss or even Gourmet Gulch. I thought to myself, what a strangely cosmpolitan place this city on the east bank of the uninviting Lake Michigan is — the wooden paneling of the Chicago rail terminal was a piece of alte Amerika shit, one’s learning about faits worse than Sheetrock, comparatively.

Then we went back a year later, and we couldn’t go to the department store; we went to the Gerald Ford Museum, an imposing building all of steel, where we learned what there was to know about the great man who somehow unmade Nixon without killing him stone dead or dying in such a “process”. Have I seen that again, molybdenum of the mind stronger than GENERAL MOTORS HEADQUARTERS? In Cheeelay, in Argentin, in Brazil amongst the erotetic mulatos and the straightforward outros. No, of course not; but yes, I ever have, and plus I never will. The “silent majority” knows whereof it cannot speak; and I don’t know about Grand Rapids, a place I was, supposedly in my country, in the ’80s, with the killer clown in chief.

For charity: one of Heidegger’s better books is the four-volume set on Nietzsche. It is told that when it was originally published by Klostermann, with “heidegger” and “nietzsche” written in lower-case letters in an obscure arrangement, it was difficult for the German reader to tell whether it was a book by Heidegger on Nietzsche or a book by Nietzsche on Heidegger; whatever, but Heidegger’s real strengths were in the history of philosophy and he is actually systematically critical of the Wille zur Macht, which somebody forgot to tell him was not a systematic work amenable to penetrating analysis.

The point on which I most fully agree with Heidegger’s analysis is his assessment of Nietzsche’s — and the rest of the Victorian world’s — focus on “values” as nihilistic:

Even in our first elucidation of nihilism, we took our impetus from the fact that the name and concept nihilism intends thought about Being, although Nietzsche consistently understands nihilism in terms of valuative thought. Although the question about the being as such and as a whole was and is the guiding question of all metaphysics, thinking about values came to predominate decisively in metaphysics only recently, and did so only through Nietzsche, in such a way that metaphysics henceforth took a decisive turn toward the fulfillment of its essence.

Partly as a result of Nietzsche’s influence, the academic philosophy of the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries became a “philosophy of value” and “phenomenology of value.” Values themselves appeared to be things in themselves, which one might arrange into “systems.” Although tacitly rejecting Nietzsche’s philosophy, one rummaged through Nietzsche’s writings, especially Zarathustra, for such values. Then, “more scientifically” than the “unscientific philosopher-poet” Nietzsche, one organized them into an “ethics of value”.

When we discuss valuative thought in this lecture course, we are referring exclusively to Nietzsche’s metaphysics. Around the turn of the century, one branch of neo-Kantianism, associated with the names Windelband and Rickert, described itself as “philosophy of value” in a rather narrow and academic sense. The lasting service of the movement is not its “philosophy of value” but its attitude — remarkable for its time — which preserved and handed down a trace of authentic knowledge about the essence of philosophy and philosophical inquiry against the onslaught of scientific “psychology” and “biology,” supposedly the only valid “philosophies.” But this stance, which was “traditional” in a good sense, nonetheless prevented the “philosophy of value” from thinking through valuative thought in its metaphysical essence; that is, prevented the movement from really taking nihilism seriously. The movement believed it could elude nihilism by means of a return to Kantian philosophy, but this return was merely a retreat before nihlism and a refusal to look into the abyss it covers.

Heidegger, Nietzsche, vol. 4 “European Nihilism”, pp. 59-60, trans. David Farell Krell

In other words, a focus on “human values” as the foundation of metaphysics is the purest nihilism: they are defined in opposition to what merely is, and if they are its fundament than what merely is is not. For an alternative, consider a reading of Nietzschean elements in Sein und Zeit: following on from his early work, in that book Heidegger took a special interest in the problematic of die Welt, “the world”. According to Heidegger, the world is what we encounter all entities within, and through this commerce Dasein is revealed to itself.

I think a useful and entertaining way for the American to think about Heidegger’s Welt is through a consideration of the sport of football, and metaphors derived thereof. Deriving from rugby, football is about physical and organizational perfection: only the strongest and fittest men get to play football, and they must work together flawlessly. [NB: although I will leave the history and theory of “The Bus” to another, let me suggest that Flavor Flav’s comment re: the Super Bowl “We got a black quarterback, so step back” is both an expression of black pride and an implicit critique.]

Do sporting Americans like football? Well, not really: the action eats the players up worse than owner games, and you know, some of us are not totally without ressentiment. However, the reality of football is that it expresses the imperatives of American corporate life: from the steel-industry logo to New York’s fabled Meadowlands, football expresses the best in American life because it’s kind of got to be that way. The connection to Heidegger? Well, he presumably was not without a certain amount of skepticism regarding the motives of German corporations, but if there is a “critical-theoretic” point to be wrested from Division I, Chapter III it is that die Welt, the sharpness and definition of our individuation of “objects” all kinds comes into existence through an agency other than our own: and if it becomes too much at some point, perhaps there is some use for nihilistic “revaluation”.

Let us now approach the subject from another standpoint. Everyone knows that a drunken man will develop “stupid” desires and that he will perform “stupid” actions. His will acts in a different manner from that of the sober man; the reason is to be found in alcoholic poisoning. Simply introduce a certain quantity of alcohol into the human organism, and the “divine will” begins to indulge in pranks that will surprise the saints. The reason is obvious.

Nikolai Bukharin, Historical Materialism: A System of Sociology

Unfortunately, I must beg to differ with Comrade Bukharin on this point, especially when it comes to rum, the liquor made entirely and only from cane sugar. Rum is a good drink; rum is the best drink, since unlike vodka there is no “neat” message to the product and it is, of course, delicious. What is a good rum? One that has not been ruined by extraneous items, such as spices and the solicitousness of liquor producers towards people they do not genuinely feel for. Contrary to general opinion, there is no red rum; so, have a gay drink.

mays

Although I don’t usually write on the “sociology of sport”, a thought came to my mind yesterday traveling through North Portland: perhaps the great baseball player Willie Mays was nicknamed The “Say Hey” Kid because he, like a white baller, returned baseball to its roots: to not mince words, bats predated baseball and were only later applied to tiny round objects by strong men of dubious origin. More seriously, he was a phenomenon whose play and persona said a lot about the sport — so much so that eventually he had to go away, except in the minds of Bay Area residents.

products_jarritos

Summer is definitely in full swing — it takes a while here, as countless stories of ruined Oregon Fourth of July street-fireworks shows attest — and keeping cool is a good idea for anyone. One of my favorite summer items is a Mexican soft drink, and I’ll tell you why. Unlike contemporary US pop, Mexican soft drinks are made with cane sugar and not corn syrup (which I personally find can give me kind of an unpleasant head-rush).

In Oregon many stores sell Mexican versions of popular US soft drinks like Coke and 7-Up, but there are also Mexican-only drinks that are quite wonderful: I’m particularly fond of the Jarritos line of fruit soft drinks which is pictured above, especially the tamarind flavor (for those that don’t know, tamarind is a tropical fruit grown the world over; the flavor is akin to “orange”). I would also like to dispel two possible concerns about such items. Firstly, the swine flu scare is over — no medical wisdom today, though — and furthermore Mexican bottled drinks are quite intentionally very sanitary.

Secondly, if you’re saying “We don’t have those around here, though” and you live in the continental United States, you are wrong. My advice: go have one.

(That Is, So I Can’t Ride It)

I leave Washington County, where I have lived “on and off” for twenty-two years, today; I’m a little bummed out, since I haven’t even gotten a chance to ride the Westside Express Service, the westside suburbs’ new commuter rail line. Running on short-line trackage originally built by the old Oregon Electric interurban company, the line uses DMU (Diesel Multiple Unit) cars between Beaverton and Wilsonville from 6 to 10 in the morning and 4 to 8 in the evening; as with the Portland Streetcar, a valid Tri-Met fare will cover the ride.

There are three stops in between: at the Cascade Plaza “big-box” stores opposite Washington Square, the Tigard Transit Center, and downtown Tualatin. If service is eventually ramped-up (though getting people out of their motorcars and into the railcars manufactured by Tri-Met’s bankrupt supplier may be tricky), WES could very well provide an environmentally friendly “arterial” for Washington County — in lieu of the much-debated and often-shelved “Western Bypass” freeway from Wilsonville to Hillsboro.

[The portion of the MAX Green Line being built from Gateway to Clackamas Town Center along I-205 may do the same for the Eastside, but in my opinion the “viewsheds” are decidedly superior out here; as “Penn Central” riders once knew, rail only works if people care, and sometimes it’s too hard to.]

Walter Reuther at the time of the March on Washington

“Chrysler believes there is no reason for withholding complete riding comfort from those who desire the utmost in motoring. Naturally, the basic changes that so definitely influence complete riding comfort are not made at low cost. They cannot be included in all cars in all price groups. But, for you who prefer motor cars that are wholly apart from the commonplace, Chrysler offers for 1934, the utterly distinctive, Floating Ride Airflow Chrysler.”

1934-Chrysler-Airflow(Geddes-and-Breer)

“There will be nothing to disturb the smoothness of its tear-drop silhouette as it cuts through the air”

Raymond Loewy, “The Evolution of the Motor Car”, Advertising Arts, March 1934, p.39 (quoted in Meikle, Twentieth Century Limited: Industrial Design in America, 1925-1939)

Joseph P. Kamp, Join the CIO and Help Build a Soviet America: A Factual Narrative, Consitutional Education League: New Haven, CT, 1937

Thought for the day: cheesesteaks in The Provinces are made with provolone. However, in modern Philadelphia cheesesteaks are served with some version of Cheese Whiz. In other words, the “authentic” product is more inauthentic, and the inauthentic product more authentic.

If you’re like me (although the premise of most of your lives is that you rather aren’t), you have some trouble with foreign languages. The Rosetta Stone program, which features Sesame Street-style object/word pairings, has its fans among the gente and the expert alike: however, its cost and restrictive licensing make it an unattractive option for the cash-poor (and another premise of most of your lives is that you rather are). Following Thorstein Veblen’s advice to “look at the letters until they make sense” eventually pays off, but the time-frame may be unacceptable for someone with places to go and things to do.

Alternative choice for the “intermediate” language-learner: listenlive.eu, which has streaming web radio from various European countries (I searched around for a world counterpart, but although Internet presences for, e.g., Chinese TV exist outside of the G8 connections get sticky). Although Saussure was frequently ridiculed during the era of post-structuralism for insisting on “the only bond, the bond of sound” being the fundamental key to a language, learning the actual morphophonemic “state-space” of the language — which you can unlock by checking the foreign version of the day’s events against the version in your ever-dwindling local newspaper — can’t hoit.