Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Coming Soon...

We have run this blog for nearly 3 years - since 18th June 2005 - during which time any original Blogger sites got migrated to Google servers (who stayed true to their word not to mess with it, but just offer Blogger more investment and resources, when they bought them in 2003).

We still don't know exactly how many people visit regularly, or just trip over us, but you may see some changes very soon. We may migrate.

(Hello in over 800 languages)

Next week, the Maybe Logic Academy (approaching 4 years of age) will migrate yet again (from version 4.0 to version 5.0), into an integrated Moodle setup.

Old timers may remember the various incarnations of the various forums and online courses, each with its own quirks, and anyone who hasn't visited the current campus (some areas of version 4.0 became open to visitors without registering) might want to take a peek now, before the changes due el lunes próximo.

Native English speakers remain ignorant of, or resistant to, other languages, as you can see in this UK drive to get students to even attempt a second language! (BBC story).

You can always have fun with a BabelFish.

Julie Zhu's artwork from Silverchips online magazine at Montgomery Blair High School (used without permission)

Saturday, April 19, 2008

And Finally...

Ah, now Bike day did arrive…three days gone in a whirl.

So a couple more links – Jarry on a bicycle deserves a mention, this says it better than I could:

Alfred Jarry: a Cyclist on the Wild Side by Jim McGurn

"Jarry was no Bois de Boulogne buff. He belonged to the avant-garde community of writers and artists. For these people cycling was more than just a pleasure, and a cycle ride could be just as beautiful or radical as a poem or a painting. They were often passionate cyclists, undaunted by Paris traffic, and many of them enjoyed the sweaty pleasures of strenuous long distance riding. They saw the bicycle as a liberator, a machine to extend the potentialities of the human being. Jarry described it as an 'external skeleton' which allows mankind to outstrip the process of biological evolution. "

Read It!

And he also makes interesting use of a 'k' in the spelling of ‘Pataphysics, which I have never seen before, but apparently comes from Shattuck’s The Banquet Years, back in 1958.

I also found it used like this: 'Pataphysicks
A Portrait of the Artist as a Very Young or Very Old Innovator:
Creativity at the Extremes of the Life Cycle
(a PDF)
© David W. Galenson
University of Chicago
National Bureau of Economic Research
May 2004

I haven’t read the whole thing, yet, but it looks interesting. The section on Jarry runs from 42-44, but he appears throughout the piece.

'Pataphysicks is the science of the realm beyond metaphysics... It will study the laws which govern exceptions and will explain the universe supplementary to this one...
Definition: 'Pataphysicks is the science of imaginary solutions.

Shattuck, Roger. 1958. The Banquet Years. New York: Harcourt, Brace.

Thus Richardson argues that Jarry anticipated the multiple viewpoints of Cubism in a 'Pataphysickal treatise of 1898: “to claim the shape of a watch is round [is] a manifestly false proposition - since it appears in profile as a narrow rectangular construction, elliptical on three sides; and why the devil would one only have noticed its shape at the moment of looking at the time?”
David W. Galenson

If you want more on Jarry, including a nod to RAW (along with the Marx Brothers, the Goons and Mad magazine, Monty Python and Flann O'Brien) try
Alfred Jarry: Absinthe, Bicycles and Merdre at Blather.


Has the spelling as 'Pataphysicks fallen into disuse in English?

I’ll have to ask our resident:

Maybe Logician

Zetetic Patagnost

Correspondant Réel Collège de 'Pataphysique

Chorepiscopische Protonotaris

who knows more about all that than I do, especially as the original word came out of French, so translations, I guess, always add something, or take something away…or just create more ambiguity…

I recommend Borsky’s piece on RAW, written in French for the 'Correspondancier', a magazine of the Collège de 'Pataphysique
(introducing Bob's 'Patapsychology' to the official lexicon) :-)

and translated by him into English for Maybe Quarterly (turn on yer speakers for that version)

And, of course, Ragu added to this whole genre with After the Tricycle, It Comes Always the Bicycle, in the latest edition of MQ.

And if you read that you might want to go spin Duchamp's bicycle wheel (why not?) at Andrew Stafford's quite wonderful animated Duchamp pages - Understanding Duchamp.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Bike Day

Actually, some people consider the 19th as Bike Day, but what the hey...

AH: “Last Friday, April 16, 1943, I was forced to interrupt my work in the laboratory in the middle of the afternoon and proceed home, being affected by a remarkable restlessness, combined with a slight dizziness. At home I lay down and sank into a not unpleasant intoxicated-like condition, characterized by an extremely stimulated imagination. In a dreamlike state, with eyes closed (I found the daylight to be unpleasantly glaring); I perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors. After some two hours this condition faded away.”

From Bruce Eisner's Vision Thing: Three days later, on April 19, 1943 at 4:20 PM, Hofmann took the first planned trip. He took what he thought would be the smallest amount that would be noticeable - which was 250 micrograms or about one four thousandth of a gram.
AH: "By now it was already clear to me that LSD had been the cause of the remarkable experience of the previous Friday,for the altered perceptions were of the same type as before, only much more intense. I had to struggle to speak intelligibly. I asked my laboratory assistant, who was informed of the self-experiment, to escort me home. We went by bicycle, no automobile being available because of wartime restrictions on their use. On the way home, my condition began to assume threatening forms. Everything in my field of vision wavered and was distorted as if seen in a curved mirror. I also had the sensation of being unable to move from the spot. Nevertheless, my assistant later told me that we had traveled very rapidly. Finally, we arrived at home safe and sound."

Albert in German

1 of 6

Bonzi on a bike

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Worth a few minutes of anyone's time

One of the best informed contributors to MLA interviewed Antero Alli recently, focused on the 8 Circuit Model.
Circuit Six collage by Bogus
If you know what I refer to, you will definitely find this rewarding.
If you don't, you could follow our labels to other related posts.....or take one of Antero's online courses at the MLA. (does that count as an advert?)

Shrewd, subtle and penetrating questions, and wonderful lucid (and ludic) answers from Antero.

Mike Gathers interviews Antero Alli at Key 64.

You can also find it on the MLA Info-Blog now.

On the last course, Antero encouraged us to make our own set of 'Tarot-style' cards of the eight circuits. I've put one here to break up the words.

You can see the rest of my own Bogus system collages here.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Mary Douglas and Witchcraft

I was told "you wont meet a magician in Wandsworth" (in London), "but you might hear of people operating New Age psychic phone lines". Pah.

"I once met a 5th degree Magus from the O.T.O" I said. Blank looks. "Oh, and I've done a few rituals here and there, mostly on my own, but once with some of the leading abassadors of the Native American tradition in this culture. Apparently". Blank looks.

One of my assessments is to review a book called "Purity and Danger" written by famous anthropologist Mary Douglas (R.I.G.), and I thought I'd share my final piece (which is for me quite refreshing in its absence of references, the material being sufficiently internalized).

The original, inferior, version of this aritcle is here:

The all singing, all dancing version is here:


Mary Douglas begins “Purity and Danger” with an overview of the legacies of Robertson-Smith and Sir James Frazer. She challenges their belief that what made a culture primitive was its inability, collectively and individually, to distinguish between the ‘sacred and profane’, in the words of Robertson-Smith, or between the ‘subjective and objective’, as Sir James Frazer put it. Douglas then introduces the model of logical vs. mystical mentalities proposed by Levy-Bruhl, one assumes, as a superior model when it came to categorising and analysing the difference between primitive and modern culture. The greatest criticism of Levy-Bruhls’ model was that it was based on a rigid dichotomy that required the exaggeration of logical thinking in modern culture, and the exaggeration of mystical thinking in primitive culture, in order to make the differences apparent. These differences in mentalities were too stark and their mutual exclusivity led to contradiction. Nevertheless, it is Levy-Bruhls model that has the greatest influence on Douglas’s book, despite the weakness in the model that she attempts to overcome through some very feeble means. Essentially, Mary Douglas seeks to duck beneath the radar of previous criticism by a less-than-cunning substitution of psychological definitions (“logical” vs. “mystical”) with sociological definitions (“technological” vs. “magical”), simply changing the focus from mentality to institution. Douglas delves into the rabbit hole towards a sociology of ritual, and it is in search of a sociology of ritual that Douglas encounters witchcraft and magic in primitive culture, no doubt wearing top hats and drinking tea, offering, perhaps, a dubious invitation to the naïve catholic girl who forgot the mysteries of her own culture, and who, like a very naught catholic girl, attempts the uninspiring hubris of defining a prayer to god as analogous to writing a letter to a friend, in chapter four. May she rest in ignorance, and may her reply be swift and painless.

On Magic:

Mary Douglas’s approach is a sociological one. It is not spiritual, it is not psychological, it is not magical. This to me, in my wayward anthro-ignorance, seems like a piecemeal analysis of culture. However, her insights into the sociology of ritual are exceptional, with one exception. Malinowski had already said most of what she had to say about magic, and one wonders why he is barely mentioned. Again, perhaps it is because Malinowski’s approach, like Levy-Bruhls, was based on a model of individual psychology and Douglas was interested in sociology. However, I suspect deeper-rooted biases perpetuated by the mutual exclusivity of sociological and psychological disciplines, enflamed through the irritant of functionalist vs. structuralist discord, that causes Douglas to omit reference to Malinowski’s contribution. I guess they didn’t want to play with each other any more.

The sum of Douglas’s understanding of magic in primitive culture resonates within her exegesis of the significance of the Trickster myth of the Winnebago Indians. In this story is described the process of developing awareness and mastery of the self as it relates to its environment. The Trickster starts life as an amorphous bag of emotions and desires, and slowly refines its body into human proportions and its minds into, well, modern proportions, in which it is at last capable of discernment between person and thing – between subjective and objective. Despite Douglas’s superb parrying of Frazer’s “undisguised contempt” for primitive people in her elucidation of primitive peoples ability not only to discern between subject and object, but also to discern when the this discernment is actually useful, her understanding of the Trickster myth as it relates to sociology reflects the same attitude as Frazer, but with a more politically correct flourish. To summarise: Douglas uses the Trickster myth as a metaphor for technological progress. In her model, with advances in technology, magic becomes mundane (clearly she was not an initiate). Perhaps this is verifiable where institutions are concerned, but then the focus is clearly on institutions per se and not magic specifically, a distinction that might be easily overlooked if ones cultural orientation valued group dynamics universally over magical dynamics specifically.

It is the lack of distinction on the part of Douglas between the general and the specific that leads her into error. In describing prayer as analogous to writing a letter, and in – fatally! – describing money as ritual, Douglas exhibits the same confusion between subject and object that she so superbly falsifies in the interpretations of Frazer and Robertson-Smith. Money, for example, is not a ritual, any more than a wand is a ritual. It is a tool used in ritual ways, depending upon ones ontology and paradigm, and viewed as such this distinction makes Douglas’s ‘Durkheimian’ model of technological progress – where it is assumed that magic becomes mundane – unequivocally unfounded. Through a sociological exploration of magic as a pre-literate judiciary and economic system, where accusations of witchcraft enforce social cohesion and the perceived power to bless or curse maintains authority, Douglas makes a subtle yet crucial error. She makes such erroneous comparisons between ‘primitive ritual’ and ‘modern economics’ because, for whatever reason, she denied the existence of magic in her own culture, and denied it on a deep level. I suspect, however, that this denial is not simply caused by a superiority bias, in which she thinks her culture is superior to cultures with magic (something she makes clear several times throughout the book) but out of an implicit desire to invent a control group for her research, to contrast a culture ‘with magic’ (theirs) to a culture ‘without magic’ (ours). And this is that elusively subtle yet confounding and pertinent error that looks as if it could make anthropology boring for everyone.

What She Should Have Done:

Her explicit and repeated intention is to show how rules around pollution work in other cultures through an understanding of how they are similar and different to our own rules of pollution. So she contrasts secular politics with magical ritual – a bit like contrasting an apple with a spoon, but useful if one is only interested in the form and not the content. Had Douglas contrasted the secular politics of magical ritual in another culture with the secular politics of magical ritual in our culture, I would not take issue. Her mistake is that she saw magical ritual as political in essence. One look at the hollow rituals of the Catholic Church and it’s easy to see how she made this mistake, although her inability to see that her own analysis is piecemeal is beyond being dignified with rational thought.

Although I doubt the term “Folk Devil” entered into common parlance until the release of Cohens book in the seventies, Cohen himself points out that this phenomena has been particularly apparent since the WORLD WARS, and it is clearly this phenomena that Douglas is concerned with in “Purity and Danger” when she talks about the ‘interstitial roles’ and ‘failure bias’ in magical practice. In the case of Nazi Germany, for example, an economic crisis lead to the Great Jewish Witch Hunt, in which Jewish people became vilified as the source of social dissolution due to their assumed Economic Sorcery. Satire of the time even shows Nazi leaders dressed in Shamanic clothing, and the presence of both mystical mentalities and institutions was evident in propaganda about the ‘Rule of a 1000 Years’ and in a disrespectful and rudimentary grasp of the philosophy of the ‘Ubermensch’.

Douglas uses witchcraft to demonstrate the sociological processes and effects of magical activity, but she seems confused about what she is doing even herself, for she frequently confuses the politics of magic with magic itself. This is the cause of my suspicion that “Purity and Danger” is too contaminated by the politics of our indigenous institutions to see the woods for the trees when attempting the ever-so-slightly deluded exercise of understanding a culture ‘not in piecemeal’, as Douglas says, or ‘in its totality’ as Malinowski said. Both mistake the map for the territory, but Malinowski at least attempted something innovative. Something so innovative, in fact, it turned out to be a taboo in this culture, and was commonly construed to be an outdated approach simply because it had never been tried. It was Malinowski’s intent to show that magic was an institution in its own right, and was not the forerunner of science, as Durkheim and Douglas understood it. I believe he even campaigned when he could after the WORLD WARS to bring to public awareness the similarities between ‘magical thinking’ and Nazism. Douglas neglects to mention this. She also neglects to mention that Malinowski was perhaps the first anthropologist to apply the principles of social drama to ritual, which is an approach Douglas profits from enormously in her book, particularly through her references to the work of Turner. What she doesn’t neglect is the time honoured ritual of making things up when your weak ego confounds your intellect, and she invents her quote about the Dinka Maleria Ceremony, in which she claims that ‘even’ the witchdoctor ‘urged’ people to visit the western medical centre. I don’t need to analyse this really, since it’s a fiction.

In Conclusion:

Draw your own, and respect yourself enough to admit that you do so.

Mary Douglas -

Levy-Bruhl -

Frazer - Not interest until anthropologists apply his insights to our own culture (see Dr. C. S. Hyatts work for an idea).


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