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Monday, June 15, 2009

Other links.

* Ze Frank wants to sell you some art. Is this The Show slowly coming back?

* The fifty most-looked-up words at The New York Times website.

* Paul McCartney and Yoko Ono unite in service of "meat-free Mondays."

* Top ten comedian Twitterers. Top ten filmmaking Twitterers. Top ten magazines on Twitter. Via Candleblog.

* How Facebook is affecting school reunions. I was remarking just this weekend that Facebook has made the high school reunion completely obsolete. (via Neil, whom Facebook has also made obsolete)

* Fans, vampires, trolls, masters: an academic bestiary.

It's always other people who are 'fans': our own attachments, we like to pretend (to ourselves; others are unlikely to be convinced) have been arrived at by a properly judicious process and are not at all excessive. There's a peculiar shame involved in admitting that one is a fan, perhaps because it involves being caught out in a fantasy-identification. 'Maturity' insists that we remember with hostile distaste, gentle embarrassment or sympathetic condescenscion when we were first swept up by something - when, in the first flushes of devotion, we tried to copy the style, the tone; when, that is, we are drawn into the impossible quest of trying to become what the Other is it to us. This is the only kind of 'love' that has real philosophical implications, the passion capable of shaking us out of sensus communis. Smirking postmodernity images the fan as the sad geekish Trekkie, pathetically, fetishistically invested in what - all good sense knows - is embarrassing trivia. But this lofty, purportedly olympian perspective is nothing but the view of the Last Man. Which isn't to make the fatuous relativist claim that devotees of Badiou are the same as Trekkies; it is to make the point that Graham has been tirelessly reiterating - that the critique from nowhere is nothing but trolling. Trolls pride themselves on not being fans, on not having the investments shared by those occupying whatever space they are trolling. Trolls are not limited to cyberspace, although, evidently, zones of cyberspace - comments boxes and discussion boards - are particularly congenial for them. And of course the elementary Troll gesture is the disavowal of cyberspace itself. In a typical gesture of flailing impotence that nevertheless has effects - of energy-drain and demoralisation - the Troll spends a great deal of time on the web saying how debased, how unsophisticated, the web is - by contrast, we have to conclude, with the superb work routinely being turned out by 'professionals' in the media and the academy.

In many ways, the academic qua academic is the Troll par excellence. Postgraduate study has a propensity to breeds trolls; in the worst cases, the mode of nitpicking critique (and autocritique) required by academic training turns people into permanent trolls, trolls who troll themselves, who transform their inability to commit to any position into a virtue, a sign of their maturity (opposed, in their minds, to the allegedly infantile attachments of The Fan). But there is nothing more adolescent - in the worst way - than this posture of alleged detachment, this sneer from nowhere. For what it disavows is its own investments; an investment in always being at the edge of projects it can neither commit to nor entirely sever itself from - the worst kind of libidinal configuration, an appalling trap, an existential toxicity which ensures debilitation for all who come into contact with it (if only that in terms of time and energy wasted - the Troll above all wants to waste time, its libido involves a banal sadism, the dull malice of snatching people's toys away from them).
Via Larval Subjects, who adds the Minotaur:
To K-Punks bestiary, I wonder if we shouldn’t add Minotaurs and their Labyrinths. One of the most frustrating things about the trollish figure of the scholar is the manner in which they proceed as minotaurs presiding over labyrinths. For the Minotaur it is never possible for there to be a genuine philosophical difference or a genuine difference in positions among philosophers. Rather, the Minotaur converts every philosophical opposition into a misinterpretation. The text(s) guarded by the Minotaur thus become a Labyrinth from which there is no escape. The Minotaur is even willing to go so far as deny explicit textual evidence to the contrary, speculating about the motives animating the Minos-Master they defend, suggesting that the thinker was either being humble or didn’t really mean such and such or that it is just a manner of speaking.
* Atheists vs. believers: who's funnier? The answer is George Carlin.