Friday, July 30, 2004
(7:18 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
FAC: The Era of the Logo
First, I'd like to thank Jared Sinclair for the inspiring new logo for the Friday Afternoon Confessional. He is a true artist, in every sense of the word. Now, on to the confessions:
I have a detailed, workable plan for getting a bothersome coworker fired.
A high school-aged girl came into the office wearing a Bush-Cheney shirt. There were a few things that I wanted to say to her. For instance, "You can't fucking vote!" Or, "Once you get out of your little home-school bubble, you'll realize that you've been had, and you'll be, like, super-pissed!" Or, "Wear all the t-shirts you want, bitch -- Illinois goes Democrat every time!" Thing is, I was a Republican in high school, too, though I have always objected in principle to most large logos on shirts (the only exceptions being my shirt that says "Oxford University" and the one that says "Le coq sportif" with a huge rooster in a triangle). I'm lucky I didn't say any of those things, in any case, because she might have destroyed me with her Christian karate.
I constantly make suggestive remarks about Anthony's wife.
As always, absolution is available in the comment section.
UPDATE: I further confess that I will be taking this weekend off from blogging. Jared has done another great image for the Pontifical Standing Committee on Continental Philosophy in the Liturgy. That feature will be recurring soon, though for now I'm not committing to a particular day of the week or even to an every-week schedule.
Thursday, July 29, 2004
(11:22 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Conspiracy Theorists of the World, Unite!So about this thing where the Bush administration is ordering Pakistan to hurry up and capture people before the election. (Via Fontana Labs, among others.) I mean, sure, it's a "great coincidence" that ... um, what's his name again? ... oh yeah, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani was captured right before Kerry's speech. But guess what? I've been following this stuff pretty closely for a while now, and I've never heard of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani in my entire life. I'm sure some right-wing blogger out there is wondering at the decadence of the cultural left in blogging about Kerry's speech rather than about the capture of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani -- maybe if you read the name enough times in this post, you'll remember that his name is Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani -- but I just cycled through the New York Times, CNN, MSNBC, and even Fox News, and while the capture of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani is high up on their "other news" column, the John Kerry Show is taking up almost the entirety of their prime real estate.
So basically, if the Bush administration planned the capture of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, or the announcement thereof to coincide with Kerry's speech, they were morons to think it was a big distraction. And as for the theory that they're going to trot out bin Laden at the last minute to guarantee their victory -- doesn't that assume at least some degree of practical, real-world competence on their part (i.e., that they were able to catch him in the first place, or find people who could)? Don't you think that it would be as transparent to non-Republican hacks as Clinton's bombing of Iraq during the Lewinsky scandal was to non-Democratic hacks? Finally, don't you think that this whole thing with going to war in Iraq and never, ever mentioning bin Laden for three fucking years might kind of blunt the impact of trotting out bin Laden? (Are liberals other than Michael Moore even harping that much on the bin Laden thing, such that it would constitute even a mild "I told you so" if -- mind you, three years after the fact -- they finally did capture him?)
I love trying to parse out the exact degree to which Bush is evil as much as the next guy, but until I see it for myself, I'm going to have to chalk this one up to hysteria. The Bush administration simply cannot be an incompetent trainwreck and be all-powerful at the same time.
(5:12 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Thursday Translation Attempt IIPer Brey's request, here's my French translation. It comes from Henri Bergson's Les deux sources de la morale et de la religion, which I have been using as my reading text, proceeding at a very impressive page or two per day.
L’individu qui fait partie de la société peut inflécher et même briser use nécessité qui imite celle-là, qu’il a quelque peu contribué à créer, mais que surtout il subit: le sentiment de cette nécessité, accompagné de la conscience de pouvoir s’y soustraire, n’en est pas moins ce qu’il appelle obligation.While reading, I remembered coming across a sentence that gave me trouble and thinking I should use it for this new weekly feature. I'm not sure if this is the exact sentence, but it's no slouch. Here's my initial attempt:
The individual who is a part of society can bend and even break a necessity that resembles the former [i.e., natural necessity--translator’s note], which he has contributed somewhat to creating, but which he submits to above all: the sensation of this necessity, accompanied by consciousness of being able to escape from it, is no less a part of that which he calls obligation.I'm fairly satisfied with this translation myself. The only part that feels questionable in my mind is the last phrase of the sentence ("n’en est pas moins ce qu’il appelle obligation"). Word by word, skipping the "ne," it would seem to go: "of it is not less that which he calls obligation," but I don't know how to make a good English sentence that captures exactly that. Hence what I put. If anyone has any suggestions, I'd love to hear them. I'd also like to find a more forceful translation for "sentement," but nothing in the dictionary really satisfied me.
(11:20 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
No More Work StoriesToday at work, I was processing insurance payments. Often, the checks are part of a full piece of paper and must be torn off. One explanation of benefits included this helpful reminder: "Detach at perforation before depositing check." Thank goodness they wrote that, because I was just going to endorse and turn in that whole big honkin' piece of paper without tearing off the check, because I am an idiot.
Wednesday, July 28, 2004
(7:04 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Aesthetics and the Praxis of Cultural CriticismThis post from à Gauche, along with this one, brings to mind a certain kind of laziness that I've developed: I just don't bother with conservative commentators, period. The reason isn't so much because their arguments are always weaker or they aren't intelligent or they don't shed fresh light on the situation -- to claim that would be the worst kind of snobbery -- but simply because I don't like the "conservative style" (often referred to as "attitude" -- just "attitude," with no qualifiers, as if it's the only possible attitude one could have). I think we're all familiar with it, and I don't need to go into detail.
The irony, of course, is that I would be the first to jump on someone for what à Gauche calls the "penchant (common among conservatives) for denouncing supposed European obscurantism" -- yet I am also the first to dismiss an argument that has certain stylistic tics that I find annoying (and yes, one could justifiably find the "French style" of doing philosophy annoying).
I'm a hypocrite, I admit it, and now you never have to listen to anything I ever say in the future.
And be forwarned: your gynecologist doesn't have a test for the post I'm pregnant with. It's going to be so good that I don't even have to tell you the topic -- you'll just know when you read it that it's the one I was referring to.
(1:31 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Comic BloggingIn Harper's this month, I find the following quote from a 50s-era version of Dr. Dobson, Dr. Frederic Wertham, regarding Batman and Robin:
They live in sumptuous quarters, with beautiful flowers in large vases.... It is like a wish dream of two homosexuals living together. Sometimes they are shown on a couch, Bruce reclining and Dick sitting next to him, jacket off, collar open, and his hand on his friend's arm.I really think that Dr. Wertham is on to something. One thing that he missed, though, is that there is a significant age difference between Bruce and Dick -- Dick (was that slang term current in the 1950s?) is, after all, Bruce's ward. So Batman and Robin don't simply promote homosexuality: they promote pederasty.
The article goes on to say that although such remarks strike us modern folk as ridiculous, comic book sales fell dramatically as a result of campaigns by people like Dr. Wertham.
The Batman scholars among us may wish to do some research into whether the age difference between Bruce and Dick was more clearly emphasized after they were accused of being gay.
Tuesday, July 27, 2004
(9:30 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
So about this community thingToward the end of Monica's recent post, she quoted a manifesto from the group Lumpen that stated that "…the cultural workers, dissidents, designers, provocateurs, musicians, artists, and activists who are navigating and exploring spaces to liberate ourselves from the safety of regularity and the detachment of the everyday… are creating worlds for us to explore" and further that "A series of movements are being built that are yearning for connection around the country. We see threads of a different world being woven into a direction that is taking us out of the morass of mediocrity and inaction and captivity…." She connected this to our own blogging related program activities:
I believe in blogging as a means for connecting and meeting each other, and as a partial answer to the US’s sore want for public discourse. The blog is a semi-public forum, sure, but as blogger Kotsko has learned, we have a way of being found. Also, I don’t care that, when blogging, we’re communicating with each other from behind our screens. I feel a definite sense of emotional connection with bloggers and comment-posters. Furthermore, the blogging format is commendable as a way for introverts to exert their influence in a culture where extroverts dominate political and social life. At the blog, introverts may safely type away, with time to reflect and compose coherent statements, and unflustered by demands for off-the-cuff responses.I think this is something we might discuss. She is currently busy riding her bike across Iowa and will be unable to join directly, but I wonder what we think: Is she right? Are we actually building community here? Is it in any sense "liberating"? Does blogging technology provide a potential toe-hold for the perpetuation of the participatory democratic ideal? Does blogging represent expanded access to the means of cultural production, or does it just produce a cacaphony of conflicting views? Is it time to stop denigrating the figure of the introverted computer nerd who sits at her computer instead of participating in the "real world"?
I don’t know how long the phenomenon of blogging will last, or how it may evolve, but I’m glad it’s here. I am grateful to you blog posters and commenters who deal with important, difficult, and surprising things.
I think what we are doing here is good. I may even call it “liberating.”
(9:20 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
A RecommendationIf you care about literature, you should probably read The Reading Experience on a regular basis.
One finds literature -- literature as such, not as a pillar of morality and civilization, not as a means of oppression or revolution -- discussed so ably very rarely; in blog format, hardly at all.
(7:02 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Pledge Week!Guys, my bandwidth costs are skyrocketting, primarily due to the ass-capper tattoo thing, but also due to the absolute flood of readers. I only expect this to get worse as the site continues to increase in quality -- thank God that the blow this time was cushioned by the death of most of my supporting staff! If the site was updated more often, then I would expect our hits to increase from 200 a day (only fifty of which are from me) to roughly 10,000. You can imagine the problems that would cause in my relationship with my ISP and my Discover Card.
In short, I need your money. I need a lot of it. If I don't raise $80,000 this week, then I won't be able to blog the Republican convention. Worse, I may need to shut down the blog altogether, cutting you off from a valuable supply of information about my personal life and about... um... other stuff, too.
Okay, let's be frank: if you read this blog without pledging money, you're basically stealing from me. I put in all this damn effort to write posts and to bring you the hottest young talent -- from Anthony Smith to Monica Bennett to Robb Schunemann to, well, everyone else, even though they don't really post much -- and to keep my blogroll updated and alphabetized, and what do I get for it? Jack-shit, basically. If I'm honest. Sure, some would argue that a "community" of some form has formed around this blog, but I don't know how a genuine community can sustain itself unless its leaders obtain material wealth for their efforts. And although it's true that I take orders from the Socialist Workers Party, I am at very least a figurehead and deserve renumeration. I mean, look at the fucking URL: adamkotsko.com/weblog. I'm a community leader, so I should be richer than I am. That's where you come in. Basically.
Man, I deserve so much better than what I'm getting. So much better. I've been patient. I've put in my time. I've been doing this for a year, almost every day, sometimes more than once a day. It's exhausting! It hurts! My fingers bleed almost every night, and half the time I cry myself to sleep thinking of your scathing, self-important attempts to leech off my effort and fame in order to get your clever remark published -- by which I mean your comments. So give me money! Or buy me a book or something! Because it's Pledge Week! Or, better, Giving Your Damn Money To Adam Kotsko Week!
I can already tell you're not going to donate anything. Damn it.
Those who want to donate can use the PayPal link in the "Unapologetic Tackiness" box.
(3:36 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
TV-related questionsWhat was the name of that show in which a teenage girl had an alien father and was able to stop time? Her father communicated to her through a decorative-looking device, and her time-stopping abilities worked as follows: she stopped time by putting her hands together and started it back up by putting her index fingers end-to-end (or vice versa); anyone she touched would enter into the time-warp with her, while everyone else was paused. The theme song was "Would you like to swing on a star?" I would attempt to supply more details, but as I try to think of them, I realize that this show is fading into "Clarissa Explains It All."
Secondly, do you know of any way to exercise such super powers? I just looked over my Amazon wish list, from which you should all probably buy me something, and I realized that that is the only solution to my desire to read more.
(By the way, I'm reading Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, and it's excellent.)
(11:28 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Let my eyes stream with tearsA reading from the book of the prophet Jeremiah. I read his book during college, and though I haven't been able to do so since, I've always preferred Jeremiah. The last chapter of Jeremiah is just a repetition of another passage from Kings, on the fall of Jerusalem, but in this context, I regard it as beautiful. The only glimmer of hope: the emperor gives the impotent king of Judah an allowance, every day. Did he have to go ask, every day, for that allowance? Did the imperial bursar ever give him trouble?
day and night, without rest,
Over the great destruction which overwhelms
the virgin daughter of my people,
over her incurable wound.
I went to mass today, as part of my day of discipline. Whenever I'm serious about getting things done, my life takes on a liturgical cast -- also when I'm feeling lonely, when my life is formless. Saying morning prayer gives me something to wake up for, some reason to give myself a little space before I have to turn myself over to work. Evening prayer gives me a transition from work to either laziness or a different kind of work. The noon mass at St. Rose, though usually something of a liturgical disaster, has a special role of punctuating my day. If the first part of the day is wasted, I can have a fresh start after mass. If it was productive, I get a break and can return to my labors with a fresh resolve.
I don't think much about heaven, or about whether God is pleased with my actions. That is my incurable wound: a blindness to the referent of my religious acts. I find the gospel -- all of it, the incarnation, the impossible ethic of Jesus, the resurrection, the coming Kingdom -- radically implausible. It doesn't even occur to me to "question" or to be a "seeker." It's just impossible, laughable on its face, that those things happened and that they continue to be discussed and even, furtively perhaps, acted upon to this very day. Yet I am enrolled in a theological seminary, go to church most Sundays, say morning and evening prayer most days, even go to daily mass sometimes. I am the only person even close to my age group at daily masses.
The person closest in age at St. Rose is a girl who can't be older than ninth grade, probably home schooled, attending under compulsion by her mother -- in summer time and during the school year alike. Her little brother sometimes serves as altar boy. One priest is so old that he doesn't appear to care what's going on around him; he says the Gloria and other ordinary parts so fast that the congregation can't keep up. The other is very enthusiastic but also very difficult to understand, and to us three young people, he always says, "Believe, the Body of Christ." He used to go out of his way to greet me after mass, but I stopped attending so regularly, due to other obligations. How unfair of me, a young man, to be devout when I have no intention of becoming a priest! (No intention, right?)
There are so many people doing good work in the church. There are seminars to attend and interesting articles to read and organizations to align yourself with, and I just do not care. I don't care about the debates among theologians, except for an inherent bias toward Barth and Barthians (HUVB, for instance). It matters to me much more that Giorgio Agamben critiques Derrida's reading of Walter Benjamin than that Jürgen Moltmann critiques Karl Barth's concept of eternity. Lacan's objet petit a has a great deal more intellectual resonance for me than the concept of the Holy Spirit. Somewhere along the line, the libidinal charge of Christianity apparently left me, and I don't know if it will ever return.
For now, Catholicism remains a religion, a way of ordering my life, and I do not seek any other way of ordering my life. I have already changed over once, and I'd prefer not to change again. I am loyal to the Catholic Church insofar as my conscience allows. I become involved as much as I am asked to become involved, sometimes more. I like thinking about the Bible in a Catholic context, and I enjoy the liturgy. Doing the readings at mass feels somehow right -- here, now, I think, these are words that can leave my mouth. Catholic charities get my money, as much as I feel like I can give. I may even join a Catholic pacifist organization, which will give me a way to become politically involved.
But do I believe? I don't know. I don't know what it would mean to say that. I would sign a paper that read, "I, the undersigned, do hereby affirm the following: 'We believe in one God, the Father, the almighty, maker of heaven and earth &c." But to talk about how much I believe or about my "spiritual life" right now feels like a particularly dangerous kind of obscurantism. Maybe that will change some day. I can't really know. Maybe someday when I hear the word "spirituality," I won't reach for my gun. Maybe someday, God, such as he is, will help my unbelief. I can wait.
Monday, July 26, 2004
(12:57 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
On Complex SpaceToday, while half-assedly working on a paper, I was thinking about space, about apportioning space. Currently, my bookshelves are in the living room, and my computer is on a too-small desk in my bedroom. The surface of this desk is slightly larger than the average elementary school desk. Given the aggressively intertextual nature of my intellectual work, this can be a hinderance. So I thought that it would be good to have a big desk, like a business-sized desk.
I thought it would be nice to have a separate room with that big desk in it and with my books in it, perhaps even with an additional table. It would be a "study." I would need to have a whole other computer in there, a clunky desktop model good for nothing else other than word processing. Ideally, of course, it would have a flat-screen monitor, with the keyboard coming out of a little drawer underneath the table surface. Better: a monitor that could hang on the wall, like a picture. I would not use the Internet on that computer. All my books would be right there, and I wouldn't have to clutter my bedroom with my books for classes -- I wouldn't have to wake up every morning to see forty books on top of my dresser during the semester. I could just keep casual reading in my room, the novel on my nightstand, perhaps some magazines. My bedroom could be a room where rest took place.
I'd go on, but this all seems to be simultaneously so blindingly obvious and so impossible -- I can't imagine settling down in one spot for long enough that having separate rooms for separate things (and thus the furniture to populate such rooms) seems like a genuine possibility. The very tranquility I seek in the idealized "study" would be disrupted by the thought that I may very well have to move within the next six months. And if (when) I go on to the PhD, I will effectively render such living arrangements impossible by accepting voluntary poverty for the next five or six years.
Does a peaceful, settled life only seem appealling because it's out of my grasp? I don't think that's quite it. I've been trying to develop a stable schedule since I was ten. It still hasn't worked out.
Since Adrian suggested in the comments that we lay out our ideal spaces, let me add the following points. I want one of those stupidly big globes, and I want a ratty, comfortable recliner with a little rack next to it for magazines. I want a view -- just any old thing, not necessarily beautiful. I'm perfectly content with looking out the bay window in my living room at my boring neighborhood full of old people, for instance. I just need to be able to see that the outside world exists.
I want to stand at the window, holding a cup of coffee, with my back toward all my knowledge, real or imagined, and all my work. And I want it to be autumn.
Sunday, July 25, 2004
(1:52 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Embarrassing Personal DisclosureInspired by Jared's picture of his unread books -- which truly pales compared to mine, conveniently scattered throughout my bookshelves -- and subsequent comments, I have to disclose a few things.
First, just as one usually reads "around" a book, browsing the table of contents, the preface (usually disposable, if one is honest, but still helpful as a warmup), the index, looking at the exact number of pages, digging perhaps for the actual spots where chapter breaks occur, checking to see if the footnotes occur on the same page (good) or at the end of the book (not as good, but doable) or at the end of the individual chapters (should be outlawed -- curse you, Verso!), so also I usually write "around" a paper. There is now a Word document on my hard drive, under the title "c:\My Documents\CTS\Derrida\Force of Law Paper.doc". Here is the full text of that document:
Derrida and Theology
August 1, 2004
Agamben, Giorgio. Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life. Trans. Daniel Heller-Roazen. Stanford, CA: Stanford UP, 1998.
Badiou, Alain. Ethics: An Essay on the Understanding of Evil. Trans. Peter Hallward. New York: Verso, 2001.
Derrida, Jacques. “Declarations of Independence.” Negotiations: Interventions and Interviews 1971-2001. Ed. and trans. Elizabeth Rottenberg. Stanford: Stanford UP, 2002. 46-55.
Derrida, Jacques. “Force of Law.” Trans. Mary Quaintance. Acts of Religion. Ed. Gil Anidjar. New York: Routledge, 2002. 228-298.
It also contains appropriate MLA-style page numbers ("Kotsko 1" and "Kotsko 2" so far), with a "section break (next page)" so that content endnotes, if any, will appear at the end of the body text rather than after the Works Cites page. I would do footnotes -- since I have had a fascination with footnotes ever since junior high and would in fact insert footnotes into every possible document, including my periodic newsletter, Swifty Spotlight, a lifetime subscription to which was available for the low price of $5 -- but no amount of customization seems to be able to make my copy of Word put footnotes on the appropriate page. It's really a shame. Badiou will probably get a very long endnote.
I have all the books listed on my works cited in my room, together with a few others: Margins of Philosophy, Phenomenology of Spirit, and The Crying of Lot 49. I listened to Coldplay today, which made me think of my "Heidegger phase," and I realized that I have completely lost hold of Heidegger. I read a massive amount of his work and wrote two papers on him within a year, but now all I can do is make "clever" Heideggerian references in casual conversation, describing conveniently-placed objects as being "ready-to-hand." I've done considerably less work on Hegel, but I feel orders of magnitude more comfortable digging something out of Phenomenology of Spirit than I would citing one of the Heidegger essays I've read ten times.
I suppose the truth of the matter is that I just don't care that much about the Greeks. I enjoy working with them every so often, and in fact I even tried my hand at teaching myself classical Greek, but I can't see making the Greeks into a fixture of my intellectual life. Perhaps the Bible just got to me first. And on saying that, I must disclose this: I hate it when theologically educated people are constantly talking about the infinite qualitative difference between the "Greek" and "Hebraic" mindsets and blame every supposedly negative development in Christian doctrine and practice on the nefarious infiltration of "Greek" ideas -- it seems like they're ascribing too much power to "the Greeks," still allowing them to determine the shape of theology, but negatively. Like a lot of things in contemporary Christian theology, it strikes me as lazy -- just the ticket for all those smart, enthusiastic ex-fundamentalists looking for someone to blame for the fact that Christianity has failed them, just like they probably used to blame the "liberals" for the failures of Christianity and of America. (Moltmann in particular strikes me as lazy in this regard, as though Jesus died on the cross to free us from Greek philosophical constructs. In contrast, witness Barth's genuine indifference toward the Greek heritage, his ability to use it or not as circumstances arise. I know that Moltmann is a wonderful left-liberal, though, so he must be a pretty good theologian nonetheless.)
Undecidability -- say what you will about the man, Derrida got at least that much right. Heidegger may not have sunken in, but I feel like Derrida is beginning to, because I cringe every time I hear someone talk about the infinite qualitative distinction between Greek and Hebrew, with every possible good predicate being ascribed always and only to the latter, or even -- lately -- between right and left, an ontological distinction I learned from Žižek. Agamben may detect a "peculiar misunderstanding" in Derrida's worry that a certain kind of Messianism has affinities with the Nazi "Final Solution," and yes, there is a problem with the mindset that every possible hope or program for change will lead inexorably to another Auschwitz, but I don't think that Derrida's really that far off here. And even if Derrida's style is always hesitant, always holding back and considering the million options, that may be because he's a philosopher who refuses to become a party hack -- or the kind of philosopher who's waiting for a party for whom he can be a hack, waiting upon the party hackery à venir.
Two pages today. Pathetic.
I bought a book at Barnes and Noble, however, that should help me to build some French vocabulary, and I read several articles in the latest Foreign Policy. Turns out that China isn't that big a challenge to American hegemony.
(9:54 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
A "Traditionalist" Link PostIn my effort to make this page more orthodox in its blogosity, I present to you the following links, arranged in paragraph form:
Lars Iyer, in a passionately argued post, discusses the hopelessness of youth. A highlight: "The world has been wagered and lost. How to revive that horror at the utter mediocrities who lead us, who teach us, who manage us from that generation who had to do so little to gain their positions, and who demand so much from us?" (See also his long post from earlier this week on Deleuze and Communism.) Among the many interesting articles in the latest borderlands e-journal is an essay by Ann Murphy on "The Political Significance of Shame".
Daniel Green of The Reading Experience discusses the politicization of literature, on the left and on the right. His response to the latest journalist-vists-the-MLA piece is also worthy of our attention. Adam Robinson is evidently still alive, while Cap'n Pete has transformed his site into an art page with supplementary text. (The deep Renaissance influences are surprising and satisfying.)
Cathy Seipp, currently of The Volokh Conspiracy (whose proprietor has shown remarkably bad judgment in choosing guest bloggers), discusses Medicare's decision to treat obesity as a disease, lamenting the fact that Medicare fails to sufficiently blame liberalism for our obesity epidemic. Belle, having baked a Wonder Woman cake (a link to which does not necessarily indicate a crush on either Belle, Wonkette, or Kevin Drum), refutes this argument, simply by quoting and summarizing it, raising the question of what makes for a proper reductio ad absurdum. Meanwhile, in another part of Crooked Timber, Chris tackles the economic implications of Netflix.
At The H is O, Kamala sings a hymn to himself, F. Winston Codpiece tells of his conversion to liberalism, Adam Smith starts a very helpful series of posts on the 2004 campaign, and m2 confesses (to me). Fred Clark, the Abominable Slacktivist, explains "why some Christians hate gays but love bacon." Ralph Luker is a link machine. Matt Yglesias sells out by agreeing with the execrable David Brooks. And one wonders: is Protestantism dying?
Saturday, July 24, 2004
(10:36 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Pontifical Standing Committee for Continental Philosophy in the Liturgy: First AttemptMy first attempt at incorporating continental philosophy into the liturgy will be to create a set of readings for a hypothetical mass; a reading from Derrida takes the place of the New Testament epistle (usually a letter of Paul). We can assume that these readings occur in a season other than ordinary time, since the "epistle" is more closely incorporated into the set of readings than is usually the case. I am not sure which season this fits into.
First Reading: Leviticus 9:8-10, 22-24
Aaron drew near to the altar, and slaughtered the calf of the sin offering, which was for himself. The sons of Aaron presented the blood to him, and he dipped his finger in the blood and put it on the horns of the altar; and he dipped his finger in the blood and put it on the horns of the altar; and the rest of the blood he poured out at the base of the altar. But the fat, the kidneys, and the appendage of the liver from the sin offering he turned into smoke on the altar, as the Lord commanded Moses.
Aaron lifted his hands toward the people and blessed them; and he came down after sacrificing the sin offering, the burnt offering, and the offering of well-being. Moses and Aaron entered the tent of meeting, and then came out and blessed the people; and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people. Fire came out from the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar; and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.
Responsorial: Psalm 141:1-2, 3-4, 8
R. Let my prayer rise up like incense before you
I call upon you, O Lord; come quickly to me;
give ear to my voice when I call to you.
Let my prayer be counted as incense before you,
and the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice. R.
Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord;
keep watch over the door of my lips.
Do not turn my heart to any evil,
to busy myself with wicked deeds
in company with those who work iniquity;
do not let me eat of their delicacies. R.
But my eyes are turned toward you, O God, my Lord;
in you I seek refuge; do not leave me defenseless. R.
Second Reading: Jacques Derrida, Given Time, pp. 107, 113
What is tobacco? Apparently it is the object of a pure and luxurious consumption. It appears that this consumption does not meet any natural need of the organism. It is a pure and luxurious consumption, gratuitous and therefore costly, an expenditure at a loss that produces a pleasure, a pleasure one gives oneself through the ingestive channel that is closest to auto-affection: the voice or orality. A pleasure of which nothing remains, a pleasure even the external signs of which are dissipated without leaving a trace: in smoke. If there is some gift--and especially if one gives oneself something, some affect or some pure pleasure--it may then have an essential relation, at least a symbolic or emblematic one, with the authorization one gives oneself to smoke.
The offering and the use of tobacco give access to honor and virtue by raising one above the pure and simple economic circulation of so-called natural needs and productions, above the level of the necessary. It is the moment of celebration and luxury, of gratuity as well as luxury. Tobacco seems to open onto the scene of desire beyond need.
Gospel: Mark 14:3-9
While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head. But some were there who said to one another in anger, "Why was the ointment wasted in this way? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor." And they scolded her. But Jesus said, "Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her."
[All biblical readings taken from the NRSV translation; all Derridean readings translated by Peggy Kamuf.]
Friday, July 23, 2004
(1:45 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
A Word of Welcome!I'd like to welcome Hindustani to the comment section of The Weblog. Until now, he has mainly focussed on trolling in the comments of Brey and Amardeep, but I'm sincerely flattered that he would direct his trolling energy toward me as well.
This looks to be the beginning of a long and productive blogger/troll relationship.
(7:19 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Friday Afternoon Confessional: With Further AssessmentConfessions:
I skipped last night's French class and will also skip the final class on Monday. The reason is two-fold: first, on Tuesday and then also on Wednesday night, I was woefully negligent and lazy in getting my work done. This stems from the second reason, being that the passages we were translating were terribly dull. I turned to reading Badiou instead, simply because I had not had substantial intellectual nourishment for a while and was starving for it. The confession, however, is not that I have skipped the class, which is my choice, and a reasonable choice at that, given that I fully intend to keep up with building French reading skills as much as possible. The confession is that it is killing me to think of not having done all my work and of skipping the class. The educational system has completely saturated me, such that even when I am explicitly taking a class for my own personal enrichment, with any potential academic "pay-off" to come much later, I beat myself up over playing fast and loose with the class itself in order to conform it better to my own needs, and as with everything that so torments me, I have talked to way too many people about it.
I'd also like to confess that I am not as warm or friendly a person as I could be. My job is helping me to improve on that, but I still don't know how to respond appropriately to flirtation.
Other than that, my only sin is that I am in the process of writing a freaking long post that may deter some people from reading Monica's (wonderful) post and a half. I do that a lot, and I really apologize if my prolific posting schedule sometimes deters co-bloggers from posting. I take full responsibility for those under-read posts, in the most Rumsfeldian sense of the word.
I was very pleased with participation last week. No one seemed to pick up on the question of whether or not to continue the feature, so I will chalk up the decreased participation to the ebb and flow of people's sins. I think it's kind of fun for this space to be available, although I am willing to change it entirely if there is a felt need.
Geoff and Anthony apparently discussed possible alternatives to the Friday Afternoon Confessional at the Ekklesia conference, and they wanted some sort of liturgical prayer instead. I assume it would be composed by me. Don't get me wrong: I am an excellent mimic and could probably write a parody of a liturgical prayer with such skill that the Vatican would be calling me up and asking me if they could use it. It is definitely a possibility. I have two other possible ideas, however, for injecting a little more Christianity into this site.
First, I could do a recurring feature on the proceedings of the Pontifical Standing Committee for Continental Philosophy in the Liturgy. The idea here is to take selected passages from our favorite European thinkers and reimagine them as having some part in the liturgy, either as readings or as part of a seasonal liturgical prayer. Such recontextualization has potential for being humorous and insightful. I have a few potential passages already lined up, so we'd be guaranteed a month and a half of the series before I'd have to explicitly decide whether it's worth the effort. This could take place on a day of the week other than Friday (probably Sunday).
Second, I could try my hand at writing a weekly homily on the readings for that Sunday. It would be embarrassing at first (plus, I don't read Greek or anything, so my interpretations would be utterly worthless and horrible), but I think it could be a potentially interesting exercise, given that I would be completely without any pressure to conform to the expectations of a congregation. I mean, half the people who come here are looking for a nice, tattooed ass, so I doubt they care that much about the finer points of biblical hermeneutics.
I would like to take this opportunity to say that there is no reason I should be the only one with a recurring series. If any of my co-bloggers have ideas for a series (of which Robb's infamous "CD-change posts" are the archetype and norm), then feel free to unceremoniously and presumptuously announce that you are going to start a series! And if you think that the topic for your proposed series will offend or annoy me -- all the more reason to start it! This web page operates according to the principles of the Derridean university without condition, and my first principle is an unrelenting freedom of speech, with the corollary being that we must make every effort so that, when the master returns, we will not be found to have buried that freedom in the ground.
Thursday, July 22, 2004
(3:01 PM) | Monica:
A Personal Note
I will be away for the next week or so, bicycling across Iowa, so I’ll respond to comments to “Liberating ourselves…” on August 2.
Congratulations are in order, as I’m sure to win First Place DIWITTY at the Third Annual Umali Awards, as well as maybe Best Day, Best Dining Out Experience, or Best First.
(2:40 PM) | Monica:
Liberating ourselves from the safety of regularity and the detachment of the everydayThe first time I visited Darling Hall and saw the first Tingle Showcase, I swooned with pleasure and amazement. I’d found my people at last! These people are brilliant. They’re hilarious, full of thrilling ideas, socially progressive, and unexpectedly warm and unpretentious.
Now I am involved in Tingle Showcase and, by some good fortune for which I am endlessly grateful, I also live at Darling Hall.
Getting inside changes things. Last Saturday, the day of the newest Tingle Showcase (which Adam Robinson will review at The Pickle), I was shamefully blasé, tromping around in my slip and clearing my books and shoes out of the theater area.
But I got over that in a moment during the show: Tyson Reeder was onstage with Stephanie Barber and Xav Leplae doing a (untranslatable here) performance that alluded to both the inscrutable absurdity and the colorful hilarity of life, and I knew that I must constantly participate in this. This is it (but not this is all). This is really happening. I want to be with everyone here and everyone who’s not here, making lively life and joy.
Fifteen Lumpen people showed up at the Tingle Showcase from Chicago. They bartered for admittance, offering a hefty stack of the notable magazine on media, culture, and politics, lumpen, and the Street Prop edition of Select magazine, “an experimental media project highlighting interventionist art as cultural interference,” in its own words.
A lumpen fell into my lap from my hungover breakfast table the next afternoon, reinforcing the moment I’d had*:
…the cultural workers, dissidents, designers, provocateurs, musicians, artists, and activists who are navigating and exploring spaces to liberate ourselves from the safety of regularity and the detachment of the everyday… are creating worlds for us to explore. They give us hope.I believe it, even after having been run over by a ten-ton train of disillusionment and cynicism. The very circumstances that brought these sensibly buoyant words to me make me a believer.
This activity is what makes us sing. They make us live and make us love….
Some readers… may be tired of reading hard-hitting diatribes against the corporate takeover of our lives or our lamentations regarding the same old new world order that is under the Death Kingdom of Bush. Politics suck. Especially today. Especially when we need to escape their horror. But the politics and the economics of the now and future affect us and our ability to survive….
We find the efforts of those creating new spaces to share and create other worlds that are possible, a much needed antidote to the way things are. We believe the only hope for us collectively is to expand the activities of the cultural scenes and meet them head on with the boring theoretical political cultures that have run out of steam and are under reconstruction. At least here in the US. We need to connect these worlds. We need to reinvent what it means to be human….
But we know we are not alone or isolated. A series of movements are being built that are yearning for connection around the country. We see threads of a different world being woven into a direction that is taking us out of the morass of mediocrity and inaction and captivity….
The margins will determine the center. We must connect and meet each other…. We believe the germinal collective we are growing can work. Don’t you?
I believe in blogging as a means for connecting and meeting each other, and as a partial answer to the US’s sore want for public discourse. The blog is a semi-public forum, sure, but as blogger Kotsko has learned, we have a way of being found. Also, I don’t care that, when blogging, we’re communicating with each other from behind our screens. I feel a definite sense of emotional connection with bloggers and comment-posters. Furthermore, the blogging format is commendable as a way for introverts to exert their influence in a culture where extroverts dominate political and social life. At the blog, introverts may safely type away, with time to reflect and compose coherent statements, and unflustered by demands for off-the-cuff responses.
I don’t know how long the phenomenon of blogging will last, or how it may evolve, but I’m glad it’s here. I am grateful to you blog posters and commenters who deal with important, difficult, and surprising things.
I think what we are doing here is good. I may even call it “liberating.”
*Bolding by me.
(2:19 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
The Amardeep Singh Cultural IndexAmardeep invites everyone to participate in his own cultural index and to produce as varied and miscellaneous an array of deviations as possible.
The thing that I find frustrating about all such indices is that I am just barely 24 years old and feel acutely culturally illiterate. Movies were not a big part of my upbringing, for instance. Yet I press on. Here are my answers to some of Amardeep's questions, with all non-choices (don't care or not familiar) simply omitted:
1. (It's 11pm) The internet or Jon Stewart?
2. Pavement or Wilco?
4. (It's 1991) Fugazi or Nirvana?
16. The Cable Guy or The Matrix?
18. Juliette Binoche or Audrey Tatou?
26. The Sopranos or The Simpsons?
27. Mac or PC?
29. Aimee Mann or Liz Phair?
33. Vegetarian or meat?
40. A little sublime (not the band, the real thing) or a lot of beautiful?
42. CDs or MP3s?
44. 1969 or 1979?
45. 1981 or 1991?
46. The Rolling Stones or Led Zeppelin?
50. On a mountain or on a beach?
My favorite part, here elided, was that he provided alternate alternatives for those who were too proud to stoop to the level of, for instance, Pavement vs. Wilco. He expresses a desire for more authors, but I fear my taste might be just as obscure as his. I think that we could do choices among blogs, among more painters, among fewer rap/hip-hop artists, etc. If I were making one, which may yet happen, I would also trim it to 25 items only. I haven't even read through the original version (linked at 1.5 billion different blogs -- just click around if you want to see it), because it's so damn long.
Anyone who answers his index or creates a variant is encouraged to comment at his site, or alternately, you could follow HaloScan's simple 23-step trackback process to ping this post.
(12:19 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Thursday Translation AttemptIn addition to the famous Friday Afternoon Confessional, I am now instituting the Thursday Translation Attempt. The expected format is that I will display a French text, give my best attempt at a translation, then put a "real" translation for comparison. In the hope that some of my readers are French scholars, I will also add any questions I had.
This week's passage is from Alain Badiou's "Thèses sur l’art contemporain". Though I did translate the whole thing, I will only subject you to one thesis:
Il y a nécessairement pluralité des arts, et quelles que soient les intersections imaginables, aucune totalisation de cette pluralité n’est, elle, imaginable.My translation:
There is necessarily a plurality of the arts, and whatever may be the imaginable intersections, no totalization of this plurality is imaginable.Official translation (handed out before the event at which Badiou presented the theses):
There is necessarily a plurality of arts, and however we may imagine the ways in which the arts might intersect there is no imaginable way of totalising this plurality.Mine is slightly clunkier and more "literal," but it doesn't seem to be wrong. My only question is from the final phrase: "aucune totalisation de cette pluralité n’est, elle, imaginable." What is that "elle" doing there?
(8:37 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Memorial of Mary MagdaleneToday is the memorial of Mary Magdalene, first witness to the resurrection. I'm confused, though -- why does the Liturgy of Hours direct me, for parts not proper to this memorial, to look in the "common of holy women" rather than the "common of apostles"?
Insofar as Mary Magdalene is associated with the "disciple whom Jesus loved" (if only through The Da Vinci Code, which I've not yet read) though not actually identical with him, and insofar as she was a prostitute, this is a day when the church commemorates Jesus' special bond with those whose sexuality is not channelled in socially sanctioned directions.
I encourage everyone to go to mass to celebrate -- if you're in the Kankakee area, St. Rose of Lima church (behind Provena hospital) has a noon mass.
Wednesday, July 21, 2004
(9:07 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
So is it safe to assumethat if Slavoj Žižek had heard of the song "Detachable Penis," it would already have become one of his recurring cut-and-paste examples? I'm thinking something along the lines of this:
We are all familiar, no doubt, with the infamous King Missle song "Detachable Penis." Although the song is obviously absurd, perhaps one must take the risk of taking the song at its word. Are we not all constitutively those with a detachable penis? Do we not always wake up every morning to "find that it's missing again"? Is not the "detachable penis" the best example of Lacan's objet petit a, the object-cause of desire?Slavoj, if you're reading, you can totally use that. You don't even have to use proper attribution -- I read all your stuff, and I'll know. That's enough. But if you do use it, I will take it as evidence that you stole the "unknown knowns" bit from me. (Today Jonathan Schwartz of A Tiny Revolution confronts a similar situation, in which a time-travelling Garrison Keillor preemptively steals his idea.)
(7:25 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Initial Reflections on Alain BadiouPrelude
Yesterday, I found that I could not bring myself to spend eight hours translating debates over EU policy and admiring retrospectives of the career of Du Bellay. I am not taking the University of Chicago exam in two weeks, and I think I can afford to go at a slower pace -- I'm thinking an hour or two a day for the rest of the summer, if I can swing it. After spending the day avoiding it, I realized something: okay, now I've reached the point where I can't possibly spend eight hours on French; but what could I do other than chat on IM and e-mail with my distinguished correspondants and poke at the Yamaha electric keyboard I've had since I was twelve? Oh, I know: I could read something. So I read some Badiou, specifically his Ethics: An Essay in the Understanding of Evil. I read Peter Hallward's excellent introduction, plus the long interview in the back (a process Italo Calvino aptly calls "reading around a book"). Today, I hit the Text Itself.
Initial Reactions, with a Lengthy Block Quote
After hearing so much talk of Otherness, how refreshing to hear someone daring to say something different! And so forcefully, so eloquently! I am more than a little jealous that French high-schoolers apparently get to read this, although I will say that the English faculty at Davison High School was very French-oriented: lots of Poe, lots of Guy de Maupassant, lots of existentialism. (God bless you, Mrs. Herfert -- those who complain about your endless personal anecdotes don't realize what they have!)
I have read the first two chapters, which consist of his critiques, respectively, of the ethics of human rights and the ethics of otherness. Though many regard him as having constructed a straw-man out of Levinas, I feel it is at the very least a respectful straw-man -- I especially enjoyed his going out of his way to dissociate Levinas himself from the rather facile philosophies of cultural difference that have grown out of the "other idea."
But what I'm really getting at is a quote:
Finally, thanks to its negative and a priori determination of Evil, ethics prevents itself from thinking the singularity of situations as such, which is the obligatory starting point of all properly human action. Thus, for instance, the doctor won over to "ethical" ideology will ponder, in meetings and commissions, all sorts of considerations regarding "the sick"... But the same doctor will have no difficulty in accepting the fact that this particular person is not treated at the hospital and accorded all necessary procedures, because he or she is without legal residency papers, or not a contributor to Social Security. Once again, "collective" responsibility demands it! What is erased in the process is the fact that there is only one medical situation, the clinical situation, and there is no need for an "ethics" (but only for a clear vision of this situation) to understand that in these circumstances a doctor is a doctor only if he deals with the situation according to the rule of maximum possibility -- to treat this person who demands treatment of him (no intervention here!) as thoroughly as he can, using everything he knows and with all the means at his disposal, without taking anything else into consideration. And if he is to be prevented from giving treatment because of the State budget, because of death rates or laws governing immigration, then let them send for the police! Even so, his strict Hippocratic duty would oblige him to resist them, with force if necessary. "Ethical commissions" and other ruminations on "health-care expenses" or "managerial responsibility," since they are radically exterior to the one situation that is genuinely medical, can in reality only prevent us from being faithful to it. For to be faithful to this situation means: to treat it right to the limit of the possible.(With that, the binding to this Verso edition of Ethics is officially broken -- of course.)
Food for Thought, Stemming From the Passage Just Quoted
What might it mean to be faithful to the blogging situation? Can we think of examples? (The one that springs immediately to mind: John Holbo.)
Religious Interlude (Humor Me)
One must re-read the book on Paul, and the letters of Paul, and one must then assess the degree to which the ethics here announced, of faithfulness to the situation, are homologous to the Kingdom of God, whether, indeed, an ethic of the Kingdom in fact requires that neglecting everything aside from doing the gospel-stuff is okay because God's going to come pick up the pieces pretty soon anyway. And then, then, because one has committed to write a piece on John Wesley avec Badiou -- one must read through Wesley's sermons, see if he is in agreement with Paul, and if a homology is possible there. Having done so, one must stare out the window and wonder vaguely whether the task of the thinker is to think that which is homologous.
Promise for the Future
Tomorrow evening, after French, I will certainly finish Ethics (if not before! Oh, Alain, convince me! Seduce me! Make me yours!) And then, hell, I might as well do that stuff with St. Paul and St. Paul that I discussed above.
And then -- but can I do it? Will it constitute a betrayal? -- then write about Derrida. "Force of Law." "Declarations of Independance." The police shall constitute a guiding thread. You will not believe the title I have worked up for this thing, but I must wait until the paper is done, to determine whether the paper is worthy of such a title.
(1:30 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Housekeeping postThe Weblog's traffic has been growing steadily over the past few weeks. Strangely, though, I seem to be getting 50 referrals a day from people who are apparently searching Google images for a picture of a nicely shaped young woman with a star-shaped "ass-capper" tattoo. No material related to nice asses is available at the Weblog. I don't know how Google got that impression.
Here's an update on where my co-bloggers are, since I now occupy every slot on the "latest post" column. Monica is preparing to ride her bike across Iowa, the long way, over the next week and has other obligations to attend to as well. Blogging time has fallen onto the backburner. According to Mark Miller, Robb's computer is currently dead, so his blogging availability is severely constricted. Adam Robinson is, to my knowledge, in New York. Anthony is at the Ekklesia conference at DePaul. According to his last report on the subject, Richard doesn't post very much because his wife prefers for him to pay attention to her rather than to blogposts, and I'm pretty sure he's willing and eager to oblige her on that front. Mike Schaefer might have something going on, or he might just not be in a posting mood right now -- he has assured me that he will write something else eventually.
I'm so lonely. So scared.
In any case, later today I plan on getting out a magic marker, drawing a star right above my ass, and taking a picture of it. Posting that should drive my traffic up to nearly Bérubéan levels.
Finally, I'd like to thank everyone for their advice on French and excoriate everyone for their lack of advice on my life's direction -- although I am a big boy and should be able to figure that stuff out myself.
(Just as a footnote, it is way too hot.)
Tuesday, July 20, 2004
(6:30 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Becoming the ultimate computer nerdIn the course of an e-mail exchange today, I remarked that I had customized Microsoft Word nearly to the point of unrecognizability. That is true. I have taught it how to add the appropriate diacritical marks to the names Patočka, Žižek, and Zupančič. I have turned off all "helpful" features that attempt to intuit my formatting desires. I have recorded macros. I have remapped shortcut keys, even to the point of duplicating the equivalent of the arrow keys for emacs (ctrl-p, ctrl-n, ctrl-f, ctrl-b, standing for previous line, next line, forward, and back, respectively). Ctrl-P no longer means "print"! Do you understand the magnitude of that? I'm only a couple steps removed from having rendered my copy of Microsoft Word unusable by anyone except myself. I am afraid to attempt to upgrade it, not only because my laptop has reached that age when any upgrade is an invitation to the uninterrupted sounds of virtual memory "swapping," but because I'm afraid I will lose all my cool personalized features.
I have a two-part question now.
First, is there any way to use Microsoft Word as the text editor for my e-mails? Curly quotes, appropriately placed diacritical markings, shortcut keys for accents, real em dashes instead of cheap-ass double hyphens: I wish to have such functionality at my disposal when composing electronic mail. I understand that I can copy and paste, but I want unmediated access. I would also like to use Word to compose posts and preferably to manage my Blogger account, again with unmediated access.
Second, if this is not possible, then when I switch to Linux at some undetermined future point, will I be able to get such functionality out of emacs? I know that it kind of works as an e-mail client, but I wasn't really satisfied with it back in my Linux days; I use it to edit any non-blog HTML files now, and setting it up to work with Windows seems to require installing too many pseudo-UNIX tools. I know that there are stand-alone programs that allow one to manage one's Blogger account and post to it without visiting the Blogger page in a browser, and since the protocol is apparently available, there's no reason that an emacs lisp thingy couldn't do the same thing. The thing is, I don't want to make it myself, since I am supposedly very busy with academic work. As a sub-question, although this should be obvious, is there some non-painful way to make emacs do all the curly-quoting and accenting and diacriticizing? (A bonus would be if it recognized when it was inside of an "a href" tag and would leave the quote marks uncurled accordingly; that seems to be exactly the kind of things that hardcore Linux nerds would think of and exactly the kind of thing that Microsoft Word cannot reasonably be expected to do. If I am wrong about that, I apologize to Bill Gates, et al.)
(I apologize to everyone who hates me after this post; it's something that I need to do every so often, kind of like I really needed to go into exquisite detail with the new Blogger "conditional tags" so that you would get nothing but The Post Itself if you clicked on a permalink.)
(11:06 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
J'accuse!I hereby accuse Paul Krugman of stealing Matt Yglesias's unified field theory of the inner truth and greatness of the Bush administration. Of course, Krugman had to dumb it down a bit to pander to the audience of the Times.
Monday, July 19, 2004
(12:30 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
I demand an explanationIn 500 words or less, explain to me why the University of Chicago French exam that I'm translating right now includes two passages discussing questions of alternative energy, out of three passages. Is the point of requiring graduate students to learn a foreign language to make sure that they can read the damn newspaper?
Side question: Once I achieve Absolute Knowledge of French a week from today when my class ends, should The Weblog become your one-stop source for what's going on in the French press? (I'll be an expert in debates about energy policy in France, so keep that in mind.)
Sunday, July 18, 2004
(7:20 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
My turn to solicit adviceNext year, if all goes well, I will be graduating from the Chicago Theological Seminary with a Master of Arts in religion. I now hereby institute a tripartite advice seeking event:
- Should I stop now? Should I cut my losses and find some nice Catholic high school to teach at? (Incidentally, this might be a good way to scout out a future spouse.)
- Should I take a year off? Keep in mind that I already kind of took a year off before the MA, taking classes only part time. I would likely use this time in order to beef up the old CV. At the same time, do I really need to beef up my CV right this moment? I've already submitted two papers for publication and will likely submit a third before the summer's up; I've already presented at one conference and will likely present at another next year. Plus, I can now basically claim a (stilted, halting) reading knowledge of French and Spanish.
- Should I just apply to PhD programs right this second? My short list is actually really short: University of Chicago Divinity School and Vanderbilt, both for theology (or whatever they're calling it these days). I love philosophy, of course, but there doesn't seem to be a reliable way to do cont phil directly in the US, and I believe that Milbank has shown that you don't need that firm a grasp of the subject in order to opine on it in religious circles. Credible recommendations from theologians are also a bit easier for me to come by. (Yes, this whole explanation of why I want to do theology is a primary example of my rather annoying habit of emphasizing secondary motivations for my behavior.) More of a long-shot choice: Duke for comp lit, given that Jameson and Hardt are both there, and it's a big name. Anything I'm leaving off my list would be good, especially somewhere that I could do a little 20th-century Catholic stuff and "political theology," and where people don't hate Barth, preferably.
I thank all of you in advance, given that everyone was so generous to Anthony when he was soliciting advice.
I went to Amazon.ca and purchased the following books:
- Le chiendent by Raymond Queneau
- Donner la mort by Jacques Derrida
And no matter what I decide on the Life Issues, let it be known: I really don't want to put together grad school applications. I'm willing to do it, but like Bartleby, I'd prefer not to.
ANOTHER NEARLY CONTEMPORANEOUS UPDATE:
$75 Canadian isn't very much, right? I guess I thought of it as the equivalent of Monopoly money when I was going through the check-out. As another sidenote, let it be known that I am shipping French books, from Canada, to a small village that was originally settled by French Canadians. The circle of life.
(2:30 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
My friends are mostly famousCongratulations to Carra LeAnn Mau on the newspaper article devoted to her. I know Carra as the longtime girlfriend of my roommate Jesse -- now the world knows her as an up-and-coming artist.
Apparently the link doesn't work. Go here and search for Carra's name, and two related stories will pop up. One is mainly a description of her work, and the other is about the show she was in. I can't figure out how to get a permanent link to the individual story from that site.
(1:13 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
On the elusiveness of credibility, and how to attain it easilyI was working up some indie cred for a while there. I had given up being a Radiohead fan; I was starting to move toward thinking that Slanted and Enchanted was Pavement's best; I am one of the Internet's foremost advocates of the Shins; my favorite album is Godspeed You Black Emperor!'s Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven; etc., etc. Admittedly, a lot of this was the product of just leeching off Robb's years of research, but if you had that resource at your fingertips, wouldn't it be immoral not to take advantage?
But then one day it was all gone in a flash. I needed a break -- I needed desperately to listen to something accessible and popular. Like the fool I am, I put in Is This It?. For those of you with real indie cred, that's by The Strokes. Halfway through, my roommate Justin, a man of true indie cred, a hipster/scenester/anti-vegetarian extraordinaire, walked in, and I was exposed: I am no better than a 14-year-old girl. Yet through the magic of the Internet, while reading a comment section in Crooked Timber, which incidentally really used to be good when they first started, until they sold out and went mainstream, I found the intellectual toolbox I needed. And wouldn't you know it? I already like Neutral Milk Hotel! I'm halfway there!
On to academic matters: if you want to succeed as a postmodern demagogue, you could certainly do worse than "Pose As A Poseur! -- essential handhelds". Arguably the best Amazon Listmania! list composed by anyone other than me, and certainly the most amusingly titled, it provides a crucial run-down of the texts that you will need in order to make your way through the intellectual thicket that is graduate studies/taxi driving. Again, I'm ahead of the curve here, since I'm already critiquing most of the books on the list. (I also most likely coined the term "Hardto-Negrian.") Add the appropriate accent, and you'll have that adjunct position at Podunk Community College before you know it.
Now I'm starting to wonder if it's possible to have blogging indie cred. I know that Adam Robinson, with his past denunciations of those sell-outs who link to mainstream bloggers such as Atrios or Talking Points Memo, might have some insight into this topic, and it's also clear that à Gauche has some kind of unmediated access to cool philosophically oriented blogs, such that I am able to check his blogroll every two weeks and steal links from him without attribution (indeed, often without so much as reading the blog in question -- such is my confidence in this Best of All Possible Bloggers). His best finds so far are clearly Spurious, A Tiny Revolution, and The Young Hegelian. (I always get a little bit upset when I see that The Young Hegelian and A Tiny Revolution don't have 45,000 comments on each post, while every five-word post Atrios shits out gets 672,350 comments, so I try to leave my insightful remarks there every so often.)
(A brief excursus on weaning oneself from reliance on mainstream blogs:
I would quietly note that Unfogged has become more than adequate as an Atrios-replacement, fulfilling the function of a link-rich, frequently updated blog and doing a much better job of it, frankly!
A Tiny Revolution, already mentioned above, is plausible as a replacement for Talking Points Memo -- although Jonathan Schwartz, the author, does not seem to have the same "contacts" that Josh Marshall cultivates the air of having, the fact that he actually refers to things that happened in the past gives him an air of authority. Not only is he funny, but he also succeeds, unlike most of the "lefty blogosphere," in not being a soulless hack for the Democratic Party [viz. Matt Yglesias].
Finally, The H is O is a fine replacement for Andrew Sullivan's site.)
So, your thoughts? Is there a blogging indie cred? If so, who is the mediator of this cred? I nominate wood s lot personally -- even if he is linked by a thousand blogs, it's structurally impossible for him to sell out, especially with such an impossible-to-remember URL.
(All blogs referred to are linked in my blogroll.)
(10:43 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
The Weblog Award for Achievement in the Field of ExcellenceOur first award of this kind goes to à Gauche. He has had a long and distinguished line of amusing, insightful, and occasionally even delightfully obscurantist comments, but the proximate cause of this award is his comment from yesterday evening:
Relationship inertia is a more powerful force than sliding friction. It's miraculous enough that a single person can ever change something or break a habit, but two people? Impossible. The thought of persuading oneself and one's two mistresses to curb discretionary spending is therefore simply irresponsible.Congratulations to à Gauche on this unprecedented honor. If he wishes to draft an acceptance speech, I will gladly append it to this post.
Mr. Gauche has submitted the following acceptance speech:
Adam, Adam, Anthony, Michael, Monica, Richard, Robb; Distinguished readers, anonymous trolls, and searchers for "cunnilingus":
I'd like to dedicate this award to Chun the Unavoidable, who taught us all to stretch the boundaries of commenting, and in the process taught us something about ourselves. He is no longer with us, but I keep his link on my blogroll in tribute.
I also want to give credit to all those internet users out there who leave worthwhile comments but have no site of their own: a comment with no implicit demand for reciprocation is a wonderful gift. I think especially of Amish Lovecock, Ashton from Finland, and "Jesus", who visits my blog regularly and has commented here before.
Finally, I'd like to thank my eigth grade Honors English teacher, Mrs. Zappulla, who forced us with unwarranted intensity to understand the importance of genre, and then demanded with even more gusto that we find new ways to break it. I often see a well-formed comment as a blessed transgression, a felix culpa, an attempt at pure invention.
Saturday, July 17, 2004
(9:41 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Making love understandableThe phonograph record, and all subsequent improvements thereof, is a strange invention. Originally, of course, music was played live, and only those who were present could share the memory of a particular performance. It was obviously still possible to play the "same song," but it would necessarily be different each time. Recording technology introduces two changes. First, the "performance" is the same each time, mechanically reproduced. Second, the "performance" takes place no place in particular. With the exception of live albums or bands who record in one take, most recordings are pieced together, technologically enhanced, etc.--none of what we hear actually ever happens until we push play on the CD player. Nine Inch Nails or similar bands are only extreme cases: even the lo-fi sound is artificial, since no live performance is going to duplicate the sound of having recorded onto an answering machine over the phone or whatever.
So all this stuff on CDs doesn't really happen until we listen to it off the CD, and then it still isn't taking place in any discrete location, because it's potentially taking place anywhere, and any old person can listen to it. But it all still functions as a memory, even a shared memory--when I start singing, "Darlin', don't you go and cut your hair...," there's bound to be someone in the room (in the circles I run in, at least) who will start singing along. I don't have to have listened to that album with the person or under the same circumstances as that person. To continue with the Pavement example, I stole their entire oeuvre one fateful summer thanks to the magic of Kazaa. I am beyond a simple poseur, but I still know the songs just like someone who continued to follow them despite the fact that they totally sold out after Slanted and Enchanted.
We could go further: what about the broad patterns in songs? What happens when what we know about love, for example, is mediated through songs? My abortive attempt to understand the concept of fatherhood in rock music was based largely on the recognition that this stuff actually does shape how we think and how we act. Is there something in the format of the "love song" that warps us? (As a sidenote, what are the consequences of plugging religious sentiments into the format of the "love song," which is now the task of an entire industry?) Even with the first love, one can experience the uncanny feeling that "this isn't how I remembered it"--and even in a relationship where people have consciously decided to try for something different, there can still be an inertial effect, a feeling of disappointment that it just isn't happening like we all think it should be happening. There is a way that we all think it should happen. We share those memories. We know certain things -- we are all the "everyone" of "everyone knows that...." (Lacan's "big Other" = Heidegger's "das man"?)
I don't know where to go with this. I'm lucky it's just a blog post. I was going to write a deeply allusive post made up of nothing but quotes (unmarked) from other people--indirect communication, very artful, very cool, people would maybe even cry. I've been in the car too much today and can't sit in front of the computer anymore, so that will have to wait.
(Grammatical question: in the phrase "blog post," is "blog" an adjective, or is it a noun being used as an adjective? The test: can it be used adjectivally in other settings? Maybe it can; I don't know.)
Friday, July 16, 2004
(11:15 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Friday Afternoon Confessional: An AssessmentI have no major sins to report.
I have noticed decreased participation in recent weeks. Has the Friday Afternoon Confessional reached the peak of its purgative effects? Is it time to move on to another gimmick?
Suggestions, as well as confessions, are welcome.
Thursday, July 15, 2004
(1:37 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
On Marrying a Box TurtleMichael Bérubé falls prey to the facile liberal "reasoning" that "it really doesn't affect your daily life very much if your neighbor marries a box turtle." The poetry that he quotes regarding his perverse love for a bee, inspired in part by his box-turtlophile neighbor, begs the question of whether it might actually affect "your daily life very much." Very much, indeed!
Society is not made up of atomized individuals. It has a certain shape, a certain character. Of primary, originary importance in our culture is heterosexual marriage! It is imperative, if our very culture is to survive, that each person have another person of the opposite gender with whom to watch television and (decreasingly as the years go by) have sexual intercourse, and thereby to train our children to watch television and have sexual intercourse with members of the opposite sex. Some people may want to mix and match, for instance, watching television with a member of the same sex while having sexual intercourse with members of the opposite sex, or vice versa, or some may even prefer to do either or both with a box turtle, goat, alligator, or shark.
Such people's desires are understandable. (And by that I mean, understandable by other hypothetical people, since I have never had such desires and never plan on having such desires. I have always been a heterosexual, and I enjoy being a heterosexual. In fact, I have a picture of a beautiful woman set as my wallpaper on my computer:
[I found that picture at Melting Object, a weblog that is updated on a biannual basis.] The woman's name, I found, was Szavai Viktoru, and I have grown so enamored of her that I have labelled The Weblog as a fansite dedicated to promoting her fame and happiness. She is like an old friend now, after months on my computer screen. "Oh, still looking up toward the corner, Szavai? Well, carry on!") However, those people's desires must be relentlessly repressed if society is to have the distinctive character that we as the American populo have chosen (i.e., opposite-sex couples committing to watch television and have sexual intercourse together). Preferably, these people would repress the desires on their own, simply from a logistical standpoint, but if legal coercion, marginalization, and outright violence are necessary to repress those desires and to convince waverers that they should learn to stop worrying and love the cock/cunt (whichever one they don't have), then it's worth it, so that every American can know that every night, every cookie-cutter suburban drywall box, every run-down apartment, every mansion, every manufactured home is occupied always and only by a couple made up of two members of the opposite sex, staring vacantly at the television set, hating each other, but biologically equipped to have sexual intercourse that leads to procreation (with any and all children brooding in their rooms, chatting with pedophiles in online discussion forums, cutting themselves, snorting coke, etc.).
Society needs protecting.
Wednesday, July 14, 2004
(10:48 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Guilty, FurtiveI sometimes think that the past four years, on the political level, have been meaningless. Actively meaningless, as though the stated goal of the Bush administration was to rape language at every opportunity. Rumsfeld will resign if he no longer believes himself to be effective, but doesn't want the matter of his resignation to be a "political issue." Is that their strategy? Are they trying to hit a kind of "depression sweet spot" whereby their statements come as close as possible to "absurd on its face" while simultaneously requiring some kind of effort to dismantle? Are they trying to make their supporters feel like brilliant textual analysts by hiding some hint of a possibly extant meaning that you can parse out if you believe?
Crimes against language. I'm reading Derrida's "Force of Law" in the hope of one day possibly writing a paper on it, and I'm torn. On the one hand, I think it's distressing the way that Derrida so frequently seems to turn from questions of real, physical violence to questions of language -- but then on the other hand, I'm living under the Bush administration. Is there any correspondance between our mangled national discourse and a mangled corpse in Iraq? Is it obscene to ask? Is it obscene not to ask?
The problem with the Bush administration is not that they are liars. The problem is that they have completely effaced any clean distinction between the truth and a lie. I literally don't know what it would mean for George W. Bush, or any of them, to tell the truth.
And with every fucking word I write, I can hear the right-wing talking points screaming at me -- every fucking word. I already know the objections, and I know that they don't make any sense, but they come like a torrent and suck all the reason out of me. They control everything, these talking points -- you cannot not write about them, even if you want to mock or dismiss or (good luck) disprove them. No matter what you do, they will already have won, or at least declared victory: mock, and you're hateful; dismiss, and you're elitist; disprove, and you're biased. A completely negative movement, a vicious circle of self-reproducing lies colonizing our very lifeworld -- stealing our money, gutting our schools, polluting our air, imprisoning peace-loving immigrants, taking our rights, killing our young people who were stupid enough to sign up for the army, killing tens of thousands of people in order to liberate them.
Crimes against language.
Tuesday, July 13, 2004
(11:46 PM) | Adam R:
That'll Be the DayThank you very much. I'm extremely honored. However, I feel I must turn down your nomination to be the next President of the United States of America.
Even if I was 35, and even if I did have really great solutions to the difficult problems our nation faces, I would still have to reject your flattering offer. You see, I believe America's president should be a straight-A student and a successful business person, not some C+ guy who likes to have a beer, which I am, which I do.
Because even though I've got these great solutions, I believe there's hundreds of other people out there who can do just as well as me, who were actually hardworking students, successful leaders, and who live their lives above reproach.
The 2004 Republican candidate, for example.
If there's a spot open for National Satirist, however, I would consider that position.
(11:25 PM) | Robb Schuneman:
Mild Devotion To MajestyA few facts have crossed my plate of late, and I should share them now:
- The new album from the 22+ member Rock Choir that is The Polyphonic Spree is one of the most dynamic experiences I've ever had. We all admit it's a gimmick, one that has encased itself in all sorts of grandiose trappings, and even trapses in and around religious language as if 22+ people dancing and jumping around singing in robes wasn't enough. Yet, it's totally original and the fact the lyrics are the epitomy of cheese makes it just that much better, and I love it. I mean, a rock choir, who'd have thunk?
- While we're on the topic of who'd have thunk rock bands, anyone want to join my INXS cover band, The Seeds Of Lust? I think we're going to have a 4-person band playing nothing but wood block and squeezing cats to make them hiss and meow in tune. It should be beautiful.
- I just had a dream in which I was sitting around a campfire, and I started singing this song I made up called "Jesus went out for some chili". And everyone laughed. But it was only a dream. SO, if possible, I'd like you all to laugh now to somewhat bring it here and now into reality. Some really hot girls were laughing and looking voluminously at me as well, so if all the females would laugh especially, I'd feel reaffirmed in my conviction that dreams really can come true! As for the staring part, looking voluminously at the words on your computer monitor would just be plain ole' freaky. So, instead, please look for a long time at your closest loved male, and don't tell him why, look until he notices and says something, and then tell him "I stared at you as a proxy for the love I was instantly infused with for Robb at his witty and amazing song called "Jesus Went Out For Some Chili". And then report back here their reaction.
- I've been dieting recently. Since Sunday actually. I have lost 10 pounds in 3 days, which only speaks to how unhealthily I was living before. But, let it be said that I'm glad I didn't do Atkins. The hybrid diet I composed seems to have given me an amazing amount of energy, and I'm MUCH more able to think clearly and distinctively. In addition to being a little more slender, and a little more buff (90 minute+ workouts are an essential part of this diet) I have trumped my fellow employees many a time in debate recently. Hurrah! Sadly, a little more slender still results in me looking "freaking massive", but oh well.
- I went to Wal-Mart again on sunday, and didn't play any tricks. But, I was buying stuff mainly for this aforementioned diet thing. However, occasionally I'd see something unhealthy that I wanted, and I'd rationalize that if I only ate the small serving amount, it'd be okay on days where I'd eaten light otherwise. But, I felt guilty, and tried to intersperse the bad in between helpings of baby carrots, salad fixins, and shredded wheat. The best was when I sent the 25 pound weights and bar and the jump rope through, and sort of hid the terribly unhealthy cookies I'd bought underneath them all..as if the lady wasn't going to scan it all, and thus see it all, anyway.
In a way, I picture that lady working at Wal-Mart at 11 PM at night to be God. And this is the game I play with Him all my life. Except, that Lady wasn't crucified, or like, really spiteful to me way back in the day but cool now.
But, if I carry the analogy, the fact that when I got done she gave me my total and said "Um, very distinctive! heh. Are you in med school?" when I was finished gives me an interesting picture of my God. Like most of what He says, I really have no clue what that means..nearing a compliment, yet, so close to a bitter barb.
- I think Anchorman was easily the most hillarious movie I've ever seen in my life. To this day, some 4 days after I first saw it, I still sit here and occasionally think of scenes, and crack up while sitting here at my desk. Not a chuckle, a full on laugh, the kind of laugh you normally only give when everyone else is laughing so you have no reservations. I love carpet. I love Lamp. I love....lamp.
- And finally, with They Might Be Giants new CD, I exclaim,
"I was all out of luck like a duck that died
I was all out of juice like a moose denied
I was all out of money like a bunny that's broke
I was all out of work like a jerk who's a joke
And I was out of ideas like I is, like I is.
Like I is, Like I is, I was out of ideas."
I really do thank you all for allowing me this indulgence.
(11:01 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Semantics, and related mattersI make every effort to counter what I take to be the incorrect usage of the term "blog" to denote an individual blog post, such that one could say, "The Weblog had several good blogs on Saturday." In my opinion, the term "blog" should be used to refer to all the posts classed under one heading, and individual items in a blog are more properly called "posts."
I notice, however, that newer bloggers tend to drift toward using "blog" to mean "post." Is it simple ignorance, akin to those who refer to their "wallpaper" as a "screen saver"? Or is the blogging genre by now so well-established that the term "post" no longer seems appropriate to denote a piece of prose written specifically for a blog? Further, is there such momentum on the side of the newer usage that any attempt to correct it is futile? Could an unprecedented joint educational effort among Atrios, Kevin Drumm, Instapundit, and Andrew Sullivan possibly stem the tide and keep blogging slang from being corrupted? (Every time I write a post without a link, I corrupt blogging slang -- the blog format was initially intended to be a link-sharing vehicle.)
On a related note, today my computer was crippled. I considered taking it with me to Barnes and Noble so that I could park in a handicapped spot. I couldn't figure out the problem, so I did various housekeeping tasks, deleting unnecessary files, running a thorough Scandisk, trying to run Disk Defragmenter and failing, running another thorough Scandisk, then running Disk Defragmenting again. None of it helped. Then it occurred to me: I had turned on the "themes" option in Mozilla. Apparently for my computer, displaying more attractive menus and toolbars is the equivalent of having a leg amputated.
Part of my housecleaning involved getting rid of mp3s I no longer listen to. I was able to free up nearly a gig doing this. I could have done more, but I ran into two impasses. First, what to do about my intimidating collection of They Might Be Giants mp3s? I don't have the full catalogue by any means, but They Might Be Giants isn't the kind of thing where you prune and look for the better songs -- in a true example of Manichean dualism, either you're for them or you're against them, or against them except for "Birdhouse in Your Soul" and "Istanbul." I was able to delete Mink Car, saving "Another First Kiss" and "Hopeless Bleak Despair," but the stuff from the earlier albums basically seemed sacrosanct. Now I'm listening to They Might Be Giants for the sole purpose of justifying my decision not to delete the mp3s. "A Self Called Nowhere" is a good song. Smart. That's what I like about They Might Be Giants: they're just so much smarter than those other bands. I went to a They Might Be Giants show once, and the fans were annoyingly self-congratulatory -- I imagine a Radiohead show could probably be the same way. Second, what to do about Tenacious D? I have the entire album memorized in such exquisite detail that some of the details I remember are not actually on the album, and I can't imagine ever needing to listen to it again.
Alright -- I can't do this anymore. Sentiment can only carry it so far. I really do only like particular They Might Be Giants songs. I sincerely apologize to all the hardcore fans out there. Aside from the album Factory Showroom (which itself may face the chopping block soon), I have saved only the following songs:
- "Another First Kiss"
- "I Should Be Allowed To Think"
- "I Palindrome I"
- "She's an Angel"
- "The Statue Got Me High"
- "Kiss Me, Son of God"
- "Ana Ng"
- "AKA Driver"
- "Hopeless Bleak Despair"
- "Shoehorn with Teeth"
- "A Self Called Nowhere"
(10:02 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
- Today, all further blogging energies will be directed toward a UWC post on Milbank and Burke, since God forbid we let the UWC die.
- My birthday is on Monday, July 19. If you've wanted to get me something off my wishlist but didn't know if the wishlist technology was ready for primetime yet, you might want to do a test run now.
- I am trying to break your heart.
So if they postponed the elections, they'd have to announce what day they were rescheduling them to, right? And then, of course, since we're all total cowards and want to destroy our entire political system to avoid the slight possibility of a terrorist attack, we'd naturally be very worried that "the terrorists" -- who, let it be noted, have not attacked inside the US for three years now -- would disrupt the newly-scheduled elections, too! So maybe we'd have to postpone the postponed elections.
I'm worried that the terrorists are going to strike on Christmas this year. Maybe we should postpone it to another day. But if we did that, we might have to postpone it again since they'd know when the new pseudo-Christams was... alright, I have an idea: no Christmas until the War on Terror is over!
(I have a secret: I never really bought the idea of a "War on Terror." It's not that the Bush administration is doing it "incompetently" -- I don't want it done at all, competently or not. If John Kerry reported to some ultra-secret left-wing source that no one reads -- Critical Inquiry, say -- that he actually planned to unilaterally stop having a war on terror, stop worrying about long-shot mass-destruction scenarios, and focus instead on things that we know for a fact are killing millions every day [hunger, AIDS, whatever -- I mean, there are a lot of things to choose from], then I would enthusiastically and brazenly vote for him, twice.)