Monday, January 28, 2013

The Culture Steampunk Industry -- The Strange Case of the Visage-Livre Part IV

[From the notebooks of Sub-Inspector M. Horkheimer.]

[See his first, second, and third entries]

Finally, we made our trek from the East of Paris, following the night sky stars to visit the offices of the Kulturindustrie.  This corporation originated in Germany and has since spread throughout the Empire, holding offices in all the major cities, expanding their business.

We have never had any occasion to suspect their work was nefarious and against humanity until we start this case investigating the Visage-Livre, alternately known as Gesichtbuch or The Book of Face.  Several people were found dead in London.  We must get to the roots of this crime.  Adorno is convinced that the culprit may be found in this firm whose doors we now reached. 

Weisengrund said that we should prepare ourselves for what we might find.  Once we entered in to the building, which seemed particularly small and ordinary for such an important business as the Culture-Industry.  I still cannot sort out what occurred in our meeting and what the Kulturindustrie’s business is.

Inside the front doors, we were greeted by a single desk and a shorter man, middle-aged with glasses and dressed in old fashions with a poor suit with a tattered hat set on the table.  He looked like he had purchased these from the moth-ridden attic of an old Edwardian, severely out of place here in Paris.  He did not seem like he was the purveyor of culture.  Perhaps this was just a lower functionary.

“Welcome to the Kulturindustrie.  I am Johann L., mid-assessor of the Paris offices.”  We asked to see the person in charge of this office.  L. replied:  “There is no one in charge.  The Kulturindustrie is the most advanced firm in the Empire since it has no board, no directors, no production line, no products, no employees.  Excepting me, of course.”  “But you are mid-assessor,” I said, “that is a title.  You should have an employer, a supervising assessor, and sub-assessors to instruct.”  L. answered “There are no others.  I am alone.  All I do is tick off the progress of the agency.  No one hired me, though I found myself in this office one day with some work to do.  I don’t know who called me, or whether there is a contract.  I’m not even sure I should call myself mid-assessor.  But I shall chart the progress of the Kulturindustrie.”

“And what is its progress?”  I asked.  Weisengrund grew impatient.  He interrupted:  “This is nonsense.  Where are you from?  You are clearly a pale imitation of a bureaucrat from the Great Frank Kafka’s Amerika films.”

L. hung his head.  “You are right,” he said.  “I still insist that there is no person here who hired me.  I am trying to be a Kafka character.  But this is who I am!  This is what the Visage-Livre does!  It just lets you be who you are -- you are your guise!”

Weisengrund quickly calculated L.’s statement.  “So you are saying, Herr L., that you not only act as if you are employed here but you are because this is what the Visage-Livere makes you?  Hmm.  Truly the Kulturindustrie is more serious than I had previously thought.”  L.  tried to respond but since we would get no answers here we left.  Weisengrund continued to reflect out loud to me.

“So it seems that the Kulturindustrie has created this device which allows your portrait to be drawn and then communicated to others through a pnuematic system.  This device both allows you to portray yourself as whoever you wish and in a way that each person identically acts.  Demonic.”

“But Inspector, I thought this would allow everyone to act as they wish?”

“Only if they act identically to express themselves.  Though all that lodge themselves in the Visage-Livre’s web of steam, they all are so lodged in an interchangeable and exchangeable way.  They are reduced to the abstract equivalence of capital.  The Kuturindustrie is more dangerous than any firm.  It promotes no product except to make everyone sell themselves as product.  Ingenious but deadly.  I’m not sure how to fight this.  I do not think that Benjamin's embrace of this steam-driven tool will liberate.  Nor will the film-apprentice of Kafka's, the strange Brecht.  We must retreat, Sub-Inspector.”

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Pot and the Pan

Dear Alpinist and Ecclesiast:

While in England for my Pentecost Lecture, I went to the libraries of the Oxbridge Amalgamated University to further research James Watt's papers.  I discovered this strange poem, misfiled perhaps by an archivist.  What can you make of it?

The Pot and the Pan
A Eulogy by Samwise Gamgee at the foot of Orodruin

For water and fish
In place of bread
For want of fire
For fear
Tinderbox closed
Gone unused yet not rusted not without love
For weight of iron – no burden or weight
For travelers strange and strangers
        Sign of hill and home
I bury you and commend you
For weapons against hunger and despair
I bury you to preserve you for some chance stranger
        All I may carry now is friend and vial and tender gift
No more to table shall I go, no more to bed
For to our end we must go
For to what may come next in this life become story, I know not
For to our end we must go
I do not know if Slinker will bite or if my Master will fail
But to the our end we must go
Our quest may fail but our friendship will not
That is our end to which we must go