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The Radical, Generous Genius of No Life Shaq's "Reaction" Videos

I recently stumbled on an incredible YouTube phenomenon: so-called reaction videos. As the name suggests, people record themselves reacting to something they're experiencing for the first time — a song, tv show, comedy routine. I absolutely love this. It's so seemingly simple, so clean. You witness people reading the world, engaging difference, and seeing what comes.

But it's not that simple, really.  After all, what is more profound, more important, than how we engage difference? If you would, consider for a moment how you come to difference. Most of the time, most people come armed with all sorts of criteria for judgement. I can't date someone who doesn't have a career! Action movies are stupid! I can't stand acoustic guitar in my music! I only like real drums, not drum machines! Who eats that?

As a culture, we actually privilege such an approach. We call it sticking to your guns, being principled, staying true to yourself. But that's just the aggrandizi…
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Pithy Takes on Some Philosophers

At the urging of someone I trust, I am beginning to publish on Medium which, alas, is much more reader-friendly: See here >
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I love the word pith. I also love the experience of pith—brief and dense. I almost wrote quick but pith is often slow, even if short. No doubt, for each of these entries, one could write something else entirely. I don't ever want to be definitive; I want to be exploratory, inviting, proliferating.

These are my takes today, meant to be descriptive rather than poetic, performative, or provocatively interpretive. I do this as an exercise: quickly, how pithy can I be? What do I choose to mention? Perhaps this is more about me than these philosophers but I'm sharing nonetheless.




Friedrich Nietzsche: The great philosopher of joy! A radical affirmation of this life. There is nothing outside of life to ground us—no god, no morality, no truth, nothing that is not in flux. And yet, when freed from the prison of morality, there is nevertheless ethics: Be healthy…

Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" & the Performative Nature of Language & Participating in the Divine in the Very Act of Reading It

"Howl" is a poem I taught for eons as it is such a great way to teach the performative — how language not only says things but does things. I borrow this word, performative, from the philosopher, John Austin who gave an incredible set of lectures that became a book, How to Do Things with Words. I cannot recommend Austin's book more ardently. 

In fact, I'm not sure how anyone makes sense of language — or teaches anything that's written or spoken — without Austin's book. One of the problems I faced when teaching, and continue to face when trying to interact with other human beings in the world, is that most people don't have the figure of the performative in their vocabulary. We are explicitly taught to examine texts for what they say — for their content. We talk about themes and ideas and characters. But we're never taught to examine how texts say what they say and the various things they do in the very act of being uttered — they way they choreograph…

Towards a Politics of the Ecstatic (a verbal essay)

Some thoughts on a government and political discourse that doesn't seek to legislate the good or the profit motive but seeks to create the conditions of the ecstatic. This is different than the pleasure the present capitalist-corporate-state legislates and facilitates. I am interested not in pleasure per se but in enjoyment — in the slow, internal permeation of the self. So rather than a system that focuses on the conditions of profit to buy pleasure, I am interested in a system that focuses on creating time that facilitates enjoyment — and, alas, the ecstatic.
This is a true essay, a try, a reaching with reference to Nietzsche's energetics of saying Yes and No along with some Marcuse and some thoughts and experiences I've had lo these past 50 years. Indulge me, if you would. Or not.

Writing is Beautifully Weird

Habit blinds us. The things we do of course — in the literal sense — are the things we don't notice. Sure, we may appreciate them. But we don't reckon them. For once we do, things get disorienting. To wit, if you think too much about sleep, sleep becomes truly strange — and then it becomes difficult to sleep.

This is what's happening right now with my writing. I have reckoned my own practice of writing now and again. In fact, I started this blog over 10 years ago as a way to experiment with tone, style, form, content. And I wrote a novel as a way to eject me from the precious pedantry of academese. But, through all that, I haven't really reckoned writing per se. The act remained the act, even if my style and practice changed.

But the fact is writing is odd. There's the awe-inspiring magic of it all: I inscribe these marks and thereby conjure mood and meaning, humor and belief, desire. This fact alone is enough to humble me, to make me tremble before I inscribe ev…

Writing, Chaos, Remembering, Forgetting

A writer's will is the winds of dead calm in the Western Lands. Point way out he can start stirring of the sail. Writer, where are you going? To write. Here we are in texts already written on the sky. Where he doesn't need to write anymore. A slight seismic with the cat book. Always remember, the work is the mainsail to reach the Western Lands. The texts sing. Everything is grass and bushes, a desert or a maze of texts. Here you are ... never use the same door twice. Sky in all directions ... on the word for word. The word for word is word. The western sail stirs candles on 1920 country club table. Each page is a door to everything is permitted. The fragile lifeboat between this and that. Your words are the sails. -  WS Burroughs

I just sat down to write about how my thinking these days has been less, well, ardent. Pointed. Didactic. I think things only to have said things open up their own radical doubt, their own dispersion and eventual effacement — thoughts in quic…

The Peculiar & Conspicuous Lack of Writing Pedagogy

It suddenly occurs to me that, as a country and culture, we spend shockingly little time teaching — or learning — about language. We teach 14 year olds how to do algebra; we make them memorize Newton's First Law; we sometimes give them a basketball to play with. But we don't teach them about the performative nature of language, the role of rhythm in communication, the manifold ways a piece of writing can be structured. Nor do we teach them how to reckon such things, how to be critical readers of their environment or themselves. These kids might learn some arbitrary grammatical rules and some ludicrous technique for doing a "report." But they are never exposed in any concerted way to the joy, complexity, and mechanics of language — which they use all day every day! But they'll know how to "do" negative exponents (without understanding why)? Really?

My son, a freshman in public high school in San Francisco — a rich and "enlightened" city, we t…