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3 November 2010

A deep thought about election day (after)

Maybe I should have headlined this post “fuming,” per the photograph that accompanies it? Or perhaps not? This weekend I read an interview with French author Michel Houellebecq inĀ the Paris Review. Only after the election has it occurred to me why I highlighted the passage I’ve excerpted below at the time I first read it.

But first, to add yet more throat clearing, here are my thoughts on yesterday’s electoral result: Any despair I have about the position of the tide against the shore at a given moment in time is more than tempered by my feeling that the water can’t hurt us — unless perhaps, a conscious effort is made to drown. In other words, I don’t believe things are that bad right now. I think things have been far worse. All things are matters of perspective.

    Interviewer: They say that you are on the right poltically because in The Elementary Particles you seem to be against the liberalism of the sixties. What do you think of that interpretation?

    Houellebecq: What I think, fundamentally, is that you can’t do anything about major societal changes. It may be regrettable that the family unit is disappearing. You could argue that it increases human suffering. But regrettable or not, there’s nothing we can do. That’s the difference between me and a reactionary. I don’t have an interest in turning back the clock because I don’t believe it can be done. You can only observe and describe. I’ve always liked Balzac’s very insulting statement that the only purpose of the novel is to show the disasters produced by the changing of values. He’s exaggerating in an amusing way. But that’s what I do: I show the disasters produced by the liberalization of values.

    Interviewer: You have written that you are “not only a religious atheist but a political one.” Can you elaborate?

    Houellebecq: I don’t believe much in the influence of politics on history. I think that the major factors are technological and sometimes, not often, religious. I don’t think politicians can really have a true historical importance, except when they provoke major catastrophes Napoleon-style, but that’s about it. Read more »

Posted by Alec Hanley Bemis  

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2 November 2010

A deep thought about election day (before)

I love this song for the same reasons I love America — the synthesis. It’s a little bit country, a little bit hip-hop, a little bit rock’n’roll. That’s the way we used to roll all the time, but not any more. Yes, history is a straw dog. “How things used to be” is a hollow promise. But still, let’s take a moment, an dedicate it to how things used to be, at least in my imagination.

Posted by Alec Hanley Bemis  

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11 June 2009

Two examples of “visual art” imagery as selected by (semi-)democratic processes

Below are two examples of what visual art looks like as determined by democratic processes. One was determined through a simple Google image search on the term “visual art.” The result is an answer determined via algorithm-enhanced democratic process. The second was arrived at via an open call at the New York Times’ photojournalism blog, a more selective form of democratic process governed by human will and motivation. It was subject to light editing, and the limitation that all images needed to be created via Polaroid.

Click on the images below for more information.



Democracy is a process not an all-encompassing solution to all open questions. Yet, raised as we have been in an era of it’s seeming triumph — viz, American Idol, Barack Obama, the fall of the Soviet empire — the word carries with it all sorts of kneejerk positive implications. There are, however, no absolute goods (just as there are no absolute evils). In some sectors of life & expression, democracy should be considered an, at best, ambiguous tool. (Viz, again, American Idol.) History seems to have determined that democracy is the lesser evil process for making decisions about public affairs. Its use in determining aesthetic issues remains in doubt.

Posted by Alec Hanley Bemis  

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