Thursday, March 31, 2005
(2:34 PM) | Dave Belcher:
Stanley Hauerwas is Skilled in the Habit of Speaking the Truth…to HimselfI first saw Stanley Hauerwas speak in 2003 at North Park University, in Chicago. He gave two talks on Bonhoeffer that were later included in his book Performing the Faith: Bonhoeffer and the Practice of Nonviolence—which is not really on Bonhoeffer at all. During his talk, he made an aside to the effect of, "Why doesn’t anyone talk about purity anymore?!" This statement completely baffled me at the time, and didn’t really seem to fit with the entire rest of his talk—though now I think I retroactively understand it completely. Confused as I was, I waited in the long line of students and "fans," who wanted their copies of Hauerwas’ books signed, so that I might ask him about this strange comment. I must have waited for a half an hour when I was the next to last person in the line in front of Hauerwas. Time magazine’s "greatest American theologian" finished talking to the person in front of me, and left.
Now, I understand that this doesn’t make Hauerwas an asshole, since I would imagine it was a long weekend for him, and he probably had yet another speaking engagement to get to; but, I was the last person in line, so it wasn’t like it would have killed him to take one or two more minutes to address a very simple question (and thus all of the questions raised would have been answered—or at least addressed; I mean, wouldn’t that sort of equality at least kind of prove his notion of the possibility of a Christian community of virtue who live together as friends?).
However, Hauerwas is indeed an asshole—at least when it comes to answering questions, that is. Let me recount a very similar experience at the infamous Seattle Wesleyan Theological Society meeting with Prof. Hauerwas. Stanley entitled his talk, "The End of Protestantism: The Methodist Contribution."
After his talk, I went up to ask Hauerwas a question, in particular with reference to his use of Ephraim Radner—who claims that though the Church is in ruins, we (and by "we," Radner means Anglicans) must cling to her, and not let her die. After another twenty-minute wait, or so, I was again finally the next to last person in line. I could tell that Hauerwas was about ready to jet because he decided to greet all of the four or five us in front of him at once. When he looked at my name-badge and shook my hand he asked, "What are you doing at Vanderbilt?!" (with disdain) and turned back to another person asking him a question. Next, a complete asshole (!) who had not waited in line at all walked right up and stood beside me—and Hauerwas knew that I was next and this guy had not been waiting in line because he met everyone left in line already!—and Hauerwas asked this fucker (a Nazarene, I should add) "Did you have a question?" I was fuming. Finally, after another guy who had wandered up on the other side began to answer this Nazarene’s question for Hauerwas, Hauerwas completely ignored me (and these two who obviously didn’t need to ask Hauerwas anything) and began to walk away. I approached him, told him of my experience at North Park, and that I really wanted to ask him this particular question. As soon as I did, he said, "Ok. So, what are you doing at Vanderbilt?" It was as if my association with this liberal institution was going to keep him from ever giving me the time of day. To top it all off, when I finally asked him my question, his reply was, "Well, that’s why I think it’s so important for us to learn to speak the truth together as friends." He just said the same damn thing he’s been saying for twenty-five years.
And, this gets me—finally—to my point. Hauerwas’ failure to a) take seriously a student from such a supposed liberal haven as Vanderbilt; and b) understand the Church as anything outside of his system of communitarian virtue is evidence enough (for me) of the fact that he does not wish to say anything at all to anyone outside of his discourse, i.e., he is simply talking to himself. This is a trend that I am getting tired of in theological discourse these days. The irony in Hauerwas’ circular system—as in Milbank’s—is that it is grounded in the same liberal tradition that he so despises. For once I wish theology would start getting honest about history; it’s just not true that liberalism is the antichrist…not to mention Hauerwas’ own nationalistic identity (he thinks that theology is best understood in relationship to baseball for God’s sake!), or that, in the end, both Hauerwas and Milbank want a "democracy" of some sort!
(1:54 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
An announcement, then an ideaJohn Holbo has inaugurated a new blog, entitled The Valve. By my count, I am the 500th person to point this out, entitling me to a door prize. I am glad to see that someone has had the good sense to snatch up Amardeep Singh and Dan Green for the purposes of a group blog.
My idea is as follows. I am currently reading Lacan's Seminar on The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, which is suprisingly not difficult. I find that he makes reference to many different books and ideas (spreading the seed of the intellect, as one could say) that it would be productive to follow up on -- except that I'm already reading a book (viz. Lacan's Seminar...). Why not, then, have some kind of blog based on following up on Lacan's Seminar or something like it? Each week or two, start on the next session, pick out the works that Lacan is referring to and combining, and see what actually happens when you combine them. For instance, is it actually helpful to combine Kierkegaard's Repetition with Freud's Beyond the Pleasure Principle? I suspect it would be helpful, but for now I'm just taking Lacan's word for it. It doesn't have to be that way, though, because there could be a blog where people would sit down, read Kierkegaard and Freud, flag the relevant passages, and hash it out. Even more helpful: do one of the seminars that's not been translated yet, and assign people to translate a given section. They're usually 10-12 pages, so even though it's Lacan, you could produce a usable draft in a week or so. All of this depends heavily on people having infinite time, of course. In principle, though, it seems like a cool idea.
(10:38 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
The horrorProfessor B recommends this Shouts and Murmurs column from the issue of the New Yorker that should be arriving in my mailbox next Tuesday or so. The day when we will recognize ourselves under the "George" section surely represents a recurring nightmare for more than one of the contributors and regular readers here.
(8:06 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
The Right of InterventionIf children are public goods, then it stands to reason that there should be a general citizen's right to intervene and stop shitty parenting from happening. For instance, mom buys already-fat child another candy bar; concerned citizen steps in and places it back on the shelf. Along those lines, there would be a general right for citizens to band together and remove all children from McDonald's restaurants. In addition, we need to get over the pathological and overstated fear of child sexual abuse and allow strangers to touch children -- for example, cover the kid's mouth when he's screaming in the grocery store. Children would be a lot less likely to "make a scene" if they knew that, rather than their parents joining in and making the scene much more disruptive (sighing, wondering aloud how the kids got to this point, suddenly and arbitrarily administering corporal punishment that leads only to more noise), they would be subject to the intervention of random strangers.
If children are our future, then we cannot allowed self-centered and lazy parents to ruin the future for all of us -- not to mention the present. But as things stand now, every intervention by someone outside the family results in a ridiculous circling of the wagons, where no matter what the child was doing, the fact that someone stepped in is automatically a much more serious problem (see note 1). This applies equally if one attempts to talk to the parents to get them to control their children -- since one is intruding on something that is none of one's business (despite the fact that it's happening right in front of one and is causing one notable distress), there's even a chance that the parent will encourage the child to misbehave more, to punish the intervener for such a horrible sin.
But this is impossible, because in real life, children aren't regarded as public goods -- they're regarded as the parents' property. So (not that I'm paying taxes right now, but in principle) if I'm not going to have a say in whether your little snot is going to make my trip to the store into a living hell, then maybe you don't want me to help you out with all those tax subsidies and such. But again, thinking about it in those terms routes all social relationships through money -- one should have a right to intervene because one is in some sense paying for those children.
 I'm not saying that child sexual abuse never happens or that we should take a lax approach to it. This comes up because my mom, who got her teaching degree in December and has been subbing since then, was having trouble with a child in her class who was being disruptive and rude and who wouldn't look at her when she talked to him. Therefore, she grabbed his face and turned him toward her so as to look him in the eye. The parents complained, and she is no longer allowed to sub in that building, because she touched him. That, to me, is the symptom of a social pathology.
(6:38 AM) | Old - Doug Johnson:
Biopower and the American LeftThe article by Santner Adam points us to is quite good. My only quibble is with the attempt to make Republicans and the religious right out to be the only boogeymen with respect to Biopower, especially in this case. Terri's husband and the American left are just as much involved in the sham. In this case, the use of a cabal of medical experts to deem someone non sentient so as to justify a refusal to feed her, to call feeding her artificial (and remember my comments from a post below - NPR reports that she can be fed without a feeding tube, it just takes a long time) are just as assuredly biopolitical interventions that are entirely homologous to other attempts to isolate a form of life beyond the protection of law, a bare life that can be allowed to wither on the vine or live at the whim of some system appointed gaurdian.
Wednesday, March 30, 2005
(10:46 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Stupid QuestionSo in a resume, is one supposed to put education or employment history first?
UPDATE: Yes, I was applying for jobs today, over the Internet! I'm not going to violate the confidentiality of the companies to which I applied, but rest assured: there are some pretty big names included. I'll probably look into temp agencies, too. Last time I signed up with Manpower, I scored as a "master user" of Microsoft Word and Excel, and I've only gotten better since then -- I'm sure I'll be "Demi-God" if not outright "God" by now.
And then, God willing, I'll be able to work for faceless corporations, doing boring work that requires little more than a warm body with rudimentary skills, with no hope for advancement (i.e., God willing, I'll find some adjunct work doing a summer intro to philosophy course).
Unless ... unless people start donating a lot of money to me. If you or someone you know is a wealthy benefactor or would like to get in on the prestigious field of wealty benefaction, feel free to contact me or just click on the PayPal link located on the right hand sidebar.
(9:18 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
The State of Exception and Terry SchiavoMark Kaplan points us to an article by Eric Santner on "Terri Schiavo and the State of Exception." It also deals at great length with the "detainees" in the so-called "war on terror." In the light of recent discussions here and elsewhere about the Schiavo case and the real thought process behind the pro-life movement, I pick out this one paragraph from an article that is worth reading in its entirety:
Of course, the Terri Schiavo case would never have entered the national awareness were it not for certain Christian groups that adopted it as a battleground in the larger cause of defending so-called innocent life. There is much to say about this phrase, “innocent life.” Given the fact that many who oppose abortion also condone capital punishment, one has good reason to wonder whether what is really at stake here is not innocent life but rather living innocence, that is, a fantasy of protecting not a human life but a condition of purity and innocence that can, in turn, only be truly embodied by non-sentient life. Indeed, one cannot help but wonder whether what President Bush has referred to as the “culture of life” only refers to non-sentient life; as soon as one acquires feeling, perception, and awareness one is more or less abandoned to the minimally regulated vagaries of the market place.This takes us much further, in my opinion, than the cliched argument about how pro-life people need to be pro-all-life -- we have all always known that it was never about that, really, and therefore we knew that our little argument wouldn't work. It would, however, reinforce our feeling of self-righteousness, which can be important.
(On an unrelated note, I find that the real satisfaction of reading General J. C. Christian, Patriot, is in the titles. For instance, today: The most misunderstood scouting tradition. It just wasn't worth a new post to say it.)
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
(9:03 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Reading (votes tabulated)
Here are the results:
Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams 37.1% 13
John Milbank, Being Reconciled 25.7% 9
Thomas Pynchon, Mason & Dixon 25.7% 9
Something else, to be specified in comments 11.4% 4
Thank you to the 35 people who voted. That's a pretty impressive total, actually. I was thinking Freud because I'm reading Lacan's Four Fundamental Concepts right now, and he seems to assume that people know that particular text by heart. I read it in high school, which at this point is the equivalent of never reading it at all. I'll let you know how it goes, and I'll keep the miscellaneous recommendations firmly in mind.
(11:26 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Fundamentalist Christian TerrorismKrugman's column today makes me wonder why we never hear the phrase in my title. A big segment of the conservative Christian population in this country is dangerously vulnerable to the temptation of serious violence -- or at least to look the other way. I'm sure we can all think of examples of conservative Christians who half-heartedly denounce the violent elements in the anti-abortion movement, but think they have a point (even if it was wrong for a private citizen to kill that doctor, he deserves to die). Of course, there is also the issue of the fairly radical anti-federal government rhetoric in many conservative Christian circles, which opens up the possibility of a strategic alliance between them and the McVeigh types.
All this to say: there are some undercurrents of extreme violence in American society today, and a lot of people seem to be playing on that without a clear idea of what the consequences could ultimately be. I'm thinking mainly of Republican leaders. Bush himself has been rather restrained on this front -- except for the gay marriage thing, his desire to appear "Christian" has stayed at the level of appearance, without particularly influencing his policy choices (even the gay marriage thing was doomed from the start and he knew it -- a token gesture). But people like DeLay and Scalia aren't even trying. Playing on the passions of nationalism and fundamentalism might be a great way to get people out on the polls and stealthily advance one's corporatist agenda, but these things could easily go way beyond what anyone would expect.
(10:17 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
International BloggingScott McLemee writes today about blogging in Iran, primarily relying on the work of Alireza Doostdar, an Iranian graduate student in Middle Eastern Studies. Persian is now apparently the fourth-largest language in the wider blogosphere, and Persian bloggers refer to their circle as "Weblogestan," which may help to explain why "The Weblog" was linked in so many Persian webrings when I first put it up (for real).
In other foreign-language news, I recently received Armando DiCarlo's textbook "From Italian to English," apparently the only textbook on earth focussing on Italian for reading knowledge, in the mail. It was regularly $56 on Amazon, so when I found a used copy for $20, I jumped on it, despite the fact that I was only looking for such a book on a whim, with no concrete plan to use it any time soon. When I opened it up, it soon became clear that this was basically something that had been printed off of Microsoft Word -- it was even double-spaced. But it's around 250 pages, though, so it would have been more expensive to photocopy it, assuming 10 cents a page.
You've probably seen this by now, but I've been meaning to link to Mark Kaplan's Notes on Rhetoric, a compilation of one of his regular features at Charlotte Street. It fully actualizes all the potentials of the metablogging genre.
Finally, I highly recommend that you download Fiona Apple's never-released album Extraordinary Machine. It'll go more smoothly if you download Bit Torrent, which is nice to have on hand in any case. If you're still sick of her from back in the late nineties when she was a big hit for a couple months, get over it.
Monday, March 28, 2005
(8:02 PM) | F. Winston Codpiece IV:
This is importantArchipelago tacks bandages turmeric. Cardamon ignavia wax imbat obloquy, samisen gavelkind cedilla: cassation; vanilla; ophicleide; tombola; hendiadys.
Corposant paste, sphagnum, quincunx—madrepore jequirity distaste aceldema—cranium hubris? (Thunder lunistice febrifuge; geranium dismemberment yarborough.) Ampersand! Opopanax baize hellebore maze occamy, accismus obelus, antigropelos, whistle badigeon cartilage piacle:
Maremma epistle quodlibet remorseClavicle hiccup gibs phylactery sago bellonion plumbago pantechnicon purlicue thurible amaranth humn spardrap! Aphthong rhoncus diaeresis, whim, cicatrix; bosphorus chalcedony exequies salsify narthex. Phosphorus spandrel palindrome betrayal? Ligament! Chandoo gehenna, glue aspic, ganosis etui, wapentake mistrust! Velleity, anamorphosis, orrery ichor dust.
Botargo gegenschein catafalque idioticon divorce.
(5:28 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
New Ad PolicyI have returned the adsI had previously removed the ads without comment when it became clear that it was not making as much money as I'd hoped and that the ads they chose for my site sucked. Today, however, I received a check in the mail, and I thought to myself, "Even if it's not very much, it's always nice to receive a check in the mail." So the ads are now available again. I hope that they enhance your browsing experience.
(12:06 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
The Epistemic Advantages of a Blame America First AttitudeOf course an instinctive "blame America first" attitude is not an adequate response to the full range of historical reality. Of course there have been terrible rulers in all parts of the world who have committed horrible crimes without the aid of the United States. And surely any theory that seems to posit the United States as the only possible causal factor in contemporary history is leaving some very important things out of account. Yet, I would venture to say that the "blame America first" attitude is a necessary misrecognition -- a necessary part of the dialectic. The pull of nationalism, the indoctrination of the public school system and the popular media, is so incredibly strong that the only way to get beyond the "default" setting of tacitly regarding the United States as the Last Best Hope of Mankind (despite unfortunate accidents such as the Vietnam War) is to invert that picture completely.
Surely afterward we can come to a place where we can say, "Yes, no matter what other motivations went into it, the Marshall Plan was an incredibly good thing," for example. And most likely, we will reach that point. But the only way to get there, effectively, is to go through the much-parodied Chomsky route in which America is apparently the cause of all the world's woes -- because otherwise, every single example of American misdeeds is going to be dismissed as an accident that does not effect the liberatory and salvific essence of Americanness. The proper way to critique the "blame America first" attitude is by having gone through it, not by standing near the doorway, glancing inside, and slamming it shut due to an instinctive "no." That instinctive "no" is, finally, much more dangerous than a naive Chomskyism.
(11:53 AM) | Adam R:
Darling Hall, Performance Night, 03/26/05In an email to me, Monica Bennett captured the second act from Saturday's Performance Night beautifully:
Dear Adam,Yes, the sketch was really that good. Theresa Columbus' new piece was delightful as well. It is called "The Rehearsal," and opens with Theresa waking up in the middle of the night while she's on tour with her friends. She takes the opportunity to practice a song while her friends are sleeping around her, and plays a discordant, loosely melodic tribute to her birthday party. Then she changed her clothes to rehearse her new piece, which was similar to a Tingle Dancer act: Theresa poses and says a line, moves to another spot to pose and say another line, and repeats. It was fast paced and colorful, although difficult to understand.
There once was this guy who was pretentiously pretending to admire art when the largest hummingbird he had ever seen dropped a bird dropping on his head. He was thrilled because a bird hadn't dropped on his head in years. He loved to taste the bird droppings.
Then three children started jumping in unison on the trampoline when a yogi appeared and told them to relax and focus on their enjoyment. Soon they were jumping in perfect graceful harmony and time with the yogi, when the largest hummingbird ever seen flew in. Everybody thought the hummingbird was going to drop on the yogi, but instead the hummingbird just perched on the yogi's shoulder.
There were three other acts. The first was a short one act about a family with a father who decides to start his own country in the garage. It had some very funny lines despite being strangely conventional during a night of unconventional acts. There was a musical number that came off like an indie rock opera but failed because it was too long and too pointless. However, it ended with a beautifully sung rendition of a Christmas song. Finally, a young guy read a poem that ended, "Aaah, spring."
(11:22 AM) | Discard the Name:
Report on Badiou Conference at DukeIn the hope of socializing Badiou's appearance this weekend a bit, I thought I'd add to Old and offer a quick report. Some preliminary comments... As I mentioned in a comment below, the conference was quite disappointing. Two things would have made it more profitable. First, there could have been a real push for a Badiouian view of things, of philosophy and politics. I say this because, I confess, I am not sure how to understand the attraction of this manner of thinking. I wished I could have had a better understanding, but that could never have happened. The project was, we might say, given, and most of the work amounted to tinkering. Second, since Badiou's philosophy is clearly quite strong and rich, we could have had papers which said something like, "Ok, let's do Cohen," or, "here's why set theory is a good way to do ontology" - in other words, something that would force all present to think.
Hallward was first up, and his talk seems essentially identical to one that Infinite Thought reported on a while back. Henry, Deleuze, and Badiou, with reference to painting. Henry involves Kandinsky, Deleuze involves Bacon, and Badiou received no artistic emissary. But the argument, quite crudely: (1) what's interesting about french thought in the twentieth century is subtraction; (2) Henry subtracts from representation, and Deleuze subtracts as well (contra Badiou, Hallward wants to say that Deleuze is not simply 'animal'); (3) Badiou subtracts, but by a double subtraction. Implied: what "all of us" are after is subtraction, but Badiou is the one who follows it most profoundly. What struck me was the mode of presentation. I'm not sure that we can foreground some common subtraction in this way. There is something a bit bizarre about this, almost flattening, tendency. He ventured to analyze, in one or two sentences each, about ten contemporary philosophers according to how they would think a spark of being. This would be an outstanding score for an American phd student on a prelim exam, but... is this philospohy? I sound harsh, i know, but seriously... what is happening in this sort of work? The cynical element in me would say that this is brilliant and terrible. Our present task is simply to scan all the philosophers on the market, find the one that's "best", and then apply the philosophy to more concrete occurences. This is the way i'm tempted to understand Hallward's allegiance to Badiou but insistence that we need a "relation," or "dialectic": Badiou is the best philosophy, but any philosophy then needs to add a relation to historical/'worldly' conditions. (Now this seems different than Badiou's thinking of the event, or Deleuze's thinking of problems.) I had the feeling that i was witnessing a concretion of the dialectic before my eyes, where Hallward was the minor term, recuperated by Badiou's event. Badiou would explicate/affirm the truth-event, Hallward would basically agree but say things are 'more' undecidable, things are too 'soupy' just to affirm the event, and then Badiou would say, "yes, of course, i should explicated, but nonetheless, the simplicity of the event!"
Moreiras seemed to want to use Badiou's militant to extend Schmitt's understanding of the partisan. We need a more universal partisan... i think you can follow. I won't elaborate too much, as my attention waned a bit during this one. He thinks the political is both autonomous and heteronomous, borrowing from Derrida. Bosteels have a summary of Deleuze, Derrida, Badiou. It was... a summary. But his Deleuze is a bit emaciated - no ethology, no counteractualization, just affiming the oneness of all events, as if amor fati completes rather than begins to determine ethics. Boer offered a really interesting point, so quite quickly: is it possible to have an event without a fable? Probably not. If so, then how are we to separate the fable or myth from the truth-event, or specifically, the resurrection fable from the truth-event. This was intriguing, because i'm not sure that fabulation can function, within Badiou's philosophy, in the expressive-constructive way that Boer seemed to be hinting at. But of course this raises the question of mathematics, as Jared says below.
Badiou's talk was taken from the new book, which i've not yet read, so there's probably complexity that i'm missing. But in any case, the question is a dialectic between the body and the subject. The body belongs to worldly multiplicity, and the subject belongs to this multiplicity as well as to the singular event. As Old noted, the failures are idealist (reducing the body to the subject, life into death, sacrifice) and monist (reducing subject to the body, death in life, jouissance). Very well. So we need the subject as immanent difference. I'll say that i find this disappointing. The reason is that it does not seem to develop substantially the priority of the event to becoming, bodies, and so on (these are just names, but i think its basically clear what they signify for one who prefers Deleuze). The world, the body, is included, but as a minor term of the event. This of course is probably no problem for one who prefers Badiou. In any case, it was telling that he said the subject is process, is becoming, but precisely as the consequence of the event. Not, in other words, as the construction or creation of the event (or, not getting tied down by the plurivocity of "event," of what philosophers and revolutionaries want the event to produce). There is clearly a certain incommensurability between Badiou and Deleuze, and i don't want to dilute this. But perhaps there could have been more engagement with the proposition that being is entirly productive. In his Pli review, Toscano notes rightly that Badiou places a demand on Deleuzians - but is there not also a demand placed on Badiouians? Also, somewhat peculiarly (but in my perhaps slanted reading, tellingly), Badiou said that the relation of event to body was not identical to, but fundamentally similar to, the idea that the event would form and the body matter!
As for the theological question raised by Old, i'll just echo the observation of C. (not sure if i should be using names), a friend, who noted that Badiou is making possible an analogical reading, where the dialectic of monism and idealism is overcome by a proposed (but undecidable, or uncountable) analogy between world and event. This would seem to involve an implied positive infinity. But at the same time, Jared is absolutely right to 'mathematize' this problematic. I think it does indeed turn on set theory. Echoing a thought by another friend, R., I'll ask whether set theory does not function to fully account for reprsentation and then break with it via forcing of the uncountable. In this way Badiou trumps representation but keeps it in place. I might extend this, saying something similar happens with a situation - we need to break with it by going to the event via the real break. The possibility of saying the resistance is always primary, that any representation is parasitical upon constituent power, that puissance is anterior to pouvoir, or whatever you like... these are not available. There is a sort of foregrounding of represenation and then an uncountable or aleatory break with it.
(9:10 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
My ConundrumMy future children are lucky they're not born yet. If they were, I would have just entered the house in a rampage, telling one that her handicrafts are not done correctly, the other that his incessant piano playing is driving me nuts -- and I'd hit a light switch and yell, "Aw, is the electrician ever going to get this right?" And then I'd creep out my youngest child by holding him over-tightly as I held back tears of despair.
I would act out this scene from It's a Wonderful Life because I'm pretty sure that I'm not even on the waiting list at DePaul. I have not been "officially" counting on getting in off the waiting list, but finding out the news this morning (from one of the professors with whom I've been in close contact -- but who, for the first time in over a decade, was not on the admissions committee), it became clear that I really was hoping for the deus ex machina of some nameless person choosing Fordham or Villanova over DePaul.
Now my options all seem to be fairly bad. I've requested a deferral from Nottingham, both because Goodchild is on leave next year and because I'd like to have a decent shot at actual scholarships, so I could take a year off and go there. I have the offer from New School, with the very flattering scholarship -- but that scholarship makes it so that I would spend basically the same amount for tuition for a second MA as I would spend on the coursework for a PhD from CTS. I wonder why it is that I couldn't have applied at more places that would have offered funding; but wait! -- I actually did, and the very best result I got from any of them was being on the waiting list at Vanderbilt, an institution at which, on paper at least, I am a virtual clone of several of their current grad students.
I know it's all dice rolls, and it's not really a matter of my wanting to be affirmed as a person -- more a matter of feeling like pursuing the rather uncertain road of an academic career would be a whole lot easier to take if I could go into job searches without being pinned against the wall with an unreasonable amount of debt. And it's also a feeling of -- once again, now as at every point of my life -- having missed out on the opportunity to go to an institution whose prestige would complement my talents, allowing me to, you know, actually get somewhere in life.
Yes, yes -- no harm in waiting a year and reapplying; or, better, the academic job market is so shitty that you're going to hate yourself even more in five or six years when you've got this advanced degree with no job to go with it. Just sign on with the temp agency, and you'll eventually stumble into a job. Or why not get your teaching certificate? Right. And I'll be thanking myself a few years down the line when I'm trying to start a family and I'm on so much better financial footing. I'll be able to afford the name-brand cereals for my children.
Sunday, March 27, 2005
(11:39 PM) | Old - Doug Johnson:
A Self-Proclaimed Atheist Filled with the Holy GhostBadiou at Duke 3-26-05:
Perhaps a more interesting question than the one Adam pointed us to recently (what will happen when materialist readings of religious texts really take off ... they may latch on to Barth and never let go), is the correlative: what will happen when radical orthodoxy folks quit jerking their knees against the pricks and really latch on to Badiou? I think those who are complaining that Badiou opens the door way too wide for we 'religious' folks is dead on. Why fight Badiou at all when he simply gives you everything you want and then says, "yeah that would work, it's just not my way."? In other words, what would radical orthodoxy and Badiou really have against each other (not that Badiou cares a shit about RO) if they simply bracketed the question of transcendence? Does Badiou's version of immanentism influence his thought in other ways that are at all antithetical to RO's main themes? Maybe partisan's of either could help me out here. (I've been quite clear that, contra Roland Boer's talk yesterday, the Resurrection is verifiably true. My relationship with orthodoxy is somewhat less clear cut. To paraphrase our greatest living poet: I don't want to blow you, carve you, or prop you up ... .)
Case in point: the point of departure for the bulk of Badiou's talk here at Duke yesterday was the relationship between subject and body. Badiou suggested that the two major current options are 1. subject is identical with body 2. subject is seperable from the body/body unfortunately limits the subject. The problem with the former for AB is that the pursuit of jouissance is the subject's telos (the West) and with the latter sacrifice in this life for pleasure in the next becomes the modus operandi (Islam). In either case, death dominates (a familiar theme for AB). In the first option this is because jouissance is pursued by way of experimenting with death in life. The target or targets of option one were obvious. Discard, of course, thinks his current beloved can easily avoid such a charge, and I don't have any reason to doubt him.
Badiou called his third way something like "an immanent multiplicity" where the subject is neither identical with his body, nor separable from it. I immediately leaned over to our friend writing his diss. on Aquinas' anthropology and said "Thomas would have no problem with that." Badiou apologized for not having the time to elaborate further on what he meant by 'immanent multiplicity' and went on to spell out the consequences of such a position. In the q&a which followed Badiou was asked why a transcendental unity of the subject wouldn't likewise resolve the problem as laid out. 'It would, but it's not my way.' (Of course, transcendental unity invokes something like the solution of Personalism, adhered to variously by such folks as Pope John Paul II and Martin Luther King Jr.)
Do Christians really need such lob passes thrown our way?
(5:22 PM) | F. Winston Codpiece III:
Review: The Guy in Front of Me in Line at the Grocery StoreThis is taking my series of reviews in a somewhat different direction than Mr. Kotsko initially proposed, but I feel it is both necessary and prudent to subject the behavior of the guy in front of me in line at the grocery store to a thorough review and critique. First, his dress and appearance: I know that a trip to the grocery store is generally a casual affair, but it is not the same as a trip to one's basement. Here we are dealing with a genuine worst-case scenario: black jeans, thoroughly worn, untied tennis shoes, and a faded "Big Dog" t-shirt from 1987, complemented by a tattered Charlotte Hornets cap and a hooded sweater -- tied at the waist! His patchy facial hair had been stretched to its limits to fashion a make-shift goatee, together with a peach-fuzz mustache. Things only got worse as he loaded his groceries onto the conveyer belt. Not only was the food itself in horrible taste -- just for example, two boxed sets of Ramen noodle packets (worse yet: Top brand, not the classier Manchuran), Mexican-style cardboard pizzas, Hot Pockets, Wonder Bread, a jumbo jar of jalapeño peppers, frozen chicken strips, frozen breaded mushrooms, frozen steak fries, frozen French toast breakfast combos (!), a dozen and a half eggs, together with, hilariously enough, a box of condoms -- but all of his food was loaded in the most haphazard way imaginable, so as to make an intelligent bagging scheme all but impossible. (And indeed, I counted ten bags for an order that could easily have fit in six had the items been laid out appropriately.)
Once he had unloaded his cart, he proceeded to the credit card swiper and pulled out a debit card. At this point, it seems appropriate to insert a brief excursus on the debit card. The fact that people would ever use such a financial instrument boggles the mind. Without even the token security measure of a signature, the debit card allows direct and unmediated access to one's actual bank account. Certainly it keeps one out of the trap of "spending money you don't have," but it exposes one to the trap of "not having money you once had." If one would use a credit card, any purchases made by a thief would be absorbed by the credit card company, without ever affecting one's net worth; the same is not true of a bank -- they will not replace the money in one's account until the fraudulence of the charges has been verified. If one does not have the fiscal discipline to use credit cards responsibly, or at a bare minimum, to reserve one card for "convenience" usage (gas, groceries) that one can easily pay off every month, then exposing oneself directly to financial ruin through the use of a debit card seems especially ill-advised. At the very least, go to the ATM and get some cash, so that you are protected by a PIN number!
In any case, back to the main thread of the review: as expected, he had to swipe several times before he realized he was doing it backwards, even persisting in his error as the clerk haltingly tried to explain to him the correct way. Once all items had been scanned, the clerk then had to ask, several times, with increasing volume, "Credit or debit. Credit or debit. Credit or debit. Credit or debit!" The man looked up, startled: "I'm sorry, what?" "Credit or debit." "Oh, credit. No, I mean, debit. Sorry." The bagging was completed as the transaction was authorized -- as easily as it would have been had some terrorist been using his debit card to purchase guns and ammunition -- and I thought the ordeal was over. But no! He had been holding his wallet in hand the entire time, and his card on top of the wallet, so he had to fumble with his over-stuffed wallet (in which he also had to insert his receipt, since one's receipt from the grocery store is something one simply must have on hand at all times!) to find the empty slot for his debit card among his ten credit cards, then he had to fumble with the afore-mentioned hooded sweatshirt in order to gain passage to his back pocket. It took him several tries to successfully insert wallet into pocket, after which he promptly got a shoelace tangled in the wheels of his cart.
In every regard, this man's trip to the grocery store was a failure. In the days after 9/11, when people were engaged in deep soul-searching about "why they hate us," they neglected to cite the only possible explanation: this guy, who was in front of me in line at the grocery store.
SPECIAL BONUS REVIEW: Many of us have been worrying for years that the Dorito's brand is being diluted through the introduction of new flavors every six months. Whereas we previously had the reliable Nacho Cheesier and Cooler Ranch, we now have to contend with Guacamole (soon to be accompanied by some comparative: "More Guacamole," "Guacamolier") and... a lot of other flavors over the years that I can't remember off-hand. In any case, when I opened up my bag of Black Pepper Jack! Doritos, I was understandably skeptical. Do different kinds of cheese really taste distinctly different in their powder form? What is this "Black Pepper" of which they speak? Apparently, it's the kind that normally accompanies salt in our culture's most famous pair of seasonings -- and I don't think they're fooling anyone by using an image of a pepper mill on the bag. However, I was pleasantly surprised: the chips have a zesty, spicy edge, and the cheese is notably different from the normal cheddar flavor. The powder is caked on thick (more in the style of the Nacho Cheesier than the more lightly-dusted Cooler Ranch), and the bag is replete with the dwarf chips that may or may not be nothing but a congeled mass of the flavoring powder itself. All of this, along with the classic "whole bag of Doritos in one sitting" stomach ache we've come to love over the years. In short: a triumph.
Friday, March 25, 2005
(7:52 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Friday Night Blogging (with Saturday and Sunday updates)I have written before on the shame associated with blogging on the weekends, particularly at night. I am fast approaching the 8:00 boundary, after which blogging becomes officially and ineluctably pathetic. Or does it? See, I have an excuse -- the electrician is rewiring my house. It takes a long time, and I have to be here the whole time. I'm stuck here all night, much against my will of course. It's like a get out of jail free card, graciously releasing me from the panic I feel every weekend at the prospect of not being sufficiently young, fun, and sociable.
I'm also getting a lot of work done on my thesis. I could conceivably be done by the time I go to bed tonight -- there's nothing like translating a text and then letting one's argument on it simmer in the back of one's mind for a couple months in terms of producing some really good work as soon as you sit down to write. After that's over with, I can devote my full attention to this.
Or to getting a job, I guess.
SATURDAY MORNING UPDATE: The first draft of the final section of my thesis was completed last night. Earlier this week, I had set a goal that the concluding section would be fifteen pages long. I have class on Tuesday, so I thought I could do five pages a day Wednesday through Friday and be finished for the weekend. Here's how the schedule went:
- Wednesday: I formatted the document that will contain all parts of my thesis. I used section breaks. I used styles in a disciplined manner. I was able to generate an automatic table of contents. The text of the title page and the table of contents is centered vertically -- not as a result of repeatedly pressing enter and "eyeballing it," but because I set it up so that the program would center it for me. The introduction takes up pages i-vii, and the translation starts at page 1. It is truly a work of art -- the result of over a decade of intense training in the most advanced features of Microsoft Word. For a long time, this seemed like enough work for the entire day, even though it took only a half hour, but late in the evening, I hit a streak and produced three pages, rather quickly.
- Thursday: Reading over what I'd written, I decided I needed to delete two pages, and was able to produce one page after that. For those keeping score, my net progress for this day was the loss of one page. According to the original plan, I should have been up to page ten, rather than page two, at this point.
- Friday: In a marathon session starting at approximately noon and ending at 11:00PM, I produced thirteen pages of rigorously argued and thoroughly documented critical commentary on my translation, clarifying its place in the work to which it was added and in Derrida's thought as a whole. In a few days, I will of course go through and thoroughly revise it, but for now, my lack of distance from it and the fact that I was working on it for eleven hours straight -- during which I was nourished only by green tea and a bowl of ramen -- make it feel like it's really, really done.
SUNDAY MORNING UPDATE: Turns out the electrician disconnected the blower for our heat on Friday. The temperature in my bedroom is subject to wild swings, so on Friday night I thought nothing of the fact that it was a little colder than usual. But all day Saturday -- man. That sucked. The thermostat thing said it was 60 all day, which makes for a beautiful day if you're outside, but feels utterly frigid in your house. I "toughed it out," though, in the interests of not having some guy in the house tearing things apart, carrying ladders around, etc. This morning, though, was the end of that. The thermostat said 56, and although I have this weird ascetic thing where I'm willing to tolerate having no heat in the house, it seemed really rude not to get this taken care of before Anthony and Hayley got home from visiting their parents for the weekend. Turns out, it was something he was able to fix within five minutes, without even entering my apartment. I'm an idiot. But in about a half hour, once the house gets back up to a reasonable temperature, I'll be a warm idiot at least.
Coetzee's novel Waiting for the Barbarians has been sitting on my bedside table for a month and a half now, unread. For whatever reason, for the past couple months I've been falling asleep the instant my head hits the pillow. Last night, though, I couldn't get to sleep, and within three pages, I was hooked. That will be how I spend my day, actually reading a novel for the first time in a long time. Then, God willing, on Monday I'll post about something that people will actually care about.
(12:59 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Something Light-HeartedI told Robb to post it, but he didn't, so:
(10:20 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Terry SchiavoBrey has requested that I "post on the Schiavo case from the perspective of a Catholic, scholar, and theo-philosopher." I have resisted posting on this topic for a variety of reasons, but -- ask, seek, knock. Here is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church has to say on this topic:
2276 Those whose lives are diminished or weakened deserve special respect. Sick or handicapped persons should be helped to lead lives as normal as possible.The numbers correspond to the paragraph numbers in the Catechism; the small type indicates "explanatory" text, the equivalent of a footnote. This section on euthanasia falls under the discussion of the fifth commandment, "Thou Shalt Not Kill." Other issues addressed under this heading include abortion and suicide.
2277 Whatever its motives and means, direct euthanasia consists in putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick, or dying persons. It is morally unacceptable.
Thus an act or omission which, of itself or by intention, causes death in order to eliminate suffering constitutes a murder gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the living God, his Creator. The error of judgment into which one can fall in good faith does not change the nature of this murderous act, which must always be forbidden and excluded.
2278 Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate; it is the refusal of "over-zealous" treatment. Here one does not will to cause death; one's inability to impede it is merely accepted. The decisions should be made by the patient if he is competent and able or, if not, by those legally entitled to act for the patient, whose reasonable will and legitimate interests must always be respected.
2279 Even if death is thought imminent, the ordinary care owed to a sick person cannot be legitimately interrupted. The use of painkillers to alleviate the sufferings of the dying, even at the risk of shortening their days, can be morally in conformity with human dignity if death is not willed as either an end or a means, but only foreseen and tolerated as inevitable. Palliative care is a special form of disinterested charity. As such it should be encouraged.
The position of the Catholic Church on this matter seems to me to be in line with the mainstream. I personally would judge that, under the terms of this rubric, the death by starvation of Terry Schiavo would be considered immoral. The fact that it will take several days for her to die by this method seems to me to indicate that death is the directly desired outcome, rather than an inevitability that is being squarely faced; if she would die in a matter of hours (as, for instance, she would if she were being kept alive by a respirator), then things would be more clear-cut and discontinuing life support would be an unambiguously acceptable decision under the terms of the Church's teaching.
However, the Church's position does not leave that decision to me, but instead to the parties involved. The idea of extraordinary treatment is not defined in detail, and Ms. Schiavo's husband seems to believe that she would have regarded such treatment as extraordinary or overzealous. As legal guardian, he is "legally entitled to act for the patient." Her parents, who are here pictured in the company of a religious brother, seem to believe that Mr. Schiavo's action essentially amounts to euthanasia, separated from the genuine issue only by the technicality of letting her starve rather than killing her directly. In the Church's teaching, acts of omission are just as culpable as acts of comission, and so they believe that Mr. Schiavo is not within his rights as the legal guardian of his wife. It would seem that these types of situations call for vague language -- that is, it would be perverse to lay out some predetermined set of rules that supposedly take every possible situation into account. This is a situation-by-situation thing, and once the legal representative has been appointed, we have to assume his good faith in executing the expressed will of his wife unless there is compelling evidence to the contrary.
Now obviously I am not in agreement with every official position of the Catholic Church, but this seems to me to be a convincing and sufficiently flexible position. I agree with the church that the ending of suffering should not be the determining consideration. While the Church does say, and most people would agree, that "Sick or handicapped persons should be helped to lead lives as normal as possible," it at no point makes "normality" the standard by which the value or livability of a life should be determined. In the case of legal, direct euthanasia, the temptation to rid oneself of the burden of caring for persons one finds burdensome or disturbing in some way is simply too great, along with the possibilities for rationalizing such decisions. While I am a sworn enemy of spurious Nazi comparisons, the fact that euthanasia laws were among the first declared by the National Socialist party should give us pause.
Attempts by private individuals or especially by the state to exercise control over the brute givenness of the human body are hugely problematic. I do not embrace the position of the Catholic Church or of any other church body that ascribe to the human person a "sacred worth" that must be "respected," nor do I find it convincing when people argue that we should never "play God." Rather, I take the position that we have the unconditional responsibility to care for everyone who enters into our lives. If one of them happens to be mentally or physically disabled, then they quite simply require more care than others who are not disabled, and we are to give them that care.
The issue is not one of respecting the sacred and unquestionable "dignity of the human person" -- no such dignity exists. I will go so far as to say that we really are nothing but very clever and very fucked-up animals. The issue is one of fulfilling the human vocation of living together with others in a community of mutual care. It is my position that we don't need to be told that that is our vocation and that violations of that vocation -- and only violations of that vocation -- are morally culpable. Insofar as I believe that the teachings of the Catholic Church are compatible with living out this vocation (for which I find strong evidence throughout Scripture and Tradition), I accept them. I believe that the teaching on euthanasia is compatible with that vocation, whereas other teachings such as that on homosexuality or birth control do not seem conducive to carrying out that vocation. If that makes me a "cafeteria Catholic" or something other than a faithful Christian, then I accept that.
(7:16 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Friday Afternoon ConfessionalI confess that I'm a little jealous that Slavoj Zizek has such a hot wife (via Lenin's Tomb, via Dead Men Left). I confess that last night I swatted one of the cats after he bit me (like really chomped down), and he got upset and pissed all over some of Hayley's stuff. I confess to arrogantly buying one of Lacan's seminars in the original French. I confess that I've been playing too much Mario World of late and that the time I spend daydreaming about what it will be like after I'm done with my thesis keeps me from actually completing my thesis.
Please share your confessions below.
Thursday, March 24, 2005
(8:50 PM) | Anthony Paul Smith:
Continuum's Changing Minds Series: Or, WTF?!?!I think I speak for many of us when I say, I am thankful that Continuum Books bought out a bunch of smaller book publishers. Not that I favor monopoly, but it is nice to know that I can always get a hold of Barth's Church Dogmatics (though I likely never will). More than the availability of Barth, I was more pleased when Continuum bought Athlone and continued to publish the aesthetically pleasing white and red covers. Much like the Princeton editions of Kierkegaard's corpus, these books are just classy and I don't feel either dumpy reading them in public (like Hackett editions) or ridiculous, like a wanna-be Andy Warhol (like the Minnesota books that are the size of magazines).
So you can understand my horror when I was perusing Continuum's website and found that they had, indeed, changed many of the classic books format. Instead of classy they now look like skateboard graphics. While trying to hard to be bad may have been cool in the early 90's, it just looks horrible for an academic book.
Here are a couple samples with commentary:
So the photograph is kind of "edgy". It is, after all, a mother fucking tank! Nothing is edgier than a tank! Oh, I get it, "War Machine." It's just, I don't know, did they really have to use that faux-70's lettering? Is this a book about a Vincent Gallo movie?
This one seems to suggest that the graphic designer knows shit about these books. Rather, he is just going off of the title or some analysis that a lackey at Continuum wrote up for him. This wouldn't be a problem, but it is due to the drama that this cover is trying to portray.
Derrida is rolling over in his grave.
Yeah, that's right; Erasmus & Luther are blowing up in this joint!
Something about this cover and the fact that Heidegger was a Nazi just rubs me the wrong way. It's all so Middle Earth and the Hand of Saruman.
OK, seriously, over the mother fucking top! Is Bataille a death metal musician for Christ's sake?! What’s with the swastika? Not classy!
But what is great is to juxtapose that cover with this one:
Now, I have to be honest. Some of these covers do play to my teenage angst left over in my 22 year-old body. I also like that by cutting down the size of these books Continuum has lowered the cost for many of these books by about half. The small font is attractive and all that, but I still feel like these should have wheels and I should be standing on top. If it came down to it and I had a choice between the Minnesota editions of Deleuze and Guattari I might choose the Continuum for the text formatting.
British friends, do you think people look ridiculous reading these in the Tube? Am I being too hard on Continuum?
(3:20 PM) | Anthony Paul Smith:
Ecology in the City: Summary 1
Our first meeting was trying to sort out wilderness as a concept and real space. Here's my summary.
Wilderness is often thought of as a wild place situated outside the city. As such it is difficult for most disciplines to approach the topic, including the discipline of philosophy. We shouldn’t be surprised to find that Socrates, the archetypical figure of philosophy, was always to be found in the heart of the city, the marketplace, questioning the men of Athens. It is telling, then, that the one dialogue where he leaves the city walls is concerned with the question of madness. The dialogue takes place next to the river Ilisus, in the wilderness that lays outside of the city walls. We are then to think that this environment is perfect for a discussion of madness.
Historically, then, it has been the city, and not wilderness, that has been the privileged site of rational thought. Furthermore, it has been the city (polis) that has been the privileged site of politics, since only cities can have a polity. A politics has always been followed by the institution of law. Laws, finally, are the privileged structures that hold cities together. Thus, when the United States government created the “Wilderness Act of 1964” it was not working to protect the identity of wilderness as “apolitical”, but was attempting to bring the wild places under the same controls as the city. Such an analysis parallels the analysis given by Thomas Birch, where he explains that wilderness preservation is essentially done in bad faith, ultimately excluding wilderness the same way society excludes prisoners. Such exclusion is never done for the sake of excluding but for reforming, for normalizing the excluded in order to insert them back into city.
We can then see that all thought of wilderness is essential negative. Wilderness is ultimately the Other of the city, politics, philosophy, thought, and even life. Life is understood to be lived to excess in the wilderness, either ending in death or a savage humanity. Since it is questionable whether or not such a wilderness actually exists in modern America it seems helpful, for our task of bringing ecology into the city, to think of wilderness as an intensity of thought. What this means, rather simply, is that wilderness as something thought can open up the possibility of thinking otherwise. Ironically, such thought has already been seized by the marketing world: SUV commercials where the wilderness is the unknown to be explored, theme park commercials which offer a way to experience wilderness in the midst of civilization, and even the bizarre Burger King commercial for its new burger takes place in a kind of new wilderness being settled by a surreal gang of frontiersmen/burger enthusiasts.
What all of these commercials share is an exploitation of wilderness as an intensity of thought that can spurn the consumer to consume something new, while our hope, ultimately, is to find a way to think differently, to think anew, about ecology and its relation to the city. To do so it is not necessary to cease thinking of wilderness as Other to city and law, but we must show how this Otherness is found in the city itself and thus we begin to think of the city in its multiplicity, rather than as an entity unified by law. The city has its wilderness, and that may help lead us to new ways of thinking.
(12:42 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Blogging Becomes BookThis morning, I wrote the following in an e-mail to Jeff Robbins, an assistant editor at The Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory and a co-editor of the series Contemporary Religious Thought, published by the Davies Group:
I saw Jared Woodard (who has published various reviews in JCRT) this weekend, and we were kicking around the idea of putting together an edited volume of essays by scholars who blog. We are part of a pretty good circle of such scholars, and my blog has become something of a clearinghouse for discussions of the intersections between contemporary philosophy (mainly Zizek, Badiou, Agamben, and Hardt and Negri) and religious issues. We have already hosted two weeklong online conferences, which you can browse here: [I put in the links to the summaries of St. Paul Week and Sovereignty Week, which are available on the left sidebar.]He responded a few hours later:
This is a highly motivated group of people, as you can tell from the fact that we got such long and rigorous contributions for something that was finally "just for fun," so we could have the whole thing put together within a month or so, easily. We also wouldn't have to emphasize the blogging angle -- that just happens to be what brought us all into conversation. Let me know what you think.
[M]y co-editor Clayton Crockett and I think the idea you have with Jared Woodard is a potentially exciting one. If you could send us a formal proposal we should be able to pitch the idea to our publisher and convince him of its merits. The proposal doesn't have to be too extensive. Say a bit about the topics that will be treated, the format you plan for the finished volume, the contributors, expected length, expected date of completion, title, etc. And if you and Jared are going to be editing the volume together, we will need updated CV's for both of you as well.So obviously what I'm going to need here is an idea of the topics we can cover. It seems natural for most of us to do some kind of philosophy/theology combo, and if it will feel less awkward, Jared can write a piece about how Badiou's appropriation of Paul really isn't that big of a deal compared with the insightfulness of his materialist atheism. Old is already in with an adaptation/compilation of his various writings on the necessity of universal Torah observance; I have an essay on Benjamin sitting around languishing without a publisher (and indeed, until recently, without a grade, because my prof "forgot") and could potentially write something different. It seems like the members of the so-called "Vanderbilt School" would do well to contribute -- in fact, if a couple of them did straight theology, it might make it more plausible for Jared or Discard or (dare we to hope!) Infinite Thought to contribute some straight philosophy. I would especially covet Josh Davis's essay from the WTS; I assume that since Dave and I wrote basically the same thing, we could publish whichever one the Wesleyan journal didn't take (assuming they won't do two of the same basic argument).
I think we can make this work!
This could potentially be a really cool thing -- surely we can put together a better body of work than Zizek, Milbank, and the grad student who's actually doing all the work on Theology and the Political: The New Debate. So in the comments, I'm expecting everyone to jump right in there with potential topics; failing that, a debate on possible titles for the volume would be welcome. If anyone objects to a Woodard/Kotsko editorship, air your grievances on that topic as well. Finally, this is not limited to official contributors to The Weblog; commenters and lurkers are welcome to speak up.
(8:39 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Christian PornVia Richard McElroy, I find that Westwinds Church (warning: this website plays music) is hosting a Porn Weekend, conducted by Craig of XXX Church, the most popular Christian porn site on the 'net. Craig and his cohort call themselves "Goofballs." One wonders whether they realize that "balls" is a common term for a part of the male reproductive system and that such connections are bound to be made since all they talk about is porn.
For information on masturbation specifically, click here (again, for some reason: music). If you're concerned that your masturbation habit may be giving you gas, you will be very relieved to read this. Finally, go here to be disturbed by some typical librul apologetics for sexual depravity:
Can one stop masturbating?I eagerly await the many disappointed MSN Searchers this post will bring our way.
One can stop masturbating if one wants to. Just as one can live without indulging in sex, one can also stop masturbating with some will power. However, since the activity has nothing to be ashamed of and most people do it, there is no scientific reason to discontinue it. If one still wishes to discontinue, then the sexual energy may need to be channelised into alternative physical activities.
Wednesday, March 23, 2005
(11:45 PM) | Anthony Paul Smith:
Voting is closed.I've closed voting on my life.
The final results are thus:
New School University M.A. in Philosophy 41.8% 23
University of Nottingham M.A. in Philosophical Theology 25.5% 14
Boston College M.A. in Philosophy 18.2% 10
Become a priest/civics instructor. 14.5% 8
total votes: 55
I'll keep everyone up-to-date as I decide, since my life is infinitely interesting.
(9:12 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Follow-up on Robb's Scott McLemee ShirtVia Scott McLemee, I find two posts -- one describing the unveiling and one with Rick Perlstein actually wearing the shirt. Congratulations, Robb!
I haven't talked to Robb about whether this shirt will be made more broadly available, but his e-mail address is rschuneman AT ucok DOT edu. (University of Central Oklahoma, you perverts.)
(10:34 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
The Best Inbound LinkI check SiteMeter obsessively and amidst all the links from Cliopatria, Infinite Thought, Jared Woodard , and MSN Search, I occasionally find a real treasure. Last night was one of those occasions. Mr. Ferriter, a high school math teacher originally from Montana, reviewed the technologies of blogging and internet radio in one brief paragraph in what amounts to a genuine tour de force. The Weblog is one of only two blogs cited as an example of blogging technology (the other is John Robb's Weblog, a site that fits more into the classical definition of a blog as a log of web links). Here's his description:
The second blog I've included is http://www.adamkotsko.com/weblog/ which is an example of a more abstract blog. The topics tend to be more off the beaten path and offer some interesting point of views to topics such as social security.So I think it's pretty clear what the boldface blurb is going to be for the next week or so.
 I'm glad that Jared is no longer hiding behind his pseudonym, because I was developing a pretty serious Character Map habit.
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
(8:49 PM) | Anthony Paul Smith:
Help me decide: A tribute to Adam Robinson *Closed*Update: Voting is closed, you are now merely mortal.
As you see I have four options and you can choose which of those options you think it would be best for my life.
A bit of background on the options:
Boston College has a good M.A. program that historically has a high success rate in placing its graduate in PhD programs. There is little hope that I could continue on at Boston College and thus little hope of any funding.
New School University has the most exciting and well rounded course work for someone of my philosophical persuasion. While I do not have any funding now there is the possibility of such funding later on and it is very much a possibility that I could continue on to do my PhD there.
Nottingham has the most exciting individual figure for me, being Philip Goodchild. It is, either negative or positive depending on your perspective, in England and my wife is a bit nervous about that. I have no idea what my chances at funding are here.
Since we already commented so much on this previously, don't feel you have to say anything but do "Play God!" below.
(8:20 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Universitization of Knowledge, pt. 2(pt. 1)
I think that at least part of the reason that so many people who love the humanities are dead-set on joining the academy, even in the face of overwhelming odds, is that we know deep down that if we were to pursue academic-like behaviors outside the academy, we would basically be cranks. We would be that guy who locks himself in his bedroom every night until 3AM working out his elaborate theory about the philosophical reason that Heidegger was a Nazi, or about his special insight into why liberal democracies can so easily be taken over by evil dictators, or about how the real key to Aristotle is the Poetics, or whatever.
Reading stuff is fine. Enjoying a good Latin American or Continental European novel now and again is perfectly acceptable, and even the occasional philosophy as long as you don't go overboard (Foucault: acceptable; Hegel: Are you sure?). But studying -- that's obsessive. That's weird. That sounds like work, and you're only supposed to do one kind of work, and you're supposed to get paid for it. And when you're not doing that, you're supposed to tinker around in your yard or watch TV or yell at your children -- not undertake some whole other kind of work. A person who does that is pathetic. A person who finds out that someone else has read a lot of Derrida and you can see the hunger in her eye as she talks about it a little too fast -- is pathetic.
So we go to grad school at least partly because we don't want to be pathetic.
(3:56 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Matthew Yglesias is InsaneThis is the kind of post that makes me mourn the fact that my life has been so impoverished by my failure to study analytic philosophy:
I used to study philosophy, so I can't help but gin up a Schiavo-related thought experiment. I'm not a neurologist, but my understanding is that what's wrong with Terri is that her cerebral cortex has been destroyed. For the purposes of this discussion, at least, let's let "cerebral cortex" stand for whatever the destroyed part of her brain is. Now say I go to sleep tonight, and when my alarm starts ringing tomorrow morning my body doesn't wake up. It doesn't wake up because overnight my cerebral cortex has stopped functioning. I've lost the part of my brain that permits for thinking, feeling, consciousness, deliberate control over my body, etc. I'm in, in other words, a persistent vegetative state. But I'll stay alive on my own for a little while now even if nobody gives me a feeding tube or any such thing. At the same time, Terri Schiavo's body suddenly springs to life. A quick examination makes it seem as if her cerebral cortex has been miraculously restored. But upon further examination, that's not what's happened at all. Instead, my cortex had gotten into her head. Terri's body starts speaking, and has Matt Yglesias' memories, opinions, affections, tastes, etc.He can't help but ask such a question; I am sad that such a question would never have occured to me in a million years.
Now what would we say about this? What I think we wouldn't say is that "Matt Yglesias fell into a persistent vegetative state and Terri Schiavo magically recovered from her PVS." The revived Schiavo-body would be me not her. But I think we wouldn't say that Terri and I had switched bodies. I think the right thing to say would be that Terri was dead, the Yglesias-body was in a PVS, and Matt Yglesias now inhabited the former body of Terri Schiavo.
Yes, I quoted his entire post.
(2:00 PM) | Anthony Paul Smith:
Discount books.I happened across Deleuze and Guattari's What Is Philosophy? on Ebay for about 8 bucks. Apparently this used bookstore has 72 more copies for this price, so if you want one I suggest you follow this link and buy one.
Monday, March 21, 2005
(1:35 PM) | Anthony Paul Smith:
Graduate School Update #3 and now with Graduate Update #4Well, as I called in my previous post, I received a rejection letter today. Fordham University has decided that I am not worthy to undertake instruction in their charge.
So, for those keeping score -
Accepted without funding: New School, Nottingham, Boston College
Rejected: Villanova, Fordham (I'm starting to think the Catholics don't like me)
So I contacted Syracuse and Boston College. Syracuse has wait listed me and Boston College has accepted me into their Masters program.
Now it seems like I should say something. But how to say that something without sounding whiney or annoying? How can I present my disappointment without being a whiney little bitch? Is such a thing possible?
Here's what I'm feeling right now, complete and utter uncertainty. Unsure whether or not to take these rejections and acceptances without funding (which is tantamount to a kind of rejection) as a sign that I lack what it takes to do this or as, what they surely are, the result of a bad dice roll. Will I ultimately not go to graduate school? What then would I do? Become a priest? A high school civics teacher? What would there be for me? I know that I am not the most intelligent person in the world and that, in general, I can tend to be a whiney little bitch more than a rigorous scholar but my whole life I have been in love with thinking.
Two more chances at funding and then a question. What a strange place my life has brought me to.
(7:42 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Social Security ReformWe all know that playing a lot of online poker is a good idea. Historically, young men with very little capital have been able to multiply their initial investment by up to 100 times, simply by entering online poker tournaments. Thus, I propose that everyone's Social Security earnings be used as the entry-fee to high-stakes online poker tournaments. We owe it to our seniors to earn the highest possible rate of return on their hard-earned retirement nest egg.
(1:42 AM) | F. Winston Codpiece IV:
Dedicated to Hindrocket but he wasn't listeningI intended for bloggers to be writing sonnets. If a sonnet is a sound-bite, then yes, I encourage sound-bites. -- Adam Kotsko
Whoso list to hunt, I know where is an hind.
The hunt is hard and the flesh forbidden:
One must indulge in a place that's hidden,
But one must sin, or else cry and go blind.
So draw your bow, the arrow stiff and thick;
Let loose the shaft, and should it sink within,
And out and in as muscle works, you win:
A mighty blow was yours, no meagre prick.
Whoso list its hunt, I put you out of doubt
You rub your bow with oil all in vain
For tattooed on this hind in letters plain
There reads a warning none can live to flout:
Noli me futuere, for Kotsko's I am:
Be sure you will find me shut tight as a clam.
Sunday, March 20, 2005
(9:13 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
If you want to critique ZizekDo it from the left:
The sheer banality of this analysis is a bit below the level to which the mainstream Nouvel Observateur can reach. The wave of terrorist bombings in Paris of course was treated more or less calmly as the police matter it was, and N. O. readers would be better served by some discussion of how the Bush regime managed to turn a police matter into a Hollywood disaster thriller's Grim and Desperate Moment Of Truth through deftly orchestrated political and media theatre in the Drama Queen style of ludicrous over-reaction. But Zizek has swallowed the risible theatrical whole - the ridiculous hiding-in-bunkers, closing airspace for days not hours, shutting down normal transport even thousands of miles away from the crime scene, the 24 hour video loop, the endless commemorations of anniversaries, the President's Dionysian reappearance from his symbolic death amidst the rubble vowing revenge, the sudden transformation of the administration from ordinary politicians open to criticism to a small grim and determined emergency 'leadership' who spoke and behaved like a military junta who had just taken power after the Deluge. Zizek serenly promotes that essential pillar of propaganda - 9/11, which did not even negatively affect Soho and Tribeca real estate values was exactly what Bush requires it to appear, a massive catastrophe, a world historical watershed, an event as cataclysmic as the Nazi invasion of Poland or Belarus. And under cover of this replay of the main Bush regime theme for the center-left readers of N.O. who are skeptical of it, he slips in a gesture of contempt for the most radical and trenchant struggles to contain and roll back the power of capital that would otherwise be obvious as a striking center-right prise de position.This particular post is interspersed with exerpts from a French interview with Zizek, translated in brackets. Here's another fun chunk:
The question - why think about an popular 'public' intellectual of a sort (not after the Marcuse, Sartre or Chomsky style, not an engagé or activist who might affect your tax obligations) with whom you don't agree? - has the flavour of 'the emperor is naked.' Wouldn't it be better to just ignore what you don't like, whether its FoxNews or Camille Paglia or Forrest Gump?I read a whole post by Alphonse van Worden, the blogger everyone's been talking about (Jodi Dean, Matt, Mark Kaplan...) -- even though it was long! I consumed it. It had French in it, even.
While in general, the question has obvious answers, when applied to Zizek - not why does Zizek think and write about things he doesn't like and get hysterical about decaf and The Talented Mr. Ripley ("not as good as the book"), but why would anyone else think and write about Zizek - it is more complex. It hints at a hidden and assumed model of a medium not factually in question. Why are you watching this show if you don't like it? Why don't you go read a book?
For television, it is well established: people don't turn off television, they watch the programme which appalls them the least. If one show is objectionable, they don't try to influence it, to engage with it, they change the channel in search of something less objectionable.
We were joking, of course, but M. Gauche, Anthony, and I more or less decided that we should do an edited volume of blog people who work on contemporary philosophy. I don't know if we would market it as such or if anyone would in fact purchase such a volume. I do know that since Anthony has not yet completed his BA degree, his CV is in need of more help than either mine (soon to be a world-renowned Derrida translator) or M. Gauche's (a hyperproductive book reviewer and conferencier, spearheading the Badiouian cause), and so he would get the editor credit. And, probably, do most of the work.
Brad Johnson, Discard the Name, Old (Doug Johnson), all those previously mentioned -- are you in? And do we have a publisher? Does anyone have connections? Jodi? Even without Jodi's massive connections, though, I think we can do this. It is, as they say, "doable." And Anthony is ready and waiting for your submissions. Hell, the material that Old has contributed already could easily be compiled into a single paper -- we already have our first contribution, right here, right in the archives.
I recant on my remark about long posts. Two screenfuls sometimes isn't enough.
(11:59 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Long PostsI have a theory. I might be wrong, but it seems like the optimal length for a blog post is something that's going to be one screenful on a 1024x768 monitor (that's the standard size for laptops and most non-stupidly-huge desktop monitors). For every paragraph you go over that length, your risk of going unread grows exponentially. If you go over two screenfuls, you virtually guarantee that people will scroll down, see that it's over two screenfuls, and either just say, "Screw it," or else put you on their "read later" list (i.e., forget to come back and read your post).
The genre of "blog post" is of course an evolving genre, but ultimately I think it's going to turn out to be a short genre -- which doesn't have to mean a thoughtless genre. I think it is especially difficult for theory-oriented folks to conform to the blog genre, since the general "theory style" depends so heavily on citation and lengthy exposition -- but I think it's doable. Zizek's approach to his more journalistic and popular writings is problematic in many ways, but he definitely has the right idea in terms of length. The problem comes when he just cuts and pastes; I think that arguments unfolded in a short form can have their own kind of rigor that will not necessarily require someone to go off and read a million things in order to engage with the argument in some kind of intelligent way.
I'm thinking that blogging can be a kind of discipline, rather than a kind of sinkhole -- admittedly, it's easier for it to become and remain the latter.
UPDATE: I didn't intend this post to be normative. I am not proposing a "two screenful limit." All co-bloggers still have the freedom of speech to which they are accustomed, and if they want to write long posts, that's great. In fact, I bet that within the next couple days, I will have written a longer post. Everyone's right that audience expectations, etc., make a big difference and that we have an audience here that is prepared for long posts (though probably not for nothing but long posts, not that we're in any danger of having that).
Saturday, March 19, 2005
(3:40 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Prolegomena to any future blogrollIt's on: Ogged has de-blogrolled Bitch, PhD. He did, admittedly, also de-blogroll TBogg, which I don't think anyone has read in the last year anyway. Howls of protest can already be heard! But I think we must keep our heads. For all the pain that this decision may cause in the short term, its world-historical significance is already clear: forcing the blogosphere to rethink itself in rethinking the blogroll. What is its function? Its structure? We think we already know. Josh Marshall, for instance, does not have a blogroll, while Atrios does. We also know that some kind of duty is bound up with the concept of the blogroll, so that there is a certain amount of resentment toward Josh Marshall's decision -- one of the biggest liberal bloggers "doesn't believe in blogs." Also, we could cite the recent flap over the implicit sexism of the blogosphere, the strange coincidence that talented female bloggers tend not to get linked as often as their male counterparts.
Okay, so I'm not actually ready to theoretically articulate this question. I do wonder about the blogroll, though, as a way of developing relationships (or not). How much of it is tokenism? What does it matter if you're on a million blogrolls out of inertia, when no one is really linking to your individual posts? Has anyone really ever found a new, interesting blog just by plugging through someone's blogroll? Perhaps that's possible on a relatively small list such as The Weblog's, but on some of the bigger sites, the blogrolls are basically impossible to use. I used to think it'd be a big deal to get on Atrios's blogroll, for instance, but how many people would actually visit The Weblog as a result?
The same with the Crooked Timber blogroll -- it's great that I'm in it, and I do get a couple visits a day off of it, but especially in its previous format, it was really unweildy. (My ambition was to hold off being put on the "academic" section so that I could somehow engineer an appearance in the "main" section, but I think that was pretty unrealistic.) And this causes one to ask the question: Is traffic really the issue here? Is there some kind of prestige stemming from the blogroll that cannot be flattened out into traffic? Is the blogroll a way for "big" bloggers to distribute their prestige among the unwashed masses? And if so, would a fascist approach to blogrolling that only included people of a particular racial or gender group (for instance, white males), explicitly on the basis of those biological characteristics, be more or less inimical to the Enlightenment ideal than a policy of arbitrary blogrolling and de-blogrolling that at least made a pretense of fabricating some kind of defensible reason for the behavior?
Friday, March 18, 2005
(8:59 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Friday Afternoon ConfessionalToday à Gauche (the person, not the blog) is visiting The Weblog's Logan Square Headquarters. I have contributed to this adventure by dropping off Hayley at work so that Anthony could have the car and pick M. Gauche up at Midway and by making coffee. Through all my years of reading à Gauche's blog, I have gotten no clear idea on whether he likes coffee -- I can, however, prepare tea in a pinch.
Alphonse van Worden, it seems to me, has some interesting remarks on Žižek's style. Agree or disagree -- you should probably consume M. van Worden's remarks in any case.
I confessed enough last night, in the bit that led up to "maybe I'm just a pansy-ass liberal." That was enough for this week. Maybe others have had more sinful weeks.
Thursday, March 17, 2005
(8:45 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
The Žižek Wars ContinueJohn Holbo continues his Žižekian explorations. Ogged deserves a prize for a comment that basically undercuts the empirical occasion of John's complaint, though the objection as such does not depend on the particular example. I have apparently taken it upon myself to defend Žižek against every possible attack; Jodi Dean responds in a more general way at her site.
I'm sure there will be more posts in this continuing saga, since John has to present on Žižek at the MLA. (And indeed, there have been many previous posts, such as this one that remains on the front page of
At the same time that I feel increasing blog fatigue, I am also feeling increasing blog fellow-feeling. Perhaps it's just that familiarity makes the heart grow fonder, but I have an increasing respect for John's objections to Žižek and (since I cited them approvingly in comments) many of Tim Burke's most characteristic intellectual moves. My blog career is actually the longest time that I've been part of an intellecual circle made up of people with whom I broadly agreed and with whom I did not share some sense of being an embattled minority. For instance, in the intellectual circle I ran with late in my college career, there was a distinct sense of embattled minoritihood, because we actually were an embattled minority, and in public discussion forums, I was merciless to people who fell outside that circle (which in some cases seemed to include only me), sometimes just for the sake of it. And of course, during the election season, for a priori reasons, I had to participate in the left-wing/liberal tradition of shooting each other in the foot for insufficient fear of a Republican victory. Now, though, things have calmed down somewhat, and I've been in conversation with some of these people for well over a year now -- which is kind of a long time to be in conversation with someone you've never met in person -- and maybe now it just feels like there's time. We're talking about important stuff here, and there is a certain urgency, but there's time. We don't have to have the orthodoxy completely hammered out quite yet (people often forget that Christian orthodoxy, that orthodoxy par excellence, took at least 400 years to reach its most characteristic forms, and it continues to develop even today).
Or maybe I'm just becoming one of those pansy-ass liberals.
(11:39 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Jeff Tweedy SightingThe intrepid Brey has sighted Jeff Tweedy. The location was the Jackson Red line station, which at first caused skepticism since Jeff Tweedy is supposed to live on the northwest side (which would be serviced by the Blue line, not the Red line). Then I pointed out, Chicago expert that I am, that one can transfer from the Blue to Red lines at Jackson. I usually get off the Blue line at Washington (assassins, write this down!), but I sometimes walk underground to the Red line exit if it's really cold out, because my bus is right there. (Monica Bennett, who has met Jeff Tweedy, says that it's completely plausible that he would take the El.)
By the way, if you ever need to go to Hyde Park from Washington and State, I'd recommend the #2 bus over the #6. The #2 drops you right off at 57th and Stony Island, whereas the #6 goes express from downtown to 47th, meaning you have to stop at a million different places, including halfway down the block sometimes ("This is 5440 south" -- ridiculous).
It would be really awesome if public transit made sense on the south side. Up here in the northwestern area, we have bus lines that run at every major street, just straight up, with a little jog to turn around and start the other direction. In Hyde Park, it's just a mess. I can never even tell which side of the street I should be standing on, because it has no relation to where the bus is going. The Garfield bus is the only one that makes any sense, so I usually take that. That bus and the Red line south of downtown have to be the most racially mixed public transit routes in the city.
I had the Cub Foods' brand Frosted Mini-Wheats for breakfast today, and a banana. I'm on my second cup of coffee. I played Mario World for a few minutes but died a lot because I'm obsessed with jumping from enemy to enemy so that I can get extra lives. I did my once-weekly shave and trim today, using a Gilette Mach 3 razor and a beard trimmer that I bought at Walgreens (at Armitage and California) for $10.00. I don't go to that Walgreens anymore because I embarrassed myself in front of the extremely hot pharmacist. Today I plan on reading some Baudelaire, beginning work on my critical appendix (which can be removed if necessary), and hanging out with a friend from Bourbonnais. I am about 6 feet tall. My mother's maiden name is Wehrli. I last clipped my fingernails on Sunday. I like orange juice, but not enough to buy it regularly.
(12:02 AM) | Anthony Paul Smith:
Chavez Watch.Some may remember our preoccupation with the Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. Though we haven't had a "Chavez Watch" in some time, I thought that this link was worth sharing.
Feel free to debate the credibility of this claim in the comments. That said, the official Weblog line is that we stand in solidarity with Chávez through our humble blogger ways. Though, if this story is true, a bit more tangible solidarity may be in order.
(Link via Alphonse van Worden.)
Wednesday, March 16, 2005
(5:32 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
MoneyDo you guys think that selling real estate would be a good way to work my way through a PhD, if that became necessary? Or would it be one of those things where I would repeatedly slap myself in the face every morning saying, "Come on, you can do this. You can do this"?
(Though, again, take your time, New School and DePaul! And Mr. or Ms. "Accepted Outright to Vanderbilt" -- you probably got accepted a lot of other places. Do you really want to deal with the hot Tennessee summers? And the locust swarms in late fall -- your car insurance won't cover that, you know.)
UPDATE: I'm seriously not trying to suck up to any grad schools here, but I'm very pleased with myself that I finished a pretty good first draft of an intro to my translation. (Just yesterday, I was wallowing in self-loathing for not having finished enough. Bitch, PhD, had a comment today at Unfogged where she mentioned someone who "got through her dissertation in record time (and it was a good one) because she was completely free of neurosis." I'm starting to think that the non-neurotic academic is a rare thing indeed -- perhaps the woman Bitch mentions is in fact the only one.) Especially clever was the way I skillfully wove a summary of the contents of The Gift of Death into an argument that "Literature in Secret" ("my" section, which Derrida added much later) doesn't fit the pattern of transitions that Derrida established in the original text. If "my" section were ever published as a stand-alone thing, that introduction would be a valuable apologetic for such a move, with the added benefit that I actually believe what I wrote.
I'm also very excited to have read a poem in French just now. It is entitled "Au Lecteur" by Baudelaire. I will leave the title in French so that you can savor all the unique resonances that an English translation ("To the reader") could never possibly even begin to capture.
Oh, and Mike Schaefer and Josh Davis have both convinced me that real estate sales (or any sales) is not for me. Now I'm torn between video store management and starting a one-man custodial service. The latter is an idea that my mom has suggested several times. It would be brilliant to profit financially off of my anality about cleanliness, and if I did it because of my mom's idea, that would be a textbook Aufhebung -- if we believe Freud, she (unconsciously) inflicted the problem of anal retentiveness upon me, and then she helps me to turn the problem into an opportunity. It's like that one Chinese letter that doesn't really exist. Brilliant. (Languagehat calls it a "character," but in keeping with the Derridean spirit, I am going to side with Derrida, who asks in Of Grammatology why we won't admit that Chinese "characters" are just letters that function differently from phonetic letters.)
Okay, let's do this! The Scott McLemee Fan Club and Custodial Service starts ASAP.