Writing a review


I am writing a review of a book.  IMHO – the best reviews are reviews that use a book as a starting off point for a discussion of ideas. It is a discussion between the author of the review and the author of the book. I am not even sure we should call this a review then.  Most recently, I read (and blogged) about Ray Brassier’s The Hermeneutics of Suspicion, 

I am writing a review on Spinal Catastrophism.  First I was thinking why do I want to write a review on it? It is messy.  In form, it is part lit crit, theory fiction, philosophy, analysis. But also I am viewing it through my own lens of the edifice of mega metaphysics crumbling – think Kant and Hegel and in place of ideologies – the concept of worlding. What is the philosophical status of worlding, what is the role of justification in philosophy? What is the difference between philosophy and art (theory fiction)?  What is the difference between philosophy and science. Philosophy is like the marble of the Roman Empire left in Rome. It was all used by other people for other purposes until there was nothing left of the original. Is there nothing left of philosophy? Perhaps. But if so, why? What need did it fill, and what is it now replaced by.



Last week and this week I proceeded with my annual exams and checkups (except for dentist – maybe I’ll do that in March)…

I was late for most of these checkups. 2019 was wonderful in many ways, I did lose 10 pounds (and then put it back on in the first month of 2020). However, I found it difficult to do some of these basic health checks.  I felt an enormous amount of guilt about this. Should something appear on my mammography, it would some how be my fault since I was 7 months late to my screening. This, of course, is ludicrous – but it is how we psychologize illness (or metaphorize it).

One of my major anxieties with all these checkups is that I am constantly getting my blood pressure checked. High blood pressure, among a few other manageable things, run in my family, so I am waiting for the moment when estrogen no longer protects me and my hot bloodedness becomes pathology.

I mentioned to my shrink that I was more concerned about the possibility of high blood pressure.  That somehow the discovery of my super high blood pressure would intervene in my regularly scheduled mammography because I would surely be whisked away to have open heart surgery.   He suggested I read illness as metaphor / which I have never read. I have not read any of Sontag’s writings.  So I dragged the kids this week to Barnes and Nobel on 14th street and union square. They got two diary of a whimpy kid books, which I have many issues with, but at least they are reading, and I got an onion paper book from the Library of America. I have to say this paper is very difficult to read when I first wake in the morning with sleep in my eye, and probably some degenerative eye issue that only appears int he morning.

Anyway so I read Illness as Metaphor, and then I went on to read Against Interpretation (which is super short).   Whenever I think of an illness with a metaphor I think about syphilis and I do enjoy making syphilis jokes. A feel a lot of STIs have names that sound like sea monsters from the odyssey: scylla and charybdis.  In college I was visiting some friends in Paris, one friend and I stayed in a hostel. I did not let any portion of my body touch the sheets (because I am a germaphobe). She mocked me and got – scabies (and not from touching another human just from the sheets – it was a chaste if debauched trip).  My mother commented, “don’t only people in Dickens novels get scabies??”

It was an enjoyable read, rambling and random, with fantastic quotes, and breadth.  Madness is the new romantic disease. True! But there are others such as addiction. In addition to illnesses there are conditions – these days -that you manage (chronic illness). There are pre-conditions (like pre-diabetic).  There is the instrumentation of life.

“Against Interpretation” opens with a fantastic quote by Oscar Wilde – “It is only shallow people that do not judge by appearances. The mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.”  But all this instrumentation and monitoring in the foreshadow of illness is the mystery of the invisible.

The metaphors of illness, especially, cancer, has not changed all that much. I would be interested in reading these days about metaphors of disability, of cronic illness, or pregnancy, of queerness and gender.

As I was writing this I j had this vision of sitting in paris with a beer (in the afternoon), and I hate to say it – a cigarette. I never was a smoker, but in my youth I did have the occasional cigarrette in Paris (and on hyde park boulevard).

Maybe I should do that today. What I have is an attempt to kickbox, a code review, some coffees, some jamming, some reading group, some biz meeting. It all seems exciting and busy althoughI am filled with ennui. I wonder which metaphorical illness this activity sets me up for, or which metaphorical illness my resistance sets me up for -its probably psychological.




The Dawn’s Awake! – Otto Leland Bohanan


I read the first few lines of this poem (thanks poem-a-day) the other day and immediately wanted to read more and learn about the poet. I have no idea why. Well, I have an idea why. I was drawn to the bombastic imagery.

Bombastic could be considered pejorative, but I consider it positive. Most poetry today is quiet. Finding the quiet things, the invisible things that people over look and making those things loud. Rather than making the things already loud majestic. And I totally agree with that. Many things that are loud today are NOT majestic and should NOT be celebrated. But it is warms my heart when there are big things that are majestic and they are celebrated. Like the f*ing dawn!

I take my kids to the bus in the morning and walk Otto the dog. One of the great things about this is that I get to see the dawn. It reminds me of City of Angels  – the remake of wings of desire – where Angels hear music in the dawn.  My senses are just touched by this poem “Whispers of pent-up harmonies”, “mingled fragrance of the trees”, “A flash of smoldering flame and fire”.

Who was Otto Leland Bohanan? From poets.org:

Otto Leland Bohanan was born around 1895 in Washington, D.C. He graduated from Howard University and taught English at the Catholic University. He also worked as a music instructor at DeWitt Clinton High School, and died in 1932.

The Art of Python


I am co-organizing the Art of Python with Kyle Conway. This is Sumana’s  brainchild and I am super excited to help organize. Kyle and I were both participants in the Art of Python last year and it feels great to continue something that we both enjoyed participating in.

The Art of Python is part of PyCon 2020’s Hatchery Program. “PyCon is the largest annual gathering for the community that uses and develops the open-source Python programming language.”

The Art of Python, is a space for performance based works about the practice of code, learning to code, or working with technology in general.   Most Art / code conferences or mini-conferences center around the creation of art by computers. This is super cool. I have/still do this.  But one thing that seems missing from this is a reflection on the creation of technology itself as we create new cultural narratives for today.

Last year there were musical performances about coding, a play acting out different algorithms (which was very funny), a fictitious retro of jurassic park (which I used in my Computers Robots and Film Class – what would a retro of 2001 space odyssey look like, of ex machina, you get the picture), among others.

There is a mix of comedy and drama, but the point is that here we put all our experiences though the mill and grind it into the flower or some extended metaphor that I am too tired to follow up on.

Anyway – submit to Art of Python. If you don’t feel comfortable performing or writing a performance, reach out and I can connect you with a mentor. If you have a half baked idea reach out and we will bake it some more.

So far some ideas that have been floated include, dramatic (mis)interpretations of agile ceremonies, meditations on life as seen through a history of personal technology, and a musical number about project retros based on the pirates of penzance.   We would love to see compositions, poetry, live action painting, meditation on ethics, deepfakes, machine learning. Someone told Sumana that her theater was Brechtian – and I agree. Let’s get alienated (verfremdungseffekt) together!

Get some inspiration from these descriptive links.

And to learn more and submit your fantastic ideas please go to our fantastic fork of yak bak at https://artofpython.herokuapp.com/.

"With a Petroleum Coating" by Trace Peterson

With a Petroleum Coating – Poetry Exegesis


Yesterday the poem of the day from poets.org was “With a Petroleum Coating” by Trace Peterson. The daily newsletter is fantastic, it has the poem, a recording of the poem, a blurb from the author about the inspiration from the poem
(sometimes), a blurb about the author, other things the poet has written, and related works by other poets.

When I see a poem I like from poem of the day I leave it in my inbox until I can properly digest it. Sometimes I open up the email again and realize, I am done digesting the poem. Not the case here. Every time I start reading it … “The exoskeleton dries by the radiator” I am drawn in. It reminds me of Cyclonopedia. Am I going to be reading some theory fiction poetry? Sort of. This poem is a world building poem.

Why do I like this poem, because it makes sense but doesn’t make sense. The world that it is creating, with shells that hear poems, console knobs covered in petroleum, sitting lax on a conveyor belt, thinner than a mobius strip, a real world rug fur inside and out – is a world I can almost taste. The format of the poem, questions and sentences, a response to a class reading, or a debate among friends. There is rhythm, there is movement, there is eros, there is a language creation. And I mean what is Petroleum Coating? nsfw.


Chess Book

Working through Chess


So one of my goals for 2020 is to improve my chess game. Some of this was spurred by my desire to make a chess mockumentary – I am not sure I posted this absolutely brilliant idea – but there you have it. Also I sort of would like to be like Duchamp and wear a suit and play chess all day. It like the aesthetic.

My friend Max was teaching me some tricks like the ladder (I think), with the two rooks and the king, but I took it upon myself to try and do some additional reading so I picked up the book and the Chess Master vs Chess Amateur.

First thing I noticed about this book was that I had no idea what notation they were using. Apparently there is an older chess notation call descriptive notation and that is what is being used. The way it works is that you mention the piece being moved P, for example (pawn), and the location where it is going to QB2 (queens bishop 2). There are other words for capture, x, and castle etc.  Once I figured this out, things were much easier.

It was almost like a memory palace where I was trying to keep the board in my head. I feel like this exercise itself will help with my chess intuition.

There were some simple analyses of the game and concepts, things like – experts control the center of the board, amateurs just make pretty patterns and don’t know what they are doing. There are pointers to other readings about when to move from strategy to tactics and how to analyze a position. I feel good that I was able to make it through this very short game that was about 3 or 4 pages long. It look me an hour though to digest it all.  Just wait for the film



The Hermeneutics of Suspicion – Beliefs cannot transform into knowledge.


I started this post months ago to jot down notes for a reading group on Ray Brassier’s The Hermeneutics of Suspicion.  The first half, broadly speaking, is a discussion of ideology, and the second half is a review of Brandom’s book on Hegel (which I am reading so I will not discuss this second half until I finish that book).  There were a bunch of things in the paper that blew my mind, as often happens when I read Brassier.

My big takeaway from the whole thing, that may actually have a long range philosophical impact on my life is the offhanded observation of rule based activities (knowledge) vs cause based activities (knowledge).   This is predictive vs explanatory.  Kant is in the rule camp, Aristotle in the cause camp.  Both are kind of wrong: we cannot predict the future, nor can we really explain anything.  We cannot turn beliefs into knowledge. What can we do? Create multiplicities of mappings. If you want – skip the post and just read the last paragraph. I think it is really insightful.

I don’t even want to call these models, but interfaces for that connect one rule with another, one cause with another, one reality tunnel with another.  I am going to continue to meditate on this, rules vs causes.   What follows is essentially my notes of salient points as I read Brassier’s essay.

So how do we talk about subjective observations versus objective observations?

The scientific method taught us about empirical data collection and measurement. But what about subjective experience?

By subjective experience I don’t just mean the hard problem of consciousness like qualia (how do I know your red is the same as my red). But those aspects of life that can only be interpreted not defined.

I am thinking about this while reading  Ray Brassier’s The Hermeneutics of Suspicion for a reading group. It begins by unpacking false consciousness.  With the prayer blockchain I would think why is it important to record desires (prayers) encrypted on an immutable ledger (the blockchain).  Why cant we steal desires or double spend desires? Something about this rhymes with the idea of false consciousness.

False consciousness is the difference between what we desire vs what we are conditioned by society to desire.  Through class warfare and sexual repression that operate in our cultural unconscious, we are betrayed as to what we truly desire and why we desire the things that we desire.

Those factors that contribute to false consciousness, will to power, sexual repression and class struggle according to Brassier “have a symptomatic character: their proper description is at the same time an interpretation.”   I am fascinated by what Marx describes in (I think) Capital as types of understanding beyond knowledge. Normally this is described as praxis, but in this case it is interpretation or perhaps hermeneutics. To describe the class power as a force, is to provide an interpretation, not a definition or a fact.It is all based on a point of view (or perspective) and is ideological and not objectively scientific. The perspectival or subjective nature marks it as different from objective empirical observations.

Brassier says

[marx,nietzsche, freud] … identify effects that are meaning-laden but whose meaningfulness is not constituted by consciousness: it transcends the varieties of belief and desire commensurate with our own understanding of our individual experience… the meaningfulness of these unconscious beliefs and desires (e.g., class interests, slave morality, the Oedipus complex) differs in kind from that ascribed to psychological states.

The methodology of Nietzsche, Marx and Freud:genealogy, historical materialism, psychoanalysis is different from the methodology of the scientific method. This to me is obvious. Why this is different from traditional philosophical discourse is less obvious to me, although it does seem to make sense.

Why are these methodologies different from transcendental idealism, absolute idealism, or cartesian rationalism as Brassier relates. It is because we are no longer interested in what can or cannot be rationally discussed but in interpreting phenomena beyond using rational categories?  What are drives if not base desires beyond or prior to reason? As Brassier interprets Jameson’s distinction between theory and philosophy “reason can never become wholly transparent to itself.” Which is why we need ‘dialectics’ and theory.

There is a digression as to what Kant contributed: namely a recourse to reason that is not grounded in god, and reason not grounded in causes. This second point was difficult for me to unpack. I think it means that there are laws to reasons: “rule-governed discursive activities” as Brassier says. They are not causal, or related to psychological states. I do not think something as a cause of something else. I think it as the expression of a rule.  Contrast this to Descartes who provides a reason for existing – that I am thinking. It is causal not rule based.   This apparently is the rejection of Aristotelean epistemology.

For Jameson, philosophy is just another ideology. One that believes there exists something called ‘Truth’. Theory meanwhile honors practice/praxis against concept. As Brassier says “Practice is the reactivation of the transcendent of the sensible against the latent hylomorphism of Kant’s critical rationalism.”  It is the Nietzschean genealogy that exposes this, philosophy or reason as a product of history, rather than Marx or Freud questioning the ability of reason as the only recourse to understanding.

At this point we bring Brassier brings in Brandom to discuss the relationship between reason and causes  through Brandom’s notion of believing and believed: the distinction between “epistemic states and their content.” (Is this not another form of hylomorphism – just saying) Brassier continues “Genealogy reduces reasons to causes by driving a causal wedge between believing and believed, asserting and asserted, severing the justificatory tie that connects the former to the latter.”

This is a reinterpretation or separation of genealogy from ideology. Genealogy provides a way to connect, in the terminology of Brandom, the act of believing to the connect of the belief.

Brassier quotes Brandom as saying that ideology is the structure of beliefs. It is why people hold beliefs. Is this in contrast to knowledge or facts a la Plato? We will see. I would say the theorists would hold that all that is exists are beliefs, that there is no knowledge or facts and that all is ideology.

The movement that begins with Plato, the movement from belief from knowledge is rejected. There is no justification for beliefs. The factors that relate the content of the beliefs to the act of believing Brassier refers to as superempirical (e.g., Libido, class struggle). They are objects for proof, but objects for interpretation.

Here is a good quote from Brassier: “Marx and Freud materialize the superempirical in terms of production and drive respectively.” And we should not confuse materialization for scientification (if that is a world). This is perhaps what Marx, Freud, et al are trying to do.  But this does not make these objects of science (justification).

And this is interesting because it provides an opening for why is theory important. In my opinion not Theory, but  theorizing is important because it is theory that lets us interpret these superempirical forces.   “The evocation of the ‘unjudgeable’ in sensible experience becomes the default of justification that justifies the split between reasons and causes, between what we believe and why we believe it. The unfolding of this dialectic of reasons and causes—which is also the dialectic of suspicion and trust—leads us back to Hegel.”

Brassier’s conclusion is unclear to me. Is it an interpretation of Hegel (and Brandom) as overcoming the gap in reason and un/irreason: “This gap is simply reason’s “other,” variously figured as the sensible, time, becoming, event, etc. But Hegel’s fundamental insight is that reason takes time.” Or is this a justification for theory?  

One final note. In western philosophy there is always this gap that has been addressed in different ways. Kant (things not subject to philosophy), Wittgenstein (things we cannot talk about), even Plato (the mythological substrate at the end of a dialogue).  The question is what are we grounding this gap in. Beginning with Kant we are suppressing it (we are going to ignore it – perhaps correlated with the rise of psychotherapy). With Plato, the gap is mythology (or theology) – the supernatural. What are some more useful options today?  Perhaps somatic – grounding in the body. And this is related to my review of spinal catastrophism.

eugenio tisselli

Reading Code – Week 1


The main prompt asks a bunch of questions that examines the different way we can look at code. We can question the functionality, the aesthetics, the representation, within the context of other work by the artist, relationship with the user, role of the user in generating the art (interactivity), the longevity of the code (preservation and documentation), the content of the piece (deforestation).

These questions vaguely remind me of Aristotle’s four causes. In reality it is no different than looking at a piece of literature or a piece of art. The difference is what are those questions that are particular to software. Looking at a piece of work within the corpus of all works by the artist is something we can do with every artist. Looking functionality is perhaps particular to software studies (or most salient)

I am going to do an ontology now.

*Commentary – this is the same as with other art forms. What does this work say about the subject matter that inspires it.

*Context within artist corpus/historical corpus  – basically the same across all creative works

*Reproduction/Archive/Preservation – pertinent across most creative works, most similar to performance base works like dance and music, but slightly different because a machine is performing the work rather than a perhaps professional musician/dancer/etc.

*Interactivity – Role of the audience – pertinent across most creative works, most similar to performance, again slightly different because the user is sometimes/often running the work as opposed to a (perhaps) professional performing the work.

*Aesthetics – most pertinent across other creative fields. There is not really an aesthetics of code practice, but this could develop.  There is also the aesthetics of the generated work.

*Form of representation – this is only relevant to software and data, since software can be represented in different ways.  It is like the relationship between a genotype and a phenotype. It is relevant to art forms that use signs and symbols.

*Function – this is also perhaps only relevant to software.  We can judge software by how well it accomplishes its task.


The most interesting question  to me is about the form of representation or what I call transduction. To quote Mark C. Marino and Jeremy Douglass,  “We could question its form of representation and related idioms (ASCII art, helicopter and satellite photography, et cetera).”  To me this is interesting because it is what makes code different from other forms of expression. By necessity there has to be a layer of mediation or interpretation for code and this layer is a machine not an artist. It is similar to the relationship maybe between a screenplay and a movie, or a score and a musical performance, but the intermediary is a machine itself. And beyond that there is a  multiplicity of options in the form of representation. A score must be a piece of music. But code does not have to be one thing. It is one-to-many mapping.

One of the interesting things that happened in the discussion of this piece of work is that people started to comment on it by remixing it.  Code is one of the few artforms that is so easy to remix, that is probably the mode of work native to code.


Musing on creative CI/CD


This week I am doing a dojo (ie workshop) on git and CI/CD. CI/CD is a term in programming and devops that means continuous delivery continuous integration.

There are different tools to implement CI/CD such as jenkins. In this dojo, however, we are using GitLab. GitLab is a platform that implements a git repository as well as a CI/CD system. A git repository, is a place that keeps track of file changes in accordance with the git protocol. The git protocol is amazing and I’ll discuss it someplace else. Here I am going to discuss CI/CD.

So in GitLab, there is a file in the root of your repo – a .gitlab-ci.yml file. This file specifies CI/CD pipeline, that is all the different jobs that run on your project after you commit the code to the repo. These can be unit tests, linters, packagers, deployments to servers, etc.

Thinking in terms of CI/CD is new. Now it is no longer a matter of building your code, but treating your code as an atomic unit and then processing actions on top of your code. We can have instrumentation or code sanitation jobs that run on our CI/CD pipeline.

I often think of the world as a computer program. What if we think of the world as a CI/CD pipeline? A CI/CD pipeline is a computer program, but it is a particular type of computer program. It is a meta-program in a sense, or maybe meta-computation.

What are some creative things we can put in a CI/CD pipeline. What are different types of CI/CD pipelines. I am working on a poetry project right now – the tower – and I have been working on different types of tooling to help write the program. The poetry is not the tooling but it is an integral part in my process. What these toolings run as jobs on the poetry pipeline? What if I have different types of pipelines, a visualization pipeline a musical pipeline.

One of the things I think about is transduction – the change in energy from one form to another. I think about this in terms of data, for example, that we can experience in different ways as different visualizations for example. Pipelines are transduction pipelines. Here we can define the different metaphoric transformations on the energy of a computer program. We can also think of pipelines as worlds perhaps that unfold in different ways.


From Lucien Letinois


Todays poetic exegesis is from a poem by Paul Verlaine. It is homoerotic but not classical in content. There was a Lucian, though, who was a greco roman satirist.

The other day I was having a conversation about the Paris Commune. I don’t know much about the Paris Commune other than the fact that one of my favorite poets, Rimbaud, was there. I love poetry of Rimbaud, but really I like the life of Rimbaud.  He gave up poetry and moved to Africa to become a trader. That is sort of poetic.

Anyway, Rimbaud was Verlaine’s lover. They had a very tumultuous affair in which Verlaine shot Rimbaud. Read the poetry of Rimbaud, but also, read a (few) biography(ies) on Rimbaud. Anyway, this post is about the poetry of Verlaine (which I is not as great as Rimbaud’s IMHO), but here we are and let us begin!

Lucien Letinois VVIX (24)

fyi Lucien was one of Verlaine’s lovers…

Stanza one – Lucien’s Voice.

Who does not love a velvet analogy?I love one. The voice is grave, low, and soft. I would not use the word grave it reminds me of gravel which is not soft. But perhaps the word in french is different. I don’t know what word Verlaine uses here, so I cannot say.

‘Trembling over moss’ I am personally smitten by moss. It is through the work of Robin Wall Kimmerer, who wrote Gathering Moss, and Braiding Sweetgrass, that I first fell in love with moss.  I love moss, they are like tiny forests. Is moss a fungus or a plant? It is a plant, a non-vascular plant. I just finished reading a book about how reason is related to our skeleton, perhaps I should write about about how reason is based on plant morphology.  But, I find moss fascinating, there are so many different kinds! I go on hikes with my children and continuously force them to look at different kinds of moss.  Droplets of water do tremble there.

A voice like velvety dewy moss – delicious!

Stanza two – Lucien’s Laughter.

Sparkles –  I think this is Cara Delevingne’s pet name for Ashley Benson. I do think bird songs as metaphor for laughter creates a new language.  This stanza does not do it for me.

Stanza three – Verlaine’s memories of these qualities – voice and laughter. I guess because the love affair is over and all we have now are memories.  What I (Verlaine) remember of you (Lucien) is your voice and laughter, not say, your chiseled jaw. “Like the ringing glory of holy martyrs”  – sort of over the top. There are many ways we can talk about memory, I would like to workshop this paragraph.

Stanza four – How Verlaine feels. I can tell you this one – SAD.  And in fact that is the first line of stanza four, “The sadness you leave” . It is more like Lucien leaves sadness not that the poet feel sadness. This is where the poem really starts to get going.

Scatters – scatters like what – perhaps like Lucien’s ashes.  Scatters with these murmurs (murmurs are sort of like gurgles like water, like Lucien’s voice). The murmurs are “courage!” again I don’t really feel an exclamation point jives with murmur – but lets go with it.  The murmurs urge courage to a heart in tumult filled with fluttering fluttering and such sad anxiety. I think the translator has done a good job here with alliteration (‘s’, ‘f’), also I like the phrase ‘sad anxiety’ I like the rhythm and s and x, and the anxiety is that is sad, not jittery or some other anxiety.  Nice work!

Stanza five – Anger! the poet/Verlaine is angry that lucien is gone (dead probably). Storm, still your rage. The poet is not himself. The poet is a storm. It is jungian – I am possessed by my complex. Still your rage so I “can speak with my friend who seems asleep but only rests in ancient wisdom…” This is very cryptic and mystical. I really love it.  I must calm my self, I must heal myself so I can commune with my dead lover ..

What I love most about this poem is the structure. I love the organization and flow: things i miss/love about my lover my lover’s voice, laughter, feelings, hearing the lover, how to speak with my lover.  Some of the descriptions/stanza  I love- they create a new feeling for me, the particulars of the lover’s laughter, the attempt to talk to my dead lover. Some don’t resonate however, like stanza 2.

The whole poem is interesting as a snapshot of the state of the mind of the poet – Verlaine. What we have are particular details about Lucien, Verlaine’s particular way of missing him, of how the poet/Verlaine is trying to move on, how the poet is trying to communicate with Lucien -perhaps through this very poem …