sic semper excrementis!

    Born Daniil Ivanovich Yuvachev (Даниил Иванович Ювачёв) on December 30th (17th in the old style) of 1905, Daniil Kharms originally spelled out his favorite pseudonym in Latin script as Daniel Charms, deriving it simultaneously from charm, harm, and dharma. Best known in his lifetime as a prolific writer of children’s books, he reserved most of his avant-garde writings for posthumous publication under perestroika, escaping the Great Terror of the late Thirties, only to starve to death in a prison hospital on February 2nd of 1942, charged with spreading defeatist propaganda.
    It would be impossible to overestimate the influence of Kharms’ definitive epitome of defeatist propaganda on the evolution of Russian performance art.

Continue reading sic semper excrementis!

for a.p.: aristotle on dieting and exercise

    An example of overtly and morphologically marked aspect in Russian verbs sharpening their meaning in a translation from the classical Greek, in reference to this discussion:

    [18] ἐπεὶ δὲ τῶν πράξεων ὧν ἔστι πέρας οὐδεμία τέλος ἀλλὰ τῶν περὶ τὸ τέλος, οἷον τὸ ἰσχναίνειν ἢ ἰσχνασία [20] [αὐτό], αὐτὰ δὲ ὅταν ἰσχναίνῃ οὕτως ἐστὶν ἐν κινήσει, μὴ ὑπάρχοντα ὧν ἕνεκα ἡ κίνησις, οὐκ ἔστι ταῦτα πρᾶξις ἢ οὐ τελεία γε ̔οὐ γὰρ τέλοσ̓: ἀλλ’ ἐκείνη ἐνυπάρχει τὸ τέλος καὶ [ἡ] πρᾶξις. οἷον ὁρᾷ ἅμα καὶ φρονεῖ καὶ νοεῖ καὶ νενόηκεν, ἀλλ’ οὐ μανθάνει καὶ μεμάθηκεν [25] οὐδ’ ὑγιάζεται καὶ ὑγίασται: εὖ ζῇ καὶ εὖ ἔζηκεν ἅμα, καὶ εὐδαιμονεῖ καὶ εὐδαιμόνηκεν. εἰ δὲ μή, ἔδει ἄν ποτε παύεσθαι ὥσπερ ὅταν ἰσχναίνῃ, νῦν δ’ οὔ, ἀλλὰ ζῇ καὶ ἔζηκεν. τούτων δὴ τὰς μὲν κινήσεις λέγειν, τὰς δ’ ἐνεργείας. πᾶσα γὰρ κίνησις ἀτελής, ἰσχνασία μάθησις βάδισις οἰκοδόμησις: [30] αὗται δὴ κινήσεις, καὶ ἀτελεῖς γε. οὐ γὰρ ἅμα βαδίζει καὶ βεβάδικεν, οὐδ’ οἰκοδομεῖ καὶ ᾠκοδόμηκεν, οὐδὲ γίγνεται καὶ γέγονεν ἢ κινεῖται καὶ κεκίνηται, ἀλλ’ ἕτερον, καὶ κινεῖ καὶ κεκίνηκεν: ἑώρακε δὲ καὶ ὁρᾷ ἅμα τὸ αὐτό, καὶ νοεῖ καὶ νενόηκεν. τὴν μὲν οὖν τοιαύτην ἐνέργειαν [35] λέγω, ἐκείνην δὲ κίνησιν. τὸ μὲν οὖν ἐνεργείᾳ τί τέ ἐστι καὶ ποῖον, ἐκ τούτων καὶ τῶν τοιούτων δῆλον ἡμῖν ἔστω.
    — Aristotle, Metaphysics 9.1048b
     Since no action which has a limit is an end, but only a means to the end, as, e.g., the process of thinning; and since the parts of the body themselves, when one is thinning them, are in motion in the sense that they are not already that which it is the object of the motion to make them, this process is not an action, or at least not a complete one, since it is not an end; it is the process which includes the end that is an action. E.g., at the same time we see and have seen, understand and have understood, think and have thought; but we cannot at the same time learn and have learnt, or become healthy and be healthy. We are living well and have lived well, we are happy and have been happy, at the same time; otherwise the process would have had to cease at some time, like the thinning-process; but it has not ceased at the present moment; we both are living and have lived. Now of these processes we should call the one type motions, and the other actualizations. Every motion is incomplete — the processes of thinning, learning, walking, building — these are motions, and incomplete at that. For it is not the same thing which at the same time is walking and has walked, or is building and has built, or is becoming and has become, or is being moved and has been moved, but two different things; and that which is causing motion is different from that which has caused motion. But the same thing at the same time is seeing and has seen, is thinking and has thought. The latter kind of process, then, is what I mean by actualization, and the former what I mean by motion. What the actual is, then, and what it is like, may be regarded as demonstrated from these and similar considerations.
    — translated by Hugh Tredennick
     Ни одно из действий, имеющих предел, не есть цель, а все они направлены на цель, например цель похудания — худоба; но когда худеющий находится в таком движении, которое происходит не ради похудания, это движение не действие или по крайней мере не законченное действие (ибо оно не есть цель); но если в движении заключена цель, то оно и есть действие. Так, например, человек видит — и тем самым увидел, размышляет — и тем самым размыслил, думает — и тем самым подумал (но нельзя сказать, что он учится — п тем самым научился или лечится — и тем самым вылечился); и он живет хорошо — и тем самым ужо жил хорошо, он счастлив — и тем самым уже был счастлив. Иначе действие это уже должно было бы когда-нибудь прекратиться, так, как когда человек худеет; здесь это не так, а, [например], он живет — и уже жил. Поэтому первые надо называть движениями, вторые — осуществлениями. Ведь всякое движение незакончено — похудание, учение, ходьба, строительство; это, разумеется, движения и именно незаконченные. Ибо неверно, что человек в одно и то же время идет и уже сходил, строит дом и уже построил его, возникает и ужо возник или двигается и уже подвинулся, — все это разное, и также разное “движет” и “подвинул”. Но одно и то же существо в то же время увидело и видит, а также думает и подумало. Так вот, такое действие я называю осуществлением, а то — движением. Таким образом, из этих и им подобных рассуждений должно быть нам ясно, что такое сущее в действительности и каково оно.
    — перевод А.В. Кубицкого

selected mementoes of true love responding to hard-earned cash

    A recent Wikipedia controversy concerns claims of Blixa Bargeld, the leader of pop music ensemble Einstürzende Neubauten, having married Erin Zhu for money that she earned under her father and ex-boyfriend Min Zhu, thoroughly degraded in the wake of his recent banishment as an executive and director of WebEx, an Internet conferencing company that he had co-founded. The attached emails shed light on these events.
    At the time these emails were written, Erin Zhu described Michael Zeleny to all and sundry as her best friend, encouraged him to read her amorous correspondence, and sought out his advice in connection with wooing her illustrious beloved. Copies of these emails remain on file as public record. They can be found in the Santa Clara Superior Court case files of Zeleny v. Zhu & WebEx, Zelyony v. Zhu, and Affeld v. Zhu, all settled by the defendants in 2004. Erin Zhu has authenticated them under oath in her depositions taken in these cases.


Erin Zhu and Blixa Bargeld

    Erin’s narratives lend themselves to fascinating sound bites that shed light on the juncture between victimology and starfucking:

I was not born and raised a nice girl — after all I am my father’s daughter, and I inherited so much from him, his murderous rage, his overwhelming ambitions, his sarcastic contempt, his sadistic streak.
I will not be a monster like my father; I am determined and sure of that much.
— Erin Zhu to Blixa Bargeld, 25 Nov 99 20:14:42 PST

She then explains the monstrosity:

the summer when I was fourteen, my father suddenly changed his tune when my mother left for an extended visit to China. he took off my clothes, praised my naked form held up to a bathroom mirror, and devoured my body with his lust.
I wanted to die; I tried to kill. I did not succeed in either.
— Erin Zhu to Blixa Bargeld, 27 Dec 99 13:40:45 PST

Shortly after presenting her childhood rape claims against Min Zhu Erin accepts her parents’ offer of fraudulent settlement. The next day she informs her beloved:

I have always identified myself with creative, bohemian, fringe elements of society, yet I was driving to a local office of a major investment bank the other day to meet a vice president from their “private wealth management” division.
— Erin Zhu to Blixa Bargeld, 21 Mar 00 04:14:11 PST

The next week, Erin signs the settlement papers. The same day she tells Blixa Bargeld how she made her fortune:

What happened? I sold the technology for the main business I was working on to a Hollywood-backed Internet entertainment site that is going public in a couple of months. As with all such deals, since what I actually get is primarily in their stock, the final price is highly variable and still unknown at this time, I won’t have much cash probably until the end of the year, and it’s unlikely that what I built will actually see the light of day since they bought me out to eliminate competition. But even so, even after paying off the legal teams and the investors and the huge amount that goes to taxes, assuming the stock market and economy does not completely crash this year, I will have enough left to never have to work for money again.
— Erin Zhu to Blixa Bargeld, 30 Mar 00 20:17:31 PST

And she never did. Erin Zhu married Blixa Bargeld soon after her financial disclosures. As described in the referenced lawsuits, the newlyweds celebrated their nuptials by maxing out the credit card that Isaak Zelyony had loaned to Erin to tide her over while she was waiting for her blood money from Min Zhu. Since then, Einstürzende Neubauten has credited her as their executive producer and webmaster.
    The Mounties always get their man.

Received: from 204.68.24.39 by www0j for [209.79.189.211] via web-mailer(M3.3.1.96) on Mon Dec 27 21:40:45 GMT 1999
Date: 27 Dec 99 13:40:45 PST
From: Eryn Zhu
To: Blixa Bargeld
Subject: loneliness
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kills the soul, they say.

what can they know of it, I wonder, they who have never lived
in my skin, listened to my thoughts, dreamed in my mind? yet
they are able to write about loneliness with such conviction,
such empathy, that even from the distance of the printed page
I am touched by the spirit of their words, and find my own
loneliness eased by the distant sharing.

such are the powers of the word, the thought rendered concrete,
so that even without its original human context, displaced by
the passage of time, flattened into the rigid form of text,
ghosts of strangers from bygone eras can whisper in my ear and
remind me more acutely of my ties to the rest of humanity than
all the flesh and blood people I live amongst.

once upon a time when I still lived in China, I wanted to be a
writer; the cultural and linguistic uprooting and the demands
of practicality managed to put an end to that soon after.
perhaps I will want to be a writer again. perhaps I will try
to write. I have always been more comfortable in the realm of
pure thoughts and words than anything material; the result of
many years of living in my head and feeling detached from my
body, I suppose.

in my occasional forays into philosophy I’d always been
fascinated by the eternal questions around the mind and truth:
the mind body duality, the question of other minds, the
paradox of the liar, etc. I have never felt a great deal of
necessary connection between my mind and my body; never mind
the question of which body part(s) the essential “I” may or
may not live in, it seems a purely accidental fact that I
even come bundled with this physical shape. yet I suspect
that I would cease to exist if this body died… the other
questions are somewhat easier to resolve: I can escape
solipsism because I have met enough people out there who do
not think in a way that I understand at all; I can deal with
the liar paradox by turning to the meta-theories of mathematics.

I have never been particularly comfortable with my body.
since I was a child my parents told me that I was plain,
that my face deviated in too many ways from the Chinese
standards of beauty. when I reached puberty I was told that
I’d have to rely on my brains to make my way in the world,
since I’d never get anywhere based on my looks. so I wore
my brother’s castoff clothes, sympathized with the ugly
stepsisters, and never dreamed of handsome princes on white
horses.

the summer when I was fourteen, my father suddenly changed
his tune when my mother left for an extended visit to China.
he took off my clothes, praised my naked form held up to a
bathroom mirror, and devoured my body with his lust.
I wanted to die; I tried to kill. I did not succeed in either.
instead I learned to disassociate my mind, to build walls in
my head so that I do not feel.

I live with the residuals to this day: a lingering discomfort
with my body; the need to retain control, and an inability to
stop thinking, even in the most intimate situations; a body
that cannot feel pleasure with anybody I did not completely
trust. The latter has been remarkably effective in protecting
my virtue: the few attempts I’d made at casual sex ended as
spectacular failures.

maybe this helps explain why I did not expect to sleep with
you in New York; and why I said that I did not, generally
speaking, trust men. trust makes me vulnerable, a condition
I react badly to because I have been scarred before. until
you touched me, I did not think that I would trust you: my
body is a drawbridge to my soul and I am not in the habit of
granting entry to strangers.

I don’t quite know why an exception was made for you; that’s
one reason why I keep writing, I suppose, and why I want to
know you better.

I don’t know how meaningful it is to you, that you are one of
only a few people in the world that I trust, and none of them
my own family.

I hope you will not give me cause for regret.

perhaps I’ve said too much already?

Erin

____________________________________________________________________
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Received: from 204.68.24.51 by www0v for [209.79.189.211] via web-mailer(M3.3.1.96) on Fri Nov 26 04:14:42 GMT 1999
Date: 25 Nov 99 20:14:42 PST
From: Eryn Zhu
To: Blixa Bargeld
Subject: memories
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Crossing the busy streets of Hong Kong the other day, my mother
held on to my hand, a gesture that reversed roles we’d played
so long ago. She trusts me, her estranged and prodigal daughter,
to guide her safely around the reckless vehicles, I think to
myself, and am strangely touched by the thought. I had never
been particularly close to my mother; growing up she had always
openly favored my brother, and had little patience or affection
for me. It was only after I’d left home and became a grown
woman that she started making overtures of friendship. To think
that we had to come half a world away to renew the tenuous ties
of blood between us…

It surprises me still, how much I want her to at least accept me
and approve of what I do, even after all these years when I told
myself that I did not care.

She and I sat in the dark watching the glittering Hong Kong
skyline, and spoke of our disparate rememberances of the past.
Left unspoken between us was the fact that neither of us could
think of any happy memories of my childhood. She told stories
of me as a baby; I told her small pieces of triumph from my
more recent past; the long years that stretched between age three
through sixteen went untouched, bypassed with a shake of the
head and mutterings of “there were historical reasons”…

Eventually she wanted to know if I was going to find myself a
nice boy, preferably Asian of course. I did not have the words
to tell her what I thought: I lived with a nice boy, mama;
when I found myself more lonely in his arms than without I told
him to leave… He was too nice for me, mama; I could not even
tell him what I really thought for fear of damaging him. I was not
born and raised a nice girl — after all I am my father’s daughter,
and I inherited so much from him, his murderous rage, his
overwhelming ambitions, his sarcastic contempt, his sadistic streak. Sure,
talk to my friends and acquaintances and they will tell you, I
am a nice person, considerate of other people’s feelings, loyal to
my friends, generous with my money and assistance, though somewhat
anti-social and a persistent loner. Little do they know the degree
of control I maintain to lock away the undesirable impulses; it is
after all better for me to turn away and seek refuge in my books and
my work than take it out on real live people.

I will not be a monster like my father; I am determined and sure of
that much. I also cannot, I discovered, live with a man who does not
have a basis for understanding why I wake up with violent nightmares
and the constant restraint I exercise to not hurt him. And I do not
want anyone that reminds me of my father, of course… So I keep to
myself a great deal, and give my mother a vague little response about
how I am in no hurry.

You asked me once why I wrote to you; I’ve met very few people in my
life that can understand the contradictions in my head. That I am
aware of, and am drawn to, many dark areas of the human psyche,
but am sufficiently rational and responsible to be a good person.
That I have faith in basic human decency, even though I did not come
to that by way of innocent naivete or blind religious compliance.
And I thought that perhaps there was a slim chance that you might
understand, that communication might be possible despite the vast
ocean of differences between us. That would be worth far more to me
than any sort of physical intimacy. Does this make any sense?

I think I’ve said enough for now.

yours,
Erin

Received: from 204.68.24.50 by www0u for [207.214.220.88] via web-mailer(M3.3.1.96) on Tue Mar 21 12:14:11 GMT 2000
Date: 21 Mar 00 04:14:11 PST
From: Eryn Zhu
To: Blixa Bargeld
Subject: me, myself, and I
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Forgive me for returning to the format of a monologue about
my life and state of mind.

It is 3:30 in the morning, I’ve recently awaken after a couple
of hours of sleep with a vague feeling of dread, and know from
experience that I must keep myself awake until this state passes
or else my slumber would be disturbed by fullbown nightmares.
The curse of memory, of the past clinging to life in the hours
when the unconscious rules supreme.

In my late teens I was forced to re-evaluate almost everything
I thought to be self-evident about myself and my life because
of some choices I had made; but I was a poor student then,
my head filled with dreams of Platonic ideals, and many decisions
were easy.

The past several months, I have felt the need to reconsider the
distance between my present reality, my perception of myself,
and the possibilities for the future. The gap between reality
and perception is perhaps the most troublesome. It exhibits
itself in small things, for example in my conscious appreciation
of sleek wide open modern architectural styles of steel,
concrete, glass, and wood, but at home I find myself most
comfortable when I have a cozy area to curl up with a book. Or
the fact that I have always identified myself with creative,
bohemian, fringe elements of society, yet I was driving to a
local office of a major investment bank the other day to meet
a vice president from their “private wealth management” division.
Or for that matter, me thinking that I might like to settle down
into comfortable couplehood, while in fact turning away several
possibly realistic boys and finding myself attracted to someone
completely unsuitable.

So: I will be taking the occasion of my upcoming birthday to
contemplate an alignment between perception and reality — to
figure out not just who I want to be, but who I should be, and
to impose that over all relevant aspects of my life, in both
action and desires. Whether it’s my Asian need for spiritual
exercise, or an unrequited manifestation of dialectical
materialism, I cannot say.

Perhaps it is only the brightness of the full moon high in the
heavens, which for the Chinese has always been a bringer of
melancholy meditations and homesickness.

regards,
Erin

____________________________________________________________________
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Received: from 204.68.24.81 by ww181 for [63.202.80.134] via web-mailer(M3.3.1.96) on Fri Mar 31 04:17:31 GMT 2000
Date: 30 Mar 00 20:17:31 PST
From: Eryn Zhu
To: Blixa Bargeld
Subject: backwards glance
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Dear Blixa,

Thank you for your note.

I’m back at home. Signed the papers, drank a glass of
champagne, sold out successfully.

What happened? I sold the technology for the main business
I was working on to a Hollywood-backed Internet
entertainment site that is going public in a couple of
months. As with all such deals, since what I actually
get is primarily in their stock, the final price is
highly variable and still unknown at this time, I won’t
have much cash probably until the end of the year, and
it’s unlikely that what I built will actually see the
light of day since they bought me out to eliminate
competition. But even so, even after paying off the
legal teams and the investors and the huge amount that
goes to taxes, assuming the stock market and economy does
not completely crash this year, I will have enough left
to never have to work for money again.

It feels very strange to be sitting here on the last day
of my 25th year waiting for that fact to actually sink in.
It is a problem with the modern economy that I don’t even
have anything more concrete than sheets of paper to make
it feel more real.

I am sorry I have been so touchy and on edge recently;
this entire process has been very wearing on my nerves.

And I miss you.

Erin

____________________________________________________________________
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before the law

            Vor dem Gesetz             Before the Law
    Vor dem Gesetz steht ein Türhüter. Zu diesem Türhüter kommt ein Mann vom Lande und bittet um Eintritt in das Gesetz. Aber der Türhüter sagt, daß er ihm jetzt den Eintritt nicht gewähren könne. Der Mann überlegt und fragt dann, ob er also später werde eintreten dürfen. «Es ist möglich», sagt der Türhüter, «jetzt aber nicht.» Da das Tor zum Gesetz offensteht wie immer und der Türhüter beiseite tritt, bückt sich der Mann, um durch das Tor in das Innere zu sehn.     Before the Law stands a doorkeeper. To this doorkeeper there comes a man from the country and prays for admittance to the Law. But the doorkeeper says that he cannot grant admittance at the moment. The man thinks it over and then asks if he will be allowed in later. “It is possible,” says the doorkeeper, “but not at the moment.” Since the gate stands open, as usual, and the doorkeeper steps to one side, the man stoops to peer through the gateway into the interior.

Continue reading before the law