Thursday, September 30, 2004
(11:10 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Debate DiscussionMy initial reaction, listening to it on the radio, was that Kerry did a much better job but that he missed several opportunities to really tear into Bush. The president sounded annoyed much of the time and repeated himself to no end. Bush wasn't a complete failure in terms of thinking on his feet, but it always seemed to be superficial things like his remarks about what he likes about Kerry personally or when he would sometimes exploit an awkward wording of Kerry -- clearly Kerry had a much firmer mastery of the facts. It'll probably take more than just this debate to convince those undecided voters who aren't dead-set on Bush but who aren't yet ready to embrace Kerry, but it seems like a step in the right direction.
I browsed a few of the blogs, including Instapundit, who called it a draw. Josh Marshall agress. Ogged details the ways in which the president is a skilled debater. Matt Yglesias seems to have taken the same position as me -- a win, but not as big a win as it could have been. Andrew Sullivan, whom I will not link, thinks that if this was the first direct introduction most people will have had to Kerry (and I suspect it is), then he succeeded admirably in proving the Bush campaign's parody of him incorrect. But again, Kerry didn't go in for the kill when he should have.
Overall: Kerry did well and has room to improve, whereas it seems like what we saw from Bush is basically what we've always seen from Bush and what we're always going to see. This might sound overoptimistic, but tonight I felt like it was Kerry's election to lose. If we could somehow have an electoral process with several debates like this and without political smear ads and "media analysis," not only would Kerry win in this particular instance, but our democratic process would be in much better shape. Tonight momentarily gave me confidence that maybe politics can be about ideas in addition to personality.
Still, Dean would have been the better choice.
(6:11 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
"Christ and Critical Theory," with comments on political strategyRead the First Things article that says, "The current condition of cultural theory should evoke Christian pity and concern" and that prompted an angry letter from a Gauche. Since I don't really have an axe to grind about the appropriate presentation of Badiou or the fact that Lyotard is totally out, I actually found the article marginally more interesting than a Gauche's letter indicates that it is.
I actually sat down with that issue of First Things at Border's and read through it, to see what the Catholic right is up to these days, and it was truly fascinating -- the same issue that called Catholics to vote for Bush almost entirely due to the judges he would appoint and that almost entirely because those judges would likely be pro-life also contained a lengthy article about why the death penalty is necessary to build a just society. (NB: the pope is completely opposed to the death penalty and has written about it at length -- and also, please note that the abolition of the death penalty is a much more realistic short- to medium-term goal than is the abolition of abortion. I have written before on the need for the Church to adopt realistic political strategies, and this is one case where I think that the current strategy of the church causes net harm, because every effort wasted on long-shot attempts to ban abortion is effort not spent freeing people from a fundamentally unjust death penalty system.)
I'm not kidding when I said it was fascinating, because these are really smart people in general -- the author of the "Critical Theory" article cites Badiou's untranslated work in French and recommends particular books for particular questions -- but the way they think is almost completely foreign to the way I think. I can see why Alfredo Perez always highlights a new issue of First Things, even though neither of us is likely to subscribe to the print version.
(9:57 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Awkward Conversation with MomMy mom has been in college the last few years for a teaching degree, and she's student teaching now in an elementary classroom. One of their routine exercises is Daily Oral Language (DOL), which consists of putting a sentence on the overhead with grammatical errors in it, then the kids correct it and talk it out. She has called me a couple times to clarify answers, rightly believing me to be the king of grammar.
Last night she called me to ask about a sentence beginning, "I wish I were...." Why, she asked, is it "were" and not "was"?
Oh, I said, that's because it's in the subjunctive mood, which is used for counterfactual statements. With most verbs, you can't tell it's in the subjunctive (except, I didn't add, in the third person singular) because the conjugation is the same; only with to be does it become really apparent.
So, she said, it's the (she always says new words slightly incorrectly and always slowly) sub-junct-ive mood and it's for -- what kind of situations?
Following in my habit of changing both the wording and the volume of what I say when people ask me to repeat myself, I said, You know, hypothetical situations. (I pause.) I guess it's mainly used with wishing or hoping.
Okay, she said. Talk to you later.
I wondered vaguely if she had ever heard of the subjunctive mood or if her supervising teacher ever had -- certainly it's not the kind of thing you introduce in elementary school. In any case, this is the only thing that feels awkward in talking to my mom -- trying to teach her something -- not the customary things like religion or politics or whatever. When I was in high school and my church was doing a "spiritual gifts inventory," as was the fad, my mom said that I had the gift of discerning true from false doctrine, and this was when I was in the process of attempting to throw out virtually every doctrine I was raised on -- so even if my parents disagree with me (which they usually do, though my mom is basically a liberal on social justice issues now), they realize that I'm not just pulling shit out of the air or trying to justify my own depravity or anything like that. My grandma, who is probably the staunchest Republican I know, once talked to me about politics, and even though she disagreed with me, she didn't seem to get upset because I obviously had evidence to back up my opinions. So I guess that my parents basically seem to trust me, which is a really good thing. (Part of it is probably also that I've been paying my own bills without asking them for money since I graduated from college, which makes me a real live adult rather than a pathetic dependent.)
Even talking about my personal decisions isn't all that awkward, because she realizes that she has no real advice to give me for the career path I've chosen. Certain behaviors of mine that are out of the bounds of the Manual of the Church of the Nazarene are not usually topics of conversation, but that's about it.
If you didn't think that talking to my mom about grammar was awkward, imagine sitting in the audience when Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said this:
I even take the position that sexual orgies eliminate social tensions and ought to be encouraged.(Link via Atrios.)
Wednesday, September 29, 2004
(8:31 PM) | Anthony Paul Smith:
6 Degrees of Slavoj Zizek.Everyone should remember the game "6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon" and the way it worked (you linked people to Kevin Bacon in 6 moves). Any movie nerd could actually do this with any actor that has had a prolific career but for some reasons Kevin Bacon was the go to man because he was both respected and kind of a joke depending on what movie you thought of.
Zizek has become this sort of character in academic publishing. He holds the same precarious position of respect for his works in the German Idealists and on ideology critique through psychoanalysis and also derided for his sometimes polemical style and eccentric bombast. It is impossible to deny that Zizek has become immensely popular but in a pop star kind of way and it really remains to be seen, despite his talent, what his legacy will be. But one thing is certain, there is only 6 degrees that separate Zizek's works from all of us.
Take his "blurb" contributions. Whenever I find myself in a bookshop I read these words of praise to decide if I want to buy the book and I've found Zizek on a lot of the works. Diverse works such as Negri's Time for Revolution and Milbank's Being Reconciled: Ontology and Pardon. It might be fun to figure out if you can take the contributions all the back to Plato but I don't have the drive for it.
Of course Zizek isn't the only person who whores these blurbs out. Fredrick Jameson is quite common to find, Simon Critchley also, and Hauerwas also fits into this category. Still it only seems fun to do it with Zizek.
(3:03 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Prolegomena to Any Future Meta-BloggingAmardeep has posted some of his sociological observations on the blogging world. His notions of an "inflection point" (where you start getting blogrolled by a lot more people and don't have to reciprocate any more) and an "affiliation group" (a potential circle-jerk of blogs, similar to the old UWC circle or the group of blogs centered, for me, on Infinite Thought [another blog may be the "real" center, but she seems to be to me]) are very helpful. His thoughts on the question of whether a group blog is really a blog are troubling:
He counts The Weblog among those group blogs, but we have yet to reach the point of a really "live" feel -- we've hit it for a few days at a time sometimes, but we have yet to get to a level where there are consistently posts from more than one person, every day. (I post almost every day, and Anthony has recently been posting several times a week -- having a third person join in [ahem... Robb] would probably get us to a consistent two-post-a-day level.) Also, comments seem to have slowed down recently, even as traffic continues to grow. I don't have numbers to back up the former statement, but that's just how it feels. Overall, I don't know if my experience of group blogging has consistently fit in with Amardeep's scheme -- perhaps The Weblog is an example of mixed genres (partly my own personal blog or even sometimes journal, and partly a "public" group blog).
However, as much as I enjoy visiting them, in my view group blogs operate by different rules than other blogs. I see them as the latest chapter in a long, evolving tradition of internet sociality, which began -- back in the day -- with BBSes, then evolved more recently into web chat rooms, ICQ, Instant Messaging, etc. Group blogs live and die by rules that relate more with those other social systems than regular blogs do. A group blog might have a crisis if a member writes something that causes others to quit. Or it might simply run out of ideas and steam as its members move onto new interests. But the group blogs I've been reading use the diversity of their member's experiences and knowledge-base to create surprising longevity and large-scale popularity.
On a related note: I understand that there's been a lot of metablogging lately, what with the merchandising and the stat summary and all that. (à Gauche has some remarks that are pertinent, though difficult to excerpt.) It's fun to do the meta-blogging stuff, and a lot of times it gets people involved in discussion, but sometimes I write posts that, while extremely gratifying, are also extremely draining. I have mixed feelings about watching those posts fall off the bottom of the page, likely never to be read again. I think of all the stuff that I've written on here that, while available in principle, will probably never see the light of day, and part of me, the archivist of myself, rebels -- but for another person, it's freeing. I never want to reach the point, already reached by some celebrity bloggers, where I just shit out three posts a day without any concern for grammar, logic, or insight. The place I probably want to be is between that point and the point of utter perfectionism, of wanting everything I write to be the best thing I've ever written.
And I'll be honest: I hate writing about politics anymore. There seems to be nothing positive on the horizon, and I've already said all I want to say about the negative. It seems like even if John Kerry manages to get elected, our nation's political discourse will only grow more toxic and our flagrant disregard for social and economic justice will only increase. I don't want to write about that. I am a negative person by nature, but there's only so much complaining that I can do. There's only so many times I can say, "Here they go again...." The Bush Administration is horribly corrupt -- if you're not convinced of it now, you won't ever be. It represents a moral flaw not to be able to see their collosal corruption, and moral deficiencies are not amenable to reasoned argument or empirical evidence. And if we get rid of them, John Kerry may very well find it impossible to govern. Do you want to write about that? Do you want to talk about how our nation, which was always a brutal hegemon, is actually somehow getting worse? Do you want to live in a country where people are even talking about instituting a draft to fight a war we didn't need to fight in the first place? Where George W. Bush's stonewalling and ignorant repetitiousness are counted as "debating skills" with which the highly educated and knowledgable John Kerry will have trouble competing? Where 40% of the population is totally blind and the media is giving a free hand to those who would blind the other 60%?
I'm in a class on Paul's letter to the Romans, and I keep seeing the parallel to today's circumstances. Paul thought that Jesus was coming back to overthrow the Empire and make the world whole again -- now those who believe Jesus is coming back are among the foremost willing dupes of imperial power. So where do we turn? Is there anything to be done in America? Or do we just wait for the barbarian hordes to overrun us, as they inevitably will, and sit back and take it, knowing that we deserve it -- that we were among the rich men who couldn't quite lose enough weight to fit through the eye of a needle.
Tuesday, September 28, 2004
(8:56 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Justin T-Shirts Now Available (Updated with further selling out)Here. And if you see Justin, don't mention this. I want it to be a surprise.
UPDATE: And just to be annoying, I have signed up for the Amazon Associates program. If you think of it, please use the search box under the "Unapologetic Tackiness," because a portion of the proceeds will go to me. Again, we're dealing with burrito-level sums here, but it seems worth the trouble.
A book that I read early this summer and now feel I need to re-read for Ted's Romans class is this:
That's The Political Theology of Paul by Jacob Taubes for those using lynx. It is truly a tour-de-force -- not only does he situate Paul's discourse on the Jews in Romans 9-11 in the Jewish liturgical tradition in an unprecedented way, but his account of Paul's influence on Nietzsche and Freud (influence in an extreme "anxiety of influence" way) is brilliant. I also eventually plan to read this:
That's A Radical Jew by Daniel Boyarin. I know Boyarin for his article on homosexuality in Leviticus, and I'm eager to have his take on Paul. Finally, though, what I'm reading right this moment that is fucking me up worst (other than Barth's Romans) is this:
A Rereading of Romans by Stanley Stower has seriously reworked my understanding of Paul's letter and his rhetoric. I had previously been skeptical of the term "rhetoric" in New Testament studies, because it appeared to be a term that people simply deployed as either: (a) a way of claiming that the reading I was proposing was impossible (without ever offering anything positive or explaining what the "rhetoric" is in a given passage) or (b) a magical way of making the passage mean whatever the speaker wants it to mean. Among the many rhetorical revelations Stower proposes is that Paul sometimes uses a dialogical form similar to that of Plato -- the passages where he identifies this technique and divides it into a dialogue suddenly become much clearer and (if you'll forgive my snobbery) I am much more impressed with Paul since he is using a technique that Plato uses. Stower's use of ancient exegetes such as Origen is also very skilled -- he mines them for their knowledge as native speakers of ancient Greeks while avoiding the pitfalls of following them when they are simply trying to read their own theology into Paul.
My book recommendations are sincere, but a big part of this post was just testing out the new Amazon link thing. I will probably include such a link whenever I discuss a book, but I promise never to write a post simply because I want to promote a book and get people to buy it -- mostly because I know that would never work, because all you people are poor.
(7:01 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
We also do postsNot just t-shirts and other paraphernalia. Some of us even post at other blogs. Case in point: Adam Robinson. His blog, though once dead, has risen with a new power! Since then he has directed his unique insights toward the world of fashion, to music (and again, this time with special reference to my ignorant comments about his purportedly "Nietzschean" approach to music), and in perhaps the best of the lot, to politics. The response to my ignorant comments was originally the best post in the world -- so good that "[y]ou'd get oral sex just for reading this post" -- but it was lost through the malice of fate. And so, the resulting post is not the greatest post in the world: it's just a tribute.
Other people also blog. Sometimes they write about news stories. I usually just trust what they say about the news stories without following the links, because Rathergate has convinced me that blogs are more reliable than the
So, no, no, no. What I'm really afraid of is that when we left-wingers ask, "is America aware that in this way they are only creating new tensions?" they miss the point. What if the aim is to introduce instability to the entire region and then to brutally impose some kind of universalized emergency state or new order? But even if the U.S. is consciously counting on the global disorder, it will not be able to control it. My only hope is that American interventions will give rise to some kind of resistance. My big hope - as an atheist, praying night and day for it - is that the resistance in the Middle East will not be simply kidnapped by the so-called fundamentalists. That this resistance will have at least secular socialist wing. And I think there is a fair chance at it. Look at Iran. There is hope.Of course, as we know, Zizek is probably not relying on enough empirical evidence and is not tapping into the latest insights of formal logic or set theory, so his ideas are to be dismissed with scorn and self-satisfaction.
In other news, my two neighbors across the street joined a growing trend in my neighborhood: putting up signs promoting the reelection of George W. Bush. I'm trying to come up with a subtle and witty form of vandalism that can be quickly applied -- something that they hopefully wouldn't notice while I was doing it or for a while after it was done. All of the signs in my neighborhood look like this.
Finally, Atrios, who has recently been indulging in more text-based posts, befitting his status as an economics PhD working for a liberal think-tank, has posted his tips for those who wish to break into the exciting field of blogging. His summary:
Popular bloggers either a) post a lot, b) have a unique/funny/interesting take on things, c) have been around awhile, d) a combination of a)-c) with a) being the most important. That's just the way it is. Figure out how you can fit into that. Most blogs don't derive their popularity from their "authority," and those that do usually are by people with some credentials. Simply expressing opinions without advancing any kind of new argument isn't a way to differentiate yourself. What I mean is that people may go to DeLong for economics (yes, I'm an economist, but I've never tried to establish myself as an authority here on the blog), and Volokh or Balkin for Law, but I don't think people come to this site for my opinion on issue "X."I know that Bianca was wondering a while back how to break into the blogosphere, although now apparently she's taking a break due to school. Also, if you're a risk-taker by nature, I recommend you visit Elizabeth the Sexy Texan's News You Can Use. Or Not. I know that a lot of you probably would prefer some sort of assurance that you will be able to use the news on a given blog, but I think Elizabeth gets points for honesty. And if you're in the mood for someone who works 68 hours a week and still posts at all, you could probably try out Rebekah's blog.
Monday, September 27, 2004
(4:57 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
I am a geniusI'm still kicking around the idea of ads, but I just came up with something truly brilliant: t-shirts. General J. C. Christian has them, and so can I. Now that Jared has graciously provided us with three logos -- one for The Weblog itself, one for Friday Afternoon Confessional, and one for the Pontifical Standing &c. -- it seems appropriate to derive profit from said images. (I would of course split any proceeds with Jared according to a formula of our choosing.) If I used one of Justin's slogans ("I was a monument to the absurd, an empty model, rigid at best" or "If nihilism were puke, I'd be the aftertaste"), I would of course share the proceeds with him as well. Perhaps a "Holbein's Dead Kerry" t-shirt would be appropriate as well -- and it would appeal to Republicans, who are generally wealthier.
So it's an official goal: within the next couple weeks, Weblog merchandise will be available.
UPDATE: Okay, I didn't know that Jared would be such a fierce bargainer. I'll give you an idea of the kind of terms we're dealing with here -- let's say that this goes over really well and we make enough to buy a burrito at El Burrito Loco. (I know that's way too optimistic, but go with it.) By his reasoning, he would get the burrito, and I would get one napkin and as much of the grease as I could soak up with it.
I have a feeling that if I catch Justin at the right time (i.e., never tell him I'm making t-shirts with his slogans on them), I can get much better terms out of him. I could also use some of my own slogans: "Hold me closer, tiny blogger" might be funny, kind of. Or "Don't blog angry"? Maybe?
UPDATE: I decided to set up my little storefront anyway, even with negotiations still underway. I have prominently displayed it, because I am a dork. Even still, you may also view my wares by clicking here. If you have suggestions for additional items, just leave a comment.
Someday, I promise to write a post with "actual content" again.
UPDATE: All profits from the Anthony and Hayley mousepads go to Anthony and Hayley. Apparently Jake Moreland took the picture, and I found it on Josh Swenson's page, but neither of them get anything, because Anthony is poor. Oh, and if you live in the Kankakee area and want an adorable kitten, please contact him immediately so he'll stop being so stressed out and moody about the cat he and his wife rescued.
UPDATE: (Tuesday) I have added a St. Derrida shirt. I will work on getting a couple Justin-themed shirts up as soon as possible. One problem is that with my account as it is set up now, I can only have one of each type of shirt, so the "value t-shirt," which is the only non-outrageous thing on there, can only have one logo at a time. If people actually do buy some stuff, I'll use some of the proceeds to upgrade my account so that I can have more than one variety of the cheap shirt.
Sunday, September 26, 2004
(2:40 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Finance PolicyBelle's husband John brings up a good point. Would the placement of ads on one's blog represent a sale of one's soul, and if so, would one be securing an appropriately high price for said soul? I have experimented with having various Amazon wishlists available for my readers to use, but to my knowledge, only one reader has ever taken advantage of them, and that was under somewhat unusual circumstances. In addition, I have long had a PayPal donation link available, but the only PayPal payment I have ever received was when Robb generously elected to reimburse what I paid for the HaloScan upgrade. (I'm pretty sure that was pre-link, too.) So while I'm getting more than my fair share of both symbolic capital (acclaim, respect, etc.) and jouissance (sleeping with the dozens of women who proposition me every day because they figure my fingers must be pretty nimble after all this typing), I am not profiting in the only way that really matters: financially.
So would you guys click on ads if I put them up? Would you hate me forever and stop reading? On another note, I recently learned that my remarks apropos of Jodi Belcher's pregnancy ("I don't normally approve of pregnancy, but congratulations") lost us a reader. And so, since I'm not actually going to put ads up on The Weblog even if it turns out that all my readers think it's a great idea, let's shift gears slightly: What have I said that has most pissed you off? If you stopped reading for a while, what caused you to stop reading, and what drew you back? Although I normally don't think that people talk about me when I'm not there, do you know anyone who has quit reading because I'm such an asshole? Because Anthony's such an asshole? Because Robb doesn't post his CD-change escapades anymore?
I need to know. Thanks.
Saturday, September 25, 2004
(7:18 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Bible BanningOkay, seriously -- the Democrats would never introduce legislation to ban the Bible. Even if they secretly wanted to do such a thing, they're such spineless pieces of shit that they would be afraid to bring it up unless some Republican mentioned it first.
(4:05 PM) | Anthony Paul Smith:
Shameless Personal Use of The Weblog.I've been using a quote from some philosopher that goes along the lines of, "Philosophy is concerned with what is most important." I can't seem to remember who actually said this or where. If you know please leave the information in the comment box and I'll send you a cookie or a gift subscription to Readers Digest.
Update: The quote is from Plotinus and is actually more like "When asked 'what is philosophy' Plotinus responded 'What matters most.'" Still no source though.
(1:05 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
What I'm listening to latelyThere are different kinds of music listeners. Some, like Robb, are musically omnivorous, promiscuously shifting from one style to the next, equally attuned to the entire spectrum running from ultra-indie to just shy of mainstream. Others, like Adam Robinson, are purists, carefully cultivating strong opinions about which widely acclaimed bands (Radiohead, Wilco) they will officially reject -- Nietzscheans for whom music is something to be overcome. Then there are music listeners like me: cautious creatures of habit, seldom innovative or risk-taking, tending to get stuck in ruts for months at a time. At first glance, one might be impressed at my music taste, especially if one looked at my mp3 collection -- until you realize that these are the same things I've been listening to for the last two years.
I was the one out of my high school cadre who "discovered" Radiohead by randomly asking for OK Computer for Christmas after reading a reference to it in Rolling Stone's review of R.E.M.'s Up in the grocery store breakroom. Aside from that, I have consistently ripped off Mike Schaefer, then more recently Robb, Jesse, Justin, and Monica in forming my music taste. I just don't have time to do the research it takes to keep up with this shit -- and you'd be surprised how few indie bands swing through and play at Pauly's in Kankakee. (I actually hate driving for more than ten minutes at a time, so I don't take advantage of Chicago even though most stuff is less than an hour away, given the way I drive.) The Chicago radio market is very disappointing in terms of exposing one to innovative music -- the best I get is WXRT (93.1FM), which sometimes plays Coldplay.
With all that in mind, here is what I've been listening to lately:
- Pavement, Slanted and Enchanted. I have managed to keep up with Pavement scholarship, and there seems to be a distinct divide between those for whom Slanted and Enchanted is a favorite and for whom Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain is the favorite. Like Robb, I at first found the lo-fi aspects of S&E to be distracting, but after further intensive listening, I'm going to have to come down on the side of the S&E partisans. It is both more consitent than Crooked Rain (which, we must admit, seriously falls off in its second half), and more energetic. The stylistic diversity on S&E also holds up better under repeated listenings than that of, say, Wowee Zowee, which one starts to suspect is made up of three kinds of songs repeated in a cycle (though "Grave Architecture" is surely the greatest triumph of the Middle Pavement, just as "Spit on a Stranger" is the apotheosis of the Late Pavement).
- Godspeed You Black Emperor!, f#a# (at home), Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven (on the way home from CTS). The latter is the most enduring musical staple of my life -- for a year and a half now, I have listened to the first disc of that album and part of the second nearly every time I have come home from Chicago. The former, however, is musically superior. That's all I have to say about Godspeed -- it's one of those kinds of bands, like Sigur Rós, where everyone agrees with me that they're good, but, come on, not transcendentally good.
- Wilco, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. I can understand where Summerteeth partisans are coming from, though, as with Radiohead fans who prefer The Bends, I think they are ultimately incorrect. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot can be very bland in spots, and "Heavy Metal Drummer" is deeply annoying to me. At the same time, three of my favorite songs in the world right now are "I am trying to break your heart," "Jesus, etc.," and most importantly, "Radio cure." I am an American aquarium drinker, damn it! (By the way, if you, like me, tend to put the lyrics to whatever song you're listening to as the subject line for e-mails, make sure not to listen to "I am trying to break your heart" while e-mailing with a girl, because it can take you down roads you don't want to go down.) I listened to A Ghost Is Born a lot when it first came out, but I got really tired of it really fast. The most enduring song for me is "Hummingbird," but the rest of them I can basically do without.
- Gillian Welch, Revival. For Gillian Welch, I'll break my rule of never listening to anything like country. Monica gave me a burned copy of this album a couple months ago, and it was such a refreshing change of pace from my constant diet of aggressively overprocessed rock that it quickly became one of my favorites. The New Yorker did a profile of her a couple weeks ago, not available online (it's in the issue with all the ships in front of the New York City skyline if you happen to be in a library), and it was really fascinating. "Annabelle" is probably the standout track on this album. The only complaint I have is that I wish her music weren't so aggressively sad -- it seems the best she can muster is a feeling of not-total-hopelessness. Still, the performance is always very emotionally charged and convincing.
- The mix CD Adam Robinson made for me. I have no idea of the titles or artists for any of the songs, but it's pretty cool. I especially like the piano-based song where the lyrics start out, "I am New York...." Adam, if you could e-mail me a track listing, that'd be cool.
- The mix of mp3s Robb sent me. I should really burn it on a CD, but I don't have a burner and the networking setup in my house doesn't work very well. My favorites are the songs by Belle and Sebastian (to my infinite discredit, the first song by them I'd ever heard) and Hayden. The Animal Collective song on there is also pretty cool, though I think a big part of that is the brilliant video that Jesse played for me (it's called "Who Could Win a Rabbit" if you want to try to track it down -- probably the best video in the history of videos).
- Pedro the Lion, "Magazine." I just mean that one song, which is basically the only Pedro I've ever listened to. For some reason, it seems very important to listen to it dozens of times in a row. I feel like I'd ruin it if I put it in the context of the album or especially of Pedro's entire catalogue.
Friday, September 24, 2004
(11:11 AM) | Anthony Paul Smith:
At work we have amazingly fast internet (I have no clue what kind) and I've taken advantage of this in order to watch movie trailers online. I've declared and held to a moratorium on depressing movies that looked rather good and were some what popular (i.e. 21 Grams, Mystic River, and many of the other Oscar worthy movies of last year) since watching Buffalo '66. The movie made me realize that ‘indie’ and ‘fim’ don't have to mean really God-damn sad. Luckily this year I won't have to avoid seeing all the good movies because few seem to have the soul-sucking sadness of Mystic River or 21 Grams.
There seems to be some good pictures coming out like Kinsley that may end up having some mass appeal. The trailer for Kinsley suggests it may be overly dramatic at times but, hell, it looks pretty decent. Along the same lines I think the Robin William's vehicle Final Cut also looks interesting.
I've also noticed some themes that are quite popular though the most prevalent is infidelity and sexual desire. Some of the ones I'm sure will be popular are We Don't Live Here Anymore (this one appears to be the most promising and intense and may be worth watching just for the talent of Naomi Watts), Alfie, Head in the Clouds but really the theme runs throughout a lot of the featuered movies as a sub-plot (like Undertaking Betty which looks really funny and has that guy fromSpider-Man II, Christopher Walken and Naomi Watts).
While most of these look like they can wait to video there are three I feel I have to see in thge theater, the Che Guevara memoir film The Motorcycle Diaries, the new Wes Anderson The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and I♥ Huckabees. The Che movie just looks like it has fantastic cinematography and the story should be rather interesting. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou has to be a hard movie to make since The Royal Tenenbaums has been so well recieved but I think Anderson has assembled a great cast, widened his tools to include interesting effects and, the most neccasary element, the story looks like it will be rather good. I♥ Huckabees, just go watch the trailer. It may be the only movie with Jude Law that won't suck this year (and there are three other Law movies). The cast actually rivals Anderson's choices by virtue of casting the French actress Isabelle Huppert of the really disturbing Piano Teacher (she was also the mother in the film version of Bataille's Ma Mere which came out in France this year but, due to the extremely graphic nature of the movie, I wouldn't expect that to ever come out in the states). It is billed as an "existential comedy" and looks to be joyfully irreverent of Continental philosophy.
It looks like a really good year for my kind of movies.
This is a shit and garbage post.
(7:48 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Friday Afternoon Confessional
This confessional might be a little more serious than those in the past. Throughout my life, I have been led to believe that faithfulness to God will bring with it certain benefits. For instance, there's the famous line that "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life," and part of that plan is most certainly marriage, a highly idealized picture of what marriage is like. The language of "soulmates" might have been a little too New Age-y for my fellow churchgoers, but the assumption seemed to be that God had someone picked out for you, which was functionally the same -- in fact, it's such a sure bet that God has that perfect someone picked out for you that having sex with someone else, even kissing someone else if you were being really rigorous about the whole thing, is preemptively committing adultery against that person. That's pretty serious business. Unlike fornication, adultery is in the Ten Commandments. Now I never consciously bought into all of this, having been blessed by the Lord with a strong bullshit detector, but I think that at the most fundamental level, I was convinced of it. It's hard to go through so many deeply emotionally manipulative services and revivals and youth group meetings without starting to feel like they want you to feel.
What's worse is that of all the psychologizing religious groups out there, the Nazarenes are certainly the most thorough. They taught the idea of "entire sanctification," a "second infilling" of the Holy Spirit that would mean perfect communion with God in this life. In Wesley's Plain Account of Christian Perfection, he details the ways you can tell someone is entirely sanctified. Certainly there's a higher level of piety involved, but everyone in the church should be very pious. The best way to tell that someone isn't sanctified is that they “are not happy, at least, not always happy; for sometimes they complain. They say this or that is hard!” Believe me -- I'm not always happy. Far from it. And sure, I knew it was bullshit. I knew that there's no cure, much less a "double cure." But I went up to the altar anyway, a million times, and it never took.
Worse, it was my fault that it never took, because I couldn't believe hard enough. My mind kept cheating me out of this final solution for happiness -- and I wonder, why the fuck were they encouraging teenagers to go for this? It wasn't just my mental resistance, either. How, I wondered, could I be sanctified if I kept masturbating? Or if I kept making out with my girlfriend for hours at a time? I was committing adultery of the heart, most certainly, and that's bad stuff -- that's in the Ten Commandments. God must be very disappointed in me. Switching over to the Catholic Church didn't necessarily help matters. I found the system of sacraments appealling because there was some solidity to it, because God worked his magic through those particular acts even if I didn't believe hard enough. But I felt like I had to keep following the rules or keep going to confession all the time, and one of the rules that was emphasized in the reactionary Catholic apologetics that helped to convince me to join up was that masturbation was always a mortal sin, always represented a decisive turn away from God. If masturbation is a mortal sin, then certainly dry-humping with my girlfriend must be a mortal sin as well! (When I look back at my great successes of high school and all the pleasure that was ruined by my stupid guilt, I am filled with regret -- especially given my four-year dry spell in college, when it was precisely my skepticism about God's ability to keep me from "sin" and my conversion to Catholicism that kept me not-so-blissfully free of "near occasions to sin.")
So I would say the God that I believe in -- not the wonderful outgoing trinitary movement of kenoticism that I can talk about, but the God who comes to mind when I say God -- is not a very good God. He is the God who created me to be a sexual being -- and given the hypocrisy that runs rampant in church circles, I was led to believe that my sexual desires were freakishly intense, which maybe they are -- and who punished me for it at every step. He was supposed to provide me with a wife to take care of this problem, but just like with the implicit promise to give me emotional peace, he reneged. But I can't say that -- I have to say that it was my fault, for not believing hard enough, for not trying hard enough to overcome temptation, for letting my mind get in the way.
We're all party hacks for God, trying our hardest to make sure that God never has to take responsibility for anything. After all, we're told, he sent his Son out of his incredible love, to save us from our sins. Well, let me tell you something: I never asked to be a sinner. I never asked you to let us kill your Son to fulfill your sick need for "justice." I've heard the story a million times, each time told as if it were just common sense that some guy long ago pissed God off by eating off a particular tree, then the whole human race was doomed to be a bunch of sinners henceforth, but it's okay! because at just the right time, God became a human being and, despite showing no evidence of desiring human sacrifice before that, himself became the sacrifice for sin (that he had apparently demanded and we were supposed to somehow know, but I guess he kind of kept it to himself), so that now, if we just go up to an altar and pray and believe really hard, we can get a piece of that action -- and even better, if we go up a second time, he'll send the Holy Spirit to be with us all the time and make sure we never fuck up! But until that second time takes, we're in constant danger of losing that salvation, because once we are identified with God's saving work in Christ, we get the privilege of constantly beating ourselves up over our petty sins.
As I said in a comment thread below: "Curse God and die -- if only it were that easy!" It's not that easy. I can say a million nice things about God, things that I really wish were true, but I can't believe them. Whenever I talk to someone about how my picture of God is so negative and they go into this speculation about how they think that God is actually a really cool guy and the church just messed it all up, I become very angry. God has never played that positive role in my life, from what I can tell. The inner peace that is supposed to come from a daily discipline of prayer -- I got none of it. The joyful feeling of receiving Christ in the Eucharist -- again, except for one time, nothing. The fruits of the Spirit -- jack squat. I tried. I really tried. But I failed. And it's my fault, not God's. That's what those free-thinking people are saying -- again, it's my fault, not God's, because I should have known that God is a really cool guy and I shouldn't have listened to what the church told me about him.
If I can risk saying it: I confess that I hate the God I believe in. I feel like God has ruined my life for no good reason. I feel like he's spent a whole lot of time and energy coming to the earth as a man, dying, being raised, founding a church, all to turn me into a self-loathing emotional cripple. The times when I'm generally happiest are either when I am involved in intellectual pursuits or when I am sexually involved with a woman -- that is, I am happiest when I am engaging in the two behaviors that are the biggest obstacles to a relationship with the God I have been rigorously conditioned to believe in, and in whom I still believe, despite everything.
That is why I'm so torn up about whether I should study theology or not -- on the one hand, I hate what the church has done in my life and wish that I had never heard of God, but on the other hand, I wonder if it's possible for me to become a Christian to the Christians so that I might save some. If the church isn't going to go away, I wonder if I could somehow channel my anger and resentment into a lifetime of teaching people to see the church for what it is and hopefully change it. In a lot of ways, that sounds like a sad waste of a life, but it's still tempting.
Thursday, September 23, 2004
(7:17 PM) | Anthony Paul Smith:
Some Events at DePaulFor those in Chicago and surrounding areas I thought you may interested in some of the philosophy conferences DePaul University was having.
Next weekend, October 1st and 2nd (Friday & Saturday), Gianni Vattimo is the keynote speaker of Re-Interpreting the Continent: Contemporary Italian Philosophy in America. The two talks that interested me the most are Nihilism in Italy and one on Secular and Religious themes in Italian philosophy but there are going to be seven or eight all together.
The weekend after that, October 8th and 9th (Friday & Saturday again), is a conference in memory of Edward W. Said entitled How to Practice Postcolonial Theory in a Secular Way: Conference in Memory of Edward W. Said (Dave the Earnest, you should come and bring the with-child wife!). No more information available at this time.
Then the following week of October 18th through the 22nd is a mini-seminar on Psychoanalysis and Philosophy. Philippe van Haute of the University of Nijmegen, Netherlands is the professor and he has entitled the seminar A Confusion of Tongues: Psychoanalysis and Philosophy. He has made available his book which will serve as the course text (though surely no one is really expected to read it since this isn't for credit) and I can e-mail it to you if you so desire.
For the theologically interested folks Amy Laura Hall of Duke University and author of Treachery of Love, her respected work on Kierkegaard, is giving a talk regarding her recent research entitled "For Domestic Security: Atoms, Genetics, and the Impermeable Family" on Thursday October 21st at 7pm.
For more information about locations, directions and times e-mail me at email@example.com or
(8:00 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
But -- he voted for it!This discussion over at our sister site has reminded me once again of one of the simplistic forms of thinking that seems to have poisoned the electorate. I'm referring to the idea that a legislator's voting record displays his or her inmost convictions. There are a million reasons to vote for or against a piece of legislation -- party loyalty, back-scratching exchanges with other legislators, and most commonly, believing that this non-ideal piece of legislation is probably the best thing that's going to come down the pike.
Individual legislators don't set the agenda. There is a limited group of people who decide which pieces of legislation come to a vote. Just like the American public, individual legislators have to make do by deciding between often undesirable options -- although, unlike the American public, they usually feel like they still need to vote on a lot of those issues. So it's dumb to say that by voting for the authorization to use force in Iraq -- something, mind you, that I think no one should have done -- John Kerry was expressing his conviction that conquering Iraq was the best idea ever. It doesn't mean that criticizing unforeseen action that the president took as a result of that authorization constitutes "flip-flopping" -- just as voting against the $87 billion doesn't mean that what he really wanted was to abandon all the soldiers out there in the desert so they could find their own way home.
Legislative bodies are complicated environments. In fact, since the American people are so poorly informed, I think it would make a lot more sense if senators didn't get nominated for president. That way we wouldn't have to put up with these apples-and-oranges comparisons between the actions of someone who had a free hand to set the agenda and someone who, on most issues, basically has to hold his nose and vote in favor of some things that he wouldn't have proposed if he had been in charge.
In short, the fact that Kerry voted in favor of the resolution to use force does not tell us what he would have done had he been president and thus been able to set the agenda himself. I daresay that virtually any president would have invaded Afghanistan, but Iraq would not have been the obvious next choice to people who had not been obsessed with Iraq for more than ten years (i.e., the Bush administration). Voting for the authorization to use force in Iraq might display a certain naivete in the person who thus voted, but it certainly doesn't indicate that when the president started talking about Iraq, everyone thought, "You know what? I thought Iraq was the biggest possible threat ever, too! I love you, George Bush, for bringing it up! I can hardly wait to invade!"
Ideally, of course, the Democrats would have nominated someone who was resolutely anti-war from the beginning, and ideally, they would have realized the kind of idiocy they were dealing with on the Iraq question and not put themselves in a position where nominating an anti-Iraq-war candidate would mean admitting that the party leadership had previously made a mistake -- but then, I don't set the agenda. I can only vote for one of the options that's presented to me. It seems self-evident that Kerry is a better choice than Bush. That doesn't mean that he's a great choice in absolute terms or that I preemptively approve every step he would take as president. I hope people would realize the absurdity if I were complaining in three years about how we didn't have universal health care and someone said to me, "If you wanted universal health care, then why the hell did you vote for Kerry, knowing he didn't support universal health care?"
As an endnote, I actually think my ideal candidate, from among all the Democrats who have been sufficiently aged, would be The New Al Gore. If he could somehow manage to be running for president and maintain the new balls he's grown since the Florida debacle, I think he would do really well -- and the fact that he's been out of government service during the whole Bush administration means that he's not implicated in "favoring" any Bush policies at all. If I remember right, he also meets my requirement of being anti-Iraq-war from day one. Of course, even The Old Al Gore somehow managed to win the popular vote by half a million votes, thus gaining more popular votes than any other candidate in history other than Ronald Reagan. I know, I know -- the official stance right now is that he "lost" and that focussing on the irregularities is typical liberal irrelevance and bitterness, but I think that Al Gore and the American people could have made beautiful music together in November.
(1:18 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
OMG, I'm so intimidated!You know, the government is really cracking down on dissent nowadays -- planting FBI agents in protest groups in order to cause trouble and justify harsh law enforcement, detaining US citizens for no particular reason, tricking Dan Rather into airing a news segment based on forged documents -- and I wonder if it might not be time to shut down Ye Olde Weblog before they come calling for me. I mean, I've referred to US bombing raids as cowardly, I've said that President Bush is going to hell, I've repeated posted embarrassing pictures of the president, Anthony's a fucking communist -- plus I link to such dissentious sites as the evil Canadian wood s lot or that wily Frenchman, Michael Bérubé.
So maybe it'd be better, I'm thinking, to just play it safe and shut the site down, so that I don't get arrested after Bush gets re-elected -- or, more precisely, after writing the kind of thing that I will write if Bush gets re-elected. (
Of course, if I'm in jail or indefinitely detained, that means I can't get drafted, so that's another factor to consider. I hear Iran is beautiful in January, and I mean, I love their rugs, but I'd just as soon stay in the old U. S. of A., assuming that's what it's still called at that point. I'd try to sneak in a copy of the Constitution and memorize it, then I could recite it to the guards and we'd all laugh and laugh. "That old thing!" they'd say. "Why, that was abolished November 4, after Our Leader rightly interpreted his 1.5% margin of victory to be an unlimited mandate for life-long dictatorial power and the institution of mandatory military service for all Americans under the age of 45." Then I'd ask if I could have a cigarette, and they'd be like, "No, this is a Christian nation -- that's illegal."
All in all, jail might not be too bad. If I survived, I could write huge fucking books that no one would ever read, but everyone would "admire," so that would at least help me through the Third Great Depression. (The Second happened when I was in jail.) I'd settle down and marry the girl of my dreams, and we'd buy up a few acres of the parched desert in Illinois and pretend to have our own little farm -- at least until the Hordes came through.
Alright, so it's settled -- I'm keeping The Weblog going.
Wednesday, September 22, 2004
(10:55 PM) | Anthony Paul Smith:
So what does a troll do when they can't flood the comment box anymore?They e-mail you. That's correct the troll known as Low-Rent Empiricist Positivist has now starting e-mailing me. Is what I've done at the Weblog really deserving of this kind of trolling? I've simply fallen prey to the sophistic siren song of Post-Modern nihilism.
As a side note: I think I may miss Low-Rent after awhile. Though my grammar is poor it has never sunk to the carelessness that he exhibited comment after comment.
(9:26 AM) | Anthony Paul Smith:
The Function of God: A Fragmental Thought-Experiment.It's becoming increasingly apparent to me that in most systems (political, linguistic, scientific, those that inform our specific ways of living, etc.) God exists as function only. This is true, it appears, across the strands of disciplines. A liberation theologian gives God (the Son in this case) the function of demanding justice much in the same way the Bush administration uses the "Almighty" as a way of shoring up support (though admittedly these two things are qualitatively different and that seems to be the point). This is the engine that will hopefully push forward towards the telos of that system. Though certain theologians or theological students (not to mention everyday Christians) may have misgivings about this it seems to be a brute fact that must be dealt with - God has no other existence in the temporal realm except as a function.
That this bothers theologians and other Christians is obvious, and this is old hat Nietzsche here, they have prided truth (correspondence truth) as the highest virtue so when God turns out to lack existence and thus the belief is found to be a lie everything falls apart. We all know that to the point that it has become basically boring in the light of belief in God still persisting. What I find more interesting is the folks whom this "Death of God" doesn't bother. For instance this doesn't bother Lacanians since this kind of existence can be part of the Real and thus more important in the system than other modes of existence (I may be mixing my psychoanalytic and ontology here). This also doesn't bother phenomenologists (well, maybe Marion) because God is still important as something perceived regardless of its "real" existence which as a question has been bracketed. I think it might not even bother most of the Radical Orthodoxy folks since truth about anything (and subjects are things in a logically weird way) is acknowledged by Milbank to be a production (and nothing can be produced without something being given already) so any knowledge of God is more knowledge of God’s function as transcendent grounding principle rather than actual existence.1
What then happens to faith? Does it become structural, just another part of the function? I don’t know, but we may have to give up on Kierkegaard, at least Johannes de Silentio, and say rather that while Christendom was bad it was bad because the function of God had been given over to the status quo (i.e. the State). God's best function is to be found elsewhere but where? Realizing we can't ground this in justice because God determines what justice is (or those who control the function of God). But if we let the function float (I don't know how that would work mathematically) then God's function is indeterminate and undecideable (this is something like what Craig Keen and Derrida always go on about) and may creatively unravel everything. In fact this may be what religion has done throughout history from the Jews monotheism destroying the order of Mesopotamia to Paul destroying the order of Rome and the Jewish nation. In fact this could be religion without religion properly so-called, meaning religion without ties to the status quo ordering of things since religion and the state have often been synonymous. What we don't often see is the final eschaton of these acts, that is, we don't ever see anything fully constituted and due to the temporal flux that life is we likely never will. In fact it may be completely wrong to say anything about a "final" eschaton.
I want to know what this can teach our Communism, if anything (though I'm assuming something) and if God is still something worth the trouble to think about (though my intuition, or is it my piety, says God is).
1. Though I could be completely wrong here the fact that in the so-called manifesto Radical Orthodoxy: A New Theology the actual existence of God is never really dealt with to my memory. Instead they seem to deal with the analogical aspects of God's being especially in the "Erotics" and "Bodies" chapters. I know this is an age old theological debate whose nuances I know little about but I still want to hold that there is some difference between material being and analogical being even though phenomenological the two can be conflated.
Tuesday, September 21, 2004
(4:46 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Statistical DigestAccording to SiteMeter, we here at The Weblog have finally managed to attain an average or more than 300 visits a day. According to The Truth Laid Bear, we are currently the 3448th most popular blog in the sphere -- teetering in the evolutionary precipice between reptiles and birds.
According to my profile, I have written nearly 600 posts and a quarter million words as a blogger (this will be my 596th). Robb has written 150 posts and nearly 90,000 words. Richard has written 33 posts and just over 1000 words. Tara, by contrast, has written 2 posts and just under 1000 words. Adam R. has written 200 posts and over 54,000 words, but most of those are for The Pickle, which is now officially not defunct, despite being defunct at some point.
And if Monica wants to keep saying that "no one [i.e., Monica Bennett --Ed.] wants to invest all the time it takes to keep up with a blog [i.e., this blog, of which she is a member --Ed.]," then that's fine, because I sure as hell can't see her profile (or Anthony's, or Mike Schaefer's) to see how much effort it would take to keep up with a blog spearheaded by Monica. I really think that she could be a big draw here, based on the resounding success of her little quiz, and she seemed to think that blogging could maybe be a good, even an important, thing -- but as I told Tara the Pregnant (though not for long), there is no word count requirement for contributors to The Weblog! The same goes for you, Michael Schaefer (whose posts can be found here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and most importantly, here)!
(I just discovered that a great way to see everybody's posts on an individual basis is to type the search string "person's name has asserted" "single post view", then click the option to repeat the search with omitted results. For instance, anyone who wants to read all of Robb's posts need look no further than here.)
Truly, we are a force to be reckoned with.
(9:41 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Lowered Expectations in IraqFrom Krugman the Shrill:
But if the chance to install a pro-American government has been lost, what's the alternative? Scaling back our aims. This means accepting the fact that an Iraqi leader, to have legitimacy, must be able to deliver an end to America's military presence. Unless we want this war to go on forever, we will have to abandon the 14 "enduring bases" the Bush administration has been building.Wouldn't "an Iraq that isn't an American ally, but isn't a threat either" be an accurate description of the Iraq we were faced with before the war as well? I realize that Saddam was a terrible dictator, but was getting rid of him really worth killing at least 12800 Iraqis? Was that really a net gain? If Saddam would have killed that many people in that short a time, or if he would have maimed as many people as our fucking cowardly bombing campaigns have maimed, or if he would have destroyed as many homes as we have destroyed or decimated his own country's utilities and infrastructure, and if he would have turned his country into a breeding ground for terrorists -- then I can see regarding this war as a net gain. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think that any of those things were at all likely.
It also means accepting the likelihood that Iraq will not have a strong central government - and that local leaders will end up with a lot of autonomy. This doesn't have to mean creating havens for hostile forces: remember that for a year after Saddam's fall, moderate Shiite clerics effectively governed large areas of Iraq and kept them relatively peaceful. It was the continuing irritant of the U.S. occupation that empowered radicals like Moktada al-Sadr.
The point is that by winding down America's military presence, while promising aid to those who don't harbor anti-American terrorists and retaliation against those who do, the U.S. can probably leave behind an Iraq that isn't an American ally, but isn't a threat either. And that, at this point, is probably the best we can hope for.
Monday, September 20, 2004
(9:40 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
A Brilliant InventionTonight at Walgreen's, I saw the most brilliant invention ever: spray-on, waterless shampoo -- you know, like that disinfectant soap the just evaporates off your hands. They actually had more than one bottle of the stuff in stock.
I tried to replicate in my own mind the train of thought that would result in such a product seeming to be a good idea, and it was beyond my meager abilities.
(6:28 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Morbid FascinationThere's a woman at work who is morbidly fascinated with disasters. She was one of those 9/11-obsessives -- the kind who must constantly bring themselves into the discussion of an event that occurred thousands of miles away: "When I think about how scary it would have been to be in one of those towers...." Or Beslan: "I don't know how I could have handled being in that situation...." Or the impending flood of the Kankakee and Iroquois Rivers... except that that one might actually affect her, as she lives in the overlapping flood plain of both.
I ventured my opinion today that her home being destroyed in a flood would be the best thing that could ever happen to her. Her house is apparently severely dilapidated as a result of a decades-long power struggle with her husband as to who should clean the house, but every time she tries to clean, she can't throw anything away -- and so an act of God cleaning the slate would seem to be just the thing. Actually, a fucking divorce would be just the thing, but her holy quest to be above reproach will not permit it. She was right about whatever conflict started her house on the road to squalor -- of that I am certain. And she is right to point out everyone's mistakes. And she is right to tell the manager things behind our backs. And she is right that every time we catch something she did wrong, there is probably a valid excuse, such that it's a fluke -- or, better, that she was never properly trained, or we know how her memory is.... She is absolutely, 100% right, and I've never met anyone more miserable.
Too often, though, admitting you're wrong becomes a way of admitting that now, with all the relevant information at hand, you have become right. I do that myself. Certainly there is more than a little bit of the holy quest to be above reproach in capitulating to the demands of others -- in "admitting," every time, that yes, I was wrong, I misunderstood, I wanted too much from you, I just wanted you to be happy.... I used to tell all the little Christian girls who loved me for my philosophy that there are two ways of being self-centered, and they never understood, not even one time, that there is a narcissism of pleasing others, a hostility in refusing ever to assert one's own desires -- a bubbling resentment below the surface that doesn't know what it wants or what to do when it makes an occasional appearance. Because, damn it -- I've put in my time. I have done everything you asked. I have tried my best, even when you were unreasonable! I would do absolutely anything -- all you have to do is ask. A grab for power posing as impotence -- absolute hostility posing as complete openness and servitude.
It's the ultimate fuck-you to the world -- the pose of the beautiful soul who displaces every particle of blame onto mother, onto the lazy roommate, onto the recalcitrant lover, onto the symbolic order, and ultimately onto God himself. All the while, we beautiful souls cower in the corner, clutching our precious shred of jouissance, hoping that no one notices that we really are getting off on this. I used to say -- I claimed I took it from Lacan -- that people always get what they want. Beautiful souls above all!
The narcissism of self-denial or self-abnegation is not "better" than narcissism of the normal variety -- in fact, it is potentially much more insidious. And for all the Christians out there, or all those unconscious Christians for whom something like "self-denial" sounds like a great idea, I give you the Johannine Jesus, who, on the night he was betrayed, decided to take the opportunity to have one more lazy meal, one more lengthy talk, one more evening of cuddling with his boyfriend, sharing one last whispered secret -- who makes arrangements for his mother even from the cross, but is not afraid to say, "I thirst." Or I give you the Apostle Paul, who would certainly prefer that the members of the churches he founds wouldn't have to bother with the complications of marriage -- but if they need it bad, then they just need to find someone they can fuck regularly. If you feel like you need to take a break to pray, then that's fine, but make sure it's not so long -- because honestly, you married this person so that you could have sex with them. (This is all in the Bible.)
There is a terrible violence inscribed into the knight of self-denial, whose practice is surely more often based on a hatred of self than on a love of the other.
Sunday, September 19, 2004
(7:08 PM) | Anthony Paul Smith:
More On the Destruction of Worldview Thinking.This (via The New Pantagruel) is all the reason I need to proclaim a complete and total war on all worldviews. If you take the test you'll see that the idea of aligning oneself to a Christian WorldviewTM necessitates aligning yourself with the Conservative elements of American culture. An American flag even lies behind the symbol for Worldview WeekendTM. Take a look at their list of speakers and you'll be able to tell one thing that unites them all - they are, with three exceptions, white and male and I would be willing to guess that most of them are wealthy. At the end of the test you'll be able to check out resources that will help brainwash... err... cultivate a Biblical (at least they don't really say Christian) Theistic WorldviewTM (one of those resources is the book by Rush Limbaugh's brother).
I took their worldivew test to see how I matched up with at Biblical Theistic WorldviewTM and I am very happy to report I was given a very poor rating. They put me in the "Communist/Socialist/Secular Humanist Worldview" category (of course this ignores all the differences between those particular groups) and I couldn't be happier. I think I threw them some loops here and there though mainly because I can say something like "God is the foundation of the American Governmental system" and mean something completely different than what a Biblical Theistic WorldviewTM would mean. The whole thing just assumes so much on an ideological level and is stupidity par excellence.
I am very glad I attend a Catholic University that has no interest in holding a Biblical Theistic WorldviewTM.
(3:26 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Theological IndulgenceWe here at the Weblog have lately shied away from directly addressing theological concerns. Since, however, I am enrolled in a graduate degree program at a seminary, I have lately been dealing with many theological questions, and it seems arbitrary to exclude them from blogical consideration. Thus, I present to you a response I posted to the CRI General Forum to the question "Is God fair?" I changed the question to be "Is God just?"
I am having trouble with this question as well. In immediate terms, it seems self-evident that God is not fair. Luther said (I paraphrase) that if one looks at the objective reality of the world, one can only conclude that God is either powerless or evil. I think that's about right. The presence of war, poverty, and despair in human life -- not to mention "natural" disasters such as earthquakes or hurricanes that seem to destroy human projects indiscriminately -- are so overwhelming that the very goodness of creation itself is often called into question. The success of the unjust and the suffering of the just, or, worse, the seeming randomness with which life's pleasures and joys are parcelled out, fly in the face of the idea that a loving and just God is guiding and directing the course of life on earth. Such an idea is absurd on its face if one simply reads a newspaper.One will note that this response seems to fly in the face of my last theological post, in which I claimed that lefty Christians need to stop being shy about telling people they're going to hell. Perhaps the two can be reconciled -- I don't know.
I reject the idea that God has a secret cache of information such that, if we knew it, we would agree that God is fair and that the things that happen are all for the good. If God is God, then he does not need us to defend him in the same way that people defended the Bush administration's claims in the lead-up to Iraq, asserting that they had good and convincing information that, for some reason, they were unable to share with the public. Justice that is not immediately perceptible is not justice at all; attempting to claim that there is some higher logic by which manifest injustice turns out to be justice is the worst kind of sophistry.
If I were disposed to assert that God is just -- something the Bible seems to require us to do -- I would limit myself to trust that, from the perspective of the last judgment, God will have been just. A part of any justice worthy of the name has to consist in setting things right. As we can all see, creation has gone massively wrong, cutting off the possibility for a meaningful and fulfilling life for the majority of the world's inhabitants. The only possible convincing manifestation of divine justice, in my view, is universal salvation, wherein the world and everyone in it is made whole.
I believe that Scripture is not unambiguous on this point, but that there is sufficient Scriptural warrant for a lively hope for universal salvation. I recognize that my assertion here might seem to be arrogant in making claims on God or standing in judgment of God, but I think that there is ample Scriptural evidence of faithful people making such claims on God, based either on the explicit covenant of Israel or on the promises implied by God's having created us at all. If God does not make all creation whole on the last day, then he will not have been just, not in any meaningful sense.
(I'd like to thank Paul and Low-Rent in advance for their insightful and witty comments.)
(1:04 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
I'm getting better at cookingI feel like a dork, but I really want someone to come to my house and walk in on me eating the meal I just made. It consists of sauteed mushrooms, onions, green and orange peppers, and spinach, mixed together with scrambled eggs. It is a healthy, attractively presented, and delicious meal.
I am so grown up now, because I customarily use vegetables in my meals -- I no longer whine, "Why can't I just have pizza or a hamburger?" The next goal is to learn to use spices appropriately. Salt, pepper, and garlic powder were about it today.
Later this week I plan to make a variation on the meal that I christened "Monica's Pasta with Artichoke Hearts." She claims that it is not "a thing," because she just made it once, spontaneously. Yet now that I have made (what I consider to be) variations on it (though when I tell her about them, she denies that they have any relation to it) several times, I believe it is, de facto if not de jure, "a thing." If this goes through, I will post the recipe, as part of my endless quest to become the next Belle Waring.
(11:07 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
- Friday night: There were terrorists in my parents' neighborhood, and they entered my parents house. I was there with my dad and (maternal) grandpa, or actually sometimes they seemed to be there and sometimes not, and I kept trying to find places to hide. We went down in the basement and hid in what seemed to be my mom's sewing area, a separate room that doesn't exist in real life. Just outside, the terrorists were standing there with rifles, and for some reason, they were African-American terrorists. I kept trying to think of some way to gain the upper hand against three armed men, but then I'd think, "Aw man, I'm too lame -- I could never do anything that cool."
- Saturday night: A group of people, including me, were taking a trip to India. In the village we were visiting, there was a ritual whereby the entire village would converge, in waves, upon some central target and shoot at it. We got there just after the first wave, and I saw a little kid who was covered in blood but seemed to be having a good enough time. Thinking about the logic of the situation, I realized that having a huge crowd of people all shooting toward some central target would mean that a lot of people, including us, would get shot. The locals didn't seem to mind, but I did, so I kept looking for a way to escape. Every time some particular direction seemed to be clear, a mob of people brandishing rifles would appear, running toward us. I woke up before the situation was resolved.
Saturday, September 18, 2004
(1:16 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
FailureI would maintain that the nomination of George W. Bush to be the Republican candidate for president in 2000 already represented a major failure in the mechanisms of the Republican party. His taking office in 2001 represented an obvious failure of our electoral system to live up to its (implied) promise of being "democratic." Conservatives can hide behind the Constitution all they want in that regard, but they certainly regarded Clinton as illegitimate after he won only a plurality of the votes, leading one to believe that the sudden resurgence in appreciation for the Electoral College on the Republican side of the aisle simply reflected the fact that the Electoral College happened to have worked to their advantage in this case.
The fact that Bush did not do what any decent person would do and push for a constitutional amendment abolishing the electoral college, combined with his cavalier style of governance, illustrated a two-fold failure in our system of government's claims to be representative or to be subject to the will of the people. The behavior of the Democrats over the past four years, particularly with regard to the tax cuts, ironically illustrated the failure of our system's claims to delegate power to wise people who will be relatively isolated from the capricious demands of the populus -- the Democrats went along with the tax cuts because people like tax cuts and they didn't want to be blamed for not liking tax cuts in the next election. 9/11 represented a failure in our intelligence-gathering system, and the campaign in Afghanistan represented a failure to hold the executive branch accountable. The Iraq War represented a failure of almost every "check and balance" in place in the US Constitutional system and in the system of global governance -- although token gestures were made toward gaining proper authorization, everyone knew and basically accepted that the war was going to happen no matter what. It also represents a failure of the unofficial "check and balance" of the press. Although now there are ample reports about why Iraq was a terrible idea, there was a startling lack of such voices during the period when it could conceivably have made a difference. The continuing chaos in Iraq represents a failure of planning, a failure to take into account the disinterested advice of professionals, and, perhaps even more significantly, a revelation of the failure of all our billions of dollars in military spending to enable us to achieve any but the most modest goals. And if the United States was supposed to be the indispensable nation and guarantor of world order, then the last four years represent a collosal failure, because the United States has basically done nothing but spread chaos and destruction.
Our military is not almighty. Our involvement in the wider world does not always have positive results. Our constitutional system is no guarantee that either the general good or the will of the people will prevail. Both our status as the benevolent hegemon and the exemplary character of our constitution seemed to be nearly unimpeachable while we were in a situation that did not put much pressure on them; now, however, that perceived omnipotence has entirely evaporated.
The first question, of course, is whether the miserable failures of the Bush regime -- which may yet be endorsed and rewarded by a frightened and uninformed electorate -- represent a definitive break with past history or whether the current administration merely exposes and exacerbates problems that were there the whole time (i.e., from 1776 on).
The second question is on possible courses of action. A commenter to Anthony's last despairing thread has suggested an idea that I have considered before: breaking up the United States into smaller countries. California, for instance, could easily be its own nation-state. The question of possession of nuclear arms, however, raises the spectre of a situation in which a break-up of the US would spell the end of all human life. Another possible option would be a new constitutional convention and a complete redrawing of state lines. Failing either of those options, a submission of the US to a higher authority such as the Hardto-Negrian "Empire" may grant us some immediate relief from the worst aspects of the current system and may be even more plausible now than at the time of their initial writing due to the obvious limits of US military power. Such a solution, however, is likely to generate as many problems as it solves in the short- to medium-term.
This is the end of my blog post for today. Thank you.
(1:38 AM) | Anthony Paul Smith:
"Cox Authority"I wanted to let you guys know that there is a new link to the right entitled Joshua Swenson. He's been my closest friend for a really long time going on nearly a decade, I think. He also happens to be one of the most talented artists I know and you can see some of his work in progress on the website in order to agree or disagree. If you do find yourself visiting his site be aware that he is usually offensive (I think it's part of his charm) and vulgar (it used to be much worse) but he also happens to be rather funny and enduring. So check out his artwork and let him know what you think (buy it too; he's poor).
Friday, September 17, 2004
(9:46 AM) | Anthony Paul Smith:
Regardless of who wins...Ok, ok so we are all really worried about the Bush/Cheney "We're Fucking Crazy" administration winning in November. We all want to believe Kerry/Edwards "We're Fucking Boring" will do a lot better job. And likely their whole neo-liberal world order would operate a lot smoother with the current global market than the neo-conservative imperialistic ideology the Bush/Cheney administration employs. Neither of these options are liberating or emancipating and neither camps are going to do much in the way of stopping war (though Kerry would at least certainly go about wars 'more intelligently' if such a thing can be said) or the onslaught of Capital (both are Billionaires caught up in Big Business).
Regardless of who "win's" in November the Left has to organize and step up its efforts in actually doing something. My former theory used to be that Kerry would be the best person to act as catalyst because during times of repressive Democratic governments (i.e. the 1960's and the Clinton years) the Radical Left has grown in power and had a larger voice. I thought this might be because when you the economy is doing well and you don't have to argue over what actually constitutes torture people focus on more important issues. After Bush (like after 9/11) I don't know if this can be said anymore. If Kerry is elected I fear we will all heave a large sigh of relief (and rightly so!) and let our defenses down because we'll have someone a little less insane running America. This may cause us to forget that the Democratic Party is not going to save us and that they have constantly drifted further away from Socialist and Communist ideals of universal health care, workers rights, diplomacy, etc. To think that we have somehow moved forward by electing Kerry could possibly be the worst thing for the Left in America.
The other side is Bush wins and we fall into crippling despair over the lack of effectiveness to fight even the weakest of enemies. Obviously we have failed, for many reasons, to counter the Bush propaganda machine after it was strengthened on 9/11. Partly, again, this is due to our hope and naivety that the liberals in the Democratic Party were our allies and that they would use their power to fight things like the Patriot Act and the Iraq war. They didn't - in fact they didn't even fight to retain their own power!
I've said it before; Ralph Nader (who has also gone fucking crazy) did not lose the election for Al Gore. Americans lost it by allowing the Supreme Court to hijack further the election process. By giving into the fear over what would happen if, heaven forbid, we didn't have a President for a month or two while we figured out what happened in Florida. We believed that representational government would save us; that belief paralyzed us to realizing our power for direct action.
I am not suggesting that we shouldn't vote for Kerry, it seems the most sensible option, but we have to be somewhat Protestant or secular about it. Voting in America is a symbolic act with nothing lying behind it. We need to realize that we are not really partaking of government in this act. Regardless of who wins in November the Left (which I hope means you and I) has to formulate a plan for whomever comes into power so that we don't slip into passivity or despair.
(8:17 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Once more, my friends
I confess that I have anger management problems and that I am all too often a whiny little bitch. I confess that I have, despite all the sound advice to the contrary, fed the trolls. I confess that my job has lately been unbelievably boring and that the reasons I don't look for a new one are (a) any other part-time job I might find would almost certainly be equally boring and (b) few other jobs are likely to offer me the same flexible schedule. I confess to being too eager to get into political debates with my father, who is a staunch Republican, but is never an asshole about it. I confess to still having some habits I picked up from the Nazarenes, namely gossip and backbiting.
On an unrelated note, I believe that today is Tara's due date. I am told that first pregnancies can sometimes go longer, but still, we should all mentally prepare ourselves to welcome Miles Smith into the world. We should probably also be thinking of possible names for Dave ("The Earnest") and Jodi Belcher's upcoming firstborn, because once they know the gender, I think it would be appropriate for The Weblog to hold a binding referendum on what they should name their child.
Ah, the delights of the domestic life! One of my deepest regrets is that Olivet's MRS diploma mill was ineffective in my case, because I too could be an expectant father right now. I hardly ever watch television, in fact, because it would only increase the loneliness and shame attendant upon violating God's holy ordinance that one must procure for oneself a member of the opposite sex with whom to sit at home and watch television in perpetuity.
UPDATE: I confess that the logo didn't previously display because I had misspelled the extension ".jpg." I also confess that you should go over to a house falling in the sea later today to see an image that I suggested Jared should make.
UPDATE: Okay, never mind. Jared said that since I commissioned it, he had assumed the image would be displayed at my site. So I present to you Holbein's Dead Kerry:
Back when people, you know, actually talked about John Kerry, he was often described as "cadaverous." That's the joke. Ha ha.
Thank you, Jared, for all your hard work.
UPDATE: Jared has also contributed a new graphical logo for The Weblog. Today has truly been a banner day.
Thursday, September 16, 2004
(11:43 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Hey MilwuakeeansKerry's way down in the electoral vote today, and one of the big disappointments is Wisconsin, which used to be "barely Kerry" and is now "weak Bush." Ms. Bennett and Mr. Robinson had better find some time in their busy schedules to do a voter registration drive or something to make sure that their state's ten electoral votes do not go to The Great Satan.
Luckily, I live in Illinois, a safely Democratic state. I have a feeling that when the civil war comes, we in Illinois are going to be hit pretty hard.
(9:45 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Thursday Translation Attempt: I've got the DTsI've lost interest in the translation of the Badiou article about a movie I've never seen. It's back to Derrida, with a hard-hitting passage from Donner la mort:
Un secret fait toujours trembler. Non seulement frémir ou frissonner, ce qui arrive aussi parfois, mais trembler. Le frémissiment peut certes manifester la peur, l’angoisse, l’appréhension de la mort, quand on frémit d’avance, à l’annonce de ce qui va venir. Mais il peut être léger, à fleur de peau, quand le frémissiment annonce le plaisir ou la jouissance. Moment de passage, temps suspendu de la séduction. Un frémissiment n’est pas toujours très grave, c’est parfois discret, à peine sensible, un peu épiphénoménal. Cela prépare plutôt que clea ne suit l’événement. L’eau, dit-on, frémit avant de buoillir, c’est ce que nous appelions la séduction: une pré-ébullition superficielle, une agitation préliminaire et visible.Translation:
A secret always causes one to tremble. Not only to quiver or to shudder, which sometimes also happens, but to tremble. Quivering can certainly show fear, anxiety, apprehension of death, whenever one quivers before or at the announcement of that which is going to come. But it can be fickle, superficial, when quivering announces pleasure or enjoyment. Moment of passage, suspended time of seduction. Quivering is not always very serious, it is often discrete, hardly sensible, a little epiphenomenal. It prepares rather than follows the event. Water, one says, quivers before boiling—this is what we call seduction: a superficial pre-boiling, a preliminary and visible agitation.And now for David Willis's translation:
A secret always makes you tremble. Not simply quiver or shiver, which also happens sometimes, but tremble. A quiver can of course manifest fear, anguish, apprehension of death; as when one quivers in advance, in anticipation of what is to come. But it can be slight, on the surface of the skin, like a quiver that announces the arrival of pleasure or an orgasm [ed. note: jouissance]. It is a moment in passing, the suspended time of seduction. A quiver is not always very serious, it is sometimes discreet, barely discernible, somewhat epiphenomenal. It prepares for, rather than follows the event. One could say that water quivers before it boils; that is the idea I was referring to as seduction: a superficial pre-boil, a preliminary and visible agitation.The biggest discrepancy is that I said "hardly sensible" where he said "barely discernible." Looking it up in the dictionary, "sensible" in French does not have the same connotations as the English "sensible," so discernible is a more accurate translation. Congratulations to David Willis.
I recently got the book French for Reading by Karl Sandberg and Eddison Tatham in the mail. I've worked through the first couple chapters, which are very basic, but I've already picked up some helpful information about particular clues for cognates. Hopefully working through the whole book will help to solidify and expand upon what I got in my class.