Tuesday, August 31, 2004
(11:40 PM) | Anthony Paul Smith:
More On Nietzsche's Religiosity.
Fraser allows us to see the all-too--adolescent poetry (or perhaps the translation is poor) of the teenager Nietzsche:
I want to know you, Unknown One,
you who have reached deep into my soul,
into my life like the gust of a storm,
you incomprehensible yet related one!
I want to know you, even serve you.
You have called,
Lord, I rush
To the steps of your throne.
Glowing with love,
Your glance shines into
My heart so dearly,
Lord, I come
I was lost,
Tossed to hell and torment -
You stood from afar:
Your glance met me often
So movingly: now I come gladly.
I feel a shudder
From the sin, the
Abyss of night
And dare not look backward.
I cannot leave you -
In the terrible nights
I look at you sadly
And must hold you.
You are so gentle,
Faithful and sincere,
Dear saviour image for sinners!
Quell my desire -
My feelings and thinking -
To immerse myself, to devote myself
To your love.
This deepens my appreciation for Nietzsche though it is far below what his writing became. It allows me to understand what is so familiar about Nietzsche and likely draws many ex-Evangelicals to his thought: Nietzsche too has experienced what is the equivalent of that same upbringing. He too loved it and cherished it and yet grew to see what ugliness lay within. A more explicit account of his younger faith brings this out more:
In July 1849 Nietzsche's father died when Nietzsche was only five. The family had to move out from their parsonage in Roken and take up residence with Nietzsche's father's family in Naumburg. Nietzsche had to grow up quickly, and in many ways, sought to take up the role left by his father's death. He didn't get on well with children his own age and acted "in many respects just like a miniature adult." His contemporaries nicknamed him the 'little pastor' and school reports speak of a pious and studious boy. At this time Nietzsche was known for his ability to recite passages from scripture and religious songs with great feeling. He was confirmed at seventeen, and despite growing uncertainties, enrolled to study theology at the University of Bonn where he was to win the university preaching prize [emphasis mine].
The once preacher Nietzsche goes on to become only convincing through his writing. In person he is no longer bold enough to preach but reserved and drawn into himself. He is described by Kaufmann as a shy introvert - Penitence for preaching? Perhaps it is unfair to look at these 'confessional' pieces of his childhood but perhaps it is of the utmost importance for those of us who have walked similar paths to understand that aspect before we can begin to read his critique well.
(9:51 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Don't buy the hypeContrary to what David Tracy told to my colleague Kunitoshi Sakai last year, all indications are that Slavoj Zizek is not going to be teaching courses at the Divinity School at the University of Chicago this coming school year.
Jean-Luc Marion, however, will be there during the winter and spring quarters, teaching courses that include "Introduction to Husserl" and "The Gift and Phenomenality."
This has been your academic announcement for today.
UPDATE: Um, yeah, you should probably read this post from Charlotte Street. He doesn't have comments, so comment over here. We need more comments!
(7:26 PM) | Adam R:
Sports IV: Step Up the ObjectificationHow do you like Serena's getup for practical, non-objectifying sportswear?
(2:38 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
A Housecleaning Post: Decidedly FurtiveToday was housecleaning day in the chez Kotsko-Bridges-Sinclair. It all started when Jared made some furtive gestures toward sweeping the floors. I encouraged his efforts and began a thorough cleaning of our kitchen and bathroom. Now I know why the Priestly source of the Pentateuch devoted so many chapters in Leviticus to mildew -- I could definitely see it reaching a point where the only option would be to devote our shower to destruction. Jared's mother had trained him up in a decidedly rigorous tradition of housecleaning, emphasizing continual spotwork; my mother, on the other hand, while every bit as rigorous, preferred a once-a-week cleanathon, usually on Saturday. Jared also pointed out some cleaning items that I had been neglecting, such as cabinet doors and that plastic cushion thing around the inside of the refrigerator door. He's getting a vacuum as we speak, so that my carpet, currently an abomination to the Lord, can become whole again.
My classes will start next week, and while I have made some guilty, furtive efforts toward getting graduate school applications underway before the school year begins, I doubt it is going to happen. I have cut my list of domestic programs to University of Chicago Divinity School, New School's program in psychoanalysis, literature at Duke, DePaul, and the Chicago Theological Seminary (the latter inspired in part by Adam R.'s post on the Impossible). Vanderbilt -- out. The department seems decidedly mismatched to my interests, and if I'm going to attend a less-than-ideal school, I might as well just go to CTS, where I know I'll have professors I like. Apparently CTS has good connections with Morton Community College, so I know I will be able to find work. Emory -- well, their theology department's front page gave way too much focus to preparing church leaders, and their interdisciplinary liberal arts program (recommended by Ted) just doesn't seem to have faculty to match my interests. So: OUT! I might still add a couple of the UK schools, just to be closer to Adrian, Infinite Thought, and Lars. Nottingham is high on the list; if anyone has any information on whether Glasgow or Edinburgh would be a better fit for me, let me know. On another front, I still need to send that Bonhoeffer paper to someone who will love it like it deserves to be loved, and I apparently need to read some shit on Barth and Moltmann to add it to my paper about their tempestuous mutual critiques, then send it to someone who will love it &c.
But really, all I want is to find love in this all-too-often lonely world -- someone to be with me through those tough times! Someone to hold! Someone to grow old with; someone who will carry me on her shoulders when I am crippled and feeble; someone who will make meals for me when I'm too tired and cranky to do it myself; someone who will at first like my quirky traits, then grow to hate me for the very traits she initially found attractive, and then (Aufhebung!) come to some kind of peace when she realizes that this annoying, narcissistic blogger is all she's fucking got!!! And she'd better remember it, too! Oh, and I need to marry a woman who's not afraid of being the breadwinner, because there's really only so much an assistant visiting adjunct lecturer in cultural hermeneutics at Morton Community College is going to be able to rake in -- especially after the sexual harassment lawsuits start pouring in.
Wow -- that was so pertinent!
UPDATE: Krugman uses the word furtive in his column today. Can we take that to mean that he is a Weblog reader? (Please, someone fill in the information for Krugman on the HaloScan box and leave a comment answering that question with a resounding yes.)
Monday, August 30, 2004
(7:02 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
"Objectification"Today, I read Ogged's post about the controversy caused by his admiration for female beach volleyball players. Some have suggested that by looking at images of such females and encouraging others to do the same, he is participating in the "objectification" of women.
Now I can see how "objectification" in general would be a serious thing. Simply turning another person into a prop for one's own power play or one's own pleasure is a very serious offense. But the only way I can think of to make "objectification" into a rigorous concept is to equate it with either rape or torture, then perhaps shade down to related behaviors (sexual assault, etc.). However, to claim that looking at attractive women -- women who have worked hard to be in peak physical condition -- is "objectification" is nothing but prudishness and puritanism. Looking at a woman because she's beautiful is not violent. It is not morally wrong on any level. It is a natural and salutary thing.
It's true that the mainstream media often presents us with a very narrow and constricted idea of what beauty is. It's also true that that narrow idea leads some people who fall outside that range to have very negative feelings about themselves. That's terrible. I regret that deeply. However, the answer, it seems to me, is not to ditch the concept of beauty altogether and forget that we have bodies, but to expand our idea of what kind of bodies can be beautiful -- to make the category of "physical beauty" into a multiplicitous open network in which everyone could potentially belong rather than a singular Platonic form to which everyone must aspire. We could even admit it: yes, those who fall into the "mainstream" view of beauty actually are beautiful, and so are a whole lot of people who don't.
And once we get rid of this supposed objective standard for beauty, we find ourselves able to respond on an intersubjective level to people -- those who are "objectively" beautiful but are horrible people suddenly don't seem so attractive (viz. Ann Coulter); those who fall outside the realm of Cosmopolitan's idea of beauty but bring joy to those around them seem very attractive. And as a general rule, anyone who seems to be comfortable in his or her body, without wielding it in such a way as to degrade others, is attractive. I saw this at the show I went to this weekend -- a group of (mainly) women of a variety of body types were all dancing on stage in a sexually provocative manner, and each was very sexually attractive in her own way. I don't understand why the corporate media should be able to rob us of the experience of enjoying physical beauty.
That's why I think that Anthony's posts on sexiness are so important. At bottom, the person isn't attractive because of the body -- the body is attractive because of the person, because of their accomplishments and carriage. This seems to apply to the beach volleyball players, as well. Watching a game between two two-person teams, one definitely gets an idea of what kind of people are really involved here, and that will inevitably color one's idea of who is attractive.
So in short, the puritanism of feminism has to stop here -- and so, with this blog post, I fully intend to change the course of several puritanical strands of feminist discourse. I thank everyone in advance for their cooperation.
- One may note here the infamous claim of Jesus Christ: whoever looks at a woman with lust in his heart has already committed adultery in his heart. Since the Sermon on the Mount is a compressed commentary on the Torah, and since in the Torah matters of adultery and rape were closely intertwined, it seems to me that Jesus is referring to looking at a woman and conjuring up rape fantasies is the real problem. However, in most sexual fantasies of healthy people, some kind of intersubjective encounter is assumed. No one generally wants to have sex with an unwilling partner or with someone who is limp and unresponsive. I would say that most sexual fantasies are tied up with a desire for reciprocal respect and esteem -- I really like this person, so much so that I want to fuck her, and I hope she likes me just as much. There are situations in which people engage in sexual fantasies that involve humiliating or violating the person, and those are definitely a very bad thing, but just applying the blanket label of "objectification" to every inkling of sexual desire is ludicrous -- unbiblical, even! (See T. Jennings, The Man Jesus Loved.)
(1:56 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
JuxtapositionFrom Hardt and Negri, Multitude:
It is strange now to have to recall this amalgam of ideological perversions [i.e., right-wing fundamentalisms] that grew out of the socialist concept of representation, but today we can finally preside over its funeral. The democratic hopes of socialist representation are over. And while we say our farewells we cannot but remember how many ideological by-products, more or less fascist, the great historical experiences of socialism were condemned to drag in their wake, some merely useless sparks and others devastating infernos.From David Brooks, "How to Reinvent the GOP" (published in the Times, but not one of his execrable columns):
The second and more pervasive change is the death of socialism. Everybody can see how the collapse of the socialist dream has transformed left-wing parties like the British Labor Party. But, as David Frum observes, the death of socialism has transformed the Republican Party just as much as it has transformed the parties of the left.For more Hardto-Negrian goodness, try attending this attempt to create a commons in Central Park, if only for a short time. (I eagerly await the results of à Gauche's attempt to set the record straight on the mainstream press's "reception" of Multitude, which is actually very good and addresses a lot of the criticisms that Empire [largely justifiably] received, though I fear he may be a dreamer to set the world to rights.)
For most of the 20th century, the conservative movement and the Republican Party were built to combat the inexorable spread of big government. Faced with that great threat, Republicans became Jeffersonian. If the left was going to embrace larger welfare states, the Republicans were going to become enthusiastic decentralizers, suspicious of concentrated power, the foes of big government. Anti-government sentiment was the glue that held the different factions of the American right together. And in that great cause the G.O.P. -- from Coolidge to Goldwater to Reagan -- was successful. Conservatives and libertarians defeated socialism, intellectually and then practically.
Socialism has stopped its march. Now almost every leading politician accepts that government should not interfere with the basic mechanisms of the market system. On the other hand, almost every leading official acknowledges that we should have as much of a welfare state as we can afford. Now the debate over the role of the state takes place within much narrower parameters.
I hope everyone likes the new tag lines.
(2:25 AM) | Adam R:
The ImpossibleIn The Brothers Karamazov, Alyosha entreats Katerina to visit his brother, but she tells him that "it's impossible." He responds majestically: "Let it be impossible, but do it."
I don't know the Russian word for "impossible,” but I hope that it's very close to Constance Garnett’s translation. It suggests that our concept of the word is fundamentally skewed. Considering the seeds of futility that are growing in the western zeitgeist, the problem is more than academic.
For instance, listening to (some very bizarre) Chicago public radio Sunday evening, I heard a testimony claiming that it is, in fact, possible to become immortal. I tuned in late and back out immediately, so I’m not sure if the speakers were talking about orthodox Catholic theology here—they made continual reference to the Ascension—or if this was something more akin to Heaven’s Gate. My reaction, however, was:
It’s not possible to become immortal. It’s impossible. Can’t we resign ourselves to that? I’m not saying that these people, Catholics or whatever, are lying or nuts or even that they can’t become immortal. In fact, why not? I believe they can and I’m happy for them, but I take semantic exception to their word choice. It’s not possible to become immortal. It’s impossible to live forever, and if I lived forever I would say it everyday. It’s impossible, but maybe it can happen. Let it be impossible, but do it.
We are meant to revere the impossible, to gape at it in awe, and to fear it. Instead, we decide a thing is impossible and turn our backs. That which is possible is mundane and, while we should accept it respectfully, it should hold nothing for us. We should certainly not condemn something gloriously impossible to the realm of the possible. World peace is impossible, of course, and we ought to participate in it everyday. Somehow justice, which is not only impossible but also a meaningless tomb, has been sought like something possible, and as such it is defecated on without ceasing.
I got it from John Caputo that Derrida speaks of two futures: the future present and the absolute future. The future present is what we plan for: the realm of credit card bills and cause/effect; when I don’t pay for my cell phone usage I can expect it to be turned off, and when the US continues its tyrannical global posturing it can expect to be a target for terrorists.
The absolute future is the realm of the of the impossible, of the event that cannot be foreseen. We’re talking three-party systems here, we’re talking virgin births. We’re talking Rumsfeld and not knowing we don’t know what we don’t know.
As we head tepidly into the future present we need to stay attuned to the absolute future. We need to rethink what it means for a thing to be possible or impossible. Katerina tells Alyosha that for her to go to Dmitri would be an impossibility, as if that’s the final thing to say, the end of the path. Alyosha’s response denies this and he strips the word of it’s intended meaning. “Let it be,” Alyosha says, just as Heidegger marks the thingness of the thing. Let the impossible be impossible; that’s a matter for itself. For Katerina, she must see Dmitri. By creating a realm for the impossible, he simultaneously creates a world for Katerina, for forgiveness, and somehow, justice.
Sunday, August 29, 2004
(9:29 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Possible Aid to the Kerry CampaignSomeone needs to make a quiz for uninformed voters to help them pick the candidate who is right for them. They need to design it, however, so that the overwhelming majority of responses will point toward Kerry. This can be done in two ways. First, one could make all the answers to a given section point toward Kerry, though wording them in such a way that they appear to represent discrete, mutually exclusive options:
In terms of foreign policy, I want a president who:Sure, that might not be the best way to word it, but it all points toward Kerry. You could also count any ideas where the two candidates agree as votes for Kerry. Second, one could word Bush answers in such a way that a moderate person could not possibly agree with them:
- believes in projecting American power abroad.
- wants to work as closely as possible with our allies.
- believes that international terrorism should be a major factor in foreign-policy decision-making.
If I were trying to solve our nation's health care crisis, I would:Again, probably not as subtle as it could be.
- design a plan whereby the federal government would cover all catastrophic health costs, thus making health insurance premiums more affordable for everyone.
- design a prescription-drug benefit for Medicare but avoid using the federal government's potential bargaining power in order to negotiate lower prices, thus ensuring maximum costs for taxpayers and maximum profits for already-rich drug companies, so that they can produce more commercials.
This may seem stupid, but on that "2000 Election Calculator" from the New York Times that was floating around a few weeks ago, there were several scenarios in which the election was decided by fewer than ten votes. Surely some right-wing blog would discover our evil scheme and report on it, but we're dealing with uninformed people here -- they won't care. The right has shown how effective misinformation can be, even if it is later decisively shown to be false. If we can make up an objective-seeming computer program that gives people the misinformation that they would prefer John Kerry over George Bush, it would seem relatively innocuous compared to the misinformation that John Kerry made up the whole Vietnam thing during an acid trip with some Russian spies or something.
(7:07 PM) | Anthony Paul Smith:
"Work is Liberty!": On Human Cruelty.
In the first part of the testimony (as Elie Weisel calls this narrative) we are presented with the Jews unbelief that humanity, in 1943, could do anything as 'inhuman' as what the mystic Moché gives account of. Later on, this theme of unbelief recurs as Elie and his father march towards the fires of the furnace during their first night the young son remarks that "I did not believe they can burn people in our age, [...] humanity would not tolerate it." The response from his father is that humanity is not concerned with them, that the order of humanity had forgotten them or simply ceased to be in this place of the crematorium. The Jews that heard the original testimony of Moché did not believe him because, for some reason, they believed in the decency of humanity and then in Auschwitz that humanities indecency is exposed as if it was suddenly there.
Often times Auschwitz, and for Americans World War II in general, is seen as a time of the worst kind of humanity. In that day, it is often thought, the project of Europe, the Enlightenment project, the highest of humanity had failed. We even say, without shame, the Holocaust as if this was the evil act par excellence. But even Elie Weisel mentions the relation of the camps to the actions of the past. The Armenian genocide before it, the Spanish Inquisition, the First World War, the Pogroms, the slave trade, ad nauseum. What ever made these people believe in their unbelief? That humanity wasn't capable of these things! That humanity surely would speak out! As a point of evidence the finger is normally directed towards the 'cold Rationality' of the German's, specifically the actual SS murderers. These men are normally described, almost universally in literature dealing with the Holocaust, as unemotional and intelligent. I still fail to see what this has to do with murder, I understand the horror but would it have been more bearable of a crime if they had been uncultured? If the SS guards hadn't appreciated Beethoven would God and poetry have survived Auschwitz? This seems to become the litmus test of all cruelty: how intelligent were the murderers? I will never understand why Americans, Christians, that hidden we, are significantly less horrified at the unintelligent 'humor' invoked in the by the imagery of victims of Abu Ghraib than we are at watching someone kill coldly, with complete confidence in their right to kill this person.
The Enlightenment didn't fail, the project of Europe didn't fail - their promises were deferred, a deferment that was held in the very promises. Jacques Derrida says what we need is a new Enlightenment and I think that this must come without the deferment of promises, without Protestant sola Gratia, sola Fide. Faith separated from works, in a universal way, led to the failure of the Enlightenment as envisioned by those who believed in it. Waiting, in a pattern of non-movement, was its failure. I sometimes wonder if our piety to the European holocaust as it is presented to us in Hollywood movies and the powers that be still defers the future envisioned by those who loved Europe and Europeans.
(3:43 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
The New TemplateAs I sometimes do, I changed the template. This is not yet the promised template by professional template designer Jared Sinclair; it is all my doing. Two possible points of contention:
- Background Color. Several have expressed their devotion to the yellow background, which is apparently easier on the eyes. I changed it to white.
- Multiple Columns. Some have claimed that having two sidebars necessitates too much scrolling for long posts. I have nonetheless divided the sidebar into two installments. I apologize for any excessive scrolling, especially for those still using 800x600 resolution. It looks fine with my 1024x768 settings.
UPDATE: Okay, fine, what about this? (I'm not putting the pictures up for now because it makes the columns too wide.)
(Angela, I did get your comment on an unspecified post through the miracle of e-mail notification. Ecclesiastical partisanship is something I'm trying to get over.)
UPDATE: And just for fun, I decided to rearrange the blogroll. Since I'm against front-loading the interpretive process, I leave the meaning of my groupings as an exercise for the reader.
(11:14 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
This is not a postI don't want to be writing a blog post right now. I've had three false starts so far, one of them quite lengthy, and that's rare for me. It's not simply that I am not saying what I want to say, but that I don't want to say what I want to say. It was going to be something about writing, wondering whether blogging and academia have come together to neuter me -- a thoughtlessness on one side, leading to writings no one would ever want to read; an impossible standard of rigor on the other side, leading to writings no one would ever want to read. There are good reasons to write what no one wants to read, but if they don't want to read because it's contentless or completely dull, then I probably shouldn't have bothered writing anything in the first place.
Along with this refusal of writing comes a more general refusal. I've started to listen to four different CDs and stopped them all in -- what? disgust? -- by the third track. I've wondered if coffee might help, but the thought is unappealling. I'm sick of being itchy all the time. I'm sick of my itchy head. I'm sick of taking a shower in pool water every day. It seems like there should be a solution for that kind of thing -- that maybe, somehow, we could get some relatively clean water in Kankakee that wouldn't dry me out. Since the first week at Olivet, I have been itchy. I don't want to sleep anymore; in fact, I want to go back in time and somehow have my morning back. To do what? When I started this post, I was rejecting every possibility as somehow wrong, but somehow writing, even pointless, stupid blog writing, is getting me moving.
I'm sick of my allergies. I'm sick of my gross carpet that I haven't vacuumed since Justin moved out, because the vacuum broke that weekend. I have wanted to clean my house for several weeks now, but I'm always disappointed to find that it's not as dirty as I thought it was. I want to take everything out of my room and vacuum every square inch of the carpet and dust the woodwork around the floor and basically make it so that when I'm done, the dust will have been thoroughly defeated. But to everyone else in the world, my room looks as though no one has lived here for the past six months -- a stark and lifeless museum exhibit.
Lately I don't know how to talk to people. If language is a medium of communication (which it is not), then I think that the problem is much more serious than my failure to communicate clearly. Sometimes, when the message comes through garbled, the failure lies in the message itself. It's all very Hegelian: the failure of our apparatus of perception is the failure of the object in itself. And I've got to tell you -- my object is thoroughly divided right now. Lacan's idea of the divided subject always made a lot of intuitive sense to me, but I feel that it's getting more and more severe and that for both empirical and structural reasons, I will never be able to make anyone understand directly. Still, a few data points:
- Are you fucking kidding me? You actually believed him when he said I was moving to Milwaukee? Do you think I'm a fucking moron?
- Is there any particular reason that you need to use me to work out your still unfinished business with Olivet Nazarene University? Sure, some people were assholes, but there were good professors and a fine library. I can think of nothing that I wanted to learn and failed to learn solely by reason of attending Olivet (i.e., not due to my own sloth, etc.).
- And much as the asceticism bothered me, maybe that was okay. Maybe it's also okay that I didn't find a girlfriend during those four years, because not having to deal with the stress of being pressured to get married (if not by her, then by everyone else; see point 1) was worth the stress of having to settle for self-abuse for a few years.
- I did mention once, in conversation, that while I was very confident in high school, my Olivet experience trained me to think that if it seemed like something really good was about to happen, it probably wasn't -- but couldn't that be simply the process of moving from high school to adulthood? Moving from this enclosed environment in which every petty struggle seems to be of world-historical importance to the laissez-faire indifference of the adult world -- from having concerned mentors and disciplinarians worried about how you will turn out to having no one give a fuck as long as you pay your bills -- is jarring.
- The shifting agendas, conscious and unconscious -- it's all too much to keep up with. It's disconcerting sometimes to step back and observe how few people want simply and purely to be friends, without using one to fill in some lack in themselves or without wanting to change one. O friends, there is no friend! What do we get at the end of Derrida's Politics of Friendship, with its marathon quality, but the uncanny feeling that perhaps friendship properly so called has never yet happened -- or at the very least has not happened as often as it seems to have?
- And can men and women be friends with one another? Insofar as an answer is possible, I would say yes, and I would say that on my list of true friends, people I feel like I can really trust, who have some loyalty to me -- forgive me if I don't name names -- women may well predominate. Time will tell.
They were emotionally turbulent times, but when I look back, it always seems so peaceful. I forget the nights when I would throw things and kick the furniture or when I would cry myself to sleep, and I remember discovering Ben Folds and Shostakovich. I remember the first time I listened to The Fragile. I remember working my way through Pelikan's Christian Tradition and learning about all the saints and when she would come over (almost deserving of a capital S!) during open dorms and sit on my bed and lay on my pillow, as though it belonged to her, because it did. O felix culpa, O necessary failure!
Some things don't need to be said, and I have been in the business of saying them for years now -- but I wonder if they're even sayable, if pulling them out of their hiding places might not change them into something else, something a little more menacing, and if saying them might change me, too, into a wounded creature, armed with a greivance, telling anyone and everyone. I can't keep a secret. You should know that before you get too tangled up with me. It's all public domain. I'm horrified to have a secret, because it will always turn out that someone knew the whole time. It's happened before. It's happened every time. Give up on secrets, for me at least -- the things that are really secret, that need to remain secret, will take care of themselves, through the simple working out of language itself. We have accumulated millenia of wisdom in those grammatical and semantic structures, and by now our language has learned modesty, if nothing else. It does not seek things too great for it. What is necessary, above all, is to learn how to speak and how not to speak -- and second, to care and not to care. But first of all to speak, to say the yes that comes before the opposition of yes and no. Amen.
Saturday, August 28, 2004
(12:21 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Sleep Deprivation Appreciation DayI have already addressed this in the comments, but last night's event met and exceeded my every expectation. In addition to Tingle Showcase, the closely affiliated Fash Attack (bohemian fashion presented in an intense dance-based format) and the unaffiliated but confusingly similarly named Tingle Tangle (vaguely creepy performance art) also performed. Highlights included Monica's piece, which was introduced by a special segment detailing the proper pronunciation of her name and which took the form of a multi-layered discourse on slips (as in under dresses) and words; the "flasher's convention" skit; an alarmingly nonsensical segment that included one character saying, apropos of nothing, "That was so pertinent"; and a truly amazing puppet show by Tingle Tangle. Overall, in terms of avant garde variety shows complemented by fashion and puppets taking place in a top-secret, unlicensed venue, this was the best I'd seen.
During one break in the action, I asked Jared Sinclair, three-quarters jokingly, to go up to the microphone and ask if Ben Wolfson was there. He did so. Ben, apparently, was not there. Mike Schaefer also failed to show up, though I sent him an e-mail invitation late Thursday night. I don't hold it against you, guys! Nothing but love -- I'm just thinking that whatever you did, no matter how high-quality the ten-second mpegs were, it probably wasn't as much fun as my evening.
Especially since Monica, Adam R., Jared, and I went to a bar after the show, on the way to which we drove through the Storm of the Mother Fucking Century. We took two cars: Adam and Jared led, with me and Monica taking the subordinate role. Apparently most of the people on the trip -- by my count, three of those involved -- were alarmed by the adverse weather conditions that at times threatened to make visibility a naive fantasy, suitable for grade-school children but not for sober-minded adults. I was not alarmed in the least. I had just driven through a similar, albeit shorter, storm the week before, and I have also driven through multiple deadly blizzards on my way back and forth to Michigan. For me, zero visibility and zero traction are just par for the course, and like a true, red-blooded Michiganian, I always drive as fast as possible, as close as possible to the person in front of me. (I will pass over in silence Monica's occasional criticisms of this thoroughly sensible driving policy.)
To conclude, I'd like to note a few aspects of the puppet show. It was an apocalyptic show, where all the characters were either mutants or demons of some kind. Several plotlines were interwoven: a man who had mistakenly received a cursed monkey in the mail attempts to return it; several people attempt to procure a "hook-up" from the apothecary; the world ends; a man in a bomb shelter is killed after gloating over his foresight. At one point, while the world is ending, a reporter asks a man on the street to describe what's going on. He says, in paraphrase, "All of a sudden this loud humming noise started [it had been in the background for ten minutes; it was very funny for it to be addressed]. Then, next thing you know, the Christians all evaporated, with their cars." The reporter: "Their cars too, eh? Ah well, it's probably a blessing in disguise."
Friday, August 27, 2004
(9:42 PM) | Anthony Paul Smith:
Troubles With Nietzsche: Or A Mixing Of Moods.
Instead I used the library to check out Radical Orthodoxy: A new theology which was a book I'd been meaning to read since I was a first-year at Olivet. It was ok. Then I finished Works of Love, which was good since it has been sitting on my shelf for two years now in anticipation of a Craig Keen class I was never able to take. After that I tried to read some Levinas from my Levinas Reader, but something about the lack of a steady narrative throughout so-called readers made me stop. It was like two evangelical kids having sex for the first time and after one of them got off, they felt guilty and stopped, leaving the other one guilty but unfulfilled. What I needed was fulfillment, not guilt, and no one has less guilt than my old stand by on the bookshelf, Nietzsche. What I had forgotten was that Nietzsche is neither fulfilling nor easy. Sure, once you get him going it's a great time but all that foreplay!
Obviously if you have read Nietzsche you know it's not his writing that is difficult and indeed it seems that most people find him a pleasure to read. The trouble is that his thought is so condensed within each paragraph. Most of his works are short and thus readers, decieved by the length, approach them as if they were a short essay. This, it seems to me, is partly to blame for why he is so badly read: by the Straussians, by the Evangelicals and, likely, even by those like myself who have fallen in love with his thought. If one has the unfortunate and costly inkling to actually read a Nietzsche book, and do so as if that book mattered, they must approach it as if it were scripture. I don't mean to say that they must approach it as if it were reading something 'holy', that would mean we were reading poorly again, but rather I want to suggest that Nietzsche's texts hide within themselves, cover over and generally evade ascribing simple, singular meanings. In other words Nietzsche would never say something like, "I want to suggest..."
It seems that this scriptural aspect is most evident in his later works of Twilight of the Idols, The Anti-Christ and Ecce Homo (though there are certainly traces throught the entire ouvre). I know what many of you who are vaguely familiar with Nietzsche are thinking but it wasn't his mental illness that created these beautifully inconsistent and thoroughly rich texts; it was his madness. Whenever I read these late works, as opposed to the early, I feel as if there is a certain religious madness at work. It isn't an obvious aspect, but if you read his nuances one can see little words of faith and little acts of love throughout. Though he seems (everything with Nietzsche is always a certain kind of "seeming") to want to move away from the pious stance of working for the glory of the truth and of loving life as life itself, it still seems as is if he is possessed like the followers of Bacchus in the midst of their revels. I think that may be the source of his good conscience, that his acts of faith, repugnant to his philological constitution, are never owned by him but always come as possession. This moment of irreligious destruction of all that is idolatry stands at noon and 'unites', or systematizes (stands together), the many moods of Nietzsche into something like a pseudo-whole that is shown only along the split/s of the self (as Alenka Zupancic has shown in The Shortest Shadow in her theory of a duality and Gilles Deleuze has shown in Nietzsche and Philosophy in his theory of the multiplicity of Nietzsche's thought). His rationality and his religious desire come together as antagonistic partners, even strange friends. Perhaps this should become part of our liturgy, if the Church were actually strong enough to allow for what Adam does, as a kind of prayer.
One is fruitful only at the cost of being rich in contradictions; one remains young only on condition the soul does not relax, does not long for peace...
(7:28 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Monica Appreciation Day[Before I begin today, I'd like to note that yesterday, there were posts from seven out of eight of The Weblog's contributors. The "recent posts" column reflects this unprecedented productivity and diversity of voices. We are truly becoming multiple: a group-blogging force to be reckoned with. (In fact, since everyone is so eager to post now, I might just take a vacation and let them handle things for a while -- oh, wait, I forgot about my crippling Internet addiction. Never mind.)]
Due to the fortunate proximity of Monica's return to the blogging world yesterday and the feast of St. Monica, mother of Augustine, today, I felt it would be appropriate to take some time out to commemorate the bearer of the greatest tanline ever (googlebomb, anyone?). It's even more appropriate, given that St. Monica's name, being Latin in origin, is pronounced with a long O, just as Ms. Bennett's is. Hopefully if Monica ever bears a son, he will not turn out to be as big a pervert as St. Monica's was.
Further reinforcing the coincidence, Monica begins her tour with the Tingle Showcase tonight in Chicago, at the Ice Factory at 526 N. Ashland. She has advised people to arrive around 9:30. I encourage everyone to attend.
In an effort to economize on posts, I am also going to use this post as an opportunity to continue everyone's favorite Friday ritual:
My confession is that I momentarily gave into the sophistry of despair while beginning the process of application for graduate study. I also took it disproportionately personally when my paper was turned down by Theology Today, even though that resulted primarily from their practice of normally soliciting papers for theme issues (a policy I was unaware of when submitting my paper -- I doubt they even read it). I harbored feelings of ill-will toward co-workers this week, for crimes no more serious than conforming to their normal behavioral patterns. I confess that it's kind of unfair that Monica gets an appreciation day before Anthony, given that Robb has had like three and even Adam Robinson has had one, but the coincidence with the liturgical calendar and her tour calendar was simply so overwhelming that I couldn't help myself.
Blog-related confessions: I'll confess that Friday is my favorite blog-day. That means that I have noticed blogosphere-wide patterns that make Friday a more relaxed day -- without being for all that an especially slow day, like Saturday and Sunday. I'll also confess that there are certain blogs I only read during slow times at work, because they're informative enough that I don't feel like my work time is wasted, but they're too deep for me to want to use them as a momentary distraction during my home time, which is normally taken up with academic work (at least it's always potentially taken up with academic work, even if the only concrete result is a looming cloud of guilt as I talk on Instant Messenger).
To conclude my confessions, I confess that I woke up this morning with the theme music for "Days of Our Lives" running through my head. I have no explanation.
In any case, happy Monica Appreciation Day to all -- and what better way, aside from attending Tingle Showcase, to celebrate it than by being washed whiter than snow in the cleansing waters of HaloScan?
Thursday, August 26, 2004
(11:34 PM) | Robb Schuneman:
How Come Bobby Dylan and Louie Reed..They're Never Seen In Short Sleeves..Did I miss the switch back to the 60's somewhere? I ask mainly because, within the past 2 days, 2 jobs have crossed the counter of the print shop, both of which were basically acid tabs minus the acid part, but still decorated as such, and still seperated into the small squares on the back. One was just art that the guy sells at grateful dead concerts for $60 (doesn't the real thing only cost about twice that?) and another was a business card for a graphic designer. I ask: what the heck? I thought we were all into marijuana and crystal meth now adays. Are the cool kids of today really reverting back to the ways of our parents before us?
Don't get me wrong - if you have to choose a hallucinogen, you might as well choose one with no dependency issues, and no withdrawal time. You also can't go wrong with the fact that there's no permanant damage, and there's only ever been one overdose worldwide. I'm also all about seeing sounds and tasting colors every chance I get. But..come on..LSD is so..so...40 years ago. Suddenly it's going to become the next hit thing again?
Okay - I remember in high school, this kid brought, what I thought, was a mediocre drawing of Bart Simpson on a strange type of paper once. They all laughed at me because I was like "Oh, did you draw this?" So, perhaps that's all there is to my hostility to this, the most "harmless" of the hard drugs.
In a final spin, rage all you want against kids and their influential music today - but I know I personally never had a second thought about such things until I read classic literature. Recently reading the complete Sherlock Holmes, I'm shocked by the fact that the good sleuth is always shooting up. One such quote (of many):
"Which is it today," I (Watson) asked, "morphine or cocaine?" He raised his eyes languidly from the old black-letter volume he had opened."It is cocaine," he said, "a seven per cent solution. Would you care to try it?""No, indeed," I answered brusquely. "My constitution has not got over the Afghan campaign yet. I cannot afford to throw away any extra stain upon it."He smiled at my vehemence. "Perhaps you are right, Watson," he said. "I suppose that its influence is physically a bad one. I find it, however, so transcendently stimulating and clarifying to the mind that its secondary action is a matter of a small moment."
I now remember that in reading about the comic for The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, I'd seen that they depicted Holmes as a drug addict. But, I figured this was just loosely and vaguely drawn from the text. I had no idea that Holmes would be shooting up to cure the pain of an idle mind every 10 pages. And the sad thing is - I think I bought this exact same volume for my nephew for Christmas a couple years ago. Luckily, no one ever reads books that you give as gifts.
So, if I ever end up in a dumpster behind K-Mart, please blame Arthur Conan Doyle, Ken Kesey and Aldous Huxley long before The Violent Femmes, Lil' Kim, and D-12. Unless you can somehow twist it to get Lil' Kim banned from the air.
(9:30 PM) | Tara Smith:
My cat prompts ruminations on the meaning of a text443a4 er/nr 28819 hy8]’bhh/
My cat Jack, who likes to sit on my keyboard while I’m working, wrote the above statement. He also managed to create a table, change the font, and save the whole thing as 23/er, but I thought the above represented the best of his work and was worth saving for posterity’s sake.
The question of the ages, I suppose, is how might we go about derive meaning from such a statement? In exegeting the phrase "4434a4 er/nr 28819 hy8]’bhh/", should we examine Jack’s personality (fortunately, he is still with us today), grilling him with questions about what he really meant by the third 4 and talking to those who know him about his views on "er/nr"? Should we examine what kinds of feelings and reactions the phrase produces within us, or should we try to concern ourselves with what might have been evoked for his original audience? Is it even a phrase at all? Perhaps we should consider other literary forms popular among cats, or exhaust other references to see if Jack was quoting somebody else. On the other hand, possibly the meaning really lies in what the editor (myself, in this case) chose to record or to delete. Whatever happens, shouldn’t we obviously determine what the sociopolitical climate was at the time of writing and pinpoint an approximate date and location?
Paul Ricouer (who, I'm fairly ceratin, has never met my cat), understands textual meaning to be a closed system: essentially uninhabitable. (Curse you, Adam Kotsko, for making it temporarily impossible for me to use the colon unselfconsciously.) Meaning swirls round and round within a text, with no recourse to the "outside" world. The reference of language, on the other hand, is language's application to reality. The reference is what makes language significant to a system other than itself. Reference deals not just with the imaginary world that language creates, boundless though it is. The reference of language is something that can in some sense be located on a plane in both time and space.
"Discourse", then, is language with reference, as opposed to language without a realistic referent. The problem, Ricoeur says, is that written discourse loses its referent. There is no spatial-temporal aspect as in oral discourse that can unite the reader and writer. Thus, the referential aspect of written discourse is no longer available: we can no longer speak of the text’s relation to reality. Instead, as Ricoeur dramatically puts it, "it is the role of most of our literature, it would seem, to destroy the world." (On a side note, how much of philosophy is a shameless attempt to create one-liners that will eventully be quoted in Readers' Digest?)
And yet we read, and seem to derive meaning from the process. Are we kidding ourselves? Is every beating heart really that complete and profound mystery to the heart beating nearest it? Or is there perhaps a world not destroyed by literature, one in which both writer and reader may reside? Possibly, the task of reading is to create a new world: a world of possibilities rather than a world of givenness. It is, nonetheless, a world given by the text, created by the text, or, as R. puts it, it is the issue of the text. It is in this shared world that discourse, or referential meaning, may be found. And so in trying to determine the meaning of Jack’s cryptic message to us, we must first inhabit that world–which can only be accessed when shared–presented to us by the text. Thus, as I persuade you, my reader, to be aware of Jack’s textual world, I can only do so in the the midst of an invitation for you to share with me this: our own textual world of possibilities. And in the world I have written for you but cannot meaningfully inhabit or even create alone, we collide irretrievably into one another in our creation, and we realize here that we will never step out as beings-without-each-other again.
It's either really beautiful, or a little creepy.
(6:17 PM) | Richard McElroy:
My HeroUS Code, Title 4, Chapter 1, Sec. 8 (g): "The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature."
(5:22 PM) | Anthony Paul Smith:
Thursday Translation Attempt: Anthony Edition.
From page 11-12 in the original French:
Une fois délimité l’enjeu de la philosophie, le pathos de sa « fin » laisee place à une tout autre question, qui est celle de ses conditions. Je ne soutiens pas que la philosophie est à tout instant possible. Je propose d’examiner en général à quelles conditions elle l’est, dans le conformité à sa destination. Que les violences de l’historie puissent l’interrompre, c’est ce qu’il ne faut pas laisser s’accréditer sans examen. C’est concéder une étrange victoire à Hitler et ses sbires que de les déclarer tout de go capables d’avoir introduit l’impensable dans la pensée, et d’avoir ainsi parachevé la cessation de son exercice architecturé. L’anti-intellectualisme fantatique des nazis, faut-il lui accorder cette revanche, après son écrasement militarie, que la pensée même, politique ou philosophique, est en effet hors d’état de prendre mesure de ce qui se proposait de l’anéantir? Je le dis comme je le pense: ce serait faire mourir les juifs une deuxième fois si leur mort était cause de la fin de ce à quoi ils ont, décisivement, contribué, politique révolutionnaire d’un côté, philosophie rationnelle de l’autre. La piété la plus essentielle à l’espirit, dans sa vacillation auto-accusatrice face au crime. Elle réside, toujours, dans la continuation de ce qui les a désignées comme représentants de l’Humanité aux yeux des bourreaux.
This is my attempt at translation:
Once delimited the stake of philosophy, the pathos of its "end" leads to a totally other question, that of its conditions. I do not support that philosophy is possible in every instant. I propose a general investigation into the conditions that philosophy itself is, in conformity with its destination. Though the violent acts of history powerfully interrupt it, what is not needed is to leave it this credit [responsibility for the Holocaust - Translators note] without examination. It's conceding a strange victory to Hitler and his henchmen to completely declare, straight out, that they have introduced the unthinkable into thought, and of having thus perfected the cessation of their architectural exercise. The fanatic anti-intellectualism of the Nazi's, need we accorde him this revenge, after his military was crushed, that the same thought, political or philosophical, is outside the state of taking measure of that which was proposed in it's ruin? I say it as I think it: we are going to kill the Jews a second time if their death is the cause of the end of that to which they have, decisively, contributed; revolutionary politics on the one side, rational philosophy on the other. The most essential piety in regards to the victims does not reside in the stupor of spirit, with those shaky self-accusers in the face of the crime. It resides, always, with the continuation of that which they designated as representative of their Humanity in the eyes of the torturers.
I'm pretty happy with the translation overall. Since this is my first time doing a public translation I am still unsure if I should keep the same punctuation as the French or if I should edit that to make it less clumsy. It seems that this should be part of translating but, as Walter Kaufmann suggests in talking about translation, I don't know if this would help to make Alain Badiou sound like Alain Badiou.
(5:19 PM) | Adam R:
Sports !!!: An Appreciation[Look at her go! It's nice to see that I'm not the only sports blogger at the Weblog. If you haven't read it yet, I recommend Monica's bicycle diary. It'd be cool, I'm just saying, if all the Weblog writers would write something about sports. But anyway.]
“The idea that you can keep your vote private is a sham nowadays. Everyone wears their affiliations on their sleeves. Everyone,” I said to my father, “knows who you’re going to vote for.”
My father is a thoughtful, hardworking community member. When people putter on about the olden days, about the times when life was simpler and people actually talked to each other (days many of us think of as terribly unjust and racially/sexually unequal), they’re chipping golf balls onto the fairway of my father. He’s a giving man who has his life in order not because he keeps a meticulous ledger but because he is faithful to God. Therefore, voting Republican and defending George W. Bush against my thoughtless slander is a categorical imperative for him, just like tithing over 10% on his gross income.
And I say all this about him before confessing that, actually, I could not say for sure who he’ll vote for this year. I realized that immediately after I told him he was as predictable as gravity.
Pete Seeger called them “little boxes,” these ugly categories that we assign to people. I learned about Pete Seeger in chapel my senior year at high school, although according to the people who gave us the movie Saved!, such an education is unlikely. Radical hippie folk singers would never come up in a Christian school, we’re meant to think. Also, according to those producers, my headmaster would never have played the Cure’s “Killing an Arab” in our history class, or regaled us with anecdotes about Solzhenitsyn and Kierkegaard, but he did.
Stuff like that—complicated, brainy stuff—doesn’t fit into the little box fundamentalist Christians are locked into, just like there’s no room in a jock’s footlocker for a book about women’s lib.
For most of my life—and from what I’ve observed of my friends, most of everyone’s life—at the top of all of these classifications, once we’ve broken it down from the kingdom, to the phylum, to the genus, to the species (and clicking on mammal, then homo sapiens)—right there—we should insert the dichotomy “nerd/jock.” Some people might use different jargon, like “student/athlete,” or “brainiac/sports nut,” but ultimately we expect people to prioritize either knowledge or athleticism.
It’s cool, then, that when Alan Shepherd stepped out onto the moon he drew a golf club to work on his drive. Here’s a man who invested his life in becoming smart and bendable enough to fly in a space shuttle, and what’s he thinking about? How far he can whack a ball with his 6-iron.
How many little divots does a golf ball have? A Weblog reader has to know that.
Anyway, I just wanted to say that until recently I never thought about this stuff, that I was content to think that people who knew if Jeff Gordon was number 3 or 24, and that the Lakers traded whosit to wherever for how much, and even more trivia (what is a 30-ought-6?) then that were big fuckin’ jagoffs who probably just wanted to beat me up.
I mean, I thought this in general, about strangers. Benji, who Got Cut From JV Basketball was always okay (although the first time I saw him I thought he was a chump). And I have long enjoyed—am quite good at—backyard football. Also, I love going to baseball games, where some drunk housewife invariably insults me because I wear such stupid clothes. It’s that lady who has reinforced the distaste I have for athletes.
Until recently I never gave a second thought to good looking people who like sports (see! now I’ve thrown good looks into the works), but then a few years ago I met Cap’n Pete and we killed some time playing basketball, and for some reason, somehow, he left me with the impression that not everybody who can sink a reverse lay-up also wants to give me a wedgie.
I think that’s what it comes down to for so many of us on the nerd side of the dichotomy; we weren’t the first to be picked for dodgeball, so we figured there was no point in caring about what has turned out to be terribly impossible to ignore in our culture. (When the Smithsonian Institute solicited the Rev. Richard J. Mackin, saying they were the pride of all US citizens, he responded something like, “Are you crazy? There are people getting the Nike swoosh tattooed on their neck!”) Nonetheless, sports has come to equal strength; maybe you’ve noticed Senator Kerry sporting one of those “Livestrong” bracelets that celebrate Lance Armstrong’s victory over not just France but cancer, too.
I’m grateful to Cap’n Pete for inspiring these reflections.
(10:20 AM) | Monica:
My Bicycle Trip Across IowaYou’re probably wondering where I’ve been. Well, I can give account for one week of my absence from The Weblog.
Let me tell you about my bicycle trip across Iowa. In 7 days I spent 40 hours on my bike and rode 509 miles as part of an annual bicycle tour called RAGBRAI (The Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa). Here’s a look at my diary….
DAY 1: Missouri River (Onawa) to Lake View
I'm grumpy and antisocial due to lack of sleep, and I'm annoyed by everything. I bike well and it seems not too hard, despite the fact that it's officially a difficult day, with long, steep hills after the first 20 miles. I am constantly filled with resentment of humanity’s inane projects, large and small. I begrudgingly meet a couple of interesting people in line at the only stand that offers vegetarian food. There are two bicycle accidents and everyone gets held in Mapleton, listening to a teenage cover band and "Nuns on the Run" for over an hour.
In the afternoon my mood is slightly improved by a rotund priest playing accordion at a roadside refreshment stand.
I get to Lake View in good time, set up my tent, locate a shower, stand around naked in front of six other women, find a meat-free spaghetti dinner, eat ravenously, and get to bed by 10:00 but can't sleep because of the cold and the cover band that’s playing “You Shook Me All Night Long.”
DAY 2: Lake View to Fort Dodge
Officially an easy day, this day is very hard for me, probably because I haven't slept. I leave Lake View at 8:00 a.m., stomach sloshing with soymilk, which I’m surprised to find at a local grocery store. I have to buy a half-gallon, though, and I can't carry it with me, so after offering it to the campers around me (who react as though I've offered them kitten's blood), I drink as much as I can and leave the carton, hoping a homeless vegan will discover it in delight.
All day I really, really, really want to quit. I’m tired. My legs weigh 100 pounds each.
The day ends well, though, with a delicious veggie burger made by Seventh-Day Adventists. I go back for a second and this time get the combo: veggie burger, ear of sweet corn, strawberry shortcake, and Gatorade (which I save for the next day). Some funny guy who has been running around enthusiastically trying all the desserts approaches the same seat I’m heading for. It’s a light pole anchored in a 6-inch wide border of cement. We laugh and both sit. I sit in the front, facing the stage where 10 conservatively dressed white people called “The Du Wopps” are singing “popular hits” to backup tracks. Cheng from Austin sits on the opposite side but also watches the show. He lets me try his rhubarb crisp, and after my strawberry shortcake, I buy a piece of that, too.
DAY 3: Fort Dodge to Iowa Falls
I rise well after sunrise, having been allowed better sleep because of an extra shirt Cheng gave me. I find a door that’s been left ajar at the high school, so I sneak into the boys’ locker room and shower by myself, locking the door behind me. I get a late start—10:20—but the riding is pretty good because I’ve slept. I meet a few people while biking, and in order to keep up with their lightweight road bikes I ride faster than I should. Conversing while biking is a welcome distraction from the pain, though, and it’s fun to meet a couple people who are also carrying all their stuff.
When I’m riding by myself, my mind is occupied, more often than with meaningful meditations, with mantras like “lip balm, bathroom, Gatorade, energy bar… lip balm, bathroom, Gatorade, energy bar…” or “ibuprofen, sunblock on ears, air in tires… ibuprofen, sunblock on ears, air in tires…” to remind myself what I need to do the next time I stop.
I stop and take a nap at Tom’s Turkey, a roadside food stand that travels with RAGBRAI. This stand has port-a-potties, which is a bonus, but I’m sick of port-a-potties because my legs are already tired and then I have to squat over the seat (I won’t actually sit down in a port-a-potty), and those chambers are so cramped it’s hard to stay balanced without leaning my head against the door, and I don’t want to do that because all surfaces in a port-a-potty are nasty by virtue of being in a port-a-potty.
When I get to Iowa Falls, I set up my tent under the goalpost on a high school football field. Group showers again, and I discover that I’ve lost my towel, which was hanging from my bags to dry while I rode.
DAY 4: Iowa Falls to Marshalltown
Today I meet Bésame Mucho, a team of four from San Antonio. Their name hints at greater-than-average imagination among RAGBRAI teams: The first word in their name is not “Team,” as in, for example, “Team Skunk,” “Team Dawg,” “Team Butt Ice,” “Team Stiff,” “Team Gold Bond,” “Team Spin,” “Team Ride to the Right.” They give me a Bésame Mucho (BM [not to be confused with B.M., or bowel movement]) beer cozy and invite me to their RV campsite for fajitas and margaritas, but I won’t end up going because one of them latches on to me and tries to help me do everything, which makes me feel… er… icky.
I feel like celebrating the fact that I’m approaching the halfway mark, so around 250 miles I stop and listen, prostrate, to a banjo player in Eldora.
The biking is hard. It’s getting hillier and I’ve battled strong headwinds all day. I’m still sleep-deprived and I wish this BM person would just let me suffer the route in peace. The land is beautiful, though, and he appreciates it as deeply as I do.
After eating the best cantaloupe imaginable at a roadside stand and then locating the only bathroom in the following town (there aren’t any port-a-potties there)—in a hardware store, a horrible, horrible bathroom where someone has pooped on top of the toilet—I finally ditch the BM guy.
I’m exhausted when I make it to Marshalltown. I find that I’ve lost a flip-flop, so I take a cold group shower hopping around on one foot at a foul swimming pool shower. For dinner I settle for a piece of cheese pizza and some trail mix I bought earlier from some boy scouts. Then I watch part of a pirate show for kids. It’s supposed to rain tonight, so I put the rain covers on my panniers and fall asleep to the sound of a cover band playing “You Shook Me All Night Long.”
DAY 5: Marshalltown to Hiawatha
It’s drizzling when I get up, so I have to pack my tent wet. I’ve had some decent sleep, though, because the night, though rainy, was almost warm. I ride strong through the morning rain and stop in Elderon. I’ve decided I prefer cornfields to port-a-potties, but my favorite is still non-shitty restrooms with running water, especially since my period started yesterday. The extra mile or so off the main route is worth the trouble for what’s being advertised: “FREE RESTROOM WITH FLUSH TOILET.”
I find the building with the restroom. It’s some sort of community building that serves several functions, including being the town library, which consists of a meager collection of paperbacks and children’s books sitting on a table. An elderly local tells me that Elderon’s 215 residents will give me a plot of land if I will build a house on it.
After washing my hands, face, and contacts; changing my tampon; brushing my teeth; and reapplying sunblock, I can face the rest of the day, and I press on. I meet more people who want to take care of me, and they’re nice but really a hassle, so I shake them off and reach Hiawatha in time to see half a dozen hot-air balloons aloft before sunset. The sight has a mythical quality for me because it reminds me of a childhood experience, something in the early 1980s involving rainbow-striped hot-air balloons.
It’s a good night. By now I’ve forgotten what it’s like to shower without several strangers (although now I’ve lost both flip-flops so I have to shower with bare feet), and the water at the car wash is warm. For an extra 50¢ I even get a blue paper towel out of a machine. Hiawatha must be a thriving metropolis because among three of the food stands there I find non-porkified beans, which I’ve been craving all week, plain rice, and a spicy fresh ginger/fruit juice drink. I also eat a homemade ice cream sundae-sandwich. By a great coincidence I meet Erik, a hand cycler from Boston, for the second time this week. We share my first RAGBRAI beer at the beer tent while a cover band plays “You Shook Me All Night Long.”
DAY 6: Hiawatha to Maquoketa
I get up at 5:00 a.m. because someone in the next tent is shuffling a deck of cards over and over. Trying to sleep is useless. Because I’ve gotten up so early, I can have the official RAGBRAI truck carry my panniers for the day. In place of my panniers, today I carry a portable CD player and speakers. The CD player goes in the pocket of my rain jacket and I rig up the speakers to the handlebars with bungee cords. This makes me very happy, even though my music selection is limited to what is available at the store at which I will never shop except when I’m on RAGBRAI and dying to listen to something—anything—non-ipecacious.
It rains all morning but I don’t care because I have music. The lyrics “I’m a wheel” take on profound new meaning today.
There are a few miles of dirt road, which the rain has turned to a strange fine, clay-colored, slippery muck. The people around me riding delicate little road/racing bikes are having a lot of trouble. ha-HA, suckas! Shoulda brought a touring bike! I emerge from the dirt roads free of all tag-alongs, glorified with a fresh coat of mud. The rain has stopped, so at the next town I clean and grease my chain.
Today I relax my strict no-sweets-while-riding policy (I’m afraid of a sugar crash slowing me way down and causing me to end up biking alone after dark on the highways, thirty miles from town) and I finally buy one of those Amish-made pies someone keeps advertising. Actually, I buy one and Tim from the Ozarks buys another one, and we share: strawberry-rhubarb and boysenberry. They are entirely worth the risk of a sugar crash.
When I get to town I am so tired that I don’t bother to set up my tent before 1:00 a.m. Same old story in the high school shower: buncha naked women, me with bare feet and no towel. There’s the new element, though, of being tortured by the smell of warm cinnamon rolls* that I cannot get (I later learn that they are being baked and held for tomorrow’s breakfast). I get a ride downtown in the bed of a pickup truck and am happy to discover an “ethnic” food stand. I eat a full plate of vegetable curry and rice, a big falafel sandwich, a piece of homemade peach pie, and a funnel cake while listening to a cover band play “You Shook Me All Night Long.”
* I once read somewhere that, according to scientific research, the aroma of warm cinnamon rolls is the smell most likely to trigger an erection.
DAY 7: Maquoketa to Mississippi River (Clinton)
Last day, and the shortest one. I overhear someone saying that most people dropped out with the rain on day 5. I practically have the road to myself, so I’m free all day to bask in the loveliness of the Iowa countryside and to absorb myself in imponderables.
I see signs announcing the approach of homemade whoopee pies—“First Prize Winner”—and although I’m not sure what a whoopee pie is, I know I want one. When I finally get to the whoopee pie stand, I learn that a whoopee pie is a soft sandwich made of chocolate cakey rounds with a fluffy, creamy filling. The two daughters and their mother tell me that they were up until 2:00 a.m. last night making these award-winning whoopee pies. They are GOOD.
It’s HOT, and there are not many roadside sellers of Gatorade, water, and other provisions today. Desperate for Gatorade, I stop at a town just in time to see a mess of local musicians playing marching tunes. They note my interest—I’m their only audience member—and order themselves to play a “good one,” so they end with “God Bless America.”
It’s getting close to the end and even though I have harshly mistreated my body all week and I’m developing a terrible pain in my left Achilles’ tendon, I don’t want it to be over. I don’t want to go back to living indoors and hiding my body and being clean. I feel magnanimous and grateful to everyone associated with RAGBRAI.
I reach the Mississippi River and when I descend the loading dock to dip my front tire in the river it’s hard to recognize what I’ve accomplished. I just want to drink, eat, ice my ankle, get a back massage, and sleep for a long time in a big, comfortable bed. But I can tell this trip has been an important part of a gradual change in me: a shift toward being less disconnected from my “gut.”
And I have the greatest tan line in the world.
* * *
And now, for my next long absence, I leave tomorrow to tour the Midwest and the East Coast with Tingle Showcase + Fash Attack.
(7:43 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Vegetables of the World, Unite!I am eating less and less meat lately. For a variety of reasons, my house has lately been stocked with vegetarian alternatives, and I'm beginning to prefer them, not because of any moral decision, but for health reasons. I've spent my life avoiding vegetables, since they seem to take so much more effort to prepare, but on those days that I primarily eat vegetables and grain, I really feel better. In addition, although I have long been a lover of hot dogs and lunch meats, I am beginning to wonder whether it's a good idea in the long run to make them a staple of my diet: I have a high metabolism now, but that won't last forever.
In any case, a couple years ago I wrote an essay entitled "The McDonald's Essay", addressing the lawsuit that I called "Fat Guy vs. McDonald's." In the midst of an edifying discussion about personal responsibility (poor people are expected to show it; powerful people are not), I asked why it was that fast food restaurants couldn't replace their disgusting wads of meat-related program activities with healthy food that took minimal effort to prepare and still tasted good. After all, we sent a man to the moon, didn't we? This can't be so hard. The Trigger's audience to whom I presented this thesis were skeptical at best -- is it really possible, they asked, to make nutritious fast food?
I now believe it is. After living a quasi-vegetarian existence (entirely by accident) for several months now, I believe that I could easily exchange the various sandwich-based meats for their vegetarian equivalents without feeling like I had given anything up. The vegetarian chicken patties in particular are virtually identical in texture and flavor to "real" chicken patties. Real meat could be a special treat rather than a staple, which could even lead to saner agriculture policies all around.
We have the technology. In the face of our nation's obesity epidemic, I don't see how we can afford not to convert to a vegetable-based food distribution network. If we fail to seize on this singular opportunity offered to us by the growing popularity of vegetarianism, future generations will look back at us with scorn and pity.
UPDATE: Tonight's trip to the grocery store sealed the deal. I even got soy milk. I'm going to force myself to use it on my cereal for a week. The hyper-evolved bacteria hanging around in my colon are going to be upset not to get their daily intake of antibiotics, but that's probably okay. I'll let you guys know how it turns out.
Wednesday, August 25, 2004
(6:56 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Punctuation PostMy favorite punctuation mark is the colon. I feel as though I'm the only person still using it on a regular basis, but there was a time when the colon contributed to a period of unprecedented punctuational richness. Simply read Hawthorne and note the nuance he is able to produce through the varied use of punctuation: his colons and semicolons where we would place a simple, undifferentiated period. I used to dismiss Hawthorne as unnecessarily verbose, but there is a beauty to be found there.
In blogging, I try to make my sentences shorter, but my first impulse is always to lengthen it, turning a paragraph into a river of words.
I agree with this ancient Calpundit post (back when he was still the humble "Calpundit"): the apostrophe should be abolished. Quoth Kevin (I'm on a first-name basis with him, because we both have blogs):
The meaning of a word is never unclear because an apostrophe has been misused, a fact that ought to be self evident since spoken language seems to get along just fine even though it has never evolved a verbal cue to indicate an apostrophe. (As opposed to commas, periods, and paragraphs, for example, which are marked verbally by various kinds of pauses.)I cannot think of any possible situation in which it would be unclear whether a word ending in "s" was plural, singular possessive, or plural possessive without the apostrophe. Furthermore, I think that the various frequently-confused words such as there-their-they're or your-you're should be flattened out into one word: their and your, respectively. Again, there is no possible situation in which it would be unclear which meaning was intended -- never in conversation have I ever had to clarify whether I meant "there as in location" or "they're as in the contraction."
So go ahead and learn to use apostrophes correctly. It will save you from being thought an uneducated boor. But as my mother the English major contends, if it's meaning we're concerned about we could just get rid of it altogether.
In our postmodern global village, maintaining these antiquated spelling and punctuation conventions is simply inhospitable to the many people who are going to have to learn English as a second language. The next step, of course, would be a thorough-going spelling reform that would make English into a truly phonetic language like Italian. We have a mutt language, and we carry around that heritage every day in what amounts to a dozen separate spelling and punctuation systems. Especially literate native speakers get an unconscious feel for what the words in a certain class (vaguely German, kind of French, etc.) look like and how they should be pronounced, so that the intellectual elites never really have trouble, but our haphazard system of spelling adds up to wasted time in the classroom, the farcical spectacle of spelling bees (unknown in the rest of the civilized world!), and deep-seated feelings of inferiority among those who are "no good at spelling."
The time is ripe! If we do not abolish the apostrophe and move to a complete overhaul of the English spelling system, future generations will look back at us with scorn and pity.
Tuesday, August 24, 2004
(12:20 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
SuspiciousIs it suspicious to anyone else that right-wingers, when looking for reasons to oppose John Kerry, immediately descend into tedious minutiae? That the burden of proof for a "liberal" statement to be true is that every aspect of it must be indisputably, absolutely true in a 2+2=4 way, while the burden of proof for a "conservative" statement to be true is that there must be some aspect of the statement that is fairly close to being technically true? If conservatives applied the same hermeneutical lens to Bush's claims in the lead-up to the Iraq War that they are now applying to Kerry's most minor claims about his Vietnam service, then I think that Bush would not be the Republican presidential nominee in 2004, period.
The a priori assumption that Republicans are virtuous and that Democrats are dirty liars basically prevents conservatives from making any sense during those unfortunate periods when the leadership of the Republican party are regularly lying and trampling on basic conservative principles. I'm not sure exactly when conservative commentators became souless Republican party hacks, but it was definitely a negative development, because it's always possible that people will join a political club -- such as the Republican party -- simply for the purposes of hijacking its resources in order to gain power, rather than out of any particular loyalty to the principles with which the club generally aligns itself (kind of like people who join churches to engage in social networking, with no real faith commitment). The tendency of liberal commentators to be liberal first, rather than Democrats first (as pointed out in the Yglesias post linked above), may contribute to the constant division and ineffectuality of the Democratic party, and in that way may prevent the Democrats from ever again taking power in the same overwhelming way that the Republicans have currently taken power -- but it sure does provide more safeguards (though not absolute safeguards) against abject idiocy in those areas where Democrats do take power.
All this said, after a conversation with my very Republican grandparents this weekend, I think we'd be better off if party politics were abolished altogether. Not only would it help to offset the constant demonization of the other side and sanctification of members of one's own team (more severe among Republicans, though certainly present among Democrats), but it would also make representative democracy more representative and more democratic -- because people would have to gain recognition and support in elections based on their popularity among those they'd be representing, rather than among the elites of a political party. Our political discourse might also become more sane, rather than being a constant bitch-fest about how the media is unfair to one side or the other -- and the media could possibly investigate actual issues and the probable relative effectiveness of various policies, rather than simply "spend[ing] half the time repeating what one side says, and half the time repeating the other" and calling it objectivity.
It will probably never happen, but one can dream. In fact, my subscription to this dream is what makes me so appreciate bloggers such as Jonathan Schwarz, who manage to comment on politics without ever becoming souless party hacks.
[Was I spelling souless right? Should it be soulless?]
(10:19 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Ruminations: ThesisToward the end of last semester, I settled on a thesis topic: the political charge of Christianity in contemporary thought. My proposed method is an investigation of three prominent thinkers who have addressed Christianity at some length: Jacques Derrida, Slavoj Žižek, and John Milbank. The basic position of each seems to me to be as follows:
- Jacques Derrida views the process of globalization (Fr. mondialization, world-ization; or Derrida's neologism, mondialatinization, world-latin-ization) as in large part a dissemination of Christian categories into the political sphere, even in countries where Christianity is not a dominant tradition. This "Christianity without Christianity" does not seem to him to be inherently good or bad; the task of thought is to find strategic moments when a just call for justice can be heard. Thus such Christian (and, more generally, Abrahamic) themes as the gift, forgiveness, etc., occupy much of his attention in his later work.
- Slavoj Žižek sees our current, "postmodern" age as dominated by a kind of New Age/neo-pagan obscurantism. He detects in early Christianity, particularly Paul, the tools necessary to critique and cut through that obscurantism in order to build a polity based on a truth-event. Although he does not see a great deal of potential in the empirical church (at least in his writings published so far -- his collaboration with the Radical Orthodoxy movement may change things), he argues that a "repetition" of the Pauline impulse is what is necessary in our current circumstances. Marxism should acknowledge its Christian roots through a materialist reading of Christian texts, from the letters of Paul to the writings of Chesterton. (As a sidenote that I may or may not address in my thesis: although Žižek is dismissive of Hardt and Negri in Organs Without Bodies, reading the Hardto-Negrian corpus together with Žižek's "Christian" writings, particularly The Fragile Absolute, seems to me to be a very productive, indeed crucial, theoretical move. In addition, his affinities with Robert Jenson should be highlighted -- I already did that in my paper on Žižek's trinitarianism, but there is much more work to be done on that front.)
- John Milbank sees the contemporary world as dominated by the nihilism of secularism. For Milbank, the only possible participatory, just, and pluralistic polity is an ecclesial polity. Although he seems to want to go backward to Christendom, in reality he wishes to use the resources of the medieval political experience in order to build a new "liturgical global polity" as the only way to embrace difference without simultaneously descending into the endless agonism (combat) that characterizes every facet of the modern capitalist order.
Hardt and Negri's use of Christian illustrations and thought-structures, though suggestive, does not seem to me to be explicit enough to fit well into this project, except perhaps in a lengthy footnote of some kind. And though I could obviously include Badiou rather than Žižek, Badiou's explicit writing on Christianity seems to me to be limited to the book on Paul (correct me if I'm wrong, Badiou-fans), and besides, I don't know Badiou well enough to feel comfortable incorporating him into a capstone-type of assignment -- I feel as though the thesis should encapsulate what I've worked on at the graduate level thus far, and Žižek, Derrida, and Milbank (especially Žižek) seem to be the best choice in that regard. I am still planning on writing my Badiou-and-Wesley paper for the Wesleyan Theological Society, pending its actual acceptance; thus, a future paper on Badiou and Hardt and Negri's more impressionistic use of Christian ideas and the possible resonances of their thought with Christian categories that they don't explicitly acknowledge might be possible. (In fact, after taking Ted's Romans class next semester, I was thinking of taking on a Romans-and-Multitude project.)
Another possibility that occurred to me this weekend was to just scrap my whole idea and do my thesis as a general analysis of the Hardto-Negrian corpus. From a careerist perspective, that might be a good idea as it would put me on the cutting edge; however, that opens me up to the same possibility of producing unforgivable hackwork that I am trying to avoid by not including Badiou directly in my thesis.
(On a related front, this weekend it occured to me that I don't have a writing sample that seems appropriate to submit with an application to a comp lit program, with the possible exception of the Derrida paper I just finished. That was discouraging, especially given that I can't really think of a topic on which I could "whip up" a paper. I think that if I could do the kind of work that I discuss in this post in a theology department, then perhaps a theology department would be right for me after all.)
[This post was a direct response to Robb's request that something intelligent be posted to The Weblog.]
UPDATE: Alternatively, I could write my thesis on Walter Benjamin -- there are only a few pieces of background information I would need to master first.
(3:02 AM) | Robb Schuneman:
Shaking The BaconLook - I need help. Honestly. I'm somewhat stuck, and not sure what to do, and I think only the readers of The Weblog can help me.
I know I'm wearing glasses, but I'm not being sarcastic.
With only 3 weeks to go, I believe I've got my Austin City Limits Festival schedule all lined out. But, I need some help in certain areas, and, I can't possibly know every band, so I need to know if I'm missing something. Here's the schedule. Here's my schedule:
Arrive at 1 on Friday, see The Killers. Then go see Bob Schneider and his "ass slapping" good times. After that, it's either The Blind Boys of Alabama or Rosanne Cash to kill some time before going to see Sloan and/or Neko Case (leaning toward Sloan) at 4. At 5, I'll definitely hit up Solomon Burke, and then at 6 it's Broken Social Scene. At 7 is Ryan Adams, and finally, the first difficult choice - Gomez or Franz Ferdinand? I think overall I enjoy Gomez music better, but Franz Ferdinand seems to be getting big on MTV, so I may not have many more chances to see them. I need your help. At 9, I'll likely go back to the hotel, but if not, I don't know, I guess I prefer Los Lonely Boys to Sheryl Crow.
Saturday seems to really kick things into gear. Mason Jennings plays at 12:15. And then I have to choose between Cat Power and The Soundtrack Of Our Lives, being as I probably won't go see Neko Case, I think I will go see Chan Marshall of Cat Power to get my "Girl power" fix. At 2 is Josh Rouse, 3 is The Old 97's (Big Head Todd? I don't know!), At 4 is Howie Day as I'm still pissed at The Gourds for not playing "Gin & Juice" the first time I saw them.
And that leads us to the most difficult decision of the festival - Modest Mouse or G. Love & Special Sauce? I honestly have no clue what to do here, and I love both bands. I'll be sorely disappointed to miss either. Any help is appreciated. It gets considerably easier after that, as My Morning Jacket plays at 6, Trey Anastasio at 7, The Wailers (sans Marley) at 8, and finally, The Mother Froin' Pixies at 9.
Sunday kind of sucks, and I'm kind of tired, so here it is in rapid order - American Analog Set - Calexico - The Roots - Ben Kweller - Centromatic - Jack Johnson - Spoon - WILCO - Cake - Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals. Okay, none of the bands suck, but I needed an excuse to cut the bullcrap, cause I don't want it, and I know you don't need it.
So, please, I'm open for debate on any of my choices, and look forward to your help. Thank you.
One day, the Weblog will post intellectual things again, kid. I guarantee.
Monday, August 23, 2004
(9:21 PM) | Anthony Paul Smith:
Step Up the Sexy: Chavez Edition.No revolution is complete without a sexy leader behind it. Where Marx failed with his German-style beer gut, Lenin succeeded with a dapper sense of style and a very sexy goatee. Hugo Chavez turns up the sexy in the same tradition as Lenin. Though he may be somewhat of a theological or philosophical hack we cannot deny that he has lead this revolution by turning up the sexy.
In the person of Chavez we have a prime example of the sexiness of masculinity. Adopting the style of Latin American machismo without adapting to the stereotypes associtated with it has allowed Chavez to wear, unafraid, loud, bright colors that shout "Fuck you, you capitalist pig!" This is all balanced out with a, like Lenin, rather dapper suit (presumably not made by sweat shop workers).
Then there is his military past. Normally I wouldn't admit to this but something about a guy in uniform can be very, very sexy. In a heterosexual way of course. When a man has chiseled and greased his body to such a degree that he appears as a if a Greek god and does so without becoming a complete douche-fuck (cf. the so-called "Governator") it is a feat in and of itself. But when that chiseled man happens to be a communist! Well then, we have reached new heights of masculine sexiness.
Chavez isn't just manly, he can also be sensitive and open to the touch of another. This sensitivity, rare among those who resist massive hegemonic power and even rarer among the douche-fucks who run this country (though not unheard of), shows that Chavez has invested his sexiness in other ways. That and a little homoerotic rumor never hurt anyone, in fact it only added to Deleuze and his sexy ways. I should also point out the qualitative difference between the so-called "Bear hug" of Bush to McCain and the way Hugo and Castro gently gaze into each other's eyes, secure in their heterosexuality but open to a night of love between the two.
When faced with the sexy that is Chavez we can only chant, "Viva Chavez! Viva la revolution! Viva la sexy!"
This is a shit and garbage post and I don't know Spanish.
(7:47 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Things Change, Okay?I have two changes to announce:
- The inimitable Tara Smith will be joining us at The Weblog shortly. Tara is not related to Anthony Smith; she is, however, Richard's sister-in-law. I will leave it to her to share any further biographical details she deems necessary once she begins writing.
- Anthony Smith and I have decided we will take turns with the Thursday Translation Attempt, since we both know French. (Mike Schaefer, if you want to join in, with any language, that would be wonderful. In particular, the Czech presence in the blogosphere seems to be meager at best.) This week is his week.
Our absentee member, Monica, is busy preparing for a Tingle Showcase tour that will be visiting Chicago this coming Friday. If anyone would like to attend that show with me, let me know and I will get the information to you. Adam Robinson is said to be planning to attend this event, so it should be a veritable blogstravaganza. Anthony and I are frequently in the same room, but it is quite rare for three contributors to be physically present to each other.
I've also removed the icons for the Technorati profile and the Blogshares thing. In my experience, Technorati is not updated frequently enough to be very useful. The referals in Sitemeter are an adequate way to keep up with who is linking to The Weblog (more importantly, which links are actually being followed). Blogshares has apparently increased Robb's net worth exponentially, but ... um, I just decided I wanted to remove it. So. Alright, that's it.
UPDATE: The Weblog is apparently a top search result at google.fr for "roman sebrle naked." This results from the combination of Mike Schaefer's last post, which contained the name "Roman Sebrle," and my post about people going to hell, which contained the word "naked." I think it would be wonderful if our stats were artificially inflated by those looking for pornography.
"I came for the nudity -- but I stayed for the insightful commentary!"