Welcome to Bookmarker!

This is a personal project by @dellsystem. I built this to help me retain information from the books I'm reading.

Source code on GitHub (MIT license).

19

2.7 I’d met Madison, as I’ve already mentioned, two months earlier, in Budapest. I’d been at a conference. She’d been there with some girlfriends. We’d got talking in the hotel bar. An anthropologist, she’d said; that’s … exotic. Not at all, I’d replied; I work for an incorporated business, in a basement. Yes, she said, but … But what? I asked. Dances, and masks, and feathers, she eventually responded: that’s the essence of your work, isn’t it? I mean, even if you’re writing a report on workplace etiquette, or how to motivate employees or whatever, you’re seeing it all through a lens of rituals, and rites, and stuff. It must make the everyday all primitive and strange—no? I saw what she was getting at; but she was wrong. For anthropologists, even the exotic’s not exotic, let alone the everyday. In his key volume Tristes Tropiques, Claude Lévi-Strauss, the twentieth century’s most brilliant ethnographer, describes pacing the streets, all draped with new electric cable, of Lahore’s Old Town sometime in the nineteen-fifties, trying to piece together, long after the event, a vanished purity—of local colour, texture, custom, life in general—from nothing but leftovers and debris. He goes on to describe being struck by the same impression when he lived among the Amazonian Nambikwara tribe: the sense of having come “too late”—although he knows, from having read a previous account of life among the Nambikwara, that the anthropologist (that account’s author) who came here fifty years earlier, before the rubber-traders and the telegraph, was struck by that impression also; and knows as well that the anthropologist who, inspired by the account that Lévi-Strauss will himself write of this trip, shall come back in fifty more will be struck by it too, and wish—if only!—that he could have been here fifty years ago (that is, now, or, rather, then) to see what he, Lévi-Strauss, saw, or failed to see. This leads him to identify a “double-bind” to which all anthropologists, and anthropology itself, are, by their very nature, prey: the “purity” they crave is no more than a state in which all frames of comprehension, of interpretation and analysis, are lacking; once these are brought to bear, the mystery that drew the anthropologist towards his subject in the first place vanishes. I explained this to her; and she seemed, despite the fact that she was drunk, to understand what I was saying. Wow, she murmured; that’s kind of fucked.

enjoyed this

—p.19 by Tom McCarthy 7 months, 1 week ago

2.7 I’d met Madison, as I’ve already mentioned, two months earlier, in Budapest. I’d been at a conference. She’d been there with some girlfriends. We’d got talking in the hotel bar. An anthropologist, she’d said; that’s … exotic. Not at all, I’d replied; I work for an incorporated business, in a basement. Yes, she said, but … But what? I asked. Dances, and masks, and feathers, she eventually responded: that’s the essence of your work, isn’t it? I mean, even if you’re writing a report on workplace etiquette, or how to motivate employees or whatever, you’re seeing it all through a lens of rituals, and rites, and stuff. It must make the everyday all primitive and strange—no? I saw what she was getting at; but she was wrong. For anthropologists, even the exotic’s not exotic, let alone the everyday. In his key volume Tristes Tropiques, Claude Lévi-Strauss, the twentieth century’s most brilliant ethnographer, describes pacing the streets, all draped with new electric cable, of Lahore’s Old Town sometime in the nineteen-fifties, trying to piece together, long after the event, a vanished purity—of local colour, texture, custom, life in general—from nothing but leftovers and debris. He goes on to describe being struck by the same impression when he lived among the Amazonian Nambikwara tribe: the sense of having come “too late”—although he knows, from having read a previous account of life among the Nambikwara, that the anthropologist (that account’s author) who came here fifty years earlier, before the rubber-traders and the telegraph, was struck by that impression also; and knows as well that the anthropologist who, inspired by the account that Lévi-Strauss will himself write of this trip, shall come back in fifty more will be struck by it too, and wish—if only!—that he could have been here fifty years ago (that is, now, or, rather, then) to see what he, Lévi-Strauss, saw, or failed to see. This leads him to identify a “double-bind” to which all anthropologists, and anthropology itself, are, by their very nature, prey: the “purity” they crave is no more than a state in which all frames of comprehension, of interpretation and analysis, are lacking; once these are brought to bear, the mystery that drew the anthropologist towards his subject in the first place vanishes. I explained this to her; and she seemed, despite the fact that she was drunk, to understand what I was saying. Wow, she murmured; that’s kind of fucked.

enjoyed this

—p.19 by Tom McCarthy 7 months, 1 week ago
26

I wrote about all this. It made me famous—relatively speaking. Let’s not get carried away. A famous anthropologist, even one with a real book out, is about as well-known as a third-division footballer. No, less: let’s say an Olympic badminton player, or a reality-TV contestant from an unpopular show five years ago. And come to think of it, I’m even exaggerating the degree of fame my study brought me in my own field, let alone the world of letters. Rather than “made me famous,” it would be more accurate to say that the book “garnered me some attention”—the odd public reading, the odd newspaper review; and, as they say, tomorrow’s fish (unlike ichthyomancers) can’t read. It was enough attention, though, to bring me onto Peyman’s radar, there to beep, or throb, or do whatever things on radars do; which, in turn, prompted him to pluck me from the dying branches of academia and re-graft me inside the febrile hothouse of his company.

—p.26 by Tom McCarthy 7 months, 1 week ago

I wrote about all this. It made me famous—relatively speaking. Let’s not get carried away. A famous anthropologist, even one with a real book out, is about as well-known as a third-division footballer. No, less: let’s say an Olympic badminton player, or a reality-TV contestant from an unpopular show five years ago. And come to think of it, I’m even exaggerating the degree of fame my study brought me in my own field, let alone the world of letters. Rather than “made me famous,” it would be more accurate to say that the book “garnered me some attention”—the odd public reading, the odd newspaper review; and, as they say, tomorrow’s fish (unlike ichthyomancers) can’t read. It was enough attention, though, to bring me onto Peyman’s radar, there to beep, or throb, or do whatever things on radars do; which, in turn, prompted him to pluck me from the dying branches of academia and re-graft me inside the febrile hothouse of his company.

—p.26 by Tom McCarthy 7 months, 1 week ago
32

[...] I stole a concept from the French philosopher Deleuze: for him le pli, or fold, describes the way we swallow the exterior world, invert it and then flip it back outwards again, and, in so doing, form our own identity. I took out all the revolutionary shit (Deleuze was a leftie); and I didn’t credit Deleuze, either. Big retail companies don’t want to hear about such characters. I did the same thing with another French philosopher, Badiou: I recycled his notion of a rip, a sudden temporal rupture, and applied it, naturally, to tears worn in jeans, which I presented as the birth-scars of their wearer’s singularity, testaments to the individual’s break with general history, to the successful institution of a personal time. I dropped the radical baggage from that, too (Badiou is virtually Maoist). This pretty much set up the protocol or MO I’d deploy in my work for the Company from then on in: feeding vanguard theory, almost always from the left side of the spectrum, back into the corporate machine. The machine could swallow everything, incorporate it seamlessly, like a giant loom that reweaves all fabric, no matter how recalcitrant and jarring its raw form, into what my hero would have called a master-pattern—or, if not that, then maybe just the pattern of the master.

—p.32 by Tom McCarthy 7 months, 1 week ago

[...] I stole a concept from the French philosopher Deleuze: for him le pli, or fold, describes the way we swallow the exterior world, invert it and then flip it back outwards again, and, in so doing, form our own identity. I took out all the revolutionary shit (Deleuze was a leftie); and I didn’t credit Deleuze, either. Big retail companies don’t want to hear about such characters. I did the same thing with another French philosopher, Badiou: I recycled his notion of a rip, a sudden temporal rupture, and applied it, naturally, to tears worn in jeans, which I presented as the birth-scars of their wearer’s singularity, testaments to the individual’s break with general history, to the successful institution of a personal time. I dropped the radical baggage from that, too (Badiou is virtually Maoist). This pretty much set up the protocol or MO I’d deploy in my work for the Company from then on in: feeding vanguard theory, almost always from the left side of the spectrum, back into the corporate machine. The machine could swallow everything, incorporate it seamlessly, like a giant loom that reweaves all fabric, no matter how recalcitrant and jarring its raw form, into what my hero would have called a master-pattern—or, if not that, then maybe just the pattern of the master.

—p.32 by Tom McCarthy 7 months, 1 week ago
33

[...] While my supposed business, my “official” function, as a corporate ethnographer, was to garner meaning from all types of situation—to extract it, like a physicist distilling some pure, unadulterated essence out of common-mongrel compounds, or a miner drawing gold ore from deep within the earth’s bowels—I sometimes allowed myself to think that, in fact, things were precisely the other way round: that my job was to put meaning in the world, not take it from it. Divining, for the benefit of a breakfast-cereal manufacturer, the social or symbolic role of breakfast (what fasting represents, the significance of breaking it); establishing for them some of the primary axes shaping the way in which the practice of living is, or might be, carried out; and watching the manufacturer then feed that information back into their product and its packaging as they upgraded and refined these, I understood the end-result to be not simply better-tasting cereal or bigger profits for the manufacturer, but rather meaning, amplified and sharpened, for the millions of risers lifting cereal boxes over breakfast tables, tipping out and ingesting their contents. Helping a city council who were thinking of creating parks and plazas but had yet to understand the ethnographic logic driving such an act; laying out for them the history of public (as opposed to private) space, making them grasp what these zones fundamentally embody, what’s at play in them from a political and structural and sacred point of view; and doing this in such a way that this whole history is then injected back into the squares, sports-fields and playgrounds millions of citizens will then inhabit—same thing. Down in my office, stirred and lulled by ventilation, I would picture myself as some kind of nocturnal worker, like those men who go out and repair the roads, or check the points and switches on the railway tracks, or carry out a range of covert tasks that go unnoticed by the populace-at-large, but on which the latter’s well-being, even survival, is dependent. While the city sleeps, bakers are baking bread in night-kitchens, milkmen are loading crates onto their floats; and river-men are dredging riverbeds or checking water-levels, while other men in buildings with nondescript exteriors track storm surges and spring- and neap-tides on their screens, and activate the flood defences when this becomes necessary. When the populace-at-large wakes up, they just see the milk there on their doorstep, and the fresh bread in the shop down the street, and the street itself still there, unflooded, un-tsunamied from existence; and they take it all for granted, where in fact these men have put the milk and bread there, and have even, in deploying the flood defences, put the city there as well, put it back there every time they deploy them. That’s what I was doing, too, I told myself. The world functioned, each day, because I’d put meaning back into it the day before. You didn’t notice that I put it there because it was there; but if I’d stopped, you’d soon have known it.

—p.33 by Tom McCarthy 7 months, 1 week ago

[...] While my supposed business, my “official” function, as a corporate ethnographer, was to garner meaning from all types of situation—to extract it, like a physicist distilling some pure, unadulterated essence out of common-mongrel compounds, or a miner drawing gold ore from deep within the earth’s bowels—I sometimes allowed myself to think that, in fact, things were precisely the other way round: that my job was to put meaning in the world, not take it from it. Divining, for the benefit of a breakfast-cereal manufacturer, the social or symbolic role of breakfast (what fasting represents, the significance of breaking it); establishing for them some of the primary axes shaping the way in which the practice of living is, or might be, carried out; and watching the manufacturer then feed that information back into their product and its packaging as they upgraded and refined these, I understood the end-result to be not simply better-tasting cereal or bigger profits for the manufacturer, but rather meaning, amplified and sharpened, for the millions of risers lifting cereal boxes over breakfast tables, tipping out and ingesting their contents. Helping a city council who were thinking of creating parks and plazas but had yet to understand the ethnographic logic driving such an act; laying out for them the history of public (as opposed to private) space, making them grasp what these zones fundamentally embody, what’s at play in them from a political and structural and sacred point of view; and doing this in such a way that this whole history is then injected back into the squares, sports-fields and playgrounds millions of citizens will then inhabit—same thing. Down in my office, stirred and lulled by ventilation, I would picture myself as some kind of nocturnal worker, like those men who go out and repair the roads, or check the points and switches on the railway tracks, or carry out a range of covert tasks that go unnoticed by the populace-at-large, but on which the latter’s well-being, even survival, is dependent. While the city sleeps, bakers are baking bread in night-kitchens, milkmen are loading crates onto their floats; and river-men are dredging riverbeds or checking water-levels, while other men in buildings with nondescript exteriors track storm surges and spring- and neap-tides on their screens, and activate the flood defences when this becomes necessary. When the populace-at-large wakes up, they just see the milk there on their doorstep, and the fresh bread in the shop down the street, and the street itself still there, unflooded, un-tsunamied from existence; and they take it all for granted, where in fact these men have put the milk and bread there, and have even, in deploying the flood defences, put the city there as well, put it back there every time they deploy them. That’s what I was doing, too, I told myself. The world functioned, each day, because I’d put meaning back into it the day before. You didn’t notice that I put it there because it was there; but if I’d stopped, you’d soon have known it.

—p.33 by Tom McCarthy 7 months, 1 week ago
47

The Company’s logo was a giant, crumbling tower. It was Babel, of course, the old biblical parable. It embodied one of Peyman’s signature concepts. Babel’s tower, he’d say, is usually taken to be a symbol of man’s hubris. But the myth, he’d carry on, has been misunderstood. What actually matters isn’t the attempt to reach the heavens, or to speak God’s language. No: what matters is what’s left when that attempt has failed. This ruinous edifice (he’d say), which serves as a glaring reminder that its would-be occupants are scattered about the earth, spread horizontally rather than vertically, babbling away in all these different tongues—this tower becomes of interest only once it has flunked its allotted task. Its ruination is the precondition for all subsequent exchange, all cultural activity. And, on top of that, despite its own demise, the tower remains: you see it there in all the paintings—ruined, but still rising with its arches and its buttresses, its jagged turrets and its rusty scaffolding. What’s valuable about it is its uselessness. Its uselessness sets it to work: as symbol, cipher, spur to the imagination, to productiveness. The first move for any strategy of cultural production, he’d say, must be to liberate things—objects, situations, systems—into uselessness. I read this for the first time, long before I worked for him, in Creative Review; then later, with slight variations, in Design Monthly, Contemporary Business Journal and Icon.

good exposition example

—p.47 by Tom McCarthy 7 months, 1 week ago

The Company’s logo was a giant, crumbling tower. It was Babel, of course, the old biblical parable. It embodied one of Peyman’s signature concepts. Babel’s tower, he’d say, is usually taken to be a symbol of man’s hubris. But the myth, he’d carry on, has been misunderstood. What actually matters isn’t the attempt to reach the heavens, or to speak God’s language. No: what matters is what’s left when that attempt has failed. This ruinous edifice (he’d say), which serves as a glaring reminder that its would-be occupants are scattered about the earth, spread horizontally rather than vertically, babbling away in all these different tongues—this tower becomes of interest only once it has flunked its allotted task. Its ruination is the precondition for all subsequent exchange, all cultural activity. And, on top of that, despite its own demise, the tower remains: you see it there in all the paintings—ruined, but still rising with its arches and its buttresses, its jagged turrets and its rusty scaffolding. What’s valuable about it is its uselessness. Its uselessness sets it to work: as symbol, cipher, spur to the imagination, to productiveness. The first move for any strategy of cultural production, he’d say, must be to liberate things—objects, situations, systems—into uselessness. I read this for the first time, long before I worked for him, in Creative Review; then later, with slight variations, in Design Monthly, Contemporary Business Journal and Icon.

good exposition example

—p.47 by Tom McCarthy 7 months, 1 week ago
85

The article kept mentioning “faith.” Skydivers are induced into and graduate up through a world in which faith plays a fundamental role. They must believe in their instructors; in the equipment; in the staff packing their rigs; in tiny ring-pulls, clips and clip-releases, strips of canvas, satin, string. It could be argued, wrote the author, that this belief had nothing of the devotional or metaphysical about it, since each of the things to be believed in had a solid evidential underpinning: the mechanics of a ripcord, say, or a spring-loaded riser—or, of course, on a larger scale, the overall infallibility of physics, its laws of resistance, drag and so on. Yet, he claimed, these things could only carry one so far towards a gaping hole in a plane’s side, and the fundamentally counterintuitive act of throwing oneself through it: to cite the clichéd but apt maxim, they could take the horse to water, but they couldn’t make it drink. That final spur, the one that carried skydivers across the threshold, out into the abyss, was faith: faith that it all—the system, in its boundless and unquantifiable entirety—worked, that they’d be gathered up and saved. For this man, though, the victim, that system, its whole fabric, had unraveled. That, and not his death, was the catastrophe that had befallen him. We’re all going to die: there’s nothing so disastrous about that, nothing in its ineluctability that undermines the structure of our being. But for the faith, the blind, absolute faith into whose arms he had entrusted his existence, from whose mouth he’d sought a whispered affirmation of its very possibility—for that to suddenly be plucked away: that must have been atrocious. He’d have looked around him, seen the sky, and earth, its landmass and horizon, all the vertical and horizontal axes that hold these together, felt acceleration and the atmosphere and all the rest, the fundamental elements in which we hang suspended all the time, whether we’ve just jumped from an aeroplane or not—and yet, for him, this realm, with all its width and depth and volume, would have, in an instant, become emptied of its properties, its values. The vast font at which he prayed, and into which he sank, as though to re-baptize himself, time and again, would, in the blink of a dilated eye, have been voided of godhead, rendered meaningless. Space, even as he plunged into it, through it, would have retreated—recoiled, contracted, pulled back from its frontiers even though these stayed intact—withdrawn to some zero-point at which it flips into its negative. Negative world, negative sky, negative everything: that’s the territory this man had entered. Did that then mean he’d somehow fallen through into another world, another sky? A richer, fuller, more embracing one? I don’t think so.

—p.85 by Tom McCarthy 7 months, 1 week ago

The article kept mentioning “faith.” Skydivers are induced into and graduate up through a world in which faith plays a fundamental role. They must believe in their instructors; in the equipment; in the staff packing their rigs; in tiny ring-pulls, clips and clip-releases, strips of canvas, satin, string. It could be argued, wrote the author, that this belief had nothing of the devotional or metaphysical about it, since each of the things to be believed in had a solid evidential underpinning: the mechanics of a ripcord, say, or a spring-loaded riser—or, of course, on a larger scale, the overall infallibility of physics, its laws of resistance, drag and so on. Yet, he claimed, these things could only carry one so far towards a gaping hole in a plane’s side, and the fundamentally counterintuitive act of throwing oneself through it: to cite the clichéd but apt maxim, they could take the horse to water, but they couldn’t make it drink. That final spur, the one that carried skydivers across the threshold, out into the abyss, was faith: faith that it all—the system, in its boundless and unquantifiable entirety—worked, that they’d be gathered up and saved. For this man, though, the victim, that system, its whole fabric, had unraveled. That, and not his death, was the catastrophe that had befallen him. We’re all going to die: there’s nothing so disastrous about that, nothing in its ineluctability that undermines the structure of our being. But for the faith, the blind, absolute faith into whose arms he had entrusted his existence, from whose mouth he’d sought a whispered affirmation of its very possibility—for that to suddenly be plucked away: that must have been atrocious. He’d have looked around him, seen the sky, and earth, its landmass and horizon, all the vertical and horizontal axes that hold these together, felt acceleration and the atmosphere and all the rest, the fundamental elements in which we hang suspended all the time, whether we’ve just jumped from an aeroplane or not—and yet, for him, this realm, with all its width and depth and volume, would have, in an instant, become emptied of its properties, its values. The vast font at which he prayed, and into which he sank, as though to re-baptize himself, time and again, would, in the blink of a dilated eye, have been voided of godhead, rendered meaningless. Space, even as he plunged into it, through it, would have retreated—recoiled, contracted, pulled back from its frontiers even though these stayed intact—withdrawn to some zero-point at which it flips into its negative. Negative world, negative sky, negative everything: that’s the territory this man had entered. Did that then mean he’d somehow fallen through into another world, another sky? A richer, fuller, more embracing one? I don’t think so.

—p.85 by Tom McCarthy 7 months, 1 week ago
96

8.12 Later that evening I sat down, once more, to plot the framework of my Great Report. The clearing I’d made on my desktop was still there, untouched and un-encroached-on—save by a small, dead moth whose corpse had landed there after whatever parachute it had put its faith in had failed. I swept it aside; and, once again, the space was pristine, perfect, blank. Tabula rasa: I pronounced the words aloud as I surveyed the leather, breathing in its smell of cut grass and detergent. Just sitting before it, above it, filled me with a sense of infinite possibility. I pictured myself as an industrialist, viewing a clearing in the forest where his factory would go; or as an urban planner, given carte blanche to design from scratch a new, magnificent cosmopolis; a mathematician, a topologist or trigonometrist, contemplating space in its most pure and abstract form; an explorer, sea-discoverer, world-conqueror from centuries gone by, standing at his prow as his dominion-to-be hove into view: this virgin territory that he would shape after himself and make his own. Placing my laptop in the middle—the exact, geometric centre—of this clearing, I opened a fresh document and stretched its borders out until it filled my screen entirely. As I did this, though, just as the document’s expanding lower boundary reached the bottom of my screen, my finger momentarily lost contact with the glide-pad; when the finger made contact again, it caused the applications docked invisibly at the screen’s base to pop up, impinging on the clean neutrality both of the screen and of my mind. Trying to hide them once more, I accidentally tapped on the docked news page, which slipped from its box, inflating as it rose, like some malicious genie, taking the screen over—and in an instant, all the extraneous clutter, all the world-debris, that I’d so painstakingly eliminated flooded back into the clearing, ruining it.

amazing

—p.96 by Tom McCarthy 7 months, 1 week ago

8.12 Later that evening I sat down, once more, to plot the framework of my Great Report. The clearing I’d made on my desktop was still there, untouched and un-encroached-on—save by a small, dead moth whose corpse had landed there after whatever parachute it had put its faith in had failed. I swept it aside; and, once again, the space was pristine, perfect, blank. Tabula rasa: I pronounced the words aloud as I surveyed the leather, breathing in its smell of cut grass and detergent. Just sitting before it, above it, filled me with a sense of infinite possibility. I pictured myself as an industrialist, viewing a clearing in the forest where his factory would go; or as an urban planner, given carte blanche to design from scratch a new, magnificent cosmopolis; a mathematician, a topologist or trigonometrist, contemplating space in its most pure and abstract form; an explorer, sea-discoverer, world-conqueror from centuries gone by, standing at his prow as his dominion-to-be hove into view: this virgin territory that he would shape after himself and make his own. Placing my laptop in the middle—the exact, geometric centre—of this clearing, I opened a fresh document and stretched its borders out until it filled my screen entirely. As I did this, though, just as the document’s expanding lower boundary reached the bottom of my screen, my finger momentarily lost contact with the glide-pad; when the finger made contact again, it caused the applications docked invisibly at the screen’s base to pop up, impinging on the clean neutrality both of the screen and of my mind. Trying to hide them once more, I accidentally tapped on the docked news page, which slipped from its box, inflating as it rose, like some malicious genie, taking the screen over—and in an instant, all the extraneous clutter, all the world-debris, that I’d so painstakingly eliminated flooded back into the clearing, ruining it.

amazing

—p.96 by Tom McCarthy 7 months, 1 week ago
100

9.2 Talks were limited to fifteen minutes each. The other speakers’ PowerPoint presentations moved with sub-second precision from one image to the next as they talked with evangelic zeal of neuroscience, genomics, bio-informatics and a dozen other concepts currently enjoying their moment in the sun. When my turn came, I didn’t have any slides or clips. I started by saying that The Contemporary was a suspect term. Better to speak, I proposed, of a moving ratio of modernity: as we straddle the dual territories of a present that, despite its directional drive, is slipping backwards into past, and a future that will always remain notional, we’re carried through a constantly mutating space in which modernity itself is no more than a credo in the process of becoming “dated,” or at least historical. The term epoch, I informed my listeners, originally meant “point of view,” as in the practice of astronomy; only later, I said, did it start being used to organize the world into fixed periods. This latter use, I argued, was misguided. Instead of making periodic claims which, since they can’t be empirically justified, only produce an infinite regress of detail and futile quibbling over boundaries and definitions, we should return to understanding epoch as a place from which one looks at things. From that perspective, I went on—the perspective of shifting perspectives—we can still pose the question of the difference introduced by one day, one year, one decade, in relation to another. To understand that question fully, though (I concluded), what we require is not contemporary anthropology but rather an anthropology of The Contemporary. Ba-boom: that was my “out.” My talk was met with silence, then, when my audience realized that I’d finished, a smattering of polite clapping. No one approached me to discuss it afterwards. Later that evening, in the “wet” or Turkish sauna, I recognized one of the other delegates. He recognized me too, but broke off eye-contact immediately before slipping away into the steam.

oh my god

—p.100 by Tom McCarthy 7 months, 1 week ago

9.2 Talks were limited to fifteen minutes each. The other speakers’ PowerPoint presentations moved with sub-second precision from one image to the next as they talked with evangelic zeal of neuroscience, genomics, bio-informatics and a dozen other concepts currently enjoying their moment in the sun. When my turn came, I didn’t have any slides or clips. I started by saying that The Contemporary was a suspect term. Better to speak, I proposed, of a moving ratio of modernity: as we straddle the dual territories of a present that, despite its directional drive, is slipping backwards into past, and a future that will always remain notional, we’re carried through a constantly mutating space in which modernity itself is no more than a credo in the process of becoming “dated,” or at least historical. The term epoch, I informed my listeners, originally meant “point of view,” as in the practice of astronomy; only later, I said, did it start being used to organize the world into fixed periods. This latter use, I argued, was misguided. Instead of making periodic claims which, since they can’t be empirically justified, only produce an infinite regress of detail and futile quibbling over boundaries and definitions, we should return to understanding epoch as a place from which one looks at things. From that perspective, I went on—the perspective of shifting perspectives—we can still pose the question of the difference introduced by one day, one year, one decade, in relation to another. To understand that question fully, though (I concluded), what we require is not contemporary anthropology but rather an anthropology of The Contemporary. Ba-boom: that was my “out.” My talk was met with silence, then, when my audience realized that I’d finished, a smattering of polite clapping. No one approached me to discuss it afterwards. Later that evening, in the “wet” or Turkish sauna, I recognized one of the other delegates. He recognized me too, but broke off eye-contact immediately before slipping away into the steam.

oh my god

—p.100 by Tom McCarthy 7 months, 1 week ago
134

[...] around this time, my attitude not only to the Great Report but also towards Koob-Sassen underwent a sea-change. I started seeing the Project as nefarious. Sinister. Dangerous. In fact, downright evil. Worming its way into each corner of the citizenry’s lives, re-setting (“re-configuring”) the systems lying behind and bearing on virtually their every action and experience, and doing this without their even knowing it … I started picturing it, picturing its very letters (the K a body-outline, the Ss folds of cloak, the hyphen a dagger hidden between these), slinking up staircases in the night while people slept, a silent assassin. That’s how I started seeing it. I couldn’t, at first, put my finger on a particular aspect or effect of it, nor on a specific instigator or beneficiary, that was itself inherently and unambiguously bad. But after a while I started telling myself that it was precisely this that made it evil: its very vagueness rendered it nefarious and sinister and dangerous. In not having a face, or even body, the Project garnered for itself enormous and far-reaching capabilities, while at the same time reducing its accountability—and vulnerability—to almost zero. What was to criticize, or to attack? There was no building, no Project Headquarters or Central Co-ordination Bureau. What person, then? The Minister with Shoes? She was no evil mastermind; she had no greater overview of the whole Project than I did. Her immediate boss, a man whose intellectual capacities (like all aristocrats, he was inbred) were held in almost open contempt by even his own cabinet members? The Project was supra-governmental, supra-national, supra-everything—and infra- too: that’s what made it so effective, and so deadly. I continued to ponder these things even as I laboured on, week-in, week-out, to help usher the Project into being, to help its first phase go live; and as I did, the more I pondered, ruminated, what you will, the more thoughts of this nature festered."

—p.134 by Tom McCarthy 7 months, 1 week ago

[...] around this time, my attitude not only to the Great Report but also towards Koob-Sassen underwent a sea-change. I started seeing the Project as nefarious. Sinister. Dangerous. In fact, downright evil. Worming its way into each corner of the citizenry’s lives, re-setting (“re-configuring”) the systems lying behind and bearing on virtually their every action and experience, and doing this without their even knowing it … I started picturing it, picturing its very letters (the K a body-outline, the Ss folds of cloak, the hyphen a dagger hidden between these), slinking up staircases in the night while people slept, a silent assassin. That’s how I started seeing it. I couldn’t, at first, put my finger on a particular aspect or effect of it, nor on a specific instigator or beneficiary, that was itself inherently and unambiguously bad. But after a while I started telling myself that it was precisely this that made it evil: its very vagueness rendered it nefarious and sinister and dangerous. In not having a face, or even body, the Project garnered for itself enormous and far-reaching capabilities, while at the same time reducing its accountability—and vulnerability—to almost zero. What was to criticize, or to attack? There was no building, no Project Headquarters or Central Co-ordination Bureau. What person, then? The Minister with Shoes? She was no evil mastermind; she had no greater overview of the whole Project than I did. Her immediate boss, a man whose intellectual capacities (like all aristocrats, he was inbred) were held in almost open contempt by even his own cabinet members? The Project was supra-governmental, supra-national, supra-everything—and infra- too: that’s what made it so effective, and so deadly. I continued to ponder these things even as I laboured on, week-in, week-out, to help usher the Project into being, to help its first phase go live; and as I did, the more I pondered, ruminated, what you will, the more thoughts of this nature festered."

—p.134 by Tom McCarthy 7 months, 1 week ago
137

12.7 I visited Petr in hospital again. The worst thing about dying, he told me as I sat between his bed and the smudged windows, is that there’s no one to tell about it. What do you mean? I asked. Well, he said, throughout my life I’ve always lived significant events in terms of how I’ll tell people about them. What I mean is that even during these events I would be formulating, in my head, the way that I’d describe them later. Ah, I tried to tell him: that’s a buffering probl … but Petr wasn’t listening. The dying want to impart, not imbibe. When I was eighteen and I found myself in Berlin the day the Wall fell, he went on, as I watched the people streaming over, clambering up on it, hacking it down, I was rehearsing how to recount it all to friends after I got back home. I watched the people sitting on the wall, chipping at it with their chisels, and the guards standing around not knowing what to do … That’s what I was thinking, he said, what was running through my head, right in the moment that I watched them chiseling and chipping. Same as when I saw the shootout in Amsterdam. What shootout? I said. Didn’t I ever tell you about that? he asked. No, I answered. I found myself caught in the middle of a shootout between Russian gangsters as I came out of a restaurant, he explained. They were all firing from behind lamp-posts, dustbins, cars and so on, and I ducked into an alleyway and one of them was right there with me, holding this huge pistol, a gold one, which he balanced on the back of one hand as he shot it with the other. Wow, I said. Yes, Petr nodded—but the point is, that even as I cowered behind this gangster in this alleyway, I was practicing relating the episode when it was over. He had a huge pistol—a gold one, no less! And he balanced it like this … and it recoiled like that … Or: I was just ten feet away from him … I thought that he might turn his gun on me, but he ignored me … Trying out different ways of telling it, you see? Well, now, I’m about to undergo the mother, the big motherfucker, of all episodes—and I won’t be able to dine out on it! Even if there turns out to be a Heaven or whatever, which there won’t—but even if there does, I still won’t be able to, since everyone else there will have lived through the same episode, i.e., dying, and they’ll all go: So what? That’s boring. We know all that shit. So it’s lose-lose. Do you see my quandary? Yes, I said; I see that could be a problem.

—p.137 by Tom McCarthy 7 months, 1 week ago

12.7 I visited Petr in hospital again. The worst thing about dying, he told me as I sat between his bed and the smudged windows, is that there’s no one to tell about it. What do you mean? I asked. Well, he said, throughout my life I’ve always lived significant events in terms of how I’ll tell people about them. What I mean is that even during these events I would be formulating, in my head, the way that I’d describe them later. Ah, I tried to tell him: that’s a buffering probl … but Petr wasn’t listening. The dying want to impart, not imbibe. When I was eighteen and I found myself in Berlin the day the Wall fell, he went on, as I watched the people streaming over, clambering up on it, hacking it down, I was rehearsing how to recount it all to friends after I got back home. I watched the people sitting on the wall, chipping at it with their chisels, and the guards standing around not knowing what to do … That’s what I was thinking, he said, what was running through my head, right in the moment that I watched them chiseling and chipping. Same as when I saw the shootout in Amsterdam. What shootout? I said. Didn’t I ever tell you about that? he asked. No, I answered. I found myself caught in the middle of a shootout between Russian gangsters as I came out of a restaurant, he explained. They were all firing from behind lamp-posts, dustbins, cars and so on, and I ducked into an alleyway and one of them was right there with me, holding this huge pistol, a gold one, which he balanced on the back of one hand as he shot it with the other. Wow, I said. Yes, Petr nodded—but the point is, that even as I cowered behind this gangster in this alleyway, I was practicing relating the episode when it was over. He had a huge pistol—a gold one, no less! And he balanced it like this … and it recoiled like that … Or: I was just ten feet away from him … I thought that he might turn his gun on me, but he ignored me … Trying out different ways of telling it, you see? Well, now, I’m about to undergo the mother, the big motherfucker, of all episodes—and I won’t be able to dine out on it! Even if there turns out to be a Heaven or whatever, which there won’t—but even if there does, I still won’t be able to, since everyone else there will have lived through the same episode, i.e., dying, and they’ll all go: So what? That’s boring. We know all that shit. So it’s lose-lose. Do you see my quandary? Yes, I said; I see that could be a problem.

—p.137 by Tom McCarthy 7 months, 1 week ago