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Friday, October 28, 2011

Roadside Attractions: Project Nim: Intellectual Torture - Terrace Pimped the Chimp


People know what they do.

They frequently know why they do what they do.

But what they don't know is what they do

Michel Foucault


From the Academy Award winning team behind Man on Wire comes the story of Nim, a chimpanzee who in the 1970s became the focus of a landmark experiment which aimed to show that an ape could learn to communicate with language if raised and nurtured like a human child. What was learned about his true nature -- and indeed our own -- is comic, revealing and profoundly unsettling. (Roadside Attractions)  

The Young Bob Ingersoll and Nim - the only two in the film who are fully realized human beings - link to NPR article
1974 Lectures - Abnormal  - College de France
These lectures were written to be read to an international audience during 1974. They read as if you are listening to them. Foucault is never an easy read, but the oral lectures are his most accessible works. This is mesmerizing and had the idiot scientists understood his work Nim would never have had to suffer at their hands at the same time these lectures were being given. 
Madness and Civilization - A Genealogy of The Great European Confinement and the First Incarceration of People Considered Abnormal

Foster Mother
Nim with Cat - he loved cats
I am avoiding a psychological interpretation of the people in this film. I can only say they are sub-human specimens of humanity, and stupid in addition, even the supposedly well intentioned ones.
Roger Fouts taught Washoe ASL and then had to fight for her to save her life after science was finished with her.
She had someone who loved her from the beginning who pulled it off. Lucky Washoe, unlucky Nim.

“Project Nim” Reveals a Scientific Scandal

Everything Bolles says is correct. Only all of it is a floating sign that conceals the

Here is Nim in happier times. His foster family was non authoritarian with him but no one signed during his crucial and early years. As if a baby grew up in a home where no one talked.

Here is smug Herbert Terrace driving him in the car. I don't think this was the day he abruptly took him from his family.
Here he is with his first sign language teacher, a grad student assisting Terrace. They were very very close and now you see that he has grown, no longer the age and size of being carried around, bigger than in the car photo.
Now see her with Terrace and Nim. In the film you see how lovely she is, and how close she is with Terrace. Very close. Rob Pattinson and Kristen Stewart watchers will notice all the nuances.

Then a new sign language teacher comes on the scene. Another young enthusiastic pretty blond one. She and Terrace are very close and she is very close with Nim.

An uncomfortableness arises between the two young women. Terrace gives the new one a title for the project that will look good on her future resume.
2nd teacher I think - lovely eh

His first teacher packs up and leaves abruptly. Nim clutches her. It takes six people to pull him off her as he clings to her. Again Kristen Stewart and Rob Pattinson watchers will see what is really going on here.

Bob Ingersoll Who Stayed to the End with Nim

Sundance Premiere Photos

You have a chimp growing up, moving into puberty, probably smelling sex on the people around him, people who have not neutered him but do not intend to breed him, and then who wonder why he bites his caretakers, until he so viciously bites the 2nd teacher in the face that the project is discontinued and Nim is sent to a medical facility, locked in a cage, where they do HIV, Hepatitis, etc research. A few caretakers learn some signing there. And then years of abuse follow after a happy childhood.   Basic principles of psychology and learning are ignored or not even known. Only Bob Ingersoll is aware while he plays with Nim.

This film is an indictment of highly educated human beings who cannot seem to connect the simplest dots in this puzzle of Nim nor go to anyone who knows for advice.  Terrace got to live in a beautiful estate with extensive grounds, donated for the project, with two adoring young very pretty grad assistants. 
The Dirty Little Secret

Student fucker: 


When he first arrived in New York, Nim was put into the custody of Stephanie LaFarge, a hippie mom who was a former Terrace student (and lover). She breast-fed the chimp, which was accepted as a “brother” by LaFarge’s seven children. She and the people who subsequently cared for Nim were not well trained in ASL, and they didn’t use it exclusively.

my bold.

Well, fuck me crooked, looks like he fucked them all. I must be psychic.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Reading Rob Pattinson, Baudrillard and Rand Through Nietzsche

Rob's Early Career
Rob Pattinson's deleted lovely face in Vanity Fair has taken on some legs since first I imagined it into existence. IF that scene with his beautiful 17 year old face had remained in that film, turning everyone else in it into oval oblivion, then clearly his film career would have begun in that moment, and he might never have been Cedric or Art or the cutesy in Bad Mother's Handbook. Can't you just see the stream of studley teen movies they would have put him in, and Rob, who inherently likes to please and be loved, probably would have succumbed for awhile as did Brad Pitt. Yeah I think he would have awakened form his Sleeping Beauty role after awhile. But surely no Edward Cullen would have been considered, nor the Scummit machine tolerated.

This is what Baudrillard calls Nietzsche's revenge when the same happens to him. Baudrillard's reading of Nietzsche is "worse", excessive, too much for the examiners.

This is following Nietzsche through Baudrillard. Rob's beauty in Vanity Fair was more beautiful than beautiful; hyper beautiful; obscenely beautiful as all the others in the scene looked dead; hence, implosion. It was "worse" as Nietzsche might have said. Too  much to be there, to exist there. Crash and burn.

Baudrillard takes his examinations and both the oral and the written are on Nietzsche. Since he has immersed himself in Nietzsche in German, this is a big piece of luck for him. His reading is not agreed with by the examiners and they fail him. He calls this Nietzsche's revenge. At that point in time he stops reading Nietzsche, never to go back to him again until the end of his life. Nietzsche goes underground in Baudrillard's mind, heart and psyche, never to leave, always to be a deep part of him. Forever. This, he acknowledges: (Fragments)

Beautiful I think
Genealogy of Morals

Ayn Rand reads Nietzsche  at University when very young in Russia. Nietzsche is not part of the curriculum so she reads him on the sly, following her heart, already aware of Soviet propaganda and surveillance. This early Rand is even then crossing the boundaries of mainstream. At 21 she comes to the US and she is still reading Nietzsche. Nietzsche is the first book she buys in English. As a young woman in Hollywood she is still reading Nietzsche. Seriously.  Rand did everything seriously. And all the way up until the 1940's (She was born in 1905) until  she is finished writing The Fountainhead. Each chapter was to be headed by a Nietzsche quote. Fountainhead was published in 1943, on wartime paper, even though it was a very long novel. Egad! No Nietzsche no no no must Bobbs-Merrill have said - so no Nietzsche chapter heads. At that point in her journals she disavows Nietzsche as just an early interest - infatuation?  Her journals have been scrubbed and scrubbed again to get Nietzsche outta Dodge. (Goddess of the Marketplace)Some Nietzsche quotes and thoughts about him  had to stay because everyone knew Howard Roark and especially John Galt were Nietzschean Supermen, so the obvious references and interpretations remained. (These are "floating signs" masking the deep references to Nietzsche.)But the deep underground of Rand's mind, heart and soul belonged to Nietzsche. This is what makes her a post modern philosopher who wrote fiction. Just as a Cronenberg makes films.
Rand Early Hollywood

Both Baudrillard and Rand disavowing Nietzsche during the 1940's? While Hitler is praising him to the skies as Leni Riefenstahl shoots him, Hitler that is, against the blue sky in her film Triumph of the Will; the Superman, the Overman of Nietzsche. Even the great and powerful Foucault, after the war, did not admit the great influence and debt he owed Nietzsche for his genealogy. Only towards the end of his life did he say that he wished he had acknowledged Nietzsche earlier on. And we all know the neverending hits and slurs that Heidegger took, and still takes, for his early pro Nazi sympathies. Not to mention the loss of his lover Hannah Arendt.

Baudrillard and Rand were wise to shut up and Foucault also.

Only now is Nietzsche taking his rightful place in the sun. 

Baudrillard acknowledges Nietzsche's permanent and ongoing influence, but more in the vein of flowing through his blood and guts than in any quotes, said or written. Would it have been any different for Rand who doesn't think in terms of unconscious rivers running deep in her psyche? Denial first, second and third for Rand. But Nietzsche is still there for the discerning reader of Rand, Nietzsche and Baudrillard.

But how to tease it out of Rand. Maybe Nathaniel could tell us. Or myself who, once upon a time, long long ago in a kingdom by the sea, was an Objectivist from 1960-1964. A serious one.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Foucault, Nietzsche, Genealogy - A Method: End To Interpretation

In talking with you about Nietzsche, I was thinking tn particular of the genealogical method which enables us to uncover what lies hidden behind ideas, to see their real basis. (Francois L'Yvonnet in Fragments - Baudrillard p.30)
The Foucauldian genealogy is an unmasking of power for the use of those who suffer it. It is also directed against those who would seize power in their name. As Francois Ewald pints out, there are three, not two, parties to every power struggle: not only those who exercise power and those who would exercise it in their place, but also those on whom it is exercised. Because one speaks against power, one does not necessarily speak with those who suffer it. Hence Foucault's concerted attack on all forms of interpretation and representation: on the use made of the linguistics of Saussure and Jakobson, on psychoanalysis, on Marxism. For the interpreter, things are never what they seem. People never say what they mean or mean what they say; they never know  what they want or what they are doing.

For Foucault interpretation is reduction, repression, obliteration of fact, discourse, and desire. It is a technique of knowledge; it is also a technique of power. Interpretation requires specially qualified interpreters, representatives.  The dialectic is an interpreter's weapon for the seizure of power.
The regime of 'truth' gave the intellectual, whose business truth was, a certain 'universal' status. The 'disinterested' intellectual represented the conscience of society as a whole. 

But Foucault shows that truth does not exist outside power, still less in opposition to it.  Each society has its own regime of truth: the types of discourse accepted as true, the mechanisms that make it possible to distinguish between truth and error. ... The will to the power of truth is a pitiless tyrant; it requires a singular and total devotion.  It is a service that has tempted the European mind since Plato. Nietzsche gave the first signs of its possible end; he also provided a way out, which is called genealogy.  Genealogy was a 'grey' activity, but it was also a gay science, a science of the hypothetical. That gaiety, that love of hypothesis, pervades all Foucault's work. He is the reverse of a guru, a teacher, a subject who is supposed to know, though he would, in all modesty, be flattered if, without excessive seriousness, he were compared to a Zen master, who knows nothing.  For him uncertainlty causes no anguish:...

A love of hypothesis, of invention, is unashamedly, a love of the beautiful. What drew Foucault to the case of  Pierre Riviere was not the mass of official documentation, but the beauty of Riviere's memoir, a beauty that shamed the dreary prose of the educated experts who busied themselves around him. It was a daring, provocative remark,  suggesting that beauty of expression in an indication that what is being said is worth listening to. The question of Foucault's own style is not insignificant. It is not so much that Foucault writes well _...It is rather that he writes  with ostentatious brilliance: his writing betrays a quite shameless delight in its own skill that calls to mind the sumptuous prose of our own pre-classical period....To write in this way is no affectation or self-indulgence.  It is, if it requires justification, functional. Like all style, it is both natural and cultivated:a natural mode of expression for a writer striving to renew contact with a pre-rational world of communicating Reason and Folly and a conscious rejection of the language of Reason that seeks by its grey, measured, monotonous tones to give an impression of authority, objectivity and truth. (221-4)
All of the above is a quote from Alan Sheridan's Foucault The Will To Truth (p. 219-224)

For a genealogy of the movie Eclipse see here.