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Field Notes

THINKING ABOUT COMMUNISM

The fall of the former Soviet bloc in 1991 left Marxist-Leninist ideologues at a loss. People who had spent years working hard, often with arrogance and self-confidence, to convince us that a “new reading” of Lenin was the necessary path towards revolution found themselves floating over the ruins and finally recycled their avant-gardist savoir-faire into the formation of new systems of concepts, where Empire replaced Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism—in this case, a system which was favorably received in a few academic circles mourning the lost past. More comic, or simply a mark of ideological confusion, is the intellectual seduction accomplished by Stalin freaks such as “le grand Philosophe” Alain Badiou.

Historical Inertia and Binary Stars

There is a common trope in Broadway musicals where characters who are separated by space and time, or who had been up to this moment, converge upon a common point for the onset of a certain happening. This happening is usually the main event around which the musical’s plot is centered (think “Tonight” in West Side Story, or “One Day More” in Les Miserables). It is worth noting that the unfolding of the plot after this point in the musical is usually underwhelming and feels excessively long to the audience.

Crossing the River Styx: The Endgame

Some years ago I had the good fortune to take a four day backpacking trip on the Kennicott glacier in Alaska. Glaciers are truly wondrous geophysical structures and we came upon many amazing features on the trip, crawling into a translucent blue ice cave, crossing cravasses, rock moraines, and skirting small lakes carved into the ice. It is an otherworldly landscape of dazzling scenes and strange unfamiliar forms but I found the moulins particularly beautiful and interesting.

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OCT 2018

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