Jeffrey Jerome Cohen on the monster as a category crisis
The horizon where the monsters dwell might well be imagined as the visible edge of the hermeneutic circle itself: the monstrous offers an escape from its hermetic path, an invitation to explore new spirals, new and interconnected methods of perceiving the world. In the face of the monster, scientific inquiry and its ordered rationality crumble. The monstrous is a genus too large to be encapsulated in any conceptual system; the monster's very existence is a rebuke to boundary and enclosure; like the giants of Mandeville's Travels, it threatens to devour "all raw & quyk" any thinker who insists otherwise. The monster is in this way the living embodiment of the phenomenon Derrida has famously labeled the "supplement" (ce dangereux supplement): it breaks apart bifurcating, "either/or" syllogistic logic with a kind of reasoning closer to "and/or:” introducing what Barbara Johnson has called "a revolution in the very logic of meaning?"Full of rebuke to traditional methods of organizing knowledge and human experience, the geography of the monster is an imperiling expanse, and therefore always a contested cultural space.
From Monster Theory: Reading Culture (University of Minnesota Press, 1996)


Jerry Rubin on consuming counter culture 
Revolution is profitable.
So the capitalists try to sell it.
The money pimps take the pest things our hearts and minds produce, turn them into consumer products with a price tag and sell it back to us as merchandise.
They take our symbols drenched with blood from the streets and make them chic.
They own our music – the music produced from our suffering, our pain, the collective unconscious of our community!
They put our music on records and in dance halls priced so high we can no longer afford to hear it.
Paisley rock promoters create fenced in festivals, and pigs use tear gas, batons and mace to keep us out.
Beware the psychedelic businessman who talks free love on his way to Chase Manhattan.  
He grows his hair long and puts on a brightly coloured shirt because “That’s where it’s at”
The money that is.  
He has a big pile of cash and a small soul.
A hip pig is still a capitalist pig.
From Do It, Scenarios of the Revolution (Simon & Schuster, 1970) 


 
Dori Tunstall on identifying with brands
We almost always use “things” as a way to identify ourselves and to identify others. Let’s start with the human body. In traditional cultures, the art of tattooing was about social coding. A certain number of tattoos meant you’ve been married. Another number of tattoos meant that you’ve had children. This many tattoos meant that you’ve killed a lion. Nowadays, we have a tremendous emphasis on dress and makeup and in our rituals of buying. I use the word “rituals” very specifically. But our rituals of consumption are no longer as satisfactory to us … because they are empty of human relationships. There was recently a wonderful study done on garage sales. When people go to a garage sale to buy something, they actually feel very satisfied about the interaction. Most of the time, it’s because the object they buy comes with a story—a very real, personal story about where the object fit into someone’s life. Whether it’s real or not, you connect with that person through the object. So when you take the object, your purchase of it is more satisfactory. Whereas right now, when you go now to a store, there seems to be a lot of emphasis on branding that tells authentic stories in order to … sell more stuff.
From Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits by Debbie Millman (Allworth Press, 2013)





Oliver Sacks on Memory Duplication
What is clear in all these cases — whether of imagined or real abuse in childhood, of genuine or experimentally implanted memories, of misled witnesses and brainwashed prisoners, of unconscious plagiarism, and of the false memories we probably all have based on misattribution or source confusion — is that, in the absence of outside confirmation, there is no easy way of distinguishing a genuine memory or inspiration, felt as such, from those that have been borrowed or suggested, between what the psychoanalyst Donald Spence calls ‘historical truth’ and ‘narrative truth.’
[…]
There is, it seems, no mechanism in the mind or the brain for ensuring the truth, or at least the veridical character, of our recollections. We have no direct access to historical truth, and what we feel or assert to be true (as Helen Keller was in a very good position to note) depends as much on our imagination as our senses. There is no way by which the events of the world can be directly transmitted or recorded in our brains; they are experienced and constructed in a highly subjective way, which is different in every individual to begin with, and differently reinterpreted or reexperienced whenever they are recollected. . . . Frequently, our only truth is narrative truth, the stories we tell each other, and ourselves—the stories we continually recategorize and refine. Such subjectivity is built into the very nature of memory, and follows from its basis and mechanisms in the human brain. The wonder is that aberrations of a gross sort are relatively rare, and that, for the most part, our memories are relatively solid and reliable.
From Speak, Memory February (The New York Review of Books, Feb  21, 2013)
 

 
 Stephen King on MEDIA and GUN CONTROL
Here’s how it shakes out.
First there’s the shooting. Few of the trigger-pullers are middle-aged, and practically none are old. Some are young men; many are just boys. The Jonesboro, Arkansas, school shooters were 13 and 11.
Second, the initial TV news reports, accompanied by flourishes of music and dramatic BREAKING NEWS logos at the bottom of your screen. No one really knows what the fuck is going on, but it’s exciting. You get your still photo of the location; you get your map from Google or Bing. The cable news producers are busting their asses, trying to get some local news reporter on the phone [...]
Sixteenth, what cable news does best now begins, and will continue for the next seventy-two hours: the slow and luxurious licking of tears from the faces of the bereaved [...]
Twentieth, there’s a killer tornado in Louisiana, or an outbreak of hostilities in the Mideast, or a celebrity dead of a drug overdose. Out comes the dramatic music and the BREAKING NEWS chyrons. The shooting is relegated to second place. Pretty soon it’s in third place. Then it’s a squib behind that day’s funny YouTube video.
Twenty-first, any bills to change existing gun laws, including those that make it possible for almost anyone in America to purchase a high-capacity assault weapon, quietly disappear into the legislative swamp.
Twenty-second, it happens again and the whole thing starts over.
That’s how it shakes out.
From Guns (Philtrum Press, 2013)
 

 
Alvin Toffler on DATA
Today we are living through one of those exclamation points in history when the entire structure of human knowledge is once again trembling with change as old barriers fall. We are not just accumulating more ‘facts’ — whatever they may be. Just as we are now restructuring companies and whole economies, we are totally reorganizing the production and distribution of knowledge and the symbols used to communicate it.
What does this mean?
It means that we are creating new networks of knowledge … linking concepts to one another in startling ways … building up amazing hierarchies of inference … spawning new theories, hypotheses, and images, based on novel assumptions, new languages, codes, and logics. Businesses, governments, and individuals are collecting and storing more sheer data than any previous generation in history (creating a massive, confusing gold mine for tomorrow’s historians.)
But more important, we are interrelating data in more ways, giving them context, and thus forming them into information; and we are assembling chunks of information into larger and larger models and architectures of knowledge.
Not all this new knowledge is factual or even explicit. Much knowledge, as the term is used here, is unspoken, consisting of assumptions piled atop assumptions, of fragmentary models, of unnoticed analogies, and it includes not simply logical and seemingly unemotional information data, but values, the products of passion and emotion, not to mention imagination and intuition.
From Powershift: Knowledge, Wealth, and Violence at the Edge of the 21st Century (Bantam 1991)
 
 

 
Stanley Keleman on the BODY'S INNER/OUTER
MORPHOLOGY (expressed visually as an accordion)
As we face the world we are upright. The soft front of the body is exposed. We are prepared to move out of ourselves into the world or from the world into ourselves. Insults temporarily invoke the startle reflex; it may be perpetuated as stress. Uprightness and our move toward the world is interrupted. We attempt to preserve our humanity by defending ourselves.
We are programmed with the startle reflex, a series of alarm responses lying along a continuum. The startle reflex begins with the investigative response, followed by assertion, then an annoyance reaction, then anger or avoidance, and, finally, submission and collapse. If the first response alleviates the insult, the event that interrupts us, the organism returns to homeostasis. If not, the first response can invoke the second, the second lead to the third, and so on. In cases of severe threat, the early stages of startle are by-passed and we jump immediately to a more extreme response. Yet the continuum of startle responses does not necessarily occur in an invariable order; neither are the steps sequential. One or several steps could be by-passed ...
The emotional organization of the four structures demonstrates how morphology expresses personal experiences and conflicts, how layers and inner tubes are affected, where conflictual contraction occurs, how motility is distorted, what happens to excitation and its currents, and what is the emotional result.
From Emotional Anatomy: The Structure of Experience (Center Press 1989)
 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 

David Foster Wallace on Self Worship
If you worship money and things — if they are where you tap real meaning in life — then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you. On one level, we all know this stuff already — it’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, bromides, epigrams, parables: the skeleton of every great story. The trick is keeping the truth up-front in daily consciousness. Worship power — you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart — you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they’re evil or sinful, it’s that they’re unconscious. They are default settings.
They’re the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that’s what you’re doing.
And the so-called real world will not discourage you from operating on your default settings, because the so-called real world of men and money and power hums merrily along in a pool of fear and anger and frustration and craving and worship of self. Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom all to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the centre of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talk about much in the great outside world of wanting and achieving [….] The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.
From This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life (Little, Brown and Company, 2009)




Sheila Whiteley on COMMERCE AND CHRISTMAS
Christmas was invented first and foremost as a commercial event. Everything that was revived or invented – decorations, cards, crackers, collections of carols, going to a pantomime, visiting Santa Claus and buying presents – all had one thing in common: they could be sold for profit. Therefore, it does not make historical sense to bemoan the fact that Christmas is too commercial; it was invented as a commercial festival. It was commercial from the very start. Part of what was being celebrated was the achievements of industrial capitalism – conspicuous consumption in a market economy [...] Father Christmas/Santa Claus is a latecomer to the new festivities. Significantly, he does not feature in the key ideological text of the new invention, Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol (1843). He gradually emerges, mostly from the USA, between the 1860s and 1930s, most significantly in the drawings of Thomas Nast and the illustrations of Haddon H. Sundblom. The evolution of his image finally stops with Sundblom’s Coca-Cola advertisements, which first appeared in 1931. Before then he might appear dressed in green, purple, blue or white. Moreover, he may appear human or as an elf. Although Coca-Cola did not invent Father Christmas/Santa Claus, it can claim to have finally fixed his identity. By the 1880s his presence is an important addition to the new department stores, where it is now possible to buy Christmas decorations.
From Christmas, Ideology and Popular Culture (Edinburgh University Press 2008)
 

 
George A. Dunn and Brian McDonald on LOGIC
When it comes to the curious conditions of Wonderland, Alice’s efforts to make sense of the nonsensical pay off with dividends. But that’s because the nonsense is only provisional, only on the surface, beneath which a diligent investigator like Alice is able to discern perfectly intelligible, albeit unexpected, rules of cause and effect ... It is to Alice’s credit that she doesn’t hesitate for a moment to discard her preconceptions when she comes across situations that patently refute them. In doing so, she displays an admirable readiness to encounter reality on its own terms, a receptive cast of mind that many philosophers would include among the most important “intellectual virtues” or character traits that assist in the discovery of truth.
From 'Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy: Curiouser and Curiouser' (Wiley, 2010)
 

Susan Sontag on MARRIAGE
Whoever invented marriage was an ingenious tormentor. It is an institution committed to the dulling of the feelings. The whole point of marriage is repetition. The best it aims for is the creation of strong, mutual dependencies. Quarrels eventually become pointless, unless one is always prepared to act on them — that is, to end the marriage.
From 'Reborn: Journals and Notebooks, 1947-1963' edited by David Rieff (Picador 2009)
 
 
 
Nick Hornby on TASTE
Why does everyone hate Céline Dion? Except, of course, it’s not everyone, is it? She’s sold more albums than just about anyone alive. Everyone loves Céline Dion, if you think about it. So actually, [Carl Wilson’s Let’s Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste] asks the question: why do I and my friends and all rock critics and everyone likely to be reading this book ... hate Céline Dion? And the answers he finds are profound, provocative, and leave you wondering who the hell you actually are — especially if, like many of us around these parts, you set great store by cultural consumption as an indicator of both character and, let’s face it, intelligence. We are cool people! We read Jonathan Franzen and we listen to Pavement, but we also love Mozart and Seinfeld! Hurrah for us!
From 'More Baths Less Talking: Notes from the Reading Life of a Celebrated Author Locked in Battle with Football, Family, and Time Itself' (Believer Books 2012)
 

 
John L. Locke on EAVESDROPPING
Our distant ancestors were secure because they could see each other at all times ... When residential walls were erected, it was the beginning of truer and deeper forms of intimacy. Walls also made it difficult — and ultimately unnecessary — to look around every few seconds to see what others were doing ... At one time, the isolation-cum-privacy enabled by walls was about as welcome as incipient blindness. By blocking the eye, walls placed a premium on something that they knew very little about: trust. What was trust? Who could be trusted? With so few previous opportunities to violate trust, it was hard to tell. Predictably, suspiciousness and fear rose precipitously. If walls were to continue, more penetrant means of perception would be needed. Fortunately, a suitable cognitive mechanism was waiting in the wings.
It was eavesdropping, a term that I will use in its conventional sense to mean surreptitious observation as a technique for sampling the intimate experiences of others — whether the surveillant is peeking through a keyhole or just feigning inattention to ambient activity. But I also use the term metaphorically to represent the lifelong quest of all humans to know what is going on in the personal and private lives of others.
From 'Eavesdropping: An Intimate History' (Oxford University Press 2010)