Friday, April 30, 2004
(10:43 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Over at The Pickle, Monica suggests that people read her stuff from the Pickle. Since I was the only reader of The Pickle when it first came out (originally as Oh, the Organization), and since Adam doesn't have a Google search, I decided to comb the archives for her writings. Here are some posts:
- Red Story
- I can't go on. I'll go on.
- And finally, her maiden voyage for The Weblog, three days ago: The Honor is Mine
Going through the archives of a blog, any blog at all, is pretty depressing at some points -- for instance, the inevitable posts about how "I just figured out how to do X with the template, don't you like it?" Then there are good memories, too, like the time I said I didn't like meatheaded guys who threaten to beat each other up all the time and everyone acted like I had just said that I enjoyed molesting children. In any case, I believe that I have fully catalogued the writings in question. For those who think this represents having "too much time on my hands," it took ten minutes, during a study break.
(9:26 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
I said to my reflection, Let's get out of this place
John Holbo wrote another post about literary studies blogging. (I interrupt: I've discovered through blogging that I have very little control over the contents of my Windows clipboard, or cut-and-paste cache. I'm constantly trying to paste a URL and getting, say, a paragraph of an IM conversation that I don't even remember selecting, much less copying.) I already responded to his first one at Crooked Timber, though there is a long and distinguished line of such posts over at John and Belle. The remark I would like to make here is only tangentially related to the proposal ("lit studies people should blog, because it will make them less boring"), which, if it's going to happen, certainly isn't going to happen at John Holbo's request after such a patronizing characterization of lit studies people in general.
The remark: maybe strict disciplinarity is not the solution, but the problem. At this late date, is a re-professionalization of academia along the lines of law or the priesthood really what we need to do? Is it the solution to some kind of problem that is still extant? Is it going to make education better or the job market for educators more rational? Perhaps, even taking into account the human suffering and bitter disappointment involved in the current regime, the collapse of academia as a "profession" represents an opportunity for a creative re-thinking of the life of the intellect as a whole. But no, we cling to our fragments, wanting more and more degrees to certify our competence in more and more narrow and inappropriate areas (for instance, the degrees in creative writing -- what the fuck?). Just as the university is most falling apart, its position as the big Other guaranteeing our intellectual credentials increases, hence my Hardt and Negri quote in my previous post on this topic. Let's just admit it: the academic humanities are dead as a "career option." We're very fortunate that the liberal arts still persist as a parasite on the "corporate scientific research/athletic/vocational school" institutions that our universities have become, but let's not kid ourselves about the prospects for the future.
The study of the humanities is not a "profession" and never really was or should have been -- expertise in the human condition is not as easily verified as, say, expertise in chemistry or chess, or adequate performance of liturgical rituals or court briefings. We can continue this farce of acting like it is, acting like philosophy is a game we can play, or we can look for other options. Like blogging. Aspiring lit professors should quit their adjunct jobs, go get certified to teach high school, and start blogs where they can talk about Fred Jameson all they want. Sure, it's not prestigious, but why did you ever think that your cocktail of radical feminism/Marxism/psychoanalysis/queer studies was going to be prestigious, compulsorily acknowledged by all? If you want that kind of objective prestige, go play chess -- if you want to understand people, go play poker. (Objective prestige is available to the person who identifies the reference in the previous sentence.)
I know that all of this goes far beyond the scope of the simple question of whether more lit-studies blogs are a good idea, but that's just my theoretical side coming out. I now need to go read some theology, a discipline in which the method is absolutely clear: go into a room by yourself, lock the door, and make stuff up.
Thursday, April 29, 2004
(10:04 PM) | Robb Schuneman:
Step Back, I Know Who I Am. Raise Up Your Ear, I'll Drop the Style - and Clear.Perhaps the most entertaining IM I have ever received, minus the one in which a friend told me he was gay, happened moments ago. Picture it, if you will. Innocent Robb Schuneman (take note of the singular N, fair webmaster) sits at his computer, talking with Adam Kotsko and various friends from high school, when demands are made upon him he is unprepared to meet. Not so much unprepared, as uninitiated. Aw, heck, i'll just go LIVEJOURNAL-esque for a moment and post the whole AIM conversation. Prepare.
mathmaloney: hi im on line now
mathmaloney: guess who
ChAlkeaTer: John Maloney? (ED. Note, a friend from Olivet I haven't talked to in a very long time)
mathmaloney: not hardly
ChAlkeaTer: do you know John Maloney?
mathmaloney: does that help
ChAlkeaTer: I'm afraid it doesn't really, unless you mean the boy my sister likes? Is this Jennie?
mathmaloney: someone is going to clean my kitchen tonight
ChAlkeaTer: Is her name Jennie?
mathmaloney: I want the trash out too
ChAlkeaTer: trash night is monday
ChAlkeaTer: it's already been out and back
ChAlkeaTer: and is now collecting
ChAlkeaTer: in anticipation of being put out once again
mathmaloney: its getting a life now
ChAlkeaTer: the trash is getting a life?
ChAlkeaTer: like..it's becoming sentient and stuff?
ChAlkeaTer: that might suck
ChAlkeaTer: like..it sounds cool in theory and what not
ChAlkeaTer: but I don't think anyone wants thinking trash..too much potential for a bad sci-fi movie.
mathmaloney: it is setting up house keeping under the stove
ChAlkeaTer: that's where the ants are!
ChAlkeaTer: it can't live there, they wouldn't mix well.
ChAlkeaTer: it will simply have to find another place
mathmaloney: ever heard of cohabitate
ChAlkeaTer: Are they a hardcore band?
mathmaloney: i mean it, i want my kitchen cleaned
ChAlkeaTer: where is your kitchen?
mathmaloney: above your room
ChAlkeaTer: there's only the roof above my room
ChAlkeaTer: the kitchen is down the hall
ChAlkeaTer: past the living room
mathmaloney: no a garage is above your room
ChAlkeaTer: no..the garage connects to the kitchen
ChAlkeaTer: you go through the kitchen, turn left..and there's a door that leads to the garage.
ChAlkeaTer: like, honestly, there is but one story to this house
ChAlkeaTer: Scout's honor
mathmaloney: sounds like you know the way to the kitchen
ChAlkeaTer: sadly, yes. It is a trail of tears I have travelled many a time
mathmaloney: go clean it
ChAlkeaTer: why do you care if my kitchen is clean?
mathmaloney: because it is my kitchen as well
ChAlkeaTer: that's interesting
mathmaloney: you better watch you language when you are talking to your mother
ChAlkeaTer: But..I didn't say anything offensive
ChAlkeaTer: unless "interesting" is offensive
ChAlkeaTer: is this my mother?
mathmaloney: how many moms do you have
ChAlkeaTer: As far as I know, only one
mathmaloney: then it is
mathmaloney: clean the kitchen
ChAlkeaTer: Oh, well..alright. I was planning to do dishes anyway, since the dish washer is broke..but the rest is pretty clean.
ChAlkeaTer: when did you change screen names?
mathmaloney: i never had a screen name
ChAlkeaTer: Sorry momz... I can't go clean your kitchen... I'm busy looking at porn on the internet...
mathmaloney: clean the kitchen!
ChAlkeaTer: I'm afraid you aren't my mother
ChAlkeaTer: I think you might have the wrong screen name for your son
ChAlkeaTer: are you there?
(10 minutes pass)
mathmaloney: clean the kitchen
mathmaloney signed off at 9:15:18 PM.
Please don't IM this woman on my behalf, she made an honest mistake. But I love the fact that I was in a situation where I tried to convince her I wasn't lying, and yet her son is likely going to get in trouble tonight when the kitchen isn't cleaned, since he was such a smart alec on the COMPUTER!
Great stuff. Ha.
(7:42 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Alarm clocks should respond more appropriately to power outages. If the power comes back on and the alarm is set to "on," the alarm should go on right then. We would all resent it -- for the panicked moment of trying to turn off the alarm when one was just innocently plugging it back in, and even more for the loss of yet another excuse to sleep in.
A plan for the future: finish at CTS, then go to Glasgow for a PhD in Theology and Literature (for me, theology and theory, 3 years of reading the complete Lacan in French); come back to Illinois, read Higher Math for Dummies, and get certified and become a high school math teacher. (How else could I ever find a wife, now that the door to ministry in the Church of the Nazarene is closed?)
Another plan for the future: drop out of CTS this very minute, two weeks before the semester is over, so that I won't have to write a paper on Moltmann's critique of Barth. The plan doesn't extend very far beyond that. The irony is that I could probably start writing right now and just dig for supporting quotes, but I want to do it "right," I want to go through huge swaths of text, to make sure that I don't just pick out things I like without really understanding what's at stake.
It is a wonderful gift to have a group blog, and an incoherent one at that. If you can't tell the different authors apart from the first couple sentences, then why bother having multiple authors? Hopefully the group effect can be even more apparent this summer -- a time period for which I cannot wait. I'm claiming that I'm going to read the whole Church Dogmatics, but maybe I'll just follow à Gauche through his selected Hegel secondary literature. Or both?
Dialog is just depressing. I can understand why Tara spends all her time on Academy -- her gifts for tact and subtle occupation of the moral high-ground are better employed there. Through my whole time on Academy, I never remember getting into a meta-discussion about our feelings about how everyone was discussing -- people were allowed to get pissed off and leave or to be total assholes to each other. People's emotions are tightly wound up with both theology and politics, but somehow the former has become an area in which real conflict is not allowed, while politics was always about conflict. (Probably something to do with the Enlightenment or the rise of the nation-state -- any Cavanaughians out there to help me out?)
I still haven't sent my Bonhoeffer paper in. The cover letter is what's holding me up. I don't know if I should say, "Enclosed please find" or "Enclosed, please find." Plus, you know how tight my schedule is -- not a moment to waste. I wonder if our dramatic act of refusal could be blogging -- our ontological destruction.
UPDATE: Thanks to Rebekah for catching my embarrassing misspelling.
(2:25 AM) | Robb Schuneman:
There's No Beast, Obviously. The Floor Just Creaks, Obviously.It has been raised, the question that is, of whether or not Robb has changed his CDs. The question has actually been raised twice now. Let us answer with a resounding YES! I have changed the CDs in my car. As it happens, however, I've been spending the last 2 weeks or so trying to make up for a semester of slackerdom, and thus time has been proverbially of the essence.
Well, I'd like to leave it at that, but my conscience won't let me. I skipped last week because I was extremely busy, it's true. But also helping in this was the fact that...gosh..I hate to admit it..but um, Justin Timberlake's "Justified" occupied a space within my car stereo.
I'm sorry. So..so sorry. And I mean for myself. See..the trouble with systems, is that they inevitably will fail. Usually this is like the upcoming system error of Dance-pop Minogue-esque Holly Valance, but, sometimes something must hack the system off, and it spits out something like this. I have to say, throughout the album there were perhaps even time where I was actively like "Oh..this is perhaps not the worst thing ever", and yet, then 5 seconds later Justin would come in. Yeah..I can get down with the beats and what not, and why not? The world's best producers made this album for JT, and then he came along and screwed it up. I..nevermind..I'm not going to try to justify this listening, it was just a terrible experience that I'm glad I made it through. LET IT BE KNOWN, however, that I did pick up some nice tips with the ladies. Routinely, in class, when that pretty girl I like sits next to me, I now turn and say:
"Little baby with the sun dress on
Looking so "dang" right you're wrong
Make me wanna write my own little song for you
The way the thing just wiggle in the air
Turn around and then you flip your hair
I could think of a couple positions for you"
Does that...I mean..I'm sorry..but is there anything connecting those statements at all? Like..They sort of rhyme..in that 1-4 2-3 pattern..but not nearly enough to justify throwing random lustful phrases all together, especially ones as full of CORN as those...
I dunno, it's still really pretty classy LIKE FREDDY BLASSY, and I have been quite a hit around campus since that week. THANKS JUSTIN! No..but that's actually the worst part of the album...Justin really seems convinced that phrases like that are cool..and he seems to actually think of himself as something other than a complete and total TOOL. I find that strange. it'd be interesting to psycho analyze someone like that.
Also..LET IT BE KNOWN..that someone within the Weblog's circle of friends is responsible for sending this album to me, though upon my hesitant request. So, if you speak bad about me, you speak bad about everyone by double association.
Dangit. I need a new system. Oh, but let me mention, in spite of Justin, Primal Scream was in the car that week too..and they nearly redeemed the raunchy stank that was left in my car in the wake of "JUSTIFIED"...Gosh, I do love Primal Scream.
On to this week, which was still somewhat weak overall, but anything was better than the week prior.
Okkervil River - Stars Too Small To Use
Okkervil River is probably my favorite "below the below the radar" band. That is to say..they aren't necessarily even known by indie kids, but their album can still be bought at most any Amazon.com. I guess that makes no sense as there's only one Amazon.com. Twinging dangerously near that "Alt-country" category, but coming back with more folk and blatant rock, Okkervil River is great stuff. They also seem to play Oklahoma City once every 2 months or so. For instance, they are playing here on May 2nd again, this time with The Minus Story. And, I'll likely be there yet again even though Enon is playing the same night, because last time they remarked that they liked my "My New Fighting Technique Is Unstoppable" shirt, and I store away all nice comments in a little zip-lock bag. I've lost where that was going, and all because for some reason that stupid LIT song got in my head. Anyway, this album is their first, and certainly not their best, but still good enough to be the highlight of an otherwise somewhat weak week. Anyone ever play the Atari game Bird Week? So good.
Anyway, what later would become a definable craft for these guys, is here being formulated. Songs like "The Velocity of Saul at the Time of His Conversion", "Kathy Keller" and "He Passes Number Thirty-Three" show the amazing beauty that was to come. Really..I'd love to see those songs re-recorded today, with some better quality, and the advance in skill all have taken, especially the lead vocalist. On this CD they are a little raw, but that's almost part of its particular appeal. At least..it is until the singer is just moaning off key at about the 6 minute mark of some songs. However, their song writing prowess is undeniable, and this is definitely worth the listen, if perhaps not reccomended for first exposure.
Relative tour dates to those within the PREFERRED WEBLOG COMMUNITY:
05/07 Madison, WI - Catacombs
05/08 Chicago, IL - Schubas
05/11 Bloomington, IN - Second Story
Camerata Academica des Salzburger Mozarteum f. Geza Anda - Mozart: Piano Concertos nos. 20, 21 & 1
We've talked about this already, yet, I've still got 4 discs to go in this box set, so I don't know what I'll find each week. However, the Concertos do seem to keep getting better and better. Perhaps Mozart hit his stride later in life, I don't really know that much about him, but these are probably some of the more beautiful pieces I've ever heard.
To have something to talk about - anyone ever watch Garfield's Nine Lives? After Pete's Dragon, it was probably my personal favorite as a child. Particularly of interest this week is Garfield's fourth life, where he was a court musician's cat. And, the musician was actively working on a big symphony for the King, when the joker busts in and says the king has demanded a CONCERTO for that night, and if the guy can't finish it he will DIE! Long story short..Garfield ends up writing the finale for the guy, and it's all bluesy, and everyone loves it and loves Garfield. But then he decides that he hates work, so he doesn't write any more music.
May God Bless Garfield. Seriously, I'd like to see someone try and be Devil's Advocate if the church nominated Garfield for sainthood. What the heck are you gonna say? Seriously..remember how in one life he was a girl, and his master played piano for him every night..and then when he/she was dying, the master played the most beautiful concert ever for her, then that night Garfield/whatever his girl name was, died there on the piano from old age? Freaking beautiful. I cried. And I'm not kidding, and I'm not ashamed. GO NEWSBOYS! The cat is flawless!
Also - more classical and blues mashings need to happen, let us take our lead from the orange.
Relevant Tour Dates -
I'm pretty sure everyone on this recording is dead, but Garfield the Movie is guaranteed to suck on June 11th of this year. Although..it does have Bill Murray in the title role..and Jennifer Love Hewitt as a reason to go see it, and Jimmy Kimmel and Nick Cannon..oh..nevermind..sorry. Ha ha..dude was on Nickelodeon's ALL THAT!
Adam Again - Worldwide Favorites
I talked a lot about Adam Again back when their albums proper came through the CD player a few weeks ago. So, suffice to say, I think they were probably the best thing to happen to Christian music in the 80's and early 90's, and it's a shame people were listening to freaking "Go West, Young Man" instead of this, which is actually good.
Also, Worldwide would be my nomination for best Christian song ever. And that includes Amazing Grace, Dancing With The Dinosaur, and Mozart's Coronation mass. And I have no clue why. It's extremely short and I always play it about 5 times in a row. Such a simple chord progression, such simple lyrics. The voice sounds like Michael Stipe, of course, and I have no clue what it is about it, but I never get tired of the song, which is pretty rare. I'm too much of a fan boy to go on any further, but suffice to say, this is why I still occasionally give Christian rock a chance.
Weather Report - This Is Jazz, Vol. 40 - The Jaco Years
I'm not a big fan of this type of jazz, sadly, for whatever reason. I don't know if it's the "electronic" sounds I can't get used to, or maybe something just hasn't clicked yet. I don't know..whenever I hear anything with a bit of Fusion to it, I automatically think people are going to come out and start having sex. So, blame my prudent upbringing for my lack of appreciation I guess. Mainly, it's the "spacey" sound that they give all the instruments, from the keyboards to the bass. If I can get past the porn type boogies going on, I then have to deal with the fact that it sounds a little like I'm in a future ride at Disney world. However, Weather Report is probably the best of this brand of jazz, and as such, there are a lot of enjoyable moments on this cd. Jaco certainly is an amazing bass player, that much I can recognize. I just wish they'd cut the synthesized sounds they have to give to everything. Dang those 1970's and their drugs!
Primus - Animals Should Not Try To Act Like Humans
By all standards, I should probably hate Primus. It's not hook based, it's not anything to "groove" to, it's not relaxing. But, dang..it's good. This album is a far cry from Frizzle Fry and the like, but it still is good to have Primus back together again. It sounds a lot more like the Colonel Les Claypool's Frog Bridage stuff, but, I say that being a casual Primus fan, so I can't really give in depth analysis. I think a lot of people were hating on this cd, but heck, it was a throw in with a DVD, rather than an album proper. And, if this is the main 3 just screwing around again, when they actually set out to make an album it should be fantastic. I would try to explain why I like Primus, against all reason, but I've already been spending most of this post trying to justify myself, so dangit, I'm just leaving "Primus is really good" alone. Robb should not try to act like he knows stuff about music.
Tour Dates That Matter, on the Primus, Hallucino-Genetics tour-
06/09/04 Milwaukee, WI North Stage at Summerfest
06/18/04 Rochester Hills, MI Meadow Brook Music Festival
06/19/04 Toronto, ONT Hummingbird Centre
06/26/04 Chicago, IL UIC Pavilion
NOFX - Heavy Petting Zoo
I have certain moods where I am all about the straight up pop-punk rock. Dangit, this is a week of totally killing everything I stand for. That being said, NOFX are normally one of the bands in this category who qualify the most, along with like..Zebrahead and some others, but I'm not so sure about this album. It seems to have some of the same elements, but results to cheap tricks rather than killer..I don't know..killer whatever it is. Maybe it's just the fact that I was just hearing it on my car stereo, rather than blasting through the walls courtesy of Andy Kring. But, they seem here to basically be doing the pop punk thing..where I'm not sure they're that far above Blink 182. Heck, I'm not sure they're really outshooting Slick Shoes or Ghoti Hook with this one. It's still enjoyable. In fact, that's one of the weird things about the "pop punk". I find almost every bit of it decent at least, certainly listenable, yet very, very rarely do I find it definitively "good". All bands within the genre seem to permanately occupy that middle ground of "okay-ness", seldom ever moving above it. I wonder if that's just a trait of the genre, trying to appeal to the mediocre teens who don't wanta go "hardcore", but don't want to listen to like, The Calling either. Weird. I dunno, I think many of our friends have more experience in the punk rock field, so perhaps they can inform me here. But, heck, I still get a kick out of album titles like "The War on Errorism" and song titles like "Hobophobic", so NOFX are okay in my book.
That's all. I'm nearly done with school. One paper, 3 finals to go. May the world only explode..
Tuesday, April 27, 2004
(9:33 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
First of all, I'd like to thank Monica for joining the staff here at the Weblog. I encourage all of you to read the remarkably snarky comment section to her first post, which put up much better comment numbers than my posts usually do. I look forward to a long, productive blogging relationship.
Second, I'd like to point you toward a great post over at Spurious, entitled "Why I am not a destiny." It led me to reflect on my own relationship to philosophy. It is demonstrably different from Lars Iyer's or à Gauche's or Anthony Smith's, and I don't know what that means. My true fear in relation to philosophy is not so much lacking the ability to comprehend or engage with philosophy, but rather lacking the proper credentials. I keep seeing myself studying Lacan at some divinity school, or doing my dissertation on Žižek in a department of comparative literature -- just as I'm studying Derrida and Hardt and Negri at a seminary, and fully intend to do my thesis on one of those names that we're all addicted to dropping.
I like Karl Barth and Robert Jenson, and I fully expect that I'll enjoy Hans Urs Von Balthasar and any number of other theologians (though not Moltmann so much, I'm discovering), but I like them in some sense as philosophers, or, better, as literature -- I want to flatten out the distinction, put everyone in the same plane, put together Robert Jenson and Alain Badiou and Thomas Pynchon. I wish I didn't live in America, so that I wouldn't feel like such a jackass for using Christian thinkers, but in the abstract, I'm not embarassed to deploy these people. It's part of the tradition. Augustine is part of the tradition. The apostle Paul is part of the tradition. Jesus Christ? I don't know -- let's leave him alone for the moment -- but the gospels are definitely fair game. (This is partly in response to IB Bill's comment on my last post along these lines -- no, I don't think that Christianity is "true" in the sense that society will fall apart or God will be pissed off if people stop identifying themselves as Christians. In fact, we stand an even chance of being better off if there are fewer Christians, depending on which groups we're depopulating.)
I wonder if Robb has changed his CDs lately.
(10:09 AM) | Monica:
The Honor Is MineAdam Kotsko has invited me to write for his blog. I’m answering the call without trepidation and with just one stipulation: I expect the pay here will be better than at The Pickle. Mr. Robinson is taking advantage of the fact that I didn’t start writing for The Pickle until after I was fired. Can I get some legal advice here?
The Pickle aside, Mr. Kotsko, this is your weblog—and a fair mite classier than certain other blogs which will not again be mentioned here. I am honored that you have asked me to participate in your most edifying project. The edifice of flapdoodle which I shall fabricate on your weblog, no incisive ray of keen insight will be able to penetrate.
Regarding my delinquency in responding to your invitation, I pray your clemency. I’ve been employed in dreams of my bicycle dealer, on whom I have a wonderful crush. This is infatuation of the best kind: reciprocated admiration of someone who is completely unavailable (i.e., is a parent in a happy traditional marriage). I’m biking up after work to talk to him about my bike cleats (which I’m wearing around work all day today, since I forgot to bring my dress shoes).
Monday, April 26, 2004
(10:56 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Suggestion for Reform
The print function for web browsers should be changed in the following way. It should calculate out how many pages it's going to print, and if it finds out there are going to be two lines of bullshit (or a banner ad, or linebreaks) as the sole content the last page, it should pop up with a message saying, "The last page of this print job is just going to be two lines of bullshit. Would you like to skip it?" I would click yes.
(8:08 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Today is the big day for discussing Flannery O'Connor. Barring complications, I plan on prowling in comment sections rather than "weighing in" with a lengthy post.
In the Common-place Book, Adam Smith quotes Alasdair MacIntyre. I know virtually nothing about MacIntyre, although I love the quote where he says that being asked to die for a modern nation-state is like being asked to die for the phone company. The nation-state is a big deal in Christian circles these days -- it reminds me of how grunge became such a big deal in Christian rock circles somewhere around 1998. Cheap shots aside, here is the quote:
It is of course true that genealogists now occupy professorial chairs with an apparent ease which might have discomfited Nietzche and that even when they praise the aphorism as the genuinely Nietzschean genre, that praise is expressed, as I noted earlier, in conventional academic journals and lectures. If and when some post-Nietzschean is finally invited to give a set of Gifford Lectures, his or her academic hosts can reasonably expect the conventional form of his or her utterance at least partially to neutralize its content. Apprehensions that instead of lectures they would be presented with a set of Gifford aphorisms or Gifford prophecies are surely groundless. Yet that those apprehensions should thus be rendered groundless is itself disquieting.
For what it signals is the capacity of the contemporary university not only to dissolve antagonism, to amasculate hostility, but also in so doing to render itself culturally irrelevant.
I admire a good bluster as much as the next guy, but I fear the problem with our modern post-Nietzscheans may well be their super-abundant cultural relevance. Hanging out at Barnes and Noble last night, I leafed through Harold Bloom's The Western Canon, where he noted that professors were setting aside the Great Monuments of Western Literature in order to study movies, advertisements, etc. I'm sure a PhD program in pornographic studies is forthcoming, if not already extant.
And who can deny the commercial success of heavy theory? It truly is the new literature, the thing to read for those who want to be in the know, who want to be superior -- Derrida is the new Joyce (according to Bloom), Foucault the new Proust (excavating the past), Lacan the new Pound (standing in the background of so many careers). Who can read Derrida's Monolingualism of the Other without being struck by the fact that this is what literature is now? The triumph of theory is an outgrowth of the tremendous success of literature in the modern world, the paradoxical mass-production of subversion. At the beginning of the century, it was a Supreme Court case about the obscenity of Ulysses; at the end, a controversy about Cambridge University's decision to award an honorary degree to Derrida's "cognitive nihilism." (I really am sorry to be landing so hard on Derrida -- it's my class.)
Does this represent a loss? Perhaps in the institutionalization of the impulse of "literature," we did indeed suffer a loss, but the modernists properly-so-called already knew they were writing in order to be archived by university professors. In France, the professors themselves managed to become artists, a feat rendered very difficult for those professors living in the metropole -- but, perhaps, occasionally accomplished nonetheless by the stray American (or the stray Hungarian or Slovene).
We cannot go back to being a Christian society, unless we're willing to unleash the horrific violence that would entail. Calling secularism a religion doesn't change anything, doesn't have any force whatsoever -- at least not when the goal is the reestablishment of Christianity. Neither are we ever going to be able to return to a society in which every schoolchild reads Julius Caesar, unless we're willing to radically restrict the group to be educated. It pains my heart to say it -- my inner imperialist is weeping -- but there really is no going back. And thanks be to God!
(à Gauche's response to Adam Smith's query about the idea of the university contributed significantly to the thought process behind this incoherent -- dare I say aphoristic? -- post. Consider it a response to them both.)
Sunday, April 25, 2004
(8:51 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
The Asceticism of Protest
Has there ever been a person, a real person, who renounced the pleasures of the world out of protest? Not because of the pollution those pleasures bring, not because of the clear reason such renunciation will engender, but because worldly pleasures are quite simply not good enough?
Kafka's "Hunger Artist" seems to fall outside the normal rubric of asceticism. The popular perception within the story-world is that he is an aesthete, devoted to fasting as to an art form, fasting-for-fasting's-sake--a nihilistic fasting. When he reveals his real motivation, that he simply never found any food he liked, it at first sounds completely absurd, again outside the pale of "normal" asceticism. (Zizek's reading of this story strikes me as completely wrong: it is not the case that the Hunger Artist is actively eating nothing [italics in original]; he is not, sad to say, tarrying with the negative.)
Yet Kafka is known to have had an active religious imagination, and I would ask whether the ascetic is ever doing anything but waiting for a food he'll really like -- purifying himself for the food of heaven, refusing anything but the food of heaven, like the mystic nun who starved herself by eating nothing but the eucharistic elements. Is asceticism always a protest? Has there ever been a world in which such asceticism, such protest, was more necessary, precisely because completely incomprehensible? The asceticism of veganism: the beginning, perhaps of a new religion for our time, a great refusal of the artificiality that penetrates to our very bones.
I walk through the grocery store, drive down the street, look in the refrigerator, and ask, "Where can I find some real food?" Without knowing quite what it means, I choose to abstain until confronted with real food, consuming words with a strange incomprehension bred by hunger, by the deepest dissatisfaction. For me there has never been any moderation between the real thing and nothing at all, and so occasionally I tense up, shaking my fist at the world, shaken physically by a dissatisfaction, above all, with myself.
Saturday, April 24, 2004
(7:37 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
The Advent of Meta-Spam
I just received a piece of spam advertising a spam filter.
(6:47 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Questions about Language
Is it possible to write something in one's native tongue that can be universally and transparently translated? Free of idioms, of puns, of any idea that can't be said in every language in the world (generating a translation that will never require footnotes)? Imagine attempting such a thing, even with your limited knowledge of foreign languages -- even if you know it's impossible, what would you do if you were to try? Would a text that attempted this feat be readable by native speakers? (What about music as a "universal language"? Or, better, mathematics?)
Isn't there more than one way to handle dialects? English is not a phonetic language -- in many cases pronunciations do not correspond to spelling. Why not write a novel in which, for example, the black characters get to have the standard spellings, while words are phonetically misspelled for any white characters, to indicate a "white accent"? Is there something about the politics of language that would make such a novel impossible -- or even obscene?
(The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn carries this logic to the extreme, endowing everyone, even the narrator, with an "accent." One wonders, however, if this is merely an emperical matter, a product of the novel's setting in the South -- does the Northerner's "non-accent" implicitly hold the place of the universal dialect?)
(4:07 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
To List: A Post
I did a top twenty-one list of books a while back. Adam Robinson had some disparaging comments, which have been lost in the transition from BlogSpeak to HaloScan. I'll admit it: I am a poseur. I was trying to impress people when I wrote that list. I was trying to look educated and balanced, despite the fact that women were not represented at all and minorities represented only by a hair. So this time, when I list things, I'm just going to be me. I'm going to try to do it off the top of my head this time. So here are a few lists of favorites.
- This is Hardcore by Pulp (recently returned to me, after a year, by the lovely Katie Morris)
- Daisies of the Galaxy by eels (thanks to Mike Hancock for introducing me to this one)
- Kid A by Radiohead (with apologies to Adam Robinson)
- Vespertine by Bjork
Inevitable Presidential Candidates
- John F. Kerry
Books Recently Read
- Given Time: I. Counterfeit Money by Jacques Derrida
- A Clinical Introduction to Lacanian Psychoanalysis by Bruce Fink
- The New Imperialism by David Harvey
Bloggers I Most Wish Would Update More Often
- à Gauche
- Chun the Unavoidable
- Belle Waring (who has a moderately valid excuse)
Friday, April 23, 2004
(1:53 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
An Open Letter to Discover Card
Dear Discover Card,
It's been about five years since we first crossed paths, and we've had some good times. I can still remember when I first got my card and immediately went $150 into debt to pay for overpriced college textbooks, then went to Denny's that same night. Since then, I've paid a finance charge or two, and you've given me my token cash back awards -- we've basically had a good, mutually beneficial relationship. That's why I've waited so long to bring this up. You see, there's apparently been some kind of miscommunication between us:
Yes, the checks.
I understand totally what your motivation is. You want me to take full advantage of my card by writing Discover checks -- whether for convenience at a merchant who doesn't accept Discover, or to help get out of a pinch with the utility bills. You're just trying to help out, and that's great.
The thing is, I've systematically thrown every one of those checks into the garbage for the past five years. I can see the value of persistence. I can see thinking, "Well, maybe the first batch of checks got lost in the mail." But it's been five years. At this point, you're just wasting my time and yours.
And honestly, I'm starting to wonder if you're just trying to trick me into paying unnecessary high finance charges. Is that what it is? Do you feel like I'm getting all the benefits out of this relationship by paying my statement in full every month? Do you feel used? We can talk about this if you need to -- the important thing is that we can't allow this lack of communication to go on, or it could spread like a cancer throughout our whole relationship. After five good years, I don't want that to happen.
Thursday, April 22, 2004
(8:24 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
See, Republicans aren't Nazis
They're actually communists:
(5:27 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Discussion Space: Entertainment and Ideology
What is the ideological function of Chappelle's Show (on Comedy Central)?
(12:30 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Bob Woodward reveals this:
Having given the order, the president walked alone around the circle behind the White House. Months later, he told Woodward: “As I walked around the circle, I prayed that our troops be safe, be protected by the Almighty. Going into this period, I was praying for strength to do the Lord's will. I'm surely not going to justify war based upon God. Understand that. Nevertheless, in my case, I pray that I be as good a messenger of his will as possible. And then, of course, I pray for forgiveness."I know Luther says to sin boldly -- but come on. We're all very fond of pointing out, when discussing practicing homosexuals, that Jesus forgave the woman caught in adultery but told her to "go and sin no more." Well, how about when you've been caught starting an illegal war, based on lies, that has cost thousands of lives? Do you just get a pass for that kind of thing, since it's non-sexual?
Did Mr. Bush ask his father for any advice? “I asked the president about this. And President Bush said, ‘Well, no,’ and then he got defensive about it,” says Woodward. “Then he said something that really struck me. He said of his father, ‘He is the wrong father to appeal to for advice. The wrong father to go to, to appeal to in terms of strength.’ And then he said, ‘There's a higher Father that I appeal to.’"
Even assuming that Bush is "sincere," which I guess we have to do, what he's saying here and in so many speeches is not Christian theology: it's heresy. President Bush should be denounced and condemned every Sunday, from every pulpit in this nation, until he stops blaspheming the name of God, and he should be denied communion at every church until he repents of his grevious sins and makes a good-faith effort to mend his ways. After all, Jesus did not die on the cross to give us access to cheap, Band-Aid grace to apply to our troubled conscience in between sins. Christ calls us to obedience, and whatever else George W. Bush may be, he is not obedient to the will of God.
As a brother in Christ, I call on George W. Bush to repent, and I call on my fellow Christians on the right to use their vast media empire to do the same.
Wednesday, April 21, 2004
(8:59 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Fiction: A Space for Discussion
I just discovered this post from Elizabeth. I had said:
Ralph [Luker], The Steven Glass comparison is interesting, though I don't know enough about the details of the story to say for sure. Would he have gotten any attention had he been up-front about its fictional nature? Would he have gotten into Rolling Stone or whatever? Would people have actually read it? My feeling is, No. I don't read the short stories in literary magazines anymore, and I don't see people really discussing them. Perhaps my feelings are part of a broader cultural shift -- we can hear lies all the time, effortlessly, but if we're going to do something so counter-cultural as reading a book, we want at least a modicum of truth.Elizabeth replied (at her own blog):
Adam K - I only saw "Shattered Glass", so I'm far from an expert on Stephen Glass. I did take away from the film that it is harder and harder for journalism to stay "serious". Our media has become so sensationalized that Stephen Glass could provide TNR with stories full of lies until one person decided to research an article.Which is, of course, true.
Even with this aspect of our culture, though, I find your last line confusing. If you want to simplify it like that, so that fiction is "lies", and non-fiction "truth", I think a large part of the reading population would disagree. I guess I can only speak for myself though. I choose to read fiction because the world becomes too much. Because I am surrounded by liars and cheats in the world (well, my political spectrum anyway), I prefer to retreat to a world of fiction. I don't find such escape in non-fiction. Non-fiction does interest me, but the stuff I choose to read tends to get me riled up. Of course, some fiction does that for me too.
I don't think you should be so quick to dismiss fiction as passe because it is "lies". I have found truths in certain works of fiction that never would have struck me in non-fiction.
Questions arise: Is it just a matter of having new tools to "get at" truths in different ways? Are there certain truths that are only accessible through fiction that are not accessible through philosophy, theology, poetry, whatever? And what does it mean if I tend to prefer fiction writers who seem to me to be like philosophers in some important respects (Thomas Pynchon, Don DeLillo, Jorge Luis Borges)? Am I missing another essential part of their work? Or what does it mean that I tend to prefer philosophers whose work is in some sense "literary" (Derrida with his puns, for instance)?
Beyond that, Adam Robinson wishes this conversation could continue, and so do I, so I offer up my big fat upgraded HaloScan account to all those who wish to discuss fiction. Feel free to ignore my stupid questions.
(8:02 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Science and the Humanities
A few days ago, I was having a conversation with a couple natural science majors on a science-related topic. My only contribution to the conversation was some information I gleaned from a segment of "Bill Nye the Science Guy."
That said, I wonder if Robb has changed his CDs for the week.
Tuesday, April 20, 2004
(9:23 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Leaving the Country
To begin, I'd like to retract any and all statements in my post entitled "Postmodernism: Good?" that gave credit to postmodernism for the democratization of education. As Ralph Luker points out in the comments, the inevitability of John Kerry's election renders it moot, but I strive for intellectual honesty and transparency.
I will try to be brief this post.
Today in my class entitled "Empire: Then and Now," with Professor Theodore W. Jennings, Jr., we were discussing the book Empire by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, specifically the second section on changing political constitutions. We began the class, as usual, with our gleanings from the news media, and one student shared his finding that a large proportion of troops in Iraq are hired mercenaries. There are apparently independent armed forces for hire, whose status in international law is unclear. We are truly privatizing war.
In any case, halfway through class, it began to rain outside. I spent the remainder of the class simultaneously listening closely and plotting ways to leave the country, specifically by going to England to study and never coming back. No amount of debt seemed unreasonable to facilitate this. No area of study -- even theology itself! -- was too humiliating. It seemed very important to me to leave the country as soon as possible, and since I don't speak any foreign languages, England seemed like the only choice.
Certainly more than half of it was based on the very Anglo weather we were experiencing, but another big part of it has to do with my impression that people are smarter in Europe. For instance, in other countries, maybe their newspapers will carry a story about Kosovo other than one directly involving a U. S. citizen. Maybe the public airwaves aren't appropriated by amoral corporations who by definition want, finally, to make a buck at all costs. Maybe public transit is a reality. I'm sure I'd be gaining a lot of new problems, just like when I switched religions back a few years ago, but still -- it's a worthwhile line of thought for the back of my mind on a rainy day.
Monday, April 19, 2004
(8:41 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
As a follow up to my previous post, I'd like to say that, all things considered, I prefer our postmodern university setting. For instance, two generations back, both sides of my family were dirt-poor and had about a thousand kids each. If not for the democratization of the university (along with the arguable "watering-down" -- stuff like PowerPoint, etc.), I likely would never have gotten a university education at all. Even if my life ends up looking formally like Jude the Obscure, in terms of never getting that elite university position and facing horrible tragedy in my dealings with women, I have had the distinct privilege, for most of my life, of being involved in an engaging intellectual community. I have elitist instincts, but when I really think about it, I realize that if we reinstated elitism, I would never have had a shot at getting in on it.
Thankfully, those kinds of windows will remain open in our country, since Kerry is inevitable and Bush cannot possibly win a second term, and since people will come to understand, before it's too late, that the Republicans want to privatize our nation's school system.
(8:04 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
I am jumping on the academic blogging bandwagon.
And I am not ashamed.
Here's the story so far: John Holbo, one of my favorite bloggers and the holder of a tenured position over at Crooked Timber, wrote a nice little post about the uses and misuses of blogging for the academic life. A lot of people, including everyone's favorite aspirant to the title of "Visiting Assistant Adjunct Lecture at Podunk Community College," commented on that -- I mean not a lot, but the kind of numbers that would make me happy. Anyway, I'm not really all that interested in what most of the commenters had to say, because I'm not really an academic, and I think I somehow manage to do most of what John thinks "academic blogging" should do. So does à Gauche (who does actually hold a masters degree, so he's more qualified than I am).
Another of my favorite bloggers, Chun the Unavoidable (apologies to Ralph Luker), added to his voluminous comments to John's post by writing a post of his own. It is, like every Chun the Unavoidable post, a challenging and allusive work, but I believe I have reached a certain level of comprehension. I also believe that Chun's post was a letter meant for me, since he makes a remark about "an adjunct position at East Nazarene Valley State" (emphasis mine). In any event, the requisite blogospheric blockquote is coming... now:
The larger point that I’m coming to is that the blog encourages, by its very nature, resentment. It is a tool of false democratization. If you feel isolated within your department, start a blog. You attract a like-minded readership, and you feel vindicated. Note that nothing has actually happened, but you feel that it has. I don't pretend that there's anything novel about this “echo-chamber” analysis of blogs, but I do think that Holbo fails to recognize how powerful it is.The point here -- if we’re all equals in this discussion, and we’re all participating, then why exactly is it that you're the one with a guaranteed job for the rest of your life, and I'm visiting assistant adjunct lecturer at Podunk Community College (if I'm lucky)? If the university wants to save itself as an institution, it’s going to need to reinstate its elitism. Bringing “power to the people” is not an adequate way to save the institution when the majority of instructors in a university are already temp workers—in fact, I don’t know how the university could possibly restore its former stature without simultaneously returning to its former basis in economic inequality.
What would be a great thing about academic blogs is the potential for people from different disciplines to discuss ideas without the institutional anxieties and resentments that normally inhibit such discussion. With real names and affiliations, however, nothing much changes. I often find myself deeply suspicious of many blogging philosophers just because I know that's what they do.
To quote Hardt and Negri:
We might say that postmodernism is what you have when the modern theory of social constructivism is taken to the extreme and all subjectivity is recognized as artificial. How is this possible, however, when today, as nearly everyone says, the institutions in question are everywhere in crisis and continually breaking down? ... The omni-crisis of the institutions looks very different in different cases. For example, continually decreasing proportions of the U.S. population are involved in the nuclear family, while steadily increasing proportions are confined to prisons. Both institutions, however, the nuclear family and the prison, are equally in crisis, in the sense that the place of their effectivity is increasingly indeterminate.... In the general breakdown, then, the functioning of the institutions is both more intensive and more extensive. The institutions work even though they are breaking down—and perhaps they work all the better the more they break down (196-197).The university is surely one of these disintegrating institutions, and yet look at how eager people are to be a part of it! In fact, let’s do more and more university work on the internet, as a PR thing! Before long, you’ll need an MFA in blogging before you can sign up for a Blogspot site, and they’ll only let you keep your site for free if you agree to do some clerical work for them on the side, and you won’t know if you get to keep your same domain name from month to month.
Perhaps the academic left needs to renounce the idea of tenure altogether. Beyond that: perhaps the blogosphere must destroy the university in order to save it.
Sunday, April 18, 2004
(8:54 PM) | Michael Hancock:
The Art of Reading Fiction
In Adam's defense, feeling sorry for not reading fiction is probably as damning in popular culture as actually reading it. I remember reading some short piece of prose back in high school that was probably quoted from another source; it was about how those people that truly love reading would probably prefer a good book to most kinds of social interaction, and that, upon death, would find in heaven a rather lackluster eternity awaiting them, unless they had access to their favorite books. Then they would gladly wander off to some quiet corner, away from the hullabaloo of praise and celebration, and enjoy a view moments of quietude.
I imagine that I am one of those kinds of people. It hardly matters whether I'm reading something new and interesting, or something I that I could probably recite from memory; the act of reading itself is an enjoyable experience, and one that I make a part of my everyday routine. Eating, cleaning, working, even showering; all of these are made far more enjoyable with part of your brain listening to John Steinbeck defend the working man, or Tolkien explaining the geography of Middle Earth, or anything like that. Needless to say, spending all of your time in your head gives you a pretty raging inferiority complex. So stop making fun of me.
(4:57 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Ogged apparently doesn't anymore. He tells of a high school English teacher who stopped reading fiction at some point and says:
Even though I'm now just about half his age at the time, I think I understand what he meant. I've managed to read, all the way through, three or four novels in the last five years. When I was in high school, I would read that many in a week, or even a weekend. But I just can't do it anymore. I lose interest. I even resent the author for thinking that I'll spend so much time in a world of his creation.I have also largely stopped reading fiction. I know in my head that it's good and worthwhile, and I'm a strong advocate of particular novels, but I just can't motivate myself to get through them. I don't know that it's a problem of a "world of his creation" that's the problem, since I did read Phenomenology of Spirit in its entirety -- I can't really figure out what changed.
In any case, maybe this is something we could talk about, since I know there are several very avid readers of fiction in the Weblog Commenter Community.
(12:49 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
In the Flesh?
Saturday, April 17, 2004
(6:25 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Joy and Revolution
Is there room for joy in philosophy, specifically in “revolutionary” philosophy?
Slavoj Žižek, in his “Repeating Lenin,” has this to say:
Lenin's slanderers like to evoke his famous paranoiac reaction at listening to Beethoven's appasionata (he first started to cry, then claimed that a revolutionary cannot afford to let himself go to such sentiments, because they make him too weak, wanting to pat the enemies instead of mercilessly fighting them) as the proof of his cold self-control and cruelty - however, even at its own terms, is this accident effectively an argument AGAINST Lenin? Does it not rather bear witness to an extreme sensitivity for music that needs to be kept in check in order to continue the political struggle? Who of today's cynical politicians still displays even a trace of such a sensitivity? Is not Lenin here at the very opposite of the high-ranked Nazis who, without any difficulty, combined such a sensitivity with the extreme cruelty in taking political decisions (suffice it to recall Heydrich, the holocaust architect, who, after a hard day's work, always found time to play with his comrades Beethoven's string quartets) - is not the proof of Lenin's humanity that, in contrast to this supreme barbarism, which resides in the very unproblematic unity of high culture and political barbarism, he was still extremely sensitive to the irreducible antagonism between art [and] power struggle?This Leninist “paranoia” is similar to a certain Wesleyan paranoia—but the difference is significant. Wesleyan asceticism is oriented toward joy, as the Plain Account of Christian Perfection makes clear. But what is the outcome of the Leninist revolution? A world of grayness, a purgatory.
This is not to take some naïve approach and “choose America” over the communist debacle, nor is it an attempt to commend the concrete results of the Wesleyan revolution—the paranoia and cruelty of the Church of the Nazarene and the “apolitical” reactionism of many pentecostal churches prevent me from taking that route. So what am I proposing? “Joy in Christ”? Perhaps. I quote this from Barth’s Humanity of God:
But it is just in view of Jesus Christ that the judgment is made that God’s divinity does not exclude, but includes his humanity. If only Calvin had continued thinking more energetically at this point in his Christology, in his doctrine of God, in his doctrine of predestination and then logically in his ethics! Then his Geneva would not have become such a dismal affair. Then his letters would not have contained so much bitterness.The really revolutionary thing about Christianity, for Žižek and others, is that everything has already happened. I don’t know if they necessarily think this through in all its rigor, ignorant as they seem to be of much twentieth-century theology—the coming future, the messianic kingdom, has content. We already know what it looks like, and it looks like Jesus of Nazareth. The future has already happened and is happening. How different this is from a joyless Marxism, where the shape of society “after the revolution” can never be conceptualized—and where, consequently, revolution itself becomes the promised utopia. To quote Žižek:
Which, then, is the criterion of the political act? Success as such clearly doesn't count, even if we define it in the dialectical way of Merleau-Ponty, as the wager that future will retroactively redeem our present horrible acts (this is how, in his Humanism and Terror, Merleau-Ponty provided one of the more intelligent justifications of the Stalinist terror: retroactively, it will become justified if its final outcome will be true freedom); neither does the reference to some abstract-universal ethical norms. The only criteria is the absolutely INHERENT one: that of the ENACTED UTOPIA. In a proper revolutionary breakthrough, the utopian future is neither simply fully realized, present, nor simply evoked as a distant promise which justified present violence - it is rather as if, in a unique suspension of temporality, in the short-circuit between the present and the future, we are - as if by Grace - for a brief time allowed to act AS IF the utopian future is (not yet fully here, but) already at hand, just there to be grabbed. Revolution is not experienced as a present hardship we have to endure for the happiness and freedom of the future generations, but as the present hardship over which this future happiness and freedom already cast their shadow - in it, we ALREADY ARE FREE WHILE FIGHTING FOR FREEDOM, we ALREADY ARE HAPPY WHILE FIGHTING FOR HAPPINESS, no matter how difficult the circumstances. Revolution is not a Merlo-Pontyan wager, an act suspended in the futur anterieur, to be legitimized or delegitimized by the long term outcome of the present acts; it is as it were ITS OWN ONTOLOGICAL PROOF, an immediate index of its own truth.The Christian utopian vision short-ciruits even this Leninist utopia: we can enjoy freedom and happiness now, without even fighting. The pacifism of the early church is a new kind of messianic ideal in which war itself is skipped over. This may well be “revolution without revolution,” or it could be a radical step further, “a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles”—embracing the accusation of “revolution without revolution,” enjoying a revolution that has already been accomplished.
The Christian hope is perhaps perverse, and it is not self-evidently correct or desirable, but it is at very least distinctive.
(4:20 PM) | Robb Schuneman:
Page 23 of a Terrible Book.Here's mine. Just because.
"Don't trust, be wary, stay factual, get evidence, don't get taken in."
- Working Across Boundaries, Russell M. Linden.
It should be noted that he's talking about the mindset of policemen, before talking about the mindset of social workers, and showing that they come from "different worlds", and thus..have to..you know..work across boundaries. It also should be noted that Working Across Boundaries is one of the stupidest books ever and I have to read it for Advanced Public Administration. The Handmaid's Tale and Zizek are over on the bedside table. Also, I am, for whatever reason, starting way too many sentences off with "it should be noted" of late.
(10:46 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
The Page 23 Thing
- Grab the nearest book.
- Open the book to page 23.
- Find the fifth sentence.
- Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
Volume II/1 and II/2 deal with the so-called doctrine of God in the narrower sense, i.e., in II/1 the quesetion of the possibility of the knowledge of God and the doctrine of the attributes of God (love, freedom, omnipotence, wisdom, presence etc.), and in II/2 the doctrine of the election of grace (predestination) and basic definitions in relation to the commanding of God and therefore the foundation of Christian ethics.You're lucky I happened to put Barth a little closer to the computer than Prayers and Tears of Jacques Derrida last night before I went to bed.
-- Helmut Gollwitzer's introduction to his selections from Barth's Church Dogmatics
The Virtual Stoa also points out an interesting meta-meme based on this premise.
[Technical question: is there a way to keep Blogger from putting such a huge gap after blockquotes and lists?]
[UPDATE: Problem solved. That does make for some ugly source code, though.]
Friday, April 16, 2004
(7:09 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
"Kerry is inevitable."
In order to punish the right wing for all the stupid memes they've spread ("Social Security is doomed!" "Cutting taxes raises revenue!" "George W. Bush gives a shit about people!"), we lefties need to start a targetted meme-spreading campaign. This meme could be dangerous if it got to the general public, but in right-wing discussion areas, or a left-wing discussion area with right-wing trolls involved, it could be fun.
The meme: "Kerry is inevitable."
At every appropriate point in a conversation about Bush's policies, just say something like "Of course, this will all be academic in 2005, since there's no fucking way Bush could win this year." Refuse to back down if anyone challenges it, especially if there are stats to the contrary: "That's just a momentary blip. All the momentum is with Kerry. He's inevitable."
I've gotten far beyond sick of the smug triumphalism of the Republicans who assume that the White House is their birthright -- pretty much since the 2000 Florida "debacle." This is my revenge: "Kerry is inevitable."
Sadly, I'm so low on the blogospheric food chain that I don't know if this meme will spread at all. And yes, I am aware that Matt Yglesias had a similar meme about Dean that didn't turn out to be true. Still, the whole point of a meme is that its truth-value is irrelevant. In short: "Kerry is inevitable."
(6:55 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
The Springing of Spring
In Bourbonnais, Illinois, as of right now, it is shorts and t-shirt weather. I'm sure it will be below freezing tomorrow, but I'm counting this as spring. I'm also starting a pool: how long will it take me to get into a car accident while driving through a densely populated college area during the spring time? (It's the University of Chicago, so factor that in, but still -- God! as in, There is one!)
Today at work, my manager said she liked my longer hair, just like my mom always does. It makes me look "handsome." I've grown wary of that word -- I take it to mean, "You're such a nice boy that the girls should pay attention to you, but of course they won't." In any case, she said that I should be able to find a girlfriend now that my hair has grown out. About the best looking person ever to walk into our office was sitting in the lobby, and she said, "There's a girl right out there for you," and I immediately said, "She's married." I take careful note of the marital status of all young women -- I notice that the divorced ones tend to be the most flirtatious. For whatever reason, fear or "professionalism," I never really talk to any patient more than necessary, and sometimes, certain women seem to go through a honeymoon period with me, then get really mad that I'm not flirting back.
I'm apparently safe and approachable, somewhat like a pastor. During one pub conversation in which some future pastors talked about the problems they had with women getting a little too attached when their marriages were shaky, I asked, "So what if women in that situation find one safe and approachable, and one is not a pastor or future pastor." The advice I received was, "Fuck 'em, baby." I think that was the moment I realized what a perfect fit CTS is for me, at least on the level of faculty. Maybe when I win the lottery, I'll do my PhD there. (That link is the only grant-style financial aid CTS offers to PhD students -- there's not even a tuition waiver. We're a poor school, to be sure, but that just means we haven't sold out! Freedom isn't free!)
I will eventually retype the post I had in mind last night, but until then, here's a good Onion article.
Thursday, April 15, 2004
(9:51 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
I just wrote a really long post and lost it.
Wednesday, April 14, 2004
(10:06 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
On the way to the grocery store, I was listening to Mancow, and he was outraged by the FCC's attempts to crack down on obscenity. At one point, he said in essence, "If Bush gets his way, there'll be no more Playboy." It would be risky, but I honestly think this is the approach Kerry should take if he wants to go for populist appeal. It seems more realistic than trying to "swing right" to "pick up the Republicans."
I used the self-checkout line for the first time today. Perhaps one way to encourage "job growth" would be to outlaw such systems. I know it would be crappy jobs, but it's better than nothing.
Anyway -- the life-changing decision. I realized that I need to start watching TV again, in order to keep up on the commercials. (We supposedly have cable coming into our house for free, but our only TV has the cable jack somewhat implausibly broken off.) Listening to right-wing radio every Wednesday has been tremendously helpful to me, just for the commercials. Apparently, most of Rush Limbaugh's audience is bald, impotent, deep in debt, and in trouble with the IRS. The commercial that was playing for Mancow as I was getting out of the car was brilliant. It was talking about calling "Kelly," your customer support person for your wireless company. You call her to ask a question about your bill, and she calls your service provider, saving you the frustration -- plus, "you've made Kelly's day, because she got to help." It's like you have the girl from the Shake and Bake commercial at your beck and call.
That could be another sector for job growth: people getting paid to be on hold, trying to get through to major corporations. We'd just have to pray that there aren't enough American-sounding Indians out there to support outsourcing two layers of call center services.
Tuesday, April 13, 2004
(9:37 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
I know I already linked this on the quick links
And I know I'm scrolling Robb down much too quickly, but seriously: read this (this being "Every Damned Weblog Post Ever"). The comment section is the best. Here are some highlights:
A few minutes research using google, of the sort that anyone serious who wasn't a pathetic hack pushing an agenda would have carried out, reveals that your numbers are out by a factor of 1.0625. Who the hell do you think you're trying to convince with this worthless bollocks?
While we're at it, I'd be *ahem* grateful if you could provide citations, with links, for every single word of your post, including "and" and "the". Somehow, I don't think you're going to bother.
Heh heh. Nice.
Posted by: apostropher on April 13, 2004 12:19 PM | Reply to this
Heh heh. Nice.
Posted by: apostropher on April 13, 2004 12:21 PM | Reply to this
Sorry about the double comment.
Posted by: apostropher on April 13, 2004 12:21 PM | Reply to this
From Matt McIrvin:
No, see, the real problem with this kind of humorous exercise is the implicit assumption that these rhetorical fallacies are essentially independent of ideological alignment, that all sides engage in dishonesty to approximately the same degree. It's the fake "balance" of the ersatz political authorities that whore themselves in unsigned editorials, the he-said-she-said sickness of a world unwilling to express itself in anything but surrender to the swollen organizational monstrosities that order our lives like six-thousand-ton ticks sucking the life essence out of the national discourse. When in fact anyone who has eyes to see and is not yet a complete quisling prostitute will reject such empty "nonpartisan" jocularity, and recognize that all people who disagree with me are guilty of crimes against humanity, and in a just world would hang by the neck.
Anyway, with that post, the blogosphere is officially over -- we have entered into the post-blogosphere, during which we can only shallowly mimic other people's past achievements.
(8:16 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
- If Salon were to go out of business today, would you miss it? Would you even notice?
- Is Bush alarmism necessary anymore? Isn't the guy so completely screwed by now that we can start talking about something other than just getting rid of him? A few examples:
- Instead of just saying, "Bush wants to take away our constitutional rights," you could maybe point out ways in which you will defend and expand our rights.
- Instead of just saying, "Bush's foreign policy has been a total trainwreck," you could talk about your own foreign policy (I know this goes on to some extent, but so far the model seems to have been "do the opposite of what Bush did").
- Instead of just saying, "Bush's tax cuts were directed toward the rich," you could come up with some cute slogan about why progressive taxation isn't sinful (a more compact version of "Those who benefit most from our democratic, free-market institution should pay the most to maintain them").
- Instead of just saying, "Bush panders to corporate interests," you could talk about how you plan to stand up to corporate power -- oh, wait, I must have been thinking about a different country.
- Instead of just saying, "Bush wants to take away our constitutional rights," you could maybe point out ways in which you will defend and expand our rights.
- Is Modest Mouse cool or what?
(5:29 AM) | Robb Schuneman:
They Only Want You When You're 17, When You're 21 You're No FunI had this great opening paragraph talking about all sorts of things, and then further talking about things that came up while discussing those things. Then, just as I realized my poor computer was going into "full of suck" mode and hit post (not publish) to save my progress, everything crashed. Not even a blue screen. Just a black screen with fragments of the 3 windows I had open left scattered all over it. Like fragments of my former life. How sad. I was halfway through the first two cds, so if those two seem like lackluster re-treads, know that's exactly what they are.
The Sounds - Living In America
The Sounds are from Sweden. That's right, they're not living in america, and they're not sorry, no. They remind me of Blondie, as I'm sure they remind everyone of Blondie. This is because they have a strikingly blonde lead singer with all males behind her. This is also because they carry roughly the same style set. But, it's sort of more like if, instead of breaking up, Blondie had stayed around and absorbed everything that's happened since then. So, I'm basically trying to say it's like Blondie here today. And you know what I mean. And I don't mean that stupid "Mareeee-uh...You've got ta see hur!" song from a few years ago. I'm saying Blondie a lot here because, somehow, that was the first impression I got, and apparently the first impression everyone gets, even though none of us have heard a single old Blondie song except whatever the heck that Grandmaster Flash pitiful rapping thing was. However, what I know is this: The Sounds are fun, and seem to be good dancing music for all the young boot-scooters to cut their rugs right up to. In summary: Sweden so totally beats Australlia in the ongoing musical olympics - sorry to ruin it for those of you who didn't order the Triple-Cast and were waiting to tune in for the replay tomorrow night.
Camerata Academica des Salzburger Mozarteums feat. Geza Anda - Mozart: Piano Concertos No. 11-12 14 & 2
I love that I just typed that artist name, because it brings to mind an image of Geza Anda sitting in a yankees jersey and 50 thousand worth of bling' round his neck, gesticulating puffy style in the background while the Camerata Academica busts their rhyme, until he makes his big wham-a-jam entrance after the third verse. I think that might actually be on the DVD-Rom part of one of these discs, I've just gotta keep trying the other 6 discs.
When I listened to the first disc in this series, which has Concertos 6, 8 and 9, I thought Beethoven totally was kicking Mozart's cholla in the Piano Concerto department. But, on second listening, I think I might just like Vlad Ashkenazy's playing style better than THE GEZ. You know? It's more warm..tender..open. However, with further listening Mozart's actual writing turned out to be just as good as Ludwig's, and both turned out to be some of the greatest stuff ever written. Imagine that. Seriously, I think I'm totally loving the Piano Concerto over the symphony, the sonata, and the Santa Maria as musical style. Is there anything better in classical music? Pah on your big cymbal crashes. A Pox to your massive brass entries. I take the solitude and simple life.
Shorthanded - Forever Yours
If we were to play the game "Where's Waldo?", only modifying it into "Where's the 'Leave No CD Behind' CD?", it probably wouldn't be all that difficult a game. But..it might make for more interesting coffee table fodder.
Shorthanded is a band I think was drastically overlooked by the Christian music world in 2000. I blame Tooth & Nail. Seriously, they went out and signed EVERY SINGLE Christian punk band in the nation, and I'm pretty sure they signed some satanists and got them to change some lyrics as well. Apparently because MxPx was huge, and Slick Shoes and Ghoti Hook sold okay, this justified dumping every good band on the only good Christian label at the time's roster, and adding like..Craig's Brother, The Deadlines, The Dingees, Fanmail, Hangnail, The Undecided, Too Bad Eugene, and everyone else. It was crazy, it was ridiculous, it's the tooth and nail we've since come to know and love. We've seen this same "Sign every possible band" deal done now with Ska, Hardcore, Emo, Hip-Hop, "12 Stones/Evanescence-esque" and so forth. Where as most Christian labels hurry to get a token of "the latest thing" on their label, T&N hurries to drop everyone from the last craze and sign 400 of whatever style bands. If it weren't for holdover good acts from the blessed days like Starflyer 59, I'd let the whole label rot. Which is sad.
But, enough about T&N's demise as a beacon of light. We have Velvet Blue, we have BurntToastVinyl..strangely, I think both were started by ex-Tooth and Nail people. Not sure of that at all though.
But, enough about T&N's demise as a beacon of light. Shorthanded was pretty good. Sure, they're punk. And sure, any punk band that came along after 1997 is going to have a hard time justifying their existance, but you could do a heck of a lot worse. I'm a sucker for this kind of stuff. Mainly because it seems to be bass-line centered song writing. I'm always up for a song where the bass isn't just going between certain chords, and actually seems..you know..involved in the music. Shorthanded does this very well, and the songs are pretty catchy because of it, and the lyrics are pretty decent as well. So, I say it's a shame that they apparently broke up.
Bela Fleck & The Flecktones - Outbound
Bela! Why you hurt me so good! I know..I know..it's cool to hate on Bela, Dave, Tim, the whole crew. I know..it's stuff for that college freshman who just finally discovers "wow..good music really isn't Hoobastank!" But..come on, dangit! They've got a "Drum-tar" And, for all the fact that it may be the entry level position in music cooldom, in actual musicality, you won't find much better. Okay..the 12 minute jams are a bit unnecessary, but God love 'em, if you got 'em, show 'em. He busts chops enough to make a school girl cry. I seal myself off to the land of poseriffic, but I still like Dave Matthews, I still like Bela. I don't really like John Mayer, though a few songs now and again don't tick me off. I know, I know, I'm sorry. But Bela didn't do me no wrong, and I can't say a word again' him. For some reason, in speaking about the Flecktones I keep using apostrophes at a record pace. I'm going to scurry off now and talk about some much more obscure - READ COOL - electro-pop.
Ladytron - Light And Magic
The thing about the electro-pop, is that when done well it always has some of the greatest, most original beats in the business. The sort of thing where you hear it, the bass or whatever going in some crazy pattern with some sort of start/stop rhythm, and then whatever crazy extras are thrown in..and you know it's God-blessed. However, at its best, it's also self-defeating. That beat is so good..it fits so well with that random bit of wisdom, that the beat-maker seems unwilling to tweak it. So, instead maybe you drop the drums out for a minute or two. Or maybe you pan left to right. Or maybe you add some complementary layer on late in the game. But there's no transition at all..the same beat goes on and on, and no matter how good it is, it can't stand up.
Ladytron is perhaps the best of this genre, but even they are succeptible to this fault. Except in their amazing track "Seventeen", where the beat is so perfect, all the extras so amazingly fit in, and the tag line, which heads this article, seems to fit so greatly, that the song could go on for hours without a wimper. We're certainly moving ahead from Dance music, which had no place in anyone's cd, and should have been strictly monitored so that such songs never left the dance floor, but I'm not sure we're really getting to the sort of stuff that sounds good other then when you're grinding against whatever random girl(s?) you met at the bar a few minutes ago. And really, what doesn't sound good in that situation? DJ STUPID CRAP and all his DJ SO AND SO friends have been playing the same song for years, with a slightly different beat, and no one notices, because that's not the sort of thing you notice in a dance club. But, then they had to go and start releasing CDs, holding Dance "Festivals" and what not. This brings a higher standard. And I think Ladytron might meet that standard eventually, and if you're having a party, you can certainly slip in any one of these songs for a good "pop", but the whole album gets annoying fast. I'm excited to see when someone solves this problem, because with the awesome "jive" of the first 30 seconds of each track, a good full actual "song" could be amazing.
Hot Little Rocket - Our Work And Why We Do It. This one goes out to Gavin Raath. And why? Because Hot Little Rocket are a local Calgary band. They haven't even broken out in Canada yet, but I bring them to you here on The Weblog. And what's more, they freaking rock. I think when I finally do hold the music olympics, Canada might just win. Sure, they gave us Rush. Sure, they gave us Celine Dion. But, it also seems like every "little" indie band that isn't even on Amazon or Allmusicguide I happen to hear, is somehow better than 80% of the stuff out here in the states, and certainly better than almost any local band (minus UWC-affiliated groups) in the states. I got this cd because some guy in an IRC chat room was talking it up. He sent it to me, and I..I don't know, I was really happy. This is something in between The Shins, The Alkaline Trio and Modest Mouse. As unlikely as that sounds, I think that's the best I can do to describe it. I hope they hit it big soon, otherwise Western Canada will forever hold it's treasure. Plus, if they're this good on a production budget that I could probably have splurged on, I can't wait to hear them with some professional recording equipment. When I said I hoped they hit it big, I should clarify that I meant "indie big" so..like..selling some 20,000 cds or so, and still having to have a day job. You know.
That's really all. At a particularly long traffic light on the way home from work the other evening I churned out a list of 10 potential posting ideas. So, hopefully I'll do something other than a CD Change post soon. Oh, and just in case I don't post before then..I'm going to see David Dondero on Sunday for my first concert in a month or two. It should be splendid. Also, after several tries at fixing it, I have no clue why it says this is posting at 5:30 AM, as my clock clearly says 2:30. So, no mom, I didn't stay up that late. Not that you read this site. But..you know, just in case.
Also, it was actually several extremely long stop lights, I should mention. I didn't like..hold up traffic or anything.
Monday, April 12, 2004
(9:24 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Looking through my library, I realized that I have books in series whose titles I can't quite decipher:
- Cultural Memory in the Present
- Meridian Crossing Aesthetics
- Post-Contemporary Interventions
- Thinking in Action
Most of these titles seem to be adequately translatable by the phrase: "an excuse to charge you $20 for a 100-page book."
Sometimes, series actually make sense, like the Wo es war series that published a lot of Zizek's earlier stuff, or maybe IU's religion and postmodernism series -- but those series just end up drifting off into nowhere, with books promised and never delivered. (And I really wanted to read Mladen Dolar's Lacanian reading of Phenomenology of Spirit, damn it!) Those series of "books that cost way too fucking much and don't even have a name index," however, just keep churning them out month after month.
Just for the sake of claiming the name: after the semester is over, I fully intend to do a series of blogposts on "Cultural Amnesia in the Future." Unlike Stanford University Press, I also fully intend to have some kind of theme uniting those posts, aside from the fact that they are written by a Big Name such as myself.
(8:03 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Love at First Sight
I'll admit it: I love Hardt and Negri. That wily theoretical duo continues to rock my world in ways I could never before imagine. I'm only halfway through Empire, but I'm convinced. Sign me up to be part of the multitude. In fact, I'm going to open a new window right now and put A Thousand Plateaus on my Amazon wishlist. I realize that no one has yet availed him or herself of the wishlist function over to the right, but I just want you to know -- A Thousand Plateaus is right at the top of my list now. A lot of other cool stuff is there, too, waiting to be purchased. The gift may be impossible, but Amazon helps us to make do.
(Let us quietly note that Kill Bill, vol. 2 "hits theaters next week." Thanks again, Amazon, for selling everything. Little do they know that their unilateralist marketting cannot be sustained in our new imperial context!)
Now let's get down to business: à Gauche has used the University's quick-link technology (originally developed by me) to connect us to an article by Hardt and Negri -- Mike and Toni, as I now call them. Here's a tidbit:
The crisis of this arrangement presents the opportunity for the proposition of a new global order by the “global aristocracies” – that is to say, the multinational corporations, the supranational institutions and the other dominant nation states.
The primary challenge facing these global aristocracies is to reorganize the global system in the interest of renewing and expanding the productive forces that are today thwarted by poverty and marginalization. To do this, a new agreement is needed – a Magna Carta contract for the age, that today’s aristocracies are in the position to demand of the monarch.
What would the terms of this contract be? Mike and Toni don't say -- that's not their job. The aristocrats and the multitude will figure something out. If I had to guess what they had in mind, I'm sure debt forgiveness figures into the equation somewhere. Anyway, another random chunk:
This means that the United States cannot act independently as a global monarch and “go it alone,” dictating the terms of global arrangements in military, political, economic or financial terms.
The United States must rather collaborate with the other dominant nation states, the multinational corporations, and the supranational institutions that compose the global aristocracies. Today’s imperial sovereignty, in other words, cannot be dictated by Washington (either the Pentagon or the International Monetary Fund), but must result from the collaboration among the various dominant powers.
National sovereignty is dead, and thank God! Ours first of all! If, as Oscar Wilde says, the only way to get rid of a temptation is to succumb to it, then George W. Bush has certainly done us the dubious favor of vividly illustrating the fact that we can't go it alone -- the temptation to act as global hegemon will no longer be nearly as enticing for any future president, even (God forbid) for a second Bush Jr. administration. Our vast military apparatus, if it should continue to exist at all, should be submitted to the demands of the international community. In point of fact, for a while now it already was in most people's minds, and the worldwide protests were the global multitude saying, "Just a minute -- what the fuck do you think you're doing?"
Because -- and here's why I like Mike and Toni so much -- the multitude is an actor in history. New forms of power are produced through the productive energies of the multitude, at their demand. They say early on in the book that the new forms of power they are describing came about because of the demands of the multitude, that reforms in capitalism came about because of the very real threat posed by a multitude organized by a socialist discipline. How refreshing -- popular agitation means something, the lives people live day-to-day, the laws people ignore, all that means something. The cards are not all in the hands of the powers and principalities.
If the best model for a movement of the multitude is early Christianity, then I can now understand the cross a little bit better. If the multitude is the power from below as opposed to the history of Great Men, then it makes sense to have a movement whose leader is self-effacing in life (as in Mark) and who is killed before the movement even takes off -- it makes a whole lot of sense that no one seemed concerned to preserve a record of the great man's deeds for posterity.
(I have too much to do before the end of the semester. Hopefully this summer will provide me some space to deal with the aftershocks of all I'm reading, and hopefully some of it will be publishable.)
Sunday, April 11, 2004
(10:40 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Can someone please help me to understand why whole blocks of text disappear sometimes from my page? If I select the area where the text should be, it reappears, though sometimes that can be flaky. If I scroll past that part, then scroll back up, it also reappears most of the time. I'm using Internet Explorer 6.0. The only other site I notice this problem on is Crooked Timber.
As a sub-question, why is it that any part of the letters below the line (if we imagine this text as written on notebook paper), on pretty much any page, is cut off until I select the text in question?
UPDATE: I've changed the template slightly -- I feel like it has something to do with the background color. If the problem continues after a few days, I'm just going to switch back to white. (Crooked Timber has a white background now, and the problem hasn't happened to me lately.)
(10:33 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Jonah Goldberg has a column about Alan Wolfe's recent article relating Carl Schmitt to the contemporary scene. I have a few comments on Mr. Goldberg's argument, for which I will use the method called "fisking," a piece of blogging jargon that seems to have fallen into disuse lately.
(Since I'm using Blogger, the "read more" function is pretty rudimentary -- it's basically just an article in the old The Homepage format, and you'll have to click back to this page if you want to leave comments.)
(1:59 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
A Prayer for Slavoj Zizek
From the preface to the second edition of For they know not what they do:
There are philosophical books, minor classics even, which are widely known and referred to, although practically no one has actually read them page by page (John Rawls' Theory of Justice, for example, or Robert Brandom's Making It Explicit) -- a nice example of interpassivity, where some figure of the Other is supposed to do the reading for us. I hope For they know not what they do avoided this fate by, at least, really being read. Although it was overshadowed by the more popular Sublime Object of Ideology, my first book in English published two years earlier, I always considered it a more substantial achievement: it is a book of theoretical work, in contrast to the succession of anecdotes and cinema references in The Sublime Object. For me, the reaction of individual readers to it was a kind of test: those who said: "I was disappointed by it, finding it a little bit boring after all the firecrackers of The Sublime Object," obviously missed the crucial argument of both books. Even today, my attitude is: those who do not want to talk about For they know not what they do should remain silent about The Sublime Object.
I wonder if this is something of a key to Slavoj Zizek, a way of understanding the depressing succession of hackwork that has flowed out of him for the past several years. (By way of confession, I have not yet read For they know not what they do in its entirety; I have, however, read Tarrying with the Negative, The Indivisible Remainder, and The Ticklish Subject, and I don't plan specifically to discuss The Sublime Object of Ideology.) He worked insanely hard for a decade in order to establish himself on the American scene, putting out tome after tome of heavy theoretical work, a period culminating in The Ticklish Subject, with an aftershock in The Fragile Absolute.
Then, come to find out -- people like him not so much for his cutting-edge ideas, but for his agreeable, "wacky" writing style. He has spent ten years trying to reinterpret and reapply Lacan and Hegel to the contemporary scene, and all people want to talk about is dirty jokes. In short, people aren't willing to do the work. So he gives them some crap. He throws out article after article that's pieced together from little bits of previous articles -- because no one's really reading anyway. He makes ridiculous references to Lenin, which I take to be highly exaggerated -- a way of distancing himself from the stasis of "liberal" Americans who allow realism to push them to drift further and further right. Since the ideological right has a stranglehold on the terms of debate, severely limiting what could be considered reasonable -- he gestures toward the courage to go beyond reason (and arguably misuses Kierkegaard). If you can catch him in an honest moment, when he's talking with someone he knows to have been a sympathetic and thorough reader (as in this interview), you can still get some good stuff out of him, but when writing for a popular audience, he's not going to overwork himself.
Hopefully this will turn out to have been a "middle period" in his work. He seems to have taken his orthodox Lacanian/Hegelian thing as far as he can for the moment, and now hopefully he'll work on really assimilating some new stuff -- rather than simply making authoritative pronouncements on it. That's my prayer for Slavoj Zizek: that within five years or so, he will have greatly expanded and perhaps even fundamentally transformed the scope of his philosophy, rather than simply trying to "relate" new developments to his previous ideas in a superficial way. The fact that he's producing hackwork for now gives me some hope that this might happen -- clearly, he still has plenty of time to do serious inquiry after republishing the fifth, slightly altered draft of his Iraq piece.