31 January 2012

La Cochon Culturale

The commonality of animal rearing for food is rooted in the peculiarities of local history. Ashington’s history as a significant urban centre dates back only to the early twentieth century. Rapid development of the local mining industry in this period required the colliery owners to import a labour force from outlying rural areas and from their agricultural estate lands in places as distant as Ulster. Continuity of the rural subsistence skills that these people brought to the area was facilitated principally by the emergence and resilience of the allotment movement and stimulated periodically by the shortages of war, recession and unemployment.

Having said this, rearing of animals is more than a mere matter of subsistence. These semi-domestic animals are subjects of an array of beliefs and practices whose logic is intimately related to local experience, and, in particular, to the threat of mining death. Above all, the pig is simultaneously the most revered and feared of animals. In some accounts it is attributed with the powers of prediction. Charlie Burnsey: ‘You can tell when there’s a storm comin’ when a P.I.G. turns its arse to the breeze.’ In other accounts it is characterized as the purest of animals. Jackie Thompson: The pig eats nothing but ‘rubbish, muck and shite, but when you cut it open it’s as clean as a whistle’. Indeed, among the varied ingredients, the Guinness, the virgin’s urine, and the rabbit droppings, that are used to nourish prize vegetables, pig’s blood is regarded by many as the very best. Charlie Burnsey: ‘A bucket of gissy blood on your leeks works wonders . . . it’s like rocket fuel.’

Contrastively, for fear of inviting death many people refrain from using the word pig, referring to it instead as ‘P.I.G.’, ‘gissy’, ‘grunter’ or descriptively ‘round fat thing with stumpy legs’. On a number of occasions the taboo has been used effectively. For example, one man relayed a story of the last days of the strike of 1928. Many of the men at Newbiggin pit were weakening and returning to work. In response, a group of men broke in and nailed the decapitated head of a pig to the entrance of the main shaft. Before the management had time to remove it, one of the returning men saw it and beat a hasty retreat. Word of the event spread and the strike remained firm for a while longer

Leisure and Change in a Post-mining Mining Town - Andrew Dawson

29 January 2012

to be Fair


2. Although many people may scoff, it may yet be shown that astrology can explain a lot of things.
3. America is getting so far from the true American way of life that force may be necessary to restore it.
6. It is only natural and right that women be restricted in certain ways in which men have more freedom.
9. Too many people today are living in an unnatural, soft way; we should return to the fundamentals, to a more red-blooded, active way of life.
10. It is more than a remarkable coincidence that Japan had an earthquake on Pearl Harbor Day, December 7, 1944.
12. The modern church, with its many rules and hypocrisies, does not appeal to the deeply religious person; it appeals mainly to the childish, the insecure, and the uncritical.
14. After we finish off the Germans and Japs, we ought to concentrate on other enemies of the human race such as rats, snakes, and germs.
17. Familiarity breeds contempt.
19. One should avoid doing things in public which appear wrong to others, even though one knows that these things are really all right
20. One of the main values of progressive education is that it gives the child great freedom in expressing those natural impulses and desires so often frowned upon by conventional middle-class society.
23. He is, indeed, contemptible who does not feel an undying love, gratitude, and respect for his parents.
24. Today everything is unstable; we should be prepared for a period of constant change, conflict, and upheaval.
28. Novels or stories that tell about what people think and feel are more interesting than those which contain mainly action, romance, and adventure.
30. Reports of atrocities in Europe have been greatly exaggerated for propaganda purposes.
31. Homosexuality is a particularly rotten form of delinquency and ought to be severely punished.
32. It is essential for learning or effective work that our teachers or bosses outline in detail what is to be done and exactly how to go about it.
35. There are some activities so flagrantly un-American that, when responsible officials won't take the proper steps, the wideawake citizen should take the law into his own hands.
38. There is too much emphasis in college on intellectual and theoretical topics, not enough emphasis on practical matters and on the homely virtues of living.
39. Every person should have a deep faith in some supernatural force higher than himself to which he gives total allegiance and whose decisions he does not question.
42. No matter how they act on the surface, men are interested in women for only one reason.
43. Sciences like chemistry, physics, and medicine have carried men very far, but there are many important things that can never  possibly be understood by the human mind.
46. The sexual orgies of the old Greeks and Romans are nursery school stuff compared to some of the goings-on in this country today, even in circles where people might least expect it.
47. No insult to our honor should ever go unpunished.
50. Obedience and respect for authority are the most important virtues children should learn.
53. There are some things too intimate or personal to talk about even with one's closest friends.
55. Although leisure is a fine thing, it is good hard work that makes life interesting and worthwhile.
56. After the war, we may expect a crime wave; the control of gangsters and ruffians will become a major social problem.
58. What a man does is not so important so long as he does it well.
59. Human nature being what it is, there will always be war and conflict.
60. Which of the following are the most important for a person to have or to be? Mark X the three most important.
artistic and sensuous popular, good personality
drive, determination, will power
broad, humanitarian social outlook neatness and good manners
sensitivity and understanding
efficiency, practicality, thrift
intellectual and serious
emotional expressiveness, warmth, intimacy
kindness and charity
65. It is entirely possible that this series of wars and conflicts will be ended once and for all by a world-destroying earthquake, flood, or other catastrophe.
66. Books and movies ought not to deal so much with the sordid and seamy side of life; they ought to concentrate on themes that are entertaining or uplifting.
67. When you come right down to it, it's human nature never to do anything without an eye to one's own profit.
70. To a greater extent than most people realize, our lives are governed by plots hatched in secret by politicians.
73. Nowadays when so many different kinds of people move around so much and mix together so freely, a person has to be especially careful to protect himself against infection and disease.
74. What this country needs is fewer laws and agencies, and more courageous, tireless, devoted leaders whom the people can put their faith in.
75. Sex crimes, such as rape and attacks on children, deserve more than mere imprisonment; such criminals ought to be  publicly whipped.
77. No sane, normal, decent person could ever think of hurting a close friend or relative.
—Theodor W. Adorno, Else Frenkel-Brunswik, Daniel Levinson, and Nevitt Sanford, The Authoritarian Personality (1950)

21 January 2012




In January 2002, broken, I read Heidegger's Being and Time and thought nonstop about hotels.
Heidegger was my hotel, an unfriendly, dominating, domicile. I stayed for one cold, difficult month.
No philosopher, I entered Being and Time for aesthetic pleasure and for hotel gleanings.
My goal: to refurbish the meaning of hotel. As Heidegger says, "it is the business of philosophy to protect the power of the most elemental words..." (...)
Being-at-home, Heidegger says, is not the "primordial phenomenon." "Not-being-at-home" is more fundamental. To be not-at-home may mean to be at hotel. (Am I at home in this language?)
I may deviate from Heidegger in this discussion.
Hotel presupposes home. To speak about hotel is an oblique way to address home problems.
Do you check into a hotel? Or does the hotel condition check into you?
My friend referred to his lover's death, euphemistically, as "checking out": "Mark checked out." We "check out" when we cruise: "I checked him out."
Dwelling in the hotel state, my voice newly neutral and indifferent, I hope to override the "They" of home, of fixed domicile.


While reading Being and Time, suddenly I remembered a custard pie from the 1960s. I hadn't tasted it; I'd merely seen it, quivering, in its cafeteria vitrine. The relation between house and hotel is like the relation between restaurant and self-serve smorgasbord. The custard pie, trembling behind glass, is the hotel, offering itself.
Hotel existence uncannily suspends us above groundedness. To be in hotel is to float, or to tremble, like just-set custard.
Heidegger frequently uses the term "thrown." We are thrown into Being. And, I'd add, we are thrown into the hotel, thrown into its impersonal, public muddle.
We turn away from work as a means of "taking care," says Heidegger. To check into a hotel: this too, may be a mode of taking care, of refusal.
Hotel is a method of "not-staying." Curious, we stray; we enter the euphoric state of "never dwelling anywhere."
Hotel existence, because socially unattached, is silent, even amid noise.
We may take speed in a hotel room, and yet a hotel room more frequently finds us tranquilized and numb. Stranded, alienated, closed off from authenticity, in the hotel we commit what Heidegger calls "the plunge." We dive into "everydayness." We eddy. We "fall prey."
To be in hotel: is this an inauthentic practice? Checking into a hotel, are we freed from surveillance and ordinariness, or are we squashed and smothered by the "They"?"

—Wayne Koestenbaum, Hotel Theory

16 January 2012

Q: Can phallic chandeliers also be mothers?

"So — the first waldorf school was named after a cigarette factory in Stuttgart, Germany. The waldorf salad got its name from the Waldorf Hotel in New York (later the Waldorf Astoria), where it was created. But were there any connections between the cigarette factory in Stuttgart and the hotel in New York? Incidentally, the company that owned old cigarette factory in Stuttgart also bore the name Astoria — The Waldorf-Astoria Cigarette Company — though nowadays the factory is occasionally mentioned only as the Waldorf cigarette factory. (I believe? I may be mistaken here though.) And the waldorf schools, as far as I know, never adopted the entire name Waldorf-Astoria.

And, more importantly, what happened to the Waldorf cigarette factory? My google searches didn't bring up anything but a very brief history of the factory itself on wikipedia. I may have come across more substantial information at some point in the past, but I cannot remember.

The Waldorf Hotel, opened in 1893 according to Wikipedia, clearly predates the Waldorf school. The salad, likewise, was a creation of the 1890s. The Waldorf Hotel closed for relocation, merged with the Astoria Hotel and opened as the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in 1931.

The Waldorf-Astoria Cigarette Company, on the other hand, was established by Emil Molt — the anthroposophist who would later be involved with Rudolf Steiner in setting up the first waldorf school — and colleagues in 1906. It had been named after John Jacob Astor (1763-1948) from a German town called Walldorf. He had emigrated to the US and become enormously wealthy. Molt's Waldorf-Astoria cigarette company went out of business in 1929 — that is, before the joint Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York had even been opened.

To make the story more complicated, the Waldorf-Astoria hotel had originally been two hotels, both of which were established by descendants of the same rich emigrant John Jacob Astor, whom the cigarette company had been named after. As already mentioned, the Waldorf Hotel was opened in 1893. The other hotel — the Astoria — was established four years later. By this time, it seems, the family had adopted the name of John Jacob Astor's home village, Walldorf, though with another spelling: Waldorf.

The Waldorf-Astoria Tobacco factory may have ceased to exist in 1929, but the tobacco brand remained in production, during many years manufactured by a company called Remtsmaa. The Waldorf schools are still around. When the Stuttgart school had been established by Molt and Steiner in 1919, Molt was manager of the cigarette company, and he and the company provided the building space the school needed."


"OK, Zooey, first correct a typo here. You've got JJ Astor living to be 185!

"It had been named after John Jacob Astor (1763-1948) from a German town called Walldorf."

So, JJ the First dies on March 29, 1848. But then William Waldorf Astor, 1st Viscount Astor, is born two days later, March 31, 1848, and that day straddles Steiner's death day of March 30! Wee Willy Waldorf is the son of JJ the Third, and he is the Waldorf half of the famous Hotel.

Wee Willy's cousin, JJ the 4th, is the Astoria half. But JJ the 4th is probably most famous for going down with the Titanic in 1912. But before he died, he put his wife into the lifeboat. She was 5 months pregnant with JJ the 6th (there's a reason it's not the 5th) and he is considered a Titanic survivor even though he was a fetus at the time.

Then Wee Willy Waldorf Astor dies in October 1919 just a month after the first Waldorf School opens. How karmi-cosmic the timing!

The school opened on Sept. 7, 1919 with 256 pupils in eight grades; 191 of the pupils were from factory families, the other 65 came from interested families from Stuttgart, many of whom were already engaged in the anthroposophical movement in that city.

In the following years, a numerical balance between the factory workers' and outside children was achieved; it had been an explicit goal of the social three-folding movement to create a school that bridged social classes in this way.
For the first year, the school was a company school and all teachers were listed as workers at Waldorf-Astoria, by the second year the school had become an independent entity." 


Re: Willy Waldorf & the Cigarette Factory

"Thanks Tom! Unfortunately I was not just informative, I was misinformative.
The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel existed much earlier than I thought when I wrote
the post yesterday! It means the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel existed, under that
name, before the cigarette company."


12 January 2012


When I was growing up there was always a pub at the end of the road. It was your local.
At about nine o’clock when everyone had got a bit merry, you began to sing. Everybody did it. It was incredibly communal. You could walk up the main road where there was a pub on every corner and it would be a cacophony of singing.

 - Terence Davies

Deutsche Atelier

"I have read so many books...
And yet, like so many autodidacts, I am never quite sure of what I have gained from them. There are days when I feel I have been able to grasp all there is to know in one single gaze, as if invisible branches suddenly spring out of nowhere, weaving together all the disparate strands of my reading—and then suddenly the meaning escapes, the essence evaporates, and no matter how often I reread  the same lines, they seem to flee ever further with each subsequent reading, and I see myself as some mad old fool who thinks her stomach is full because she's been attentively reading the menu. Apparently this combination of ability and blindness is a symptom exclusive to the autodidact. Deprived of the steady guiding hand that any good education provides, the autodidact possesses nonetheless the gift of freedom and conciseness of thought, where official discourse would put up barriers and prohibit adventure.
This morning, as it happens, I am standing, puzzled, in the kitchen, with a little book set down before me. I am in the midst of one of those moments where the folly of my solitary undertaking takes hold of me and, on the verge of giving up, I fear I have finally found my master."
—Muriel Barbery The Elegance of the Hedgehog

11 January 2012

The Color Underground

 COL. MORRIS DAVIS: "Well, I think it was a complete act of cowardice on his part. As I’ve stated before, I think on Inauguration Day, somewhere between the Capitol and the White House, a pair of testicles fell off the President."

"One problem I found myself running into fairly often while writing this book, for instance, was the lack of a theoretical language with which to talk about desire. Unless one is able to convince oneself that there really is a compelling reason to believe that language itself has a special affinity to one’s father’s penis, and is therefore willing to adopt the ideas of Jacques Lacan, or unless one is willing to adopt the Nietzschean approach adopted by authors like Deleuze or Foucault, which makes desire, or the desire for power, the fundamental constituent of all reality—a position that if carried at all far invariably seems to lead to truly bizarre conclusions, such as left-wing academics singing the praises of the Marquis de Sade—one is pretty much stuck."
—David Graeber, Toward an Anthropological Theory of Value