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David Auerbach on literature, tech, film, etc.



Last Build Date: Mon, 04 Dec 2017 19:16:09 +0000

 



Trump Diary 13: Kill the Poor

Thu, 30 Nov 2017 17:52:38 +0000

Which Congressional representative is scariest? The Hack: votes to cut health insurance for millions in order to please donors, party elders, and constituents. The True Believer: votes to cut health insurance for millions on the belief that deregulation and the free market will lower prices so that all will be insured for even less. The Paranoid […] Related posts:
  1. Trump Diary 7: March 14, 2017
  2. Trump Diary 10: Everybody Hates Trump
  3. Trump Diary 12: Postponement of Reality



Trump Diary 12: Postponement of Reality

Mon, 16 Oct 2017 04:46:40 +0000

Four months on, I’m surprised by how little seems to have changed. There have been a number of news cycles, yet the patterns that were set in place by April or May have played out without too much alteration in the underlying dynamics. For the news, this means alternating cycles of “Trump has done something […] Related posts:
  1. Trump Diary 7: March 14, 2017
  2. Trump Diary 10: Everybody Hates Trump
  3. Trump Diary 2: January 24, 2017



Twin Peaks Finale: A Theory of Cooper, Laura, Diane, and Judy

Thu, 07 Sep 2017 05:41:00 +0000

I thought Twin Peaks: The Return went far deeper than the original series. I wrote this prediction before the premiere about how Twin Peaks: The Return would function: I expect the new season to be about “Twin Peaks”–not the town, but the show itself. The new season will wrap itself around the old show rather than continuing the plot. Still, […] Related posts:
  1. Birthday Cheer from Laura Riding
  2. David Lynch’s Inland Empire: hypotheses and spoilers
  3. An Interview with Lisa Samuels on Laura Riding and Poetry (Part 1)



Trump Diary 11: May Day

Tue, 13 Jun 2017 07:40:03 +0000

The 2017 British election was a real duck-rabbit–an ambiguous event that admits two incompatible interpretations, one loosely pro-Trump, one anti-Trump. I’m wary of extrapolating from it to what might lie ahead for the US, but the pratfall of PM Theresa May and the unlikely success of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is too important to be […] Related posts:
  1. Trump Diary 10: Everybody Hates Trump
  2. Trump Diary 7: March 14, 2017
  3. Trump Diary 2: January 24, 2017



Trump Diary 10: Everybody Hates Trump

Fri, 19 May 2017 17:41:01 +0000

It’s safe to say the pseudonormalization of Trump has stopped, at least for a while.  The moment Trump fired Comey, DC immediately returned to the frantic hysteria of the first month of the administration.  Trump, who thought that Comey’s firing would be welcomed by even the Democrats, shattered the illusion that he might be able […] Related posts:
  1. Trump Diary 7: March 14, 2017
  2. Trump Diary 3: January 28, 2017
  3. Trump Diary 2: January 24, 2017



Trump Diary 9: Black Blocs and U-locks

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 21:42:12 +0000

In the previous diary I wrote about the pseudonormalization of Trump over the last month. What I gave was only half of the story.  I didn’t explore the sheer significance of the administration’s marginalization of Steve Bannon. Bannon’s demotion and marginalization is indeed a key part of what allows the pseudonormalization of Trump. But the reasons […] Related posts:
  1. Trump Diary 1: January 23, 2017
  2. Trump Diary 2: January 24, 2017
  3. Trump Diary 3: January 28, 2017



Trump Diary 8: Pseudonormalization Prevails

Sat, 22 Apr 2017 06:57:38 +0000

How quick we are to move from “Trump is evil, dangerous, and incompetent” to “I trust him to conduct war operations against Syria.” — David Auerbach (@AuerbachKeller) April 6, 2017 How far we are from a month ago. One of the reasons I started writing these entries, and probably the main reason, was because I […] Related posts:
  1. Trump Diary 10: Everybody Hates Trump
  2. Trump Diary 7: March 14, 2017
  3. Trump Diary 1: January 23, 2017



Why Social Construction Is True

Sun, 02 Apr 2017 02:29:11 +0000

The term “social construction” and its cousin “cultural construction” get casually tossed around a lot these days. Sometimes it’s used negatively, as a pejorative way of referring to those damn relativistic lefties. Sometimes it’s used approvingly, as a potted rejection of someone else’s position by saying, “Oh, that’s just your truth.” Either way, there’s almost […] Related posts:
  1. Is Social Science a Joke?
  2. The Authority of Obscurity: Fludd, Hamann, Heidegger, Kripke
  3. Robespierre the Incorruptible, Robespierre the Daemonic



Trump Diary 7: March 14, 2017

Wed, 15 Mar 2017 01:15:57 +0000

Donald Trump’s business pattern is to leave behind a burnt-out husk where a viable institution once stood. With the audacious but messy moves of the first month out of the way (the travel ban chief among them), Trump is reverting to form. The State Department is running a barely-functioning ghost crew, with Tillerson invisible. This […] Related posts:
  1. Trump Diary 2: January 24, 2017
  2. Trump Diary 5: Feburary 15, 2017
  3. Trump Diary 1: January 23, 2017



Trump Diary 6: February 21, 2017

Wed, 22 Feb 2017 00:31:14 +0000

Milo Yiannopoulos’ fatal flaw was being English. I’ll explain. I’m breaking my No Milo policy because while I maintain that Milo Yiannopoulos functions as a decoy to distract his opponents from things of actual importance, the story of his downfall is of some importance for understanding the state of the Republican coalition today. Beginning with a tweet from […] Related posts:
  1. Trump Diary 4: February 2, 2017
  2. Trump Diary 1: January 23, 2017
  3. Trump Diary 7: March 14, 2017



Trump Diary 5: Feburary 15, 2017

Wed, 15 Feb 2017 08:03:28 +0000

Michael Flynn (office 9 in the above pic) resigned under pressure yesterday. The supposed reason being given is that he repeatedly lied to VP Pence about not having discussed sanctions with the Russians last year. Who knows if this is true? Firing Flynn makes Trump look doubly weak, first for having trusted him in the […] Related posts:
  1. Trump Diary 7: March 14, 2017
  2. Trump Diary 1: January 23, 2017
  3. Trump Diary 2: January 24, 2017



Trump Diary 4: February 2, 2017

Thu, 02 Feb 2017 21:32:03 +0000

The White House backed off. That, at least, is the major takeaway from the chaos that followed the incompetently-drafted, ambiguous, and massively overreaching travel ban issued late last Friday. (Many left orgs are still calling it a Muslim ban, which is too imprecise. It applies to Muslim-majority countries, but there’s no religious test. Precision counts […] Related posts:
  1. Trump Diary 6: February 21, 2017
  2. Trump Diary 3: January 28, 2017
  3. Trump Diary 1: January 23, 2017



Trump Diary 3: January 28, 2017

Sat, 28 Jan 2017 21:38:54 +0000

The other shoe has dropped. The travel and reentry ban issued by the White House on Friday has pushed the US into new and unstable territory. That sudden escalation made me reflect on how we got here. I considered my evolving mindset over the last week, particularly the strange disjunction between Trump’s oblivious narcissism and […] Related posts:
  1. Trump Diary 2: January 24, 2017
  2. Trump Diary 1: January 23, 2017
  3. Trump Diary 7: March 14, 2017



Trump Diary 2: January 24, 2017

Tue, 24 Jan 2017 17:58:18 +0000

I don’t expect to be writing every day, but things are flowing fast and I started a few days behind the inauguration. Trump specializes in generating noise, and making it difficult to sort out what noise is important. This works to his benefit to obscure his executive actions, which already include a partial freeze of […] Related posts:
  1. Trump Diary 1: January 23, 2017
  2. Trump Diary 3: January 28, 2017
  3. Trump Diary 7: March 14, 2017



Trump Diary 1: January 23, 2017

Mon, 23 Jan 2017 17:51:12 +0000

In the tradition of Victor Klemperer, I’m beginning a series of posts on the Trump era, not because I judge myself so much more perceptive than other commentators, but because I think there is a need for some kind of chronicle that is neither news-based nor analysis-based, but just a series of reflections as events […] Related posts:
  1. Trump Diary 2: January 24, 2017
  2. Trump Diary 3: January 28, 2017
  3. Trump Diary 7: March 14, 2017



David Auerbach’s Books of the Year 2016

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 23:07:07 +0000

2016 was a year of chaos for me as it was for many others. This list is provisional rather than a source of eternal endorsements. No, I did not read all of Anwar Sheikh’s Capitalism, but what I did read seemed serious and substantive enough to make it worthy of mention. Despite the inconsistencies of John […] Related posts:
  1. David Auerbach’s Books of the Year 2015
  2. Books of the Year 2013
  3. Books of the Year 2012



Georg Simmel’s Philosophy of Money: 6. The Style of Life

Thu, 22 Dec 2016 20:16:31 +0000

Is money a means or an end? If any purpose we may pursue can be quantified by monetary value, what effect does that have on the meaning of that purpose? We use money as an abstract intermediary to achieving a certain, more concrete ends, but those ends in turn lose their absolute, incomparable value by […] Related posts:
  1. Georg Simmel’s Philosophy of Money: 5. The Money Equivalent of Personal Values
  2. Georg Simmel’s Philosophy of Money: 4. Individual Freedom
  3. Georg Simmel’s Philosophy of Money: 3. Money in the Sequence of Purposes



Georg Simmel’s Philosophy of Money: 5. The Money Equivalent of Personal Values

Fri, 02 Dec 2016 06:50:31 +0000

Simmel’s theme has now been firmly established: the “unconditional interchangeability” of money, and how in making incompatible value sets commensurable, it calls into question all positions of absolute value. Anything that has a price holds relative value to everything else with a price, by definition. And the ultimate unit of value, that of money itself, has no intrinsic […] Related posts:
  1. Georg Simmel’s Philosophy of Money: 4. Individual Freedom
  2. Georg Simmel’s Philosophy of Money: 3. Money in the Sequence of Purposes
  3. Georg Simmel’s Philosophy of Money: An Introduction



Inga Clendinnen: Ambivalent Conquests

Fri, 30 Sep 2016 14:44:26 +0000

The great anthropologist Inga Clendinnen recently passed away. I had greatly enjoyed her speculative yet rigorous The Aztecs: An Interpretation, which was an audacious attempt to get inside the social and ritual processes of the Mexica (Clendinnen’s preferred and more accurate term for those commonly called the Aztecs) around the time of the 16th century. Clendinnen […] Related posts:
  1. New Horizons in the History of the Crusades
  2. Lucan’s Civil War: Fortune, Fate, and Caesar



David Auerbach’s Books of the Year 2015

Sun, 03 Jan 2016 17:59:40 +0000

I was dissatisfied with my 2015 reading. A number of projects and situations contrived to cut down my reading time drastically, and so this list feels even more provisional than most years, a grab-bag of things that stood out for me stood out for me personally rather than a considered ranking. I think in a […] Related posts:
  1. David Auerbach’s Books of the Year 2016
  2. Books of the Year 2013
  3. Books of the Year 2012



Georg Simmel’s Philosophy of Money: 4. Individual Freedom

Sat, 10 Jan 2015 17:52:55 +0000

Having discussed money’s central role in (a) reconciling incompatible value systems and (b) putting quantifiable and comparable numbers on every element of those systems, Simmel finishes the first “analytic” half of The Philosophy of Money and moves on to the “synthetic part.” Having exhausted his exploration of the very concept of money, he now expands outward […] Related posts:
  1. Georg Simmel’s Philosophy of Money: 5. The Money Equivalent of Personal Values
  2. Georg Simmel’s Philosophy of Money: 3. Money in the Sequence of Purposes
  3. Georg Simmel’s Philosophy of Money: An Introduction



Books of the Year 2014

Sat, 27 Dec 2014 19:40:18 +0000

I had less time for reading this year than I would have liked. When I selected Drago Jancar’s haunting and beautiful The Tree with No Name for Slate’s Overlooked Books, it was still with the knowledge that I’d read a lot less fiction than I’d wanted. And Antal Szerb’s excellent, though modest Journey by Moonlight is a […] Related posts:
  1. Books of the Year 2013
  2. Books of the Year 2012
  3. David Auerbach’s Books of the Year 2015



A Conversation with Janice Lee

Sun, 21 Dec 2014 00:01:22 +0000

Janice Lee is an American writer, artist, editor, programmer, and generally well-rounded intellectual. We discussed her recent book Damnation and its influences from the work of Hungarian director Bela Tarr and writer Laszlo Krasznahorkai (responsible for the film Damnation), the difficulties of being an “American” writer and what that even means, the grim brilliance of Hungarian culture, and the […] Related posts:
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  2. Bela Tarr: Satantango
  3. Bela Tarr: Satantango [2]



Georg Simmel’s Philosophy of Money: 3. Money in the Sequence of Purposes

Thu, 16 Oct 2014 06:11:09 +0000

To review: in the first two chapters, Simmel established money’s capacities to (a) make incommensurable systems of values commensurable, and (b) dissolve meaning through a process of universalizing abstraction. He reviews the Kantian analysis of the second chapter: What one might term the tragedy of human concept formation lies in the fact that the higher concept, […] Related posts:
  1. Georg Simmel’s Philosophy of Money: An Introduction
  2. Georg Simmel’s Philosophy of Money: 5. The Money Equivalent of Personal Values
  3. Georg Simmel’s Philosophy of Money: 2. The Value of Money as a Substance



Georg Simmel’s Philosophy of Money: 2. The Value of Money as a Substance

Fri, 19 Sep 2014 03:54:02 +0000

Having laid the philosophical groundwork for the conception of money, Simmel’s second chapter provides, loosely speaking, a genealogy of money, showing that as money is introduced into a barter economy, it gradually loses any specific character as it swells to encompass and merge distinct notions of value. Money becomes a totalizing, unifying substance, reifying the […] Related posts:
  1. Georg Simmel’s Philosophy of Money: 3. Money in the Sequence of Purposes
  2. Georg Simmel’s Philosophy of Money: An Introduction
  3. Georg Simmel’s Philosophy of Money: 1. Value and Money



The Black Pushkin and The Blackamoor of Peter the Great

Fri, 22 Aug 2014 21:37:02 +0000

Alexander Pushkin was descended from Ibrahim Gannibal (1696-1781), a black page kidnapped and brought back from “Lagon” in Africa–possibly either in modern-day Cameroon or Ethiopia. Given as a gift to Peter the Great, the emperor became Ibrahim’s godfather and brought him up as a noble with education and responsibility. Ibrahim became a captain in the […] Related posts:
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  2. Robert Musil: Black Magic
  3. Alexander Kluge and Peter Watkins



Georg Simmel’s Philosophy of Money: 1. Value and Money

Sat, 16 Aug 2014 05:45:06 +0000

[Continuing from my Introduction to Simmel’s Philosophy of Money.] The first part (of six) of Simmel’s Philosophy of Money is the most abstract and the most philosophical. The whole book never quite descends to earth, but it’s at the beginning that he comes closest to Kantian transcendental-style arguments about how the categories of value affect our cognition […] Related posts:
  1. Georg Simmel’s Philosophy of Money: An Introduction
  2. Georg Simmel’s Philosophy of Money: 3. Money in the Sequence of Purposes
  3. Georg Simmel’s Philosophy of Money: 2. The Value of Money as a Substance



Georg Simmel’s Philosophy of Money: An Introduction

Mon, 04 Aug 2014 02:49:47 +0000

Sociologist Georg Simmel published his magnum opus, The Philosophy of Money, in 1900 in Germany. Drawing on Kant, Marx, and Weber among many, many others, the book has Simmel’s singular style that separates him from pretty much every other sociologist that has ever lived. The closest analogue I know might be C. Wright Mills in his […] Related posts:
  1. Georg Simmel’s Philosophy of Money: 3. Money in the Sequence of Purposes
  2. Georg Simmel’s Philosophy of Money: 1. Value and Money
  3. Georg Simmel’s Philosophy of Money: 2. The Value of Money as a Substance



Oil on Water, by Helon Habila

Sun, 13 Jul 2014 04:59:12 +0000

After I finished Helon Habila’s great Oil on Water, I was disappointed by its reviews. They wouldn’t have convinced me to read the novel, since they treated Oil on Water as only the sum total of its political, post-colonial, and racial content. Bernadine Evaristo, who has nothing to say about Habila’s language or characters, wrote, “Oil on […] Related posts:
  1. Samuel Delany: The Motion of Light in Water



Robert Sheckley’s “Warm” and P. F. Strawson’s Objective Attitude

Fri, 13 Jun 2014 04:27:37 +0000

Sci-fi great Robert Sheckley‘s “Warm” is one of his more flat-out horror stories, comparatively free of the sardonic cynicism that usually marks his fiction. It’s even got a bit in common with the Lovecraft formula of the man exposed to unfortunate knowledge that drives him mad. The gnosis here, though, isn’t any sort of secret otherness that […] Related posts:
  1. Huw Price on Robert Brandom
  2. Brian Barry on Robert Nozick
  3. Robert Musil on Oswald Spengler