Whenever I hear or read mention of "What Is It Like To Be a Bat?", I always think, "ah yes, that's the work that Cassirer mentions in the beginning of the second part of An Essay on Man, whose addressing JZ Smith said was more or less obligatory because it was notorious/fashionable at the time.". But in fact that never turns out to be the case (nowadays remembering that I'm wrong has become the second thing I always think), because that to which Cassirer refers was written by a fellow named Johannes von Uexküll, and Cassirer describes his views thusly:
As he points out, it would be a very naïve sort of dogmatism to assume that there exists an absolute reality of things which is the same for all living beings. Reality is not a unique and homogeneous thing; it is immensely diversified, having as many different schemes and patterns as there are different organisms. Every organism is, so to speak, a monadic being. It has a world of its own because it has an experience of its own. The phenomena that we find in the life of a certain biological species are not transferable to any other species. The experiences—and therefore the realities—of two different organisms are incommensurable with one another. In the world of a fly, says Uexküll, we find only "fly things"; in the world of a sea urchin we find only "sea urchin things."
(and of course he doesn't stop there, oh no. And we are instructed to see Uexküll's books Theoretische Biologie and Umwelt und Innenwelt der Tiere, even though Cassirer basically brings him up in order to start ignoring him two paragraphs later and never stopping.)
Anyway, I think it's the "fly things" bit that's at the heart of my mistaking—that and never having read the Nagel essay.
Does anyone else remember when, a few years or so ago, Adam Bellow published a ridiculous little essay in, I think, TNR about how nepotism (and I think we can extend this to cronyism generally) is not just acceptable but sometimes even a positive good? Is it now well-established (through, say, Michael Brown's staggering incompetence) that we never need pay attention to Adam Bellow again?
Kranky likes me, they really like me. How unexpected.
(If I now say that when I saw Lichens opening for Alasdair Roberts in Chicago, it was really excellent, am I compromised? It really was—the guitar that marred the first performance I saw was gone and replaced by an unknown-to-me collaborator playing violin drones and loops. And I can't remember if this was the case before, but that time he was using two mics, of different sorts, presumably treated differently. It really was quite awesome.—I also saw Roberts two days ago, and he did "A Lyke Wake Dirge", one of my favorite songs from his albums. An oddness: here, he was preceded by Wooden Wand & the Vanishing Voice; in Chicago, by The MV & EE Medicine Show. And yet both those bands are transcendentally terrible. Jack Rose also played. If, in the resurgence of Americana-based and folk-derived music, and dronishness (and any number of other things, I guess), we can detect a parallel to some good things that we associate with the 60s, then surely such acts as the above two are a potent warning that hippies suck. (There was also the guy who opened for Sir Richard Bishop, sitting cross-legged on the stage plucking at a sitar, but he was actually ok.) I recall the Wire article about, or called, "New Weird America" (surely one of the most idiotic musical terms of recent years, along with the pitchfork-promulgated "freakfolk" and "hyper-prog"), all the pictures of the bands pretty explicitly invoked hippie-istic imagery (like LENS FLARE!).
Oh christ it's good to be back online. I note a curiosity pertaining to my modem (or, more likely, my computer's setup): when hooked up solely by USB, it thinks it's connected to the computer, but no data flows. When hooked up solely by ethernet cable, it doesn't think it's connected, and (as far as I can tell) no data flows. When attached by both cables simultaneously, though, the data surges strong.
Also, I have learned last night that, despite being a 32% genius, I am the dumb, when it took me an inordinately long time to get what's after the little click-to-follow thingy right:
I note with interest that the most recent edition of The Joy of Cooking does not include any recipes for heart (excluding chicken hearts, but who wants to be as strong and courageous as a chicken?), while the 1986 (or maybe it's 84) edition does. The current edition retains some recipe for brain, though—I would have thought that between the two, brain would be more likely to be omitted, what with all those prions and all.
Some years ago there was a "Shouts & Murmurs" in the New Yorker, taking dialogue form, in which mussels, in particular various people's date mussels (of various sizes and description), featured prominently. She's only seeing him because of his date mussel. &c. The Dean & DeLuca cookbook claims that mussels are one of the few bargains left in seafood, at, so they claim, $1 a pound. Not bloody likely! Oh, mussels, you taste so good, so why is it that you did me so bad the last time I ate you?
Walking along a circuitous path that had me longing for the griddy streets of Chicago, and reflecting on the upcoming meals of that night and the following, I was hit with the following flash of insight: pork is an essentially autumnal meat. What meats, one might wonder, correspond to other seasons? It would be too easy to assign spring to lamb—but then would be too easy to reject that assignment as "too easy". This leaves summer and winter. One is tempted to say that summer, season of grilled burgers, is the demesne of beef, but winter, which suggests to me stews (which suggest to me, again, cowflesh) also has a strong case. This is probably the result of beef's domineering hold on the American meat-eating imagination, but I confess myself stumped. Ideas?
As any miller or other experienced outdoorsman such as myself can tell you, if you feel an incipient blister, the thing to do is put on the affected footal area a patch of moleskin. Then, when you walk, the slipperiness of the patch will reduce abrasion between the bottom of your foot and the top of the bottom of your shoe. But what if you weren't wearing any shoes, or socks? Then there would be less friction between that part of your foot and the ground. You wouldn't be in danger of slipping, of course, because of the traction the rest of your foot provides. But it would be as if that part of your foot weren't in contact with the ground at all.
I'm sure you see where I'm going here.
Simply cover all of both your feet with moleskin. Balance will be hard to maintain, of course—you'll probably pitch forward or find yourself doing the splits frequently—but I'm sure that with practice and extremely tense legs you'd be able to stand up straight, and maybe even move (being sure to keep your soles perfectly parallel with the ground) in a sort of cross-country ski motion. Maybe swimming with your arms.
Incidentally I've come up with a premise for the next faux-sociological column David Brooks writes. I noticed on my drive that some states allow you to go a maximum of 75mph on the interstate, while others cap the speed at 70mph.
I will say one good thing about Irvine and environs: good or good enough japanese, chinese, thai, mexican, and indian food is readily had. In particular the boba tea is cheap and plentiful. My one regret is that, despite having already gone to Niki's and In'n'Out, I will probably not make it to Super Pollo.
Since that was of interest to statistically no one, I pose a question: does this mean that saucer-shaped champagne glasses hold less than or equal to a mouthful?
Another question: is not "disembark" a ridiculous word? Explain.
I have made a number of discoveries about myself upon returning home. For instance, I apparently own both a saber (dull) and a shaving brush, the bristles of which are either actually animal in origin or cunningly colored so as to resemble such. Of course I don't know how to use or care for it properly (how hard could it be?), nor do I own any shaving soap, so it's kind of a wash either way.
I left my copy of Wolf Solent on the plane, and not a single bookstore here has a copy—it's a rare store that has anything by Powys (any of them), even. Though one had an exceedingly cute girl, so it wasn't a total loss. Instead I read Harry Mathews' My Life in CIA today. It's good, though it has such a large number of typos I thought it might be a review copy. I excerpt this bit of dialogue from a priest for what should be obvious reasons:
"I was vacationing in Corsica with my beloved companion. His name was Mamadu. We had rented a Sharki in Ajaccio—a ketch about twelve meters long, a most reliable boat. We headed south, leaving the Îles Sanguinaires far behind us, passing Cap di Muro before we moored for the night in Propriano, at the head of the Golfe de Valinco. Next morning we rounded Cap Senetosa and followed that long wild coast until we reached the Bouches de Bonifacio.
"There was a mild following wind and we were sailing wing-and-wing. The Corsican coast was still to port; way to teh south Sardinia emerged; and the expanse of the Tyrrhenian opened before us. Mamadu, who had been plucking his kora and enchanting the airs with song, now moved up to the bow to view to the prospect, sitting on the pulpit with his back against the forestay; or so I supposed, since he was hidden from my sight by the mainsail on one side and the genoa on the other. Every so often he would shout out a delighted word or two. Then there came a spell when I heard nothing. I called his name several times. There was no answer, so I pushed the tiller to starboard, bringing the boat to a broad reach so that I could see the bow. No one was there. There was no sign of him in the water. I came about, it seemed to take a lifetime to get the boat turned into the wind. For three hours I tacked back and forth over the same stretch of sea. Nothing, nothing.
"He was beautiful. His skin was luminous, a black so deep it looked blue, like Siberian anthracite. When I came back to Paris, I made my vow: in his memory I would become as white as he was black. I haven't gone out in daylight since. Only at night. Otherwise I stay here"—he smiled faintly—"minding my keys and pews. Please take my card. If ever..."
Question: was the priest smiling faintly when thinking about his modest activities, compared to his youthful exploits, or in anticipation of the pun he was about to make? If the latter, then what was the original pun, given that the dialogue is supposed to have been in French?