Tuesday, November 30, 2004
(3:51 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Conservatives in the AcademyRobert "KC" Johnson, my twelfth favorite writer for Cliopatria, has a post up in which he engages Juan Cole -- undisputed divine oracle of the left half of the blogosphere -- in a debate about conservatives in academia. I personally find the entire debate to be rather annoying, especially nonsense like this from George Will (quoted by "KC"):
In contrast, American campuses have more insistently proclaimed their commitment to diversity as they have become more intellectually monochrome. They do indeed cultivate diversity -- in race, skin color, ethnicity, sexual preference. In everything but thought.I know that I have been vocally opposed to things like "theology of X ethnic group," but I'm just going to come out and say it: for the most part, differences in race, skin color, ethnicity, and sexual preferences are also intellectual differences. They affect what one thinks is worth studying, the appropriate way to weigh varying claims, the task of an intellectual -- a womanist theologian, for instance, will draw on significantly different sources and have significantly different priorities from a Radical Orthodox theologian. Although there may be some broad trends that could be worked out, intellectual debate within given scholarly groupings and cross-fertilizations among them are rampant.
What is most offensive in Will's characterization is his deployment of the conservative/liberal divide as the intellectual divide. Once that premise is accepted, then conservative hegemony is basically assured -- the conservative/liberal opposition as currently operative in American discourse is already weighted so that conservative is good and liberal is bad. In other areas in which movement conservatives have managed to make their charges of bias or imbalance stick -- i.e., in areas where the majority of those in power do not have lifetime guaranteed jobs, such as in the "liberal media" -- the results have been that conservatives are now overrepresented. (See the numerous studies in which all networks, even including NPR, tend to disproportionately quote Republicans -- and see also the rise of an entire right-wing media machine, where a similar avowedly left-wing machine has only recently arisen, and that as a direct answer to the right-wing media.)
It is terribly unfair that certain scholars who align themselves with the Republicans are made to feel unwelcome in the academic world. But I don't think that this debate is really motivated by that kind of concern -- I think that it's really a full-on attack on one of the last areas of American society where left-wing voices hold hegemony. The academy is currently being gutted and turned into the preserve of transient workers who will be compliant to the needs of their employers rather than to the demands of intellectual inquiry, so the problems of leftists setting the agenda are probably not going to be operative in the future -- but until that day, I say, Hold out, guys. Please, hold out at least long enough to give left-wing intellectuals somewhere else to live. I'll admit that this is a completely political decision on my part and that the individual conservatives who are being discriminated against (and I'm sure this happens to at least some extent) are perhaps objectively better scholars than the leftists -- but please, tenured radical professors of literature, hold on.
(And I will remark in passing that the avowedly leftist alignment of many academics, as opposed to a tepid liberalism, has probably been the primary cause of continued left hegemony in certain parts of the academy -- because liberalism almost always seems to degenerate into a "no enemies on the right" position.)
Monday, November 29, 2004
(6:10 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
CFP: St. Paul WeekAlthough the idea of my doing a St. Paul week solo this week is not sound, the basic idea of a St. Paul week is. Given the interest expressed in the comments in writing guest posts, I am issuing this Call For Posts for a St. Paul Week, tentatively to begin next week. Posts on all topics broadly related to Pauline studies -- including, but not limited to, textual analysis, sweeping assertions about Paul's thought as a whole, or critiques of other readers of Paul, personal reflections on Paul (such as those following from reading Galatians aloud at a bar) -- are solicited. Posts should be the length of the average Adam Kotsko post, though submissions in the Robb Schuneman length will also be given due consideration. This is not an attempt to post academic papers on a blog; it is an attempt to discuss Paul in an unabashedly blogological setting.
In order to be considered for inclusion, all posts must be sent to me via e-mail (akotsko at gmail dot com). If your post is accepted (and let's be realistic -- it probably will be), you will be assigned a day to post, sent a Blogger invitation, and given formatting instructions; if you fail to follow those instructions, I will edit your post to make it conform. I would prefer to have a couple submissions already lined up by Monday morning, but I will continue to accept submissions through Friday of next week; if interest is high, I am willing to extend it as long as it takes to accomadate everyone. If anyone has ideas for how better to organize this event, I am eager to hear.
(1:54 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
St. Paul Week(end), with comments on nose-pickingI am officially suspending The Weblog's Official St. Paul Week until further notice, because I don't know how I'm going to write four more posts on Paul this week. I could go the "biblical studies" route and venture an opinion on various Pauline puzzles (such as the thorn in his flesh), but I'd probably get shot down for the following reasons:
- I am temprementally predisposed to prefer novel solutions for novelty's sake, thus making me disrespectful of the scholarly tradition.
- I don't know Greek -- and I'd just like to say to all you Bible people out there: Why is it that all the translations suck so much in your opinion? Why is it that no one can come to any firm conclusions based on a translation? It's not like you're all native Greek speakers writing your articles in Greek -- you're perfectly capable of coming up with what you believe to be an adequate translation in particular cases, or at least coming up with something that a footnote could take care of, but apparently you don't deign to share your wisdom with the commoners until some young non-Greek-reading upstart comes up with a way of reading the Bible, at which point you shoot them down -- because they don't know Greek. But part of the job of a biblical scholar is to translate, surely -- so whose fault is it that the translation gives them nothing to work with? How do you say "transparent power play" in Greek?
Another topic of discussion is the removal of nasal hairs. I sometimes have trouble with this -- but there's no better feeling (literally no better feeling) than the post-nose-hair-removal sneeze.
So what do you say? Nose-picking week?
Sunday, November 28, 2004
(7:42 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Sunday BloggingHas anyone else experienced considerable difficulties posting on Sundays using Blogger? If anyone's curious about the specific details of my plight, we can discuss it in comments -- suffice it to say that it's a problem that I've experienced almost every week, using a variety of different computers.
Also, would it be possible for the programmers at Microsoft who came up with StickyKeys to be shot? That's the feature where you're absent-mindedly thinking about how to start your sentence, holding down the shift key as you do so, and it pops up this dialog box where the meaning of the various options isn't clear, and you just hit enter, and before you know it, you're in perma-shift mode! The only way to turn that feature off, in my experience, is to reformat and install Linux.
(7:31 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Epistle to the Americans, pt. 2Picking up in the middle of Romans 3, where pt. 1 left off.
Now we know that whatever the Bible says, it says to those who claim the Bible, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world be held accountable to God. For not everyone needs to join institutional Christianity to practice justice. For "all humanity will not become just in God's sight" by the deeds of the law, for through the law comes only the full knowledge of sin. But now, apart from law, scripture, and institution, the justice of God is available -- the same justice of God attested by the scripture and the church -- the justice of God through the faithfulness of Jesus the Messiah for all who are faithful to his message. For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of God's just demand; they are now made just by his grace as a gift, through the hope for redemption attested by Jesus, whom God presented to the world in order to reconcile us through Jesus's faithfulness. He did this to show his justice, because in his patience and mercy he had passed over the flagrant corruption of humanity, so that now he could prove his justice in making just those who adhere faithfully to Jesus.
Evangelical Christian: Then what becomes of our pride in being Christians?
Me: It is excluded.
EC: How is that? Are you founding a new religion in which pride is forbidden?
Me: No -- I am forming a "religion" of faithfulness. For we hold that person is made just through his faithfulness, apart from any religion whasoever. Or is God the God of the Christians only? Is he not the God of the whole world?
EC: Of the whold world, of course, or else he wouldn't be the One God.
Me: And he will justify the religious on the basis of their faithfulness and the irreligious through that same faithfulness.
EC: So are you trying to abolish Christianity and religion altogether?
Me: By no means! On the contrary, we deeply value religion.
EC: Then what are we going to say about Paul, the founder of our Christian religion? Surely if he was so religious as to found a religion, he had something to be proud of.
Me: But not before God! For what does Paul say in his letter to the Romans? "I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faithfulness." Now if Paul thought that someone could be saved simply through finding the right rules to follow, he would be following the model of institutional affiliation. But to one who without keeping a checklist of pious deeds trusts in God who justifies even the irreligious, faithfulness is the cause of justice.
Is the justice of which Paul speaks pronounced only upon the Christians, or also on the non-Christians? Paul says that his justice stemmed from faithfulness. Was this as a result of becoming a Christian, or before he had identified as a Christian? It was not after, but before, since Paul would never have called himself anything but a faithful Jew -- indeed, the word "Christian" does not appear in any of his writings. His writings only later became "Christian," as part of God's providential plan to make them available to all, even those outside the church. The purpose of his message was to make him the forerunner of all who are faithful to Jesus without joining the Christian chuch and who thus are made just, and likewise the forerunner of those religious Christians who are not merely religious but who also follow the example of faithfulness that Paul had before Christianity came into existence. For the gospel that would transform the world did not come to Paul or to anyone after Paul through belief in the innerant New Testament, but through the justice of God displayed in the faithfulness of Jesus.
If it is the Christians who are to be the only heirs, then faithfulness is null and the promise is void. For religion brings wrath, but where there is no religious law, there is no violation either. For this reason it depends on faithfulness, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all those who follow Paul's footsteps, not only to those who faithfully carry on the pious observances of the Christian church but all those who share the militancy of Paul -- who is the father of all the faithful, as he writes, "I am a debtor to the Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish" and "the gospel is the power of God for salvation... to the Jew first and also to the Greek." Hoping against hope, he believed that "All Israel will be saved," after "the full number of the Gentiles has come in." He did not weaken in faithfulness when he considered his own human frailty and failings, or when he considered the resistence of his own coreligionists. Not distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faithfulness as he sought to carry his mission to the ends of the earth, being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. It was through this faithfulness -- not through his inclusion in the Christian canon of scripture or in his being declared a saint by the Christian church -- that he was made to be an exemplar of justice. That justice was not for his own benefit or reward, but for us, too, for whom the very same justice is available to those who trust in the one who vindicated Jesus, the Messiah who was handed over to death by our corrupt human institutions and who was raised from the dead so that we might trust in God's promise to make us just.
This concludes the second installment of the Epistle to the Americans. Another installment is sure to follow in this, the perhaps hastily declared St. Paul Week here at The Weblog.
(6:15 AM) | Bill Mantis:
The People Have Spoke: the Real Message of 2004What I took from the exit polls
Arguments are sure to rage as to why John Kerry lost the race: he was too liberal, or too centrist. He was insufficiently idealistic, or charismatic, or lacked a "spiritual" message to attract that 22% of the electorate who supposedly voted their morals. Unfortunately, these arguments miss the real message of the 2004 presidential election. The key to understanding why Kerry lost, and why Bush won, can be gleaned from the fact that Bush swept the creationist vote. Not significant in absolute numbers, perhaps, but very significant in symbolic terms. The creationist is an individual, remember, who rejects science, the scientific method, the overwhelming consensus of the scientific community, and, indeed, the evidence before his very eyes. For the creationist, belief and conviction trump reality. Bush won because he mastered the technique of appealing to the voter who has the capacity to deny reality. And though he made a few feeble attempts, Kerry was simply outclassed in the reality-denial arena.
Bush also did very well among confused voters; those who mistakenly thought their candidate supported US participation in the International Criminal Court, the banning of land mines, and US participation in the Kyoto accords. Bush, likewise, won the votes of those who mistakenly believed that weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq; and those who mistakenly thought Saddam Hussein had been implicated in the 9/11 attack. Bush also did well with voters who were sure that the occupation of Iraq had progressed swimmingly, and that any news to the contrary was merely the product of a liberal conspiracy.
Voters who deem the mainstream news media "biased," and who therefore turn to Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly and Fox News for their information, went heavily for Bush.
The pro-life vote strongly favored Bush, somehow ignoring his direct involvement in the deaths of 100,000 Iraqis, mostly women and children, only a tiny minority of whom had ever raised a hand against America. Pro-lifers apparently distinguish between proactive and retroactive abortions, such that abortions you perform on fully living humans are not held against you.
Bush’s "I trust you with your money" message resonated with a large segment of the electorate, especially when it was clear to them that they were being trusted with their children’s money as well. Similarly, Bush’s anti-tax message was especially well-received in many western states; states that receive, on average, $1.30 in federal revenues for every $1.00 they contribute in federal taxes.
White males who asserted that white males, at least, have a "God-given right" to keep and bear assault weapons for self-protection and for hunting, went strongly for Bush. These supporters, however, have so far failed to address the question of why God doesn’t extend the same right to foreign visitors.
The evangelical voter, who is rabidly pro-Israel in the expectation that the Second Coming of Christ will be speeded by a Jewish occupation of the entire biblical Holy Land, also went for Bush. On the other hand, American Jews, the segment of the electorate likely to be the best informed on the Middle East and with the best grasp of Israel’s long term interests, voted for Kerry.
Running a campaign that promised to be strong against terrorism, Bush won resoundingly in states like Utah, Montana, Wyoming; states that will never, ever experience a terrorist attack–except, maybe, one perpetrated by homegrown terrorist like Timothy McVeigh. Bush resoundingly lost in New York City and Washington DC, areas that have been, and are likely to be, targets in the future.
Bush won the support of voters who expressed moral outrage over Janet Jackson’s bare breast or over semen stains on Monica Lewinski’s dress, but who experienced no moral misgivings over the shock and awe bombing of a largely civilian population.
Owners of Humvees and other gas guzzlers went for Bush, whole-heartedly embracing the Bush administration tacit assumptions that 4% of the world’s population has every right to consume 25% of its oil production; that dependence on foreign oil, a ballooning foreign trade deficit, and global warming in no way compromise our national security.
The faction of the population that bases its presidential choice on who would make the best dinner companion voted for Bush. It is worth noting in this context that Slobodan Milosevic, too, was enormously and personally popular among his Christian base; the same Slobodan Milosevic who is currently on trial for committing war crimes against Muslims.
Bush scored with blue collar voters, persuading them to vote against their own economic self interest. His victory makes it more likely that the blue collar family will lose its health care insurance over the next four years.
Rural areas--from whence young homosexuals flee in droves--voted solidly for Bush. The President’s strong stand against gay marriage undoubtedly played an important role in carrying the rural vote. Conversely, cities, where people have actual contact with actual gays and actually survive to talk about it, went for Kerry.
Pledging to uphold the sanctity of marriage as it now exists, Bush easily won the southern Bible belt, where the divorce rates are among the highest nationwide.
Bush lost the majority vote of newspaper editorial boards, even some traditionally Republican-leaning ones that had endorsed him four years earlier.
Bush won resoundingly among the high school dropout crowd. He lost just as resoundingly among those with post-college education.
In sum, George W. Bush did very well among the voters who deny, avoid or are ignorant of reality. The more you actually knew--rather than merely intuited--the more likely you were to vote for Kerry. By extension, Republicans like George W. Bush can hope to succeed only as long as the electorate can be kept ignorant, misinformed, focused on trivia and insulated from the consequences of its own short-sightedness and a growing international contempt.
Some people will suggest that this is cause for optimism. Others, like Karl Rove, will see it as the glide path to perpetual victory.
Saturday, November 27, 2004
(9:27 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
The Thorn in My Flesh: Being the First Post of The Weblog's "St. Paul Week"Here begins The Weblog's official St. Paul Week, which will conclude with the Friday Afternoon Confessional. That is to say, there will be a post about Paul every damn day for the next seven days.
(This post is actually going to be pretty ground-breaking.)
There has been a lot of speculation about the "thorn in my flesh" from 2 Corinthians. Here is the relevant passage:
But if I wish to boast, I will not be a fool, for I will be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think better of me than what is seen in me or heard from me, even considering the exceptional character of the revelations. Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.I've heard several theories: Paul was going blind (because he writes so big in Galatians!), Paul is dealing with lust, Paul is a closeted homosexual, Paul is an ugly hunchback, etc., etc. But you know what theory that I've never heard before and that seems to be completely simple and plausible? Paul is grieved by the continuing rejection of Jesus as Messiah on the part of the majority of Israel.
My theory has the advantage of being supported by what Paul actually says. For instance, in the 2 Corinthians passage, we have Paul getting done with his highly entertaining "boasting" tirade -- and what is behind all that boasting? It's not some kind of "union with God." It's not his pristine sinlessness and detachment from the flesh. It's his mission to the Gentiles, which he takes to be highly successful -- in Romans, he says that he "glories" in it. He boasts about the sufferings he endures, not for the sake of spiritual cleansing or imitatio Christi, but for the sake of the mission to the Gentiles. But what is the point of the mission to the Gentiles in Paul's mind? To make Israel jealous so that all Israel may be saved (see Romans 9-11 on this). And apparently, that's not working out like Paul had planned, so his mission to the Gentiles, successful as it may be in establishing a Gentile advance guard for the coming Kingdom, is thus far failing in its final purpose, which is to bring all of Israel in.
Paul is not a patient man; I think any sensitive reader of his letters should see that. He is in a big hurry to get from one end of the world to the other, and one might even dare to say that he believes that his completion of his mission will actually trigger the return of Christ -- or at least that Christ is delaying to give Paul a chance to finish his mission. His only real delay along this path is that he has to do this collection for Jerusalem, a recurring theme in all his authentic letters. He is eager to do so, presumably because it will display to his Jewish brethren the faithfulness of the Gentile communities that Paul has founded and -- perhaps, hopefully -- make them jealous, or shame them into believing in Christ. His only delay, then, in accomplishing his mission to the Gentiles is his ministry to the poor in Jerusalem, to the Jews, among whom he emphatically counts himself. And he meets nothing but opposition -- in fact, in Romans, right when he's announcing that he's finally collected enough and will be going to Jerusalem before going to Rome, he asks his readers to pray that he may be delivered from the unbelievers. These are not the words of someone who expects to be received with open arms. Far from bringing his people to belief in the unexpected advent of their Messiah, he has made himself a pariah.
So that's the thorn in his flesh to keep him from getting proud. It's nothing very glamorous or psychologically deep or resonant with the concerns of Romanticism, but it does have some claim to be based in the texts which Paul has left to us -- an advantage shared by none of the competing theories I have heard.
Now, I am not a biblical scholar by any means and am unschooled in scholarly opinion beyond that reflected in popular preaching. If there is some biblical scholar who advances this opinion, or if it is now the official party line of the New Testament academy, then I'd be glad to hear it -- it's always good, as we say, to have one's opinions independently confirmed by others.
Friday, November 26, 2004
(9:48 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Friday Afternoon Confessional: Michigan Edition
I am currently in Michigan, visiting my family for Thanksgiving. I confess that my arduous stomach-stretching Thanksgiving prep-work, including a Wednesday trip to the Great Wall King Buffet (actually, three trips), paid off beyond my wildest imaginings. I confess that dreams really do come true, if the dream is about having a piece of pumpkin pie with whipped cream and a cup of coffee.
I confess to putting Google AdSense materials on the left-hand sidebar, below the recent posts. I encourage everyone to click on any ad that interests them. I know that since I'm such a good Christian, I feel guilty about trying to make money, but the way I see it, Google is already basically underwriting the cost of this site, given their recent acquisition of Blogger, so why not try to make the transition to them paying me to blog? I further confess that I am going to extend The Charity to December 15, because it's really only after Thanksgiving that people are in the holiday giving mood.
Thanks for everything.
Wednesday, November 24, 2004
(7:58 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Happy ThanksgivingThat title was just kind of an obligatory token gesture -- in reality, I hate these stupid holidays, because they absolutely kill my traffic stats. I probably won't post tomorrow, but we'll all have fun again on Friday, when I confess to my special Thanksgiving sins.
Monday, November 22, 2004
(2:03 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
NotedWhen planning your next trip abroad, do yourself a favor and visit SodomyLaws.org.
Last night, I had the distinct privilege of listening to Jared Sinclair's Dylanesque rendition of Kamala's latest hymn. (The most touching line: "I never knew a man who skull-fucked me... [repeat ad lib].") Recording will start as soon as appropriate equipment is available, unless Jared decides to eat some cereal and watch a movie instead. Oh, and Jared's blogging again.
This has been a shit and garbage post, which is further contributing to the downward scroll of Young Hegelian's latest guest post.
Sunday, November 21, 2004
(10:32 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Pay PhonesRight now, I'm living with two roommates, splitting the phone bill. Once that is no longer operative, however, I think that my getting a cell phone will be all but inevitable. I was in a situation this weekend where I needed to find a pay phone, and man, it's a lot harder than you'd think. I remember growing up, there were pay phones everywhere. I was continually tripping over them. Every lobby of every restaurant and institution was equipped with one. All you needed was some change, and you were good to go. Now, not so much. You need to find some fucking gas station where you need to pre-pay, or some grocery store where everything's in Spanish, or basically some kind of location where the phone company thinks that it can overcharge some poor people.
Jesus probably wouldn't get a cell phone, but I was talking to my mom tonight about the possibility of adopting a Jesus-like lifestyle, and we both agreed it was kind of a dead end. I mean, dead at 33? Everyone would be saying, "He should have just broken down and gotten that cell phone -- so much wasted potential." I hear you can play games on them now, too.
(4:24 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
20th Century TheologyProf. Ted Jennings of Chicago Theological Seminary has leaked me a copy of the syllabus for his seminar on Twentieth Century Theology, to be offered in the spring of 2005. It is preparatory to the doctoral exam in 20th century theology required of all PhD candidates at the seminary.
The first week is a light one:
- Kant, Religion within the limits of reason alone
- Schleiermacher, Speeches on religion
- Hegel, Philosophy of history
- Kierkegaard, Fear and trembling or Philosophical fragments
- Feuerbach, The Essence of religion
- Marx, 1844 manuscripts
- Harnack, What is Christianity?
- Ritschl, The Christian doctrine of justification and reconciliation
- Troeltsch, Protestantism and progress or The Absoluteness of Christianity
- Rauschenbusch, A Theology for the Social Gospel
- Otto, On the Idea of the holy
- Weiss, The Preaching of Jesus
- Barth, Romans or Credo
- Gogarten, Christ the Crisis
- Bultmann, Jesus and the Word or Existence and faith
- Rosenzweig, The Star of redemption
(See also Zahrnt, The Question of God and Robinson, Beginnings of dialectical theology)
My question: Should I take this course? Keep in mind that I will also be taking a course on the New Testament Epistles, finishing my Derrida translation or Derrida/Zizek/Milbank clusterfuck of a thesis, writing my Badiou/Wesley paper and then presenting it on the other side of the country at the Olivet Reunion Tour, going to see Agamben et al. at Syracuse, and of course, the one non-negotiable in my life: blogging. It sounds like a pretty realistic schedule, actually. I've been sleeping way too much, and in any case, my body is currently undergoing the major structural changes that accompany excessive coffee consumption. I can hopefully quit my job and move into a bathroom stall at the Regenstein (or "The Reg," or, as I always mentally call it, "The Bod"), making my living through Google Ad-Sense and Amazon.com's referral system. I can meet my drinking requirements by leeching off the many pitchers at Wednesday Pub Nights, and I can meet some of my alimentary requirements by joining sudent organizations such as the African-American Student Organization or the Sisters of Mary Magdalene on an ad hoc basis, then quitting once refreshments have been served.
But seriously: Should I take this course?
(2:35 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Filmic StandardsIs there any actor or actress of the "Leading Man/Lady"/"Box-Office Draw" type who has never made a film that is universally acknowledged as a tacky embarassment?
(11:20 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Stockholm SyndromeToday's gospel reading is Luke 23:35-43:
The rulers sneered at Jesus and said,What struck me today, as I was attempting to explain the scripture readings to people who want, for whatever reason, to join the Catholic Church, was the parallelism between the rulers (those who put people to death), the soldiers (those who execute the sentence), and--the criminal. At this moment of his death, a slow, excruciating death, the criminal sees fit to imitate the behavior of those who are putting him to death by mocking someone who is apparently of even lower social standing, someone who has not only been nailed to a cross, but has had a taunting sign placed above his head. The "bad" criminal is fully invested in the system of power, even as it crushes him.
"He saved others, let him save himself
if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God."
Even the soldiers jeered at him.
As they approached to offer him wine they called out,
"If you are King of the Jews, save yourself."
Above him there was an inscription that read,
"This is the King of the Jews."
Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying,
"Are you not the Christ?
Save yourself and us."
The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply,
"Have you no fear of God,
for you are subject to the same condemnation?
And indeed, we have been condemned justly,
for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes,
but this man has done nothing criminal."
Then he said,
"Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."
He replied to him,
"Amen, I say to you,
today you will be with me in Paradise."
The "good" criminal, however, does not represent a diametrical opposition. He still believes that whatever he did deserves death, even if Jesus' crime does not. In point of fact, Jesus and those criminals were all condemned by the same legal code, under which Jesus' acts of sedition were worthy of death. The "good" criminal is by no means fully aligned with the radical critique of law and violence initiated with Jesus and further developed by Paul, but he shows a sliver of hope in the fact that he vocalizes the possibility that in this one case, justice may have been subverted. That minimal distance between the subject and the system is the place where freedom begins to take place -- and thus the "good" criminal will be with Jesus in paradise, because he is already participating in the coming Kingdom of freedom. The words of Christ are not a reward to the person who sucks up to him, but a statement of fact, a revelation.
Saturday, November 20, 2004
(5:28 AM) | The Young Hegelian:
FrontispieceIt's hard to read Walter Benjamin's 'Unpacking My Library' today without a little embarrasment. Embarassment at the guilty pleasure of recognising in Benjamin the diagnosis of one's own bibliophilia. In Benjamin's frank admissions of his compulsive desire for acquiring books one recognises a love not just of literature but a need for the physical object which is literature's sensuous substratum, some concrete manifestation of the intellect's labour. As Benjamin lovingly handles each book being moved to its new home, the reader is bound to look at his own bookshelf, considering like Benjamin the individual meaning of each one. One's library is not just a resource, nor is it just a display (though it can easily become this - the bookshelves of the vanities) but something of one's self as an intellectual - these things after all have shaped you, half made you what you are. Benjamin sees this already, tells us that this object may have its meaning not just in its content, its an sich, but in the particular reminiscences bound up with it, its für uns. How much, for example, are some books treasured for the memory of coming by them?
I have such books, and reading Benjamin today strangely made me think of two in particular. They are both signed by philosophers who have since passed away. Each reminds me of the awkward event of asking someone for an autograph when both of you know philosophy to be above such things. The philosopher recognises your embarrasment but is familiar with it and obliges with a smile. He asks me if I would like any message; she tells me I will first need a pen.
The collector of books recognises in what Benjamin calls "the thrill of acquisition" that their bibliophilia is often just a hair's breadth away from something compulsive, pathological. Hermann Broch it was who wrote, "Every collector hopes with the never-attained, never attainable and yet inexorably striven-for absolute completeness of his collection to pass beyond the assembled things themselves, to pass over into infinity, and, entirely subsumed in his collection, to attain his own consummation and the suspension of death." A quite Benjaminian reflection this, though it perhaps indicts Benjamin himself. The individual who stores up objects in the form of mementos may hope that one day the fullness of the experience they point to will be granted to him in rejuvenated memory, but finds more often that they are rendered opaque: lifeless allegories.
"How many cities," writes Benjamin, "have revealed themselves to me in the marches I undertook in the pursuit of books?" I have books that are forever associated with the place I bought them. For me Paris, Amsterdam, Dresden, Chicago, each form a mnemonic grid around their labyrinthine bookshops and the books I bought there. From the last I have Broch himself - The Unknown Quantity, though as I read it now I find many of the pages left unprinted.
Broch is right of course: the book above almost any exchange-value has an element that resists thinghood even in the acquisition, and which passes into something greater, less finite than a lifetime, like the signature of a philosopher. We want only to be part of the knowledge which is passed from generation to generation, and even in reading it to give some meaning to it, and when our own writing pales in comparison, to make some small contribution, even in only handing something on.
Friday, November 19, 2004
(10:27 AM) | Anthony Paul Smith:
Don't have anything to do tonight?Then you should come check out our friend Jake Moreland's art show in Chicago. It will be at 1352 N. Paulina, which I am told is at the corner of Milwaukee and Paulina. The show begins at 9p.m. and there is a 3 dollar cover so you can partake of shitty, keg beer.
Hope to see you there!
Thursday, November 18, 2004
(8:59 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Friday Afternoon Confessional: Thursday Night EditionI confess that I can be thoughtlessly evasive and opaque in my speech and writing, apparently unable to distinguish between the appropriate style for a discussion of French philosophy and that for a serious discussion with someone for whom I care very deeply. I further confess that I develop such an impenetrable web of serious and joking statements in my speech that I often might as well be asking people to just intuitively "know" what I actually think, without direct recourse to what I actually "say." This leads to continual misunderstandings among those I am just meeting and those who have known me for many years.
I confess that I have thinned the ranks of The Weblog's contributors somewhat. The original triumverate of me, Robb, and Mike Schaefer remain, together with the Smith non-family. I can explain myself, if necessary, in the comments. The Young Hegelian also retains posting privileges at the moment, in case he comes up with another thought-provoking guest post. Perhaps I could work out some kind of program where a guest poster maintains his or her privileges until another guest poster comes aboard.
I confess that I was rude and short to my constantly panicked co-worker today. I confess to using hurtful stereotypes in a discussion of what it was like to drive from the big city of Chicago to the "just plain folks" heartland-style setting of Kankakee. I confess that I broke my Radiohead fast, listening not only to Kid A (my favorite of theirs), but also the vastly inferior Hail to the Thief.
I confess to not doing as much schoolwork as I should, in general terms. I confess that my desire to avoid some slight reformatting has delayed my attempt to publish my Bonhoeffer paper by several months. I similarly confess that my reluctance to go to the trouble of checking a book out of the library has kept me from making the changes suggested by my professor in my Moltmann/Barth paper and sending that off as well. I confess that it never even occurred to me to go to AAR this year. I confess to being disgusted at my own incipient academic careerism and at my inability to rigorously distinguish in my own mind between careerism and genuine intellectual inquiry. I confess that I often wonder what my blog posts will be like when I will have finished a PhD and failed to land a decent academic job.
I confess that I want to move to Chicago more every day, and that all things being equal, I would strongly prefer to continue my graduate work at a school in Chicago -- that would, somewhat ridiculously, be a more salient factor than the choice between theology and philosophy.
(7:39 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Reading MomentsI have good reading memories. Sometimes I'd like to go back -- not because I didn't appreciate it at the time. I did. I just want it back, again. I want to go back to that day that I was reading The Book of Mormon in my empty house, after Richard had just moved out, with my two kittens cuddled up on a corner of the couch. I want to go back to the exquisite sadness of reading Hegel, accompanied by Debussy, on a cold winter night when I felt absolutely alone. I want to go back to the summer Saturday that I spent reading Love in the Time of Cholera, reading that the protagonist had remained a virgin for his long-deferred love and believing it. I want to go back to the night that I finished The Trial, during high school, in an empty house once again, listening to Chopin, not allowing myself to go downstairs because I was worried I would kill myself. I want to go back to that summer of reading the entire Old Testament, huge chunks at a time -- noticing the inconsistencies and laughing out loud, with pleasure and relief. There was also the weekend that I didn't go home during one of Olivet's breaks, but instead stayed in my room almost the entire time, reading White Noise.
There was the time that I came down to campus a week early, knowing my apartment was ready, with no money, no purpose, sitting in the virtually unfurnished living room, in a lawn chair, reading Being and Time. I want the winter break back when I read Concluding Unscientific Postscript and Theology and Social Theory; I want to sit in a rigid armchair in a room in the house my parents bought after I went away to college, too cold, almost falling asleep, reading Ovid. I want every awkward moment of every conversation where I tried to explain what I was experiencing in reading -- I want to savor every single one of them individually, the sensation of having something truly incommunicable. I want to sit under a tree reading Robin Hood again (the extended version that the Davison Public Library had, with the interlude about Little John's solo adventures), as I did every summer for many years. I want to experience again what it's like to read Bonhoeffer's Letters and Papers from Prison for the first time, what it's like to read Church Dogmatics while a bunch of middle school students are asking me to turn up the volume on the video, what it's like to read Proust -- or the joy of reading a book full of sheer information, reading what is basically a reference book, letting it all flow in.
I want to sit in the library at Olivet, early in the morning, take off my shoes, and read Lolita. I want to read Repetition again for the first time. I want to read the first hundred pages of Ulysses again and again and again, and I want Stephen to be every bit as boring, and I want everyone to walk by and chuckle at me reading this big fat book my every spare moment. I want to be sitting in chapel, reading the first chapters of Invisible Man, panic-stricken at the thought that such things had ever happened in real life. I want to be puzzled again at what "Heideggerian hope" could possibly mean.
I'm sure that when I get shot in the back of the head, after living a dissolute and useless life, the memories will flash in my mind of the people that I have loved, the moments of sheer joy I have experienced with those most precious to me -- but my mind will be filled just as much with words, with turns of phrase, with arguments and storylines, with archaic words and spellings, with the enjoyment that comes only from being killed by the letter.
(1:13 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Gas GuzzlingIn general, is turning off one's car rather than idling, for instance at a long stop light, an effective way to save gasoline? Does restarting the car take such a significant amount of gas that the wait would have to be unrealistically long to produce a net savings of gasoline?
This question has been a matter of serious dispute throughout my life, and I am relying on you, the commenters, to resolve it.
Wednesday, November 17, 2004
(8:39 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
More Theology!Since my opaque theology post yesterday drew such an enthusiastic response, I thought I'd inform you of what I take to be two non-starters in terms of theological ethics:
- Referring to the example of Jesus: This often involves the sheerest projection. Since Jesus was God and must therefore be in favor of good things, then he must be in favor of what I take to be good. Primarily, this would include love and mutual understanding. Love, at least of the agape variety, seems to be yet another screen for projection, much like "fairness" in its common usage (i.e., meaning "what is most favorable to me"). No one ever mentions, for instance, Jesus' vicious denunciation of the Pharisees when appealling to his heartfelt longing for love and mutual understanding. No one talks about how he routinely insulted his disciples or the crowds following him. No one mentions him calling the Phonecian woman a "dog." For instance. Unless people are willing to take all the facts into account and remain open to the possibility that Jesus might be in favor of something we would initially oppose, then I think it'd be better to leave Jesus out of the ethical discussion entirely.
- Referring to the "image of God": I hear about the image of God constantly at CTS, and again, this seems to be a clear-cut case of utter projection. First of all, the image of God, as applied to humanity in general, appears in only one verse in Genesis. It is in an important context, that of the creation, but other than "male and female," there is no indication of what this image of God could possibly mean. The tradition of theological reflection on the content of the image strikes me as a sordid history of groundless speculation. Thus, when the image of God is deployed as a basis for ethics, it becomes a mandate to -- treat the other with love and mutual understanding. (See, since God is good, God must be in favor of everything I consider to be good, even when in Scripture he is demonstrably in favor of and directly implicated in things that I take to be horrifying -- but, since God is a "black box," I can simply assert that everything God does is for [what I take to be] the good, that all the apparent errors will come out in the wash, that it will all make sense in the Kingdom.)
Tuesday, November 16, 2004
(11:23 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
The Role of TheologyThe role of theology is to allow us a language to talk about "black box" phenomena, what in current philosophical parlance is called "the impossible." Derrida's late popularity in theological circles owes no doubt to the homology between Derrida's talk of the impossible and the task of theology -- both seek, Kierkegaardianly (or, if we want less drama with our philosophy, Kantianly) to "think what cannot be thought." And we could perhaps discuss Kierkegaard's sympathy with Plato, the generally positive reception of Platonism in the Christian tradition -- up until "Greek thought" was basically blamed for the Holocaust and declared to be radically absent from any authentic Christianity -- and Kojeve's characterization of Platonism as "theological" in his schema of philosophical types in Introduction to the Reading of Hegel -- cool diagrams, Lacan before Lacan.
I know that Kojeve is supposed to be a misreading of Hegel, but his contrast of Hegel's "atheistic" philosophy with the theological moves of Platonism is perhaps helpful: the Hegelian gamble is to go through theological thinking (in terms of his own biography, both in its literal sense and in the sense that Kant is "kind of" theological) and come out the other side with the realization that there was no black box in the first place. We already knew how the supposed black box worked all alon, just as consciousness was already out among the "things as such" all along. This does constitute, as Zizek says, a fundamental loss. Remember: it was Hegel who first said that God was dead.
What role does this leave for theology once it has been superceded by atheistic Hegelianism? I don't know. Maybe it just needs to be there; maybe it is necessary for the progress of the idea that there still be theologians around, even if those "theologians" are "abstruse French literary theorists." Remember: the whole Hegel thing is a process. Once it becomes dogma, it ceases to be dialectic. As Zizek says, perhaps it is necessary to undergo the Christian experience (or, I would say, some homologous thing -- Heideggerianism, maybe) in order to be a dialectical materialist.
I continue to believe, without much evidence as of yet, that my daliance with theology -- which shall perhaps continue, even for the rest of my life -- has been worth it. It has been productive. Perhaps I'd be better off cutting to the chase, getting the real stuff of Marxism/psychoanalysis (which, of course, I've already substantially gotten). I don't know. I've taken a liking to St. Paul, as I have to the oh-so-unstylish Derrida -- and if one day I end up having to leave those two behind, I'll miss them terribly.
[This was all in response to a comment thread from my sister site.]
Monday, November 15, 2004
(8:45 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
The Golden MeanWhat's halfway between real and fake?
UPDATE: Attentive correspondant Chris Jones forwards this article related to The Beaver Question.
Saturday, November 13, 2004
(10:13 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
A longing in my heartI am already looking forward to my massive six-week winter break -- seven weeks for one of my classes, which gets out early. Before then, I have to write a paper on Benjamin's "Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" (a replacement for my previously proposed paper on Adorno), write a brief review of a book on theology and film, do a group presentation on Israel and Palestine, write a paper about non-violence, and write a "take-home final" of indeterminate length on Romans 14-15. I also have to read a few more books about Romans, which are all very good and interesting. That may sound like a lot of work, but it isn't -- especially since I am basically all done with my PhD applications and don't need to think about that again until the rejection letters start coming in.
During my winter break, I need to become a Wesley/Badiou scholar, or close enough to one to convince the Wesleyan Theological Society not to laugh me off the podium. (This is all part of my plan to pioneer a new theological subdiscipline called Wesley Juxtaposition Studies.) Last winter break, I managed to read Phenomenology of Spirit, so I figure Wesley will be less difficult than that. With Badiou, I figure I can just fake it by indulging in all kinds of bluster about how much better his ethics are than the outdated, pseudo-religious ethics of Levinas. Then I throw in how he wrote a book on Paul, without mentioning the whole "Mao" connection, and everyone thinks Badiou is a Christian -- before long, Wesleyan theologians will replace Wittgenstein and Ricouer with Badiou as the "go-to guy" of pretensious philosophical epigrams:
On balance, it will be a lot better than hearing once again about how the Trinity is a whole lot like a language game -- but it's a language game of explosive, outgoing love.
Toward a Trinitarian Ethic of Economic Scarcity
The inscription of the subject comes about only in terms of the event, through what I will call a "truth process" .... -- Alain Badiou
Badiou is here hitting upon a major trend in Christian theology, namely, process thought. It will be the burden of this chapter to bring Wesleyan holiness theology into dialogue with Whitehead in order to develop a distinctly trinitarian ethic, one that can provide resources for dealing with economic exploitation and poverty....
In addition, I need to start either my translation of "Litterature au secret" or my previous thesis proposal on Derrida, Milbank, and Zizek. Part of that decision would likely entail determining whether the proposed section had already been translated. (According to Ted Jennings, Peggy Kamuf doesn't think it has been, and she would probably be the one to know.)
So now it's not completely clear why I am looking forward to my "break," because it sounds like it will be just as much work as I'm doing now, if not more. Well, here's my reasoning: I won't have to go up to Chicago two days a week and sit through classes. Assuming I work my same schedule, or more likely, slightly more, I will still have Tuesdays off, and probably Thursday mornings as well. My gasoline expenditures will be negligible. If I don't want to read essays about how the struggle for gay liberation ties into ecological degradation, or about the relevance of the Korean concept of han to theological ethics, I won't have to. (By the way, I think the Korean concept of han is actually very useful, but everything I've read about it is introductory or is making the case that the concept can be very useful, without actually putting it to use.)
Anyway, that's what I'm thinking about now, as I stare down the barrell of a full day of hard-core Pauline study.
Friday, November 12, 2004
(1:33 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
The Friday Afternoon Confessional
I confess that I love Robb Schuneman. [UPDATE: I confess that I constantly misspell his last name! GAH!]
Further, I confess that I was thinking about making the "guest post" thing (such as Young Hegelian's) a more regular feature. So all of you out there, write me a post and send it to me, and if it doesn't suck, we'll see what we can do about getting your writing out to The Weblog's Vast Readership.
Finally, I confess that if any of my co-bloggers would like to take over the duties of posting the weekly confessional post, that would be a great thing.
(6:24 AM) | Robb Schuneman:
There's a lot of important things going on in the world. I mean, Arafat died, Jim Tressel's sweater vests could soon be gone from the sidelines of Ohio State, John Ashcroft has been replaced by a hispanic. Get this - apparently people are still dying in Darfur.
It's so easy to get caught up in the trifling subjects of this world. I think it's important that we remember one thing - these things may dominate the headlines, but the world, the actual world, is dominated by the tastes, happenings, and lives of those age 13-15, and those who want to be 13-15. We bend pop culture to this element of our populous, and all the rest of the world follows, whether it recognizes it or not. We all want to be hip, and hip is in the 13-15 age bracket. Some may think "ghetto fabulous" is hip, and thus located in the thugging older teens. In truth, ghetto fabulous wasn't hip till Ashton Kutcher and Hillary Duff started working terms like "shizzle" and "nizzle" and "cantankerous" into their vocabulary - and why did they do this? Because of the all powerful 13-15 year old's demand for it.
The same follows for every other major trend ever to happen in the history of mankind. Rome wasn't built until 13-year-old boys started begging their "tutors" to build it. Jesus wasn't cool until that little 13 year old boy depicted in Ray Boltz's "Watch the Lamb" declared him so in an attempt to distract everyone's attention from the fact that he screwed up and lost the sacrificial lamb. And so on, obviously.
With this in mind, it is important that we look to the concerns of this community to really get the pulse of mankind's direction. You can read your Badiou. You can read your Zizek. Heck, you can even read your Audre Lorde. But none of it matters so much as reading the thoughts of "the kids" that we inevitably do everything for. With this important need not being met, it is pertinent that I now bring to you the "Livejournal Watch". This will be a weekly feature, though in the future it will likely be situated on monday, looking back at the weekend that was. Truth be told, if I didn't do this tonight, there was a good chance I'd put it off for another few months, as I have already. And the world really just can’t stand for that.
Enough with the parlay, let us get to the important issues of the day.
Ambrosewulf is a puzzle to me. She has some words, and she doesn’t know what they are, and she doesn’t know where they came from. Yet, we are to “hear the notes and pick them out”. The lyrics are something about how she can’t find her shadow, but she’s surrounded in moonlight..if you’re surrounded by light, there wouldn’t be any shadow would there? The poor girl is looking in vein. And then there’s some other stuff lifted from a Linkin Park B-side, and eventually her lover dies, and she’s SO pissed at him for that.
After the lyrics, she says this, without explanation:
“Scratch that. I think this is either Eiri to Kitazawa or Eiri to Tohma.
I am so lost.
Only adding to my confusion is the fact that she “did housecleaning work for Purgatory” and XXX WILL begin tomorrow, she swears. XXX is also highly up for adoption. I was going to make a joke about some porn movie involving adopted purgatoritioners, but I’m too confused to make all the connections.
Finally, we have some stuff about various family members, and young children watching 50 foot monsters rape little girls with various household objects and their tentacles, and finally closing by, um..declaring that she’s dropping a fairy named “tanza” from her list of muses, because he’s way too inconsistent, but, planning to bring another muse, JADE, back, though she’s having second thoughts as he’s already driving her insane, and she hasn’t EVEN posted him yet! She also seems worried that “leash wielding demons known as Hika.” will be none to pleased with her change of heart.
Oh, Abrosewulf, just know that we here at The Weblog share your “EEP!”
Bagzi is fed up with life. She’s done. Listen to her – for real, life sucks and she’s done with it. What’s this? Someone has recommended and MP3 to her! Really though, life’s not so bad! Here here for the redeeming power of music.
Anubis566 is amazingly pissed that the Vampire D novels have yet to be released in English. He’s not kidding around folks, he’s going to learn Japanese in order to read them. It’s okay though, because learning an entirely new language in order to read about vampire hunters racing to be the first to save some girl is not really all that difficult, just inconvenient. I really think that he could just rent that movie “Rat Race” and tape pairs of fangs to various places on the screen, and probably get the same effect. But, far be it from me to discourage linguistics.
Retrokid23 got his first win in Halo 2, and declared that there’s “no better feeling”. That’s right folks, feeding the hungry, your first sexual experience, being at a Pavement concert right when they were first playing the new stuff off Wowee Zowee..none of it compares to “getting fragged, running around and shouting at other people.” He also talks about how amazed he is at playing REAL people over the internet. I remember being amazed at that very same thing, like, 5 years ago.
Okay, that last shot was pretty cheap. I’m just bitter because he said he’s going to “The City of Angels” tomorrow, which made me think of that stupid movie, which made me think of “Iris” by The Goo Goo Dolls. Darn if I don’t tear up every time I hear that thing.
parakeety is having irritable bowls and dry heaves. And wants to make sure you know that he/she’s not too fond of it.
musaluc told me to take this test to find out what planet I was from. It’s pretty weird. Take a look.
You Are From Planet Bill Randby!
You’re crazy – look in the eyes..
Seriously dude – what the heck are you staring at?
And why are you so entirely made of plastic?.
Omaha? Does Omaha even have weather? Or striped shirts?
In sum, Robb, you’re a cocksucker and the whole world hates you
Man, those blog tests are getting better and better at pinning me down!
fckyouhor totally went Paul Walker in 2 FAST 2 FURIOUS, cuh! He then was touched by the Incubus song on the radio on the way home, as he says “Incubus gets to me sometimes”. It was probably that one part where he says something about how we’re all boiling like frogs oblivious. I know I tear up then too. He then argued with his “gf” for “over a half hour” about what would happen if she hit him in the balls. After the fight died down, he summed his position up brilliantly, in this way: “let's just say i'd be really pissed off and she'd be going home early haha. or not i dunno. i just wont be happy about it at all. she'd better not.” You are HARDCORE committed to not getting hit in the balls, bra!
Trstedwthangels posted “The Rules” today, november 11, 2004. You know – “The Rules”. It’s the one about how women make the rules..it starts like..
1. The female always makes the rules.
2. The rules can change without notice.
3. Males can't know the rules.
Really, in all seriousness, this exact same list was posted in my high school office next to the clever secretary’s desk. I was in high school 7 years ago. To invoke John Kerry – “Internet! We Can Do Better!”
Finally, the post of the night goes to Neisius. heck, you know I can’t comment on this..I’ll simply reproduce it:
“weeee. my bro is puking in th4 bath ruuuuuom and I'm a little durnik. today was funnn”
UPDATE: Now with working links!
Thursday, November 11, 2004
(5:42 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
New RuleIf you're an out-of-the-closet, bona fide gay man, it's okay if you hit on me. I'm not terribly likely to take you up on it (though who knows? there's a first time for everything), but I will take it in stride.
If, however, you're the creepy straight guy who doesn't know he's gay, then you can probably leave me the fuck alone. I don't need to be your really good buddy after five seconds, and I definitely don't need to deal with your awkward levels of eye contact.
Obviously, Anthony would be the exception to both these rules.
(1:35 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Look Busy!Usually when you get hired at a job, you have certain tasks you are assigned to do, and you are supposed to be there for a certain timeframe. Those tasks rarely take up the entire time you're there, but your employer is hiring you to be there to do them should the need arise. Sometimes you'll be given secondary work to fill the idle times, but sometimes, even that secondary work doesn't fill the whole time.
So my question is, why is it so rare for a boss not to be a dick about it when you have done all your assigned work and are just waiting for something to come along? Most people are hired to fill a certain job description, and that job description usually does not read "be busily working at every moment." Yet bosses always seem to feel as though they are somehow being ripped off if the employee has finished his tasks and is just waiting for the agreed-upon timeframe to be over with. They start to think, perhaps, that if it weren't for all these lazy employees, they could be making so much more money. They might think that if someone is not constantly working, then they must be getting paid too much. Yet the workers cannot be dispensed with, so only one route remains for the boss to assert his control of the situation: arbitrary labor, tasks that don't even need to be done, jobs that are arduous and humiliating and just occurred to the boss off the top of his head.
I distinctly remember every bullshit task I was ever given in a job where I was already underpaid as it was, and I'm still kind of pissed about it.
Wednesday, November 10, 2004
(5:07 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
BeaversWhy do beavers build dams? What good does it do them to have a dam? Serious answers only, please!
[This question stems from one of the readings from my French book, where the author argued that you can tell humans have a faculty that animals lack by the fact that, for example, beavers have never improved on their dam-building techniques. I was unconvinced, and I will continue to be unconvinced until someone produces a historical survey of beavers' dam-building techniques.]
(1:02 PM) | The Young Hegelian:
The Weblog: Collective, Individual or Masquerade?[Adam was asking for guest bloggers so I thought I’d jump in – Adrian @ The Young Hegelian]
One reason why The Weblog has such a large readership is due surely not just to the quality of the writing that appears there but also the variety of perspectives we encounter under one heading. It is, on the face of it, a collective effort whose prototype is the newspaper or journal. Yet this is not the only or indeed the most typical form of the weblog. More common are blogs by individuals. I wonder if anyone has paused to reflect on what is at stake in these two different approaches to weblog writing.
The collective weblog may have its origin in journalism but it also reflects something older – the division of labour in which ‘many hands would make light work’. Yet the division of labour has certain social implications which are rarely explored when it comes to the creative process of writing. As Adam Smith showed in The Wealth of Nations, the productivity of a pin manufactory could be increased dramatically by breaking down a pin’s production into minute tasks. But along with this ‘technical division of labour’ which increased productivity grew up a ‘social division of labour’ – one person had as their sole job the hammering of the head of the pin, another the twisting of the pin-end into a sharp point. These became ‘vocations’, replacing the multi-skilled work of the artisan or cottage-industry craftsman. Smith’s examples come from the early historical moment of a trend which would soon accelerate both technically and socially beyond anything he could have imagined. And as the social division of labour became consolidated it spread to the sciences and to the academy; specialisation vastly increased the amount of collective knowledge, but at a high cost – individuals and their grasp of the world became mere fragments of something increasingly beyond their ken. This was already seen in Smith where he notes the poor education which the young worker in a manufactory receives. A few decades letter Schiller lamented it more poetically in his Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man. But it was perhaps most thoroughly explored by Durkheim at the turn of the 20th Century: Durkheim argued that the advance of capitalism paradoxically increased both the extent of individualism but also the extent of co-operation and interdependence ('solidarity'), even when this co-operation remained typically implicit, unknown to the fragmented, isolated individual.
It may be no coincidence that both the newspaper and the journal rise to prominence at the time Smith was writing. The journal as intellectual product, as object of work (the word labour is inappropriate as it implies the wage and compulsion whereas writing here is something that is not fully commodified) reflects this Durkheimian co-operation in which individuality is preserved and even enhanced. Durkheim of course thought that this dual process was perfectly realisable within a liberal economy (augmented by a State to offset the ‘anomic’ excesses of the division of labour). Today we can’t be so optimistic; the division of labour and its excesses are endemic; conversely, co-operation which is not for profit happens only at the interstices of, and in spite of the best efforts of, capitalism which tries to incorporate such work within the cycle of accumulation and commodification and to atomise individuals even as it socialises them.
Something of the social division of labour, the assumption of vocations or ‘roles’, identities, remains in a form of writing which is a collective effort. Writers on a collective project are to an extent forced into playing a part in something which is greater than them, and with respect to which they contribute merely as a fragment, as a writer with specific traits, a specific personality who can be relied upon to contribute in a certain manner on specific topics of his or her expertise. Collective expertise emerges as the sum (or as more than the sum) of individual expertises. This is not always the case but is surely a tendency.
The writer of an individual weblog on the contrary has to spread his or her expertise around if they are to give any authority to their writings. The problem encountered by the individual writer (whose prototype is not so much the journal or the newspaper as the pamphlet) is how to write on a range of different topics that might appeal to a wide audience. And how to emulate the different styles which are one virtue of the collective weblog? The results are often unhappy. The individual blogger seems ‘eclectic’; each change of writing style or delving into other fields of expertise comes across as inconsistency, as promiscuity, as schizophrenia, as evidence that he is ‘a jack of all trades and a master of none’ – a phrase of almost Smithian condescension.
A third alternative exists (and doubtless I could think of more than three if I put my mind to it – writing in trinities won’t dispel the illusions you have about Hegelianism!), namely to combine the individual and the collective and to adopt the social division of labour within yourself; as it were, to ironise this division in the form of a set of masks. This is achieved to impressive degree in some contemporary weblogs, Wealth Bondage for example. The prototypes for this form are many, though one in particular springs to mind: Kierkegaard’s pseudonyms which always distance the text as product from the ‘author’ in ways which make thematic the link between individuality and the social division of labour, which play with the modern notion of ‘personality’ bequeathed to us by bourgeois law and Kantian moral philosophy; they acknowledge too that Kierkegaardian ‘anxiety’ each of us has at revealing our ‘true selves’.
Why do I choose the individual weblog at the cost of seeming eclectic, a jack of all trades, and of missing the Kierkegaardian problematic? Because I feel that we should all be jacks of all trades and masters of them as well (insert ‘Jill’ and ‘mistress’ where appropriate). Because I admire Schillerian all-roundedness, which was never simply the naïve Enlightenment ideal it is made out to be (if anything division and diremption characterise the Enlightenment; Schiller and Hegel after him are counter-Enlightenment thinkers to this extent). It is the same aspiration which is still present in some of our ostensibly ‘post-modern’ thinkers: Negri talks of human ‘multivalency’, the fact that we can connect to others in a myriad of different ways if only we would try, if only the social division of labour were not so entrenched, if only we ceased to enjoy being just one thing yet good at it, if only we didn’t have just one area of expertise, just one writing style, one personality.
A final thought: The recent development of politically linked blog-rings (such as the Progressive Blog Alliance) is to be welcomed, and certainly they seemed to galvanise bloggers before the election. But if one looks at it in the light of the above it is a development which links something individual with the collective only in a direct and immediate way. Each weblog gains the good conscience that it is part of a wider political project but doesn’t question the politics of its own form. What may be needed in the wake of political failure is an exploration of such form, which include inquiry into the nature of weblog writing as work rather than labour, as pre-figurative of a world beyond capital – Marx’s evening critic, or the ‘collective intelligence’ that is spoken of today – what form should these phenomena which are coming into being take? The need not just to link individual projects of liberation together but to get each individual to explore what they understand by liberation. A certain introspection as well as our familiar looking outward may paradoxically be needed if the individuality of our writing is to be mediated by the collective in a truly radical way.
(11:10 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
The Hack Gap ReconsideredA brief thought on the meme of the "hack gap," popularized by Matt Yglesias. The idea here is that "liberals" are more likely to be "just liberals" instead of partisan Democrats, whereas on the "conservative" side of things, identification between the broad ideology and partisanship is much, much closer. Thus, liberal pundits are supposedly just promoting liberal views, whereas conservative pundits are Republican party hacks.
It's possible that this is true in general terms -- i.e., that liberals are simply more self-critical and more critical of their political representatives than are conservatives, or some other such explanation. But couldn't we explain this phenomenon, which seems to me to be accurate in contemporary political discourse, at least in part by the fact that the Democrats have been, on average, the losing team ever since around 1980? Doing apologetics for unsuccessful political strategies doesn't seem like a fun thing to do for either liberals or conservatives, so that might be why there are apparently fewer Democratic party hacks than Republican party hacks out there.
(This post was unconsciously inspired by a lengthy conversation I overheard in Powell's yesterday between two very disaffected Yankees fans. Neither of them were party hacks for the Yankee ownership.)
Tuesday, November 09, 2004
(10:18 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
HeatingI didn't stay at my house last night. Looking back, I guess that's what it took to give me some distance from my whole situation.
On getting home and finding it colder inside than it is outside, I thought to myself, "I can't live like this anymore!"
Making it to November 9 without turning on the heat seems like a pretty good testament to self-control and frugality.
Monday, November 08, 2004
(11:53 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Good work, MattMatt at Pas Au-Delà has been on a roll the past few weeks. Of particular note are this post featuring a long excerpt from Cornell West and this post that one commenter is calling "the Speculative Good Friday of the blogilectical process." He also links to an interesting critique (no permalinks) of Zizek's latest, "The Liberal Waterloo".
Meanwhile, d-squared at Crooked Timber is discussing the possibility of a merger between the US and the UK, and Henry is attempting a meta-discussion of why debates on Israel and Palestine are often so much more heated than other similar debates. Matt Yglesias argues something that I have thought ever since hearing the news of Renquist's illness: replacing him with another conservative won't make much difference. Michael Bérubé is off getting saved, Weblogger emeritus Adam Robinson hosts the first annual Adam Kotsko celebrity roast, and Gorss informs us about science and technology.
Howard Zinn offers hope.
I believe that my constitutional convention post has now exceeded The Weblog's record for number of comments -- and without a doubt, it wins out for the sheer length of the comments posted. Last week seemed to me to illustrate one good thing about blogs, the ability to build something like "community," the chance to get out there and vent and maybe even be a little bit stupid and know it would be okay. I'm glad to have been able to provide a space for people to do that, even if it increased my e-mail workload a thousandfold (due to comment notifications). I believe it was Monica Bennett who first pointed out this potential function of blogging.
Anyway, that was my link post for today.
Sunday, November 07, 2004
(10:36 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Conservative PerspectivesTonight was the first time I've talked to my parents since the election, and both were eager to discuss politics. Although they now disagree on many particular issues, my parents both seemed to agree that the discrepancies between the exit polls showing John Kerry ahead and the actual results was that people are embarrassed to admit that they voted Republican. In my mom's case, this followed from another discussion in which I mentioned that people acted in a certain way because "no one wants to look like a fundamentalist," and she said, "Right, that's why the exit polls were wrong."
I argued against the idea, saying that it is really cool to vote Republican where I am. My mom just finished her coursework in college and is student teaching, and she said that she always felt pressured to follow the liberal orthodoxy in school -- some classes she felt like she would have failed if she expressed conservative views. I countered that academics have long been known to be left-wing and that they are not representative of any other segment of society. She mentioned something like liberal guilt, the general impression that the Democrats care more about people -- something that I argued was reinforced by the fact that most of the public spokesmen for conservatism are completely assholes (something she basically agreed with, although of course pointing out that there are rude people on both sides -- right, kind of like there are black people on both sides).
After getting off the phone, however, I reconsidered. Perhaps, I thought, the Democrats do have a certain sense of entitlement -- look at the assumption, obviously disproven in the most recent election, that higher voter turnout always helps Democrats. It's also possible that many of the non-Moral Majority Republican voters are embarrassed of being so publicly associated with certain retrograde elements in society, or that there are many Republicans who are uncomfortable with the "attitude" of Fox News or the vitriol of right-wing radio. Perhaps, just as the Democrats have been painted as "out of touch" because they are so disproportionately represented among the educated elites, despite the fact that plenty of ordinary people are Democrats, so also the Republicans have been painted as reactionary dick-weeds because they are so disproportionately represented among the fundamentalist Christian and pasty white bully elites, despite the fact that plenty of ordinary people are Republicans.
I know Republican voters; I work with them every day. They're decent people. They're neither evil nor stupid. They just did the math and decided that Bush was a better bet. On "moral issues" such as abortion or homosexuality, I can definitely see not trusting a party that holds moral views that you find repugnant. I would like to say that the Democrats are a ton better on what I consider to be real moral issues like poverty and economic justice more generally, but as Mike points out below, they've basically bought into the Republican economic conventional wisdom. I know there's been a lot of soul-searching on the left half of the blogosphere this week about moral issues, and I definitely agree that economic justice is a more pressing moral issue than sexuality -- but maybe deploying economic justice rhetoric is putting the cart before the horse in this case. Since we're apparently trying to appeal to conservative Christians here, a group that generally distrusts Democrats anyway, it'd be pretty cool if the Democrats would give us a little bit more than talk (and sometimes not even talk!) about poverty, about the need for universal health care and progressive taxation, etc., etc.
In the end, I don't care what political rhetoric or strategy is used or what kind of coalition is built with religious people or atheists -- I want there to be a party in this country that works for economic justice in a real, concrete way. Right now, there is not such a party. The Democrats could fill that void. I want them to fill it, not just so that they can pick up some Christian voters or keep those asshole Republicans out of office, but so that policies can be implemented that will help make it so that all children get adequate nutrition, so that homelessness decreases, so that urban minorities don't get sub-standard education, etc., etc., etc.
Being the party of fiscal responsibility and middle-class tax cuts is not the same as being the party of justice for the poor. Claiming the moral high ground of being the party of justice for the poor while actually doing nothing aside from a few token gestures (if that) accomplishes nothing but laying a guilt-trip on people -- and maybe people will vote in the guilt-tripping party for a while, but eventually they'll just lie to the exit pollster.
Saturday, November 06, 2004
(11:12 AM) | Michael Schaefer:
A De Facto Guest PostBut as participation by any bloggers other than Adam, Robb, and Anthony is spotty at best, I suppose I shouldn't feel too bad about my inability to post regularly.
Adam's commented on this several times, more eloquently than i'm going to, but really, can't we just put to bed the idea that there's not all that much difference between the Republican and Democratic parties? On social issues I don't think anyone would argue there's any comparison, Kerry's goofy having-it-both-ways position on gay marriage notwithstanding. As for the war in Iraq, does anyone really think we'd be there right now if -any- Democrat were in office? That so many congressional Democrats voted to give the president the authority to wage war is a black mark on the party, certainly, but arguing about why the Democrats failed to put up more opposition and painting them with the same militarist brush as the Republicans seem like two different things.
That leaves economic issues, which are more problematic. That the Republicans' loony economic ideas have become part of the conventional wisdom in the last 20 years is a disaster for the country, and the world. That the Democrats have failed to mount much intellectual opposition to the ideas of a party that often seems to long for the halcyon days leading up to the Great Depression is tragic. Tax cuts are the -only- way to grow an economy? What? Democrats are the ones responsible for huge deficits? (Who are these deficit-loving Democratic presidents? When were they in office?)
But anger at the Democrats seems to run deeper than this, more for their inability to put forth a radically progresseive reworking of our economy. I'm all for that, but the only time there's been any sort of consensus for such measures was following the Great Depression, an economic cataclysm which no one in our generation can even imagine, and then World War II, which left most of the industrialized world in ruins. For me, at least, all the impetus for things like broadly progressive tax codes, a generous welfare state, universal healthcare, and the like, stem from these two events. Even European social welfare states seem to owe far more to the devastation from the Depression and World War II than from any deep-seated historical antecedents (how could they? Germany and Italy, to name two, didn't even exist in their present forms until the 19th century.)
All of this adds up to some pretty mushy conclusions: Democrats are -not- Republicans, and while there's infinitely more the Democrats could be doing, I wonder if there's not still a ceiling to what they can achieve. Mostly, I just find some of the conclusions we seem to be drawing on this blog pretty unsatisfying--"Fuck this, both parties are worthless"; "When the revolution comes in 50 years, it's going to be pretty sweet"; and maybe worst of all, "Things could be worse/both parties are the same, that's ok".
so now everyone can be irritated with me.
Friday, November 05, 2004
(1:40 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Friday Afternoon Confessional
I have nothing in particular to confess today. I'm just glad to be able to get a post up -- Blogger's been unreliable most of this week.
On an unrelated note, I'd like to announce that this weekend is The Weblog's first-ever Co-Blogger's Weekend Extravaganza! All of you co-bloggers who have wanted to post but worried that my extreme blogging addiction would push your post down too fast -- here's your chance to express yourself without worries! If it goes well, I might make it a long weekend and abstain Monday as well.
Thursday, November 04, 2004
(8:57 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
HypotheticalIf you were presented with the opportunity to vote on holding a new constitutional convention with the potential to dissolve the union, would you vote yes or no?
(2:48 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
A QuestionCan someone explain to me how we got 500 hits yesterday? That's a 50% increase from the average. If someone big linked to us, I'd be interested to learn who -- I can't find out easily, since Technorati hasn't picked it up yet and my Sitemeter referral list only has the last hundred visits, which all happened today.
Or is it all due to the controversy surrounding Anthony's recent "apocalyptic turn"?
(1:38 PM) | Anthony Paul Smith:
"Some wounds aren't for healing."Adrian at the Young Hegelian has made, what I consider to be, an incredible post.
The traditional Nietzschean line would hold that we affirm everything that has happened. It is, after all, going to open possibilities and force us to become more creative. There are lines of escape, even lines of escape from being a white male who wears glasses and has traveled to Europe. We need to look for them, for every possibility to re-code morality, to de-structure some institution, to avoid being caught by our own set of controls.
Our flesh is porous and covered by scars we bear, but we are held together by our traumas. Scars and flesh are not a lack in our being, they are an excess of production.
(9:18 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
That Cantankerous JewI re-read Taubes, The Political Theology of Paul. Long-term readers should know of my deep abiding love for this book -- just as I ultimately learned French for Derrida, when I learn German, it will probably be for Taubes (not even for Barth!). I am going to post some quotations from this book, because I have nothing more to say about the election, at least not directly:
You notice that Paul has very peculiar worries about nature. Of course they're not ecological worries. He's never seen a tree in his life. He traveled through the world just like Kafka--never described a tree, or mentioned one. I know types like this in Jerusalem. He doesn't write: Dear Friend, Nice weather here, or: Glorious nature all around me--he doesn't notice any of that. Just find me one place in a Pauline letter where he lets up from this passion, from this obsession, from this one theme that moves him. None at all, it persists through and through. Look through Kafka's novels some time, whether there is a tree there. Maybe one on which a dog pisses. That is the only form in which a tree can even come up in The Castle of The Trial. Nature appears only as judgment...From a different section:
The political potential of Kierkegaard has long been underestimated. The first to point it out was Karl Löwith, when he underscored the sentence: There are no longer rulers, no kings who can still keep a rein on the masses, the rabble; there remains only the image of the martyr. What is this but a political statement! The rabble in 1848 can no longer be held in check by means of figures of legitimacy, a king, a Kaiser, a general, but only by a martyr, because it has gotten out of hand.Yet another:
[Schmitt] is a clerk, and he understands his task to be not to establish the law but to interpret the law. Schmitt's interest was in only one thing: that the party, that the chaos not rise to the top, that the state remain. No matter what the price. This is difficult for theologians and philosophers to follow, but as far as the jurist is concerned, as long as it is possible to find even one juridical form, by whatever hairsplitting ingenuity, this must absolutely be done, for otherwise chaos reigns. This is what he later calls the katechon: The retainer that holds down the chaos that pushes up from below. That isn't my worldview [sic], that isn't my experience. I can imagine as an apocalyptic: let it go down. I have no spiritual investment in the world as it is. But I understand that someone else is invested in this world and sees in the apocalypse, whatever its form, the adversary and does everything to keep it subjugated and suppressed, because from there forces can be unleashed that we are in no position to control.I'm with Taubes on the apocalyptic thing: a couple days ago, I was advocating mob rule in the United States, and it's too simple to say that I was joking. I had a long discussion with some of my fellow seminarians last night -- a frustrating one, to say the least, but hopefully a productive one -- in which I came out and said that as a white straight male, I have the entire system at my disposal. The world was designed with people like me in mind -- the skills that I lack are not many, and I can fake it when necessary. No matter how liberal or Marxist I try to be, when the end comes for this system, I am going down with it. I see no reason to deny that or to begrudge the unwashed masses their opportunity to murder me due to my skin color and my glasses -- am I going to show them my marked-up copy of the 1844 Manuscripts and they'll say, "Okay, move along"?
I explained this in theological terms, using the metaphor of going to hell when I die. I don't mind going to hell when I die, and I don't know what's supposed to happen to change that. Maybe something will -- who knows? But even with all this in mind, I embrace a certain kind of pacifism that may well amount to nihilism. There's a section in Taubes where he talks about Benjamin's concept of "world politics as nihilism" -- and while I'm very adept at saying no, for instance to the Iraq War or to Bush as a person, I don't know that I have anything to offer. I leave it to the tough-minded liberal realists to do that kind of thing -- very annoying of me, I know. I think that when millions of people came out onto the streets to protest the Iraq War, they were probably being unrealistic. A lot of them -- I include myself here, although I didn't actually march -- were unreflective about that whole thing. What exactly were we supposed to do about it? What feasible plan did we have to deal with this problem?
I'll admit it: we didn't have a feasible plan. I wish we wouldn't have gone to war in Iraq, but I don't know what else we should have done. Sanctions were evil, clearly. But maybe giving Saddam a free hand would have proven to be a terrible idea, too. I don't know! I don't know what to do about that, just like I don't know what to do about the fact that Bush got re-elected. I'm so angry right now that the slightest thing can set me off -- I threw a glass against the wall, hard, so that it would shatter, for only the second time in my life. But I think that the people out there protesting, even if they couldn't articulate it very well or even at all, were saying no to the options presented. We -- again, I wasn't physically there, but we -- were saying no to a system in which the president of the United States has to "do something" about Iraq and in which tens of thousands of people have to die to remove one guy from power.
World politics as nihilism -- throw out the whole damn thing. The options that the system presents us with are no longer acceptable. There are no good, feasible options. If we have to have a US President and a commander in chief, then fine -- let it be Kerry instead of Bush. In fact, please let that be the case -- I wanted that very badly, and I don't think I have to prove that to anyone. I have a picture of Kerry and Edwards hanging on my wall, and it will remain. But seriously -- throw this whole fucking world order out. If chaos will result, I say, "Fine," because the only thing that consistently works in an orderly manner is the circulation of capital, and even that has its flaws. Chaos is continually produced by the world order itself. John Kerry could well have made that more livable, and I wish that it would have turned out differently Tuesday -- but throw the whole thing out. It's not worth it. The world order is not worth fighting for or preserving.
Do I believe that because I'm a Christian? Is this a pathology of thought that I need to get over? Maybe it is. I don't know. I'll be a good liberal for once: there are other possible viewpoints. I'll be a good Cartesian liberal, step into the space of the evil-white-male-Cartesian-subject and say: I am only saying this because of my social conditioning, my position in the system (and somehow, despite being thoroughly conditioned by the system, I can know exactly how my background affects me -- that's what fucking pisses me off about all these "ethnic theologies" or whatever else, this pretense that you can be so fucking sure exactly what it means that you're a black Latina Jewish lesbian and you can know exactly what special perspectives you bring to the table -- I don't believe we're that transparent to ourselves, and I'm not going to play the game of positioning myself like that. If I only have the luxury of doing that because I'm a white male, then fine -- but I'm not going to presume to say it. Once again -- Zizek is right).
I'm so frustrated right now, and I'm sick of all the easy answers -- and you're fooling yourself, you're lying to yourself if you think that the right wing is the only place where you can find people peddaling easy answers. Come sit in my Christian Ethics class, my wonderful liberal Christian Ethics class at the most liberal seminary in this part of the country, and you'll find plenty of easy answers. We have not even begun to understand the consequences of the Republican takeover of this country, and as Mike Schaefer says in a comment below, it's been going on for twenty years or more. Right now, I'm not sure I have much to offer other than nihilism. I know it's useless. I don't know what else to do, though.
Sorry this is so long.
(8:53 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
RetirementAdam Robinson has retired from The Weblog. You can read his hard-hitting posts at The Pickle.
I hope the remaining seven contributors will be able to generate adequate content to keep The Weblog moving.
UPDATE: On further reflection, it seems that our commenters Patrick and Angela have generated more content for The Weblog than any official contributors outside me and Anthony -- and it's a close call whether they've been beating Anthony lately, too. That's the great thing about comment sections -- lots of stuff for people to read, and you don't need to pay the commenters. Plus, since I don't go through and delete comments I don't like (other than one isolated incident where the person was accusing me of being a pedophile -- a definite social faux pas), and often don't even participate in comment threads, particularly those stemming from Anthony's posts, it's almost like I don't have to take responsibility for what commenters say.
Anyway, maintaining a staff of eight (now seven) is almost beyond my financial means, but I'm getting through -- eating more bowls of Ramen than I'd like to admit, however.