Friday, June 30, 2006
(8:58 AM) | Jodi:
Friday Afternoon Confessional: The NeurosesI confess to being extremely nervous about being the first to confess. I confess that this nervousness is due in part to worrying that if I confess something that really should be confessed it could get me into trouble or come back to haunt me. I confess that it is also due in part to worrying that if I confessed something that I thought was a big deal (the thing with the Czech taxi driver that time in Frankfurt), other folks would scoff at the confession (like, who hasn't slept with their cab driver).
I confess that these worries about confession led me to even greater anxiety: to whom, actually, am I confessing? Do my guilty worries cover over the fact that there is no big Other hearing my confessions? Or do they point to a worry that somehow these confessions do register somewhere?
I confess to extreme vulnerability to marketing. I confess to an unbecoming attraction to mass phenomena. I confess that this vulnerability and attraction led me to purchase a container of four premade vodka cocktails (even though I have never been a fan of tropical blue lagoons, lemon drops, or appletinis) because I liked the font, the ribbon handle with little charm, and the four different colors of the bottles. The swizzle sticks (again in four colors) were an added bonus. While I'm at it, I might as well confess to buying crocs for myself and my kids and to feeling very pleased with myself even though it looks like we are all wearing flippers or clown shoes.
I confess to envy, covetousness, pride, zealotry, vanity, and insecurity. I confess that I worry that confessing leads to self-centeredness. I confess to worrying that not confessing leads to complacency. I confess to finding side-taking preferable to ambivalence but that I have a hard time deciding, sometimes, not all the time, ok, every once in awhile, what side to take.
I confess to sometimes feeling oddly competitive about relatively trivial matters. I confess to worrying that not many people will confess and that this will mean that I did a poor job leading confession. I confess that I was tempted to invite people now to relieve themselves, but thought better of it.
You know what to do.
Thursday, June 29, 2006
(10:26 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Previously Undiscovered Medicinal ValueThis comes from a book that I'm reading for 20th Century (Rudolph Otto, The Idea of the Holy). The passage I'm going to cite comes from a section in which he's talking about the idea that certain naturally occuring items have a kind of mystical "power" that one can receive upon ingesting said items.
It is really crucial that you actually read this block quote. I cannot stress this enough:
To notice power in plants, stones, and natural objects in general and to appropriate it by gaining possession of them; to eat the heart or liver of an animal or a man in order to make his power or strength one's own--this is not religion but science. Our science of medicine follows a similar prescription. If the 'power' of a calf's glands is good for goitre and imbecility, we do not know what virtue we may not hope to find in frogs' brains or Jews' livers.What the fuck, Rudolph Otto? (The quote is found on page 121 of the 1967 reprint published by Oxford University Press.)
(11:16 AM) | Brad:
Thursday Animal Blogging: This Time WITH VIDEOIreland has a tendency, as do most puppies, to go from sleepy to spastic in the matter of seconds. Unlike some puppies, though, this is all the more true for her when there is water involved.
(9:05 AM) | Brad:
In AbsentiaSo, I graduated in absentia today. Right around this moment several of the closest friends I've ever had are sitting in a gorgeous auditorium at Glasgow University, one I've only been inside once, when I was paying my first-year fees, but I still vividly remember feeling boom of my echoing footsteps in my chest, which was matched only by the head-swelling pride of studying at a university with such a gorgeous main building. They are sitting there, perhaps bored, waiting to hear their name spoken, their hand shaken, and their degree received. They are sitting there, and I am not.
I didn't expect this to bug me as much as it clearly is. When I left Glasgow nearly two years ago -- Christ, has it been so long?! -- I hadn't even given graduation a thought. This is partly because graduations have never been a big deal for me; and partly because I still had a lot of work that needed to be done before I could even submit. But, in my heart of hearts, I kind of knew that graduating with my friends was only a very dim possibility. And at the time this didn't bother me.
But, wouldn't you know it, it does. Horribly so, in fact. Ever since paying my graduation fee in absentia -- I still owe a friend back in Scotland fifty quid for that -- receiving the official notice that I'd passed -- in a boring form letter -- I've had this distinct feeling that finishing the PhD had been decidedly anticlimactic. (It didn't help, mind, that my examiners told me at the beginning of the viva that I'd passed, and that the rest was just a formality they were required to go through.) I suppose this is the reason for desperately wanting to be in that auditorium this afternoon, bored out of my mind, but also remembering those echoes and that pride, and perhaps hearing and feeling it all again, mine & that of my friends & all the other Arts Faculty doctoral students in the class of 2006, and maybe even getting a wee bit emotional about it. Or, maybe I'm desperate for a double of whisky at my favorite whisky bar, where I proposed to K. and had more than my share of conversations about things like Dasein during moments of intoxication that rendered my English as broken as my German.
Either way, congratulations, Ladies & Lads.
(8:48 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Constitution BurningCongress is probably a little amendment-shy after the heart-breakingly close vote on the Flag Desecration amendment. That's a shame, because there is one curtailment of the First Amendment that becomes more and more urgent by the day. Here is my proposed edited version:
Congress shall make no lawWhy do I want to make this change? The answer is simple: the United States desperately needs an established state church. If we look at the many nations that have an established church, we find that it almost invariably helps to produce a well-educated populace and a fully-functioning welfare state. Moreover, the people in those nations tend to be very irreligious -- and they can afford to be, because they know that the continued existence of religion does not depend on their own efforts.
respecting an establishment of religion, orprohibiting the free exercise thereof religion; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The question naturally arises: which of America's many churches should be the established churches? Although the Episcopal Church seems to be the natural choice, lately it has caused too much controversy -- that is, it has inspired stronger feelings than are appropriate for a state church. Similarly, despite its imposing size, the Southern Baptist Convention would not make a good candidate, again because of the high emotions associated with it. What we need is a well-meaning church that no one really gets worked up about -- the kind of church, perhaps, that it's easy to forget even exists.
Whatever church we ultimately choose, I predict within ten years of the passage of this crucial amendment, we will see a society that has radically changed for the better. Write your senator today.
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
(3:39 PM) | Anthony Paul Smith:
Theory of the BicycleI've come to love riding my bicycle. I used it quite a bit towards the end of my senior year and a bit in the fall, but since spring arrived I've rarely been off of the thing. I enjoy riding for a number of reasons, not least among them is that it makes my commute far shorter than waiting for the bus (typically by bus it's an hour trip to the bookstore from my house and about half an hour to DePaul and it's more than half that on the bike). But I'm also able to think on my feet, as it were. I'm able to experience my body intentionally, but also I'm able to experience the world as world.
Today I was hit. It was bound to happen eventually and it could have been much worse. Basically the car didn't see my signal and we both merged into the left turn lane. We bounced off each other, but I appercieved the car as car (and enemy) as soon as it hit me. I couldn't see it, but I knew what was happening. At that moment it was no longer bike and self it was a whole. The bike and myself form an assemblage, but not just with each other, for the bike itself is an assemblage. We form a moving-machine with the road and we create images on the road itself by the paths we take, the laws we break, the very act of cycling is creative.
This isn't romantic. With all seriousness I am saying that riding a bike creates. It creates new relations between you and the road (pothole - manhole - holey space - flat road - hill), between you and other machines (car - hummer - semi - friend - enemy), between you and society ("Faggot!", from the man who didn't understand the way a four-way stop works - respectable distance when I'm sweaty), between you and your self (I'm ten pounds lighter - I like the way my body looks from the waist down), between you and the law (do not run a red light - run a red light if no cars are coming), between you and the weather (the night feels safe), etc.
(11:30 AM) | Tara Smith:
The Loathsome Subjectivity of Vision ExaminationsLike everyone, I dread the air-puff machine. It's frightening and abrupt and ridiculously ill-timed (not only does it forcibly blast air at my eye, it also requires me to sit still without blinking far longer than is natural; or at least far longer than seems natural when you're thinking about not blinking).
But more than anything, I hate this sentence: "Which is better: one? ....or two? Three? ...or four? Or are they about the same?"
From the dregs of my very earliest memories all the way through every eye exam in my life (including this morning), I can recall first an inkling, then suspicion, then a growing paranoid conviction that this "test" has no bearing on any scientific inquiry into my actual de facto ability to see, but is rather part of a covert scheme among eye doctors to suss out who is honest and who is a lying liar. (This originates, no doubt, in my private Deeply Held Belief that I am uniquely incapable of telling the truth, which in turn originates in the one-second delay that somehow occurs between what I think and what I say, which gives me the constant perplexing impression of being an actor in my own life.)
Surely, surely, there is some sort of computer or machine or smart microcosm or some other non-human agent that can tell better than I can what my vision prescription should be. Surely eye doctors are already privy to this technique and use it at some indiscernible point of the exam: they already know what my vision is; they're just testing whether or not I'm going to be honest about it. Or maybe they're testing to see if I possess the subtle awareness necessary to truly understand what's "Better? ...Or worse?" for my ocular development. Either way, I always leave Lenscrafters with a vague sense of failure.
Anybody hear me on this, or am I just really weird?
(3:23 AM) | Angela:
Interest & usuryI'm vaguely interested that some of the major national banks in the UK have set up a form of Islamic mortage. The reason for this (according to one BBC article I read) is that a seller and buyer should share rewards and risk. Interest earned on money is is seen as unfair since it is not related to the value of goods themselves and consequently is disallowed under Muslim law.
An Islamic mortgage translates as the bank buying and owning the property. The people attempting to buy the property pay off the bank in installments at the original price agreed. However, they also pay the bank "rent" for using the property. These additional payments are not seen as interest, but payment for using the property.
Now, I can see quite a few disadvantages and I've a couple of questions. I'm not sure that I like it that a lot of property might be in the hands of the bank. On the other hand, it's got to be paid off into somebody's hands. Also, what stops the bank from raising the "rent" levels beyond that of any reasonable buyers so that although you can afford your installments, you can't afford the rent? Also, isn't there a sense in which this is just "interest payments" by another name, ie. that of "rent"? Is it obedience to the letter of the law, but not the spirit? Now, I'm not an Islamic scholar. I know less about property buying and ownership, but I'm really quite interested that a practice that is important to a religious sub-group has been able to become mainstream.
This brings me to the particular point of my post. Does anybody know when Jews and Christians started to see usury as acceptable?
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
(5:02 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Adam Kotsko: The Animated VersionLast night, I saw the controversial episode of Family Guy where Peter decides he needs a Jew to help him get his finances in order. Providentially, local Jewish accountant Max Weinstein's car breaks down in front of Peter's house, setting in motion a series of events that culminates in Lois's narrowly averting a Vegas-style shotgun bar mitzvah for Chris. You know, ha ha, very funny, whatever -- except for this:
Apparently the typical animated Jewish accountant looks a whole lot like an animated me. Shouldn't I be getting some royalties here?
(I understand that since I've made a concerted effort to keep all images of me off the Internet, this might be lost on some of my readers. But still.)
(6:39 AM) | m2:
Tuesday Hatred: En martes, ni te cases ni te embarques...I want my hate and hatred to be a loathing--a loathing of anger so furious. I hate that my hatred may be interpreted otherwise.
You don't know me, and I hate you for it. If you do know me, chances are that I don't hate you, but, you know, I may very well. That is to say, I may very well hate you, your guts, and your smell--Only in that order and combination, though.
I have a lot of hate to voice. I will (continue to) voice it here, on this day, in these intense moments, in what follows.
I hate that the entities that read this will try to compete with my hatred. A rock, for instance, may continue to just sit there (in competition). A tree will turn away from the sun (in competition). A monkey will not screech (in competition). Vapors will vaporize, and the wind will wind (both, in competition). A human--a human will say the dumbest things. But, what, really, is a human?
I hate that most people do not realize that the rocks, trees, monkeys, vapors, and wind can all read.
I hate that Tuesday is considered either the second or the third day of the week, between Monday and Wednesday.
I hate television and radio commercials. I really, truly, authentically, deeply and genuinely despise television and radio commercials--unless they make me laugh, or entertain me to some degree. But those are few and far between.
I hate constipation, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting, but only when they occur all at once.
I hate rabies.
I hate rabid animals.
I hate Old Yeller.
I hate the creatures that have been eating my young watermelon plants. The watermelon plants will not make it--they will die.
I hate my young watermelon plants, because they are going to die. I wanted some homegrown watermelons. Is that too much to ask?
I hate every band that sounds anything like Blink 182, Sum 41, et cetera, ad infinitum, ad nauseum, ad vomitorium.
I hate thieves (generally).
I hate liars.
I hate words uncommonly held, but commonly used.
I hate egomaniacs.
I hate rapists, bigots, and pimps.
I hate flooded basements, mold, overflowing trashcans, and unpleasant smells.
I hate piss-stained carpets, piss-stained carpet padding, piss-stained wooden floors, and the creatures that did the pissing to make the carpets, padding, and wooden floors piss-stained.
I hate being assaulted by light and sound.
I hate cruelty.
I hate machismo. I hate chauvinism. I hate players, player-haters, and, of course, I hate the game.
I hate dry eyes. I hate fatigue.
I hate methamphetamines.
Monday, June 26, 2006
(10:33 PM) | Aryeh Rafah:
Varia, Misc, and "Shit and Garbage"Scrolling through Weblog archives, I've discovered the last phrase in the above title, and am well pleased. The problem is that, having now identified a category under which the vast majority of blogospheric writing falls, how do we classify the remaining 1% of posts?
Anyway, I was just writing to say that I met a lovely woman today on the street - someone I suspect many of the writers and readers here would describe as "grandmotherly" - and I met her because she was wearing a Miles Davis t-shirt. It was a Birth of the Cool shirt. None of that Bitches Brew stuff, thanks very much. I did not get a date, however.
Also, I'd like to prod people here, obviously an intelligent lot, to reconsider prevailing attitudes towards the markets. Now, my father was of the left-wing angry contrarian sort, and I gladly inherited a lot of that, well, you know:
Alvy Singer: You, you, you're like New York, Jewish, left-wing, liberal, intellectual, Central Park West, Brandeis University, the socialist summer camps and the, the father with the Ben Shahn drawings, right, and the really, y'know, strike-oriented kind of, red diaper, stop me before I make a complete imbecile of myself.Anyway, either you're saving for retirement by sticking first editions of Anti-Duhring under the mattress, or you're trying to get some money. (Or you're not saving at all, which puts you in with the majority of Americans, whose savings rate is -0.1%.)
Working long hours down at the docks is one way, and stock market magic is another. I've mentioned the latter before. To drive the point home, one more example worth bragging about:
Walgreens, you know, the drugstore, was scheduled to report earnings today, and there was a general sense that they'd have good news - largely because the new prescription drug benefit enabled lots of seniors to buy pills last quarter they otherwise couldn't've. So I and the friends who listen to me bought some options on Walgreens last week at $0.10 per share. (1 options contract equals 100 shares, so one can get significant leverage without buying all that many contracts.) Sure enough, today's report was fantastic, and for the expected reason. I sold my options today at $0.50/share, which is obviously a 400% profit return in just two days. Recall that the historical average return of the broad market is about 10% a year.
Now this is unusual to be sure, but I've also seen returns on trades this year of 159%, 156%, 63%, 48%, and so on, and (because I know you're wondering) my worst trade so far this year is down 19%, but has until January to recover and has a very good chance of a major bounce in late August. I should note that I'm not a particularly intelligent or prescient person.
The moral of the story is: a little research and just a touch of risk tolerance can go a long way.
(3:34 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Initial Thoughts on FeuerbachAre we sure no one thought of these particular critiques of religion before him? Because in retrospect, they seem pretty obvious -- perhaps even a little too obvious.
(1:06 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Open Source ScholarshipRecent events have made me a big believer in the open distribution of scholarly work. Although a desire to keep one's writings or translations private is understandable in light of the mechanisms of professional academic advancement, one can equally make the argument that "playing the game" makes one complicit in a system that all too often privileges the ego of established academics over against the work of younger scholars still trying to make a name for themselves.
Accordingly, I have decided to make available to the general public a previously untranslated essay by Jacques Derrida, whose title I have translated as "Literature in Secret: An Impossible Filiation." Although I admittedly lack official credentials as a translator of French -- and apparently will continue to lack them for the indefinite future, sadly contrary to my expectations -- I assure everyone not only that the greatest care has been taken in the preparation of this translation and the accompanying notes, but that its fundamental soundness has been attested to by a well-known translator of Derrida's work and by a native speaker of French. This is a somewhat updated version of the translation that I originally submitted as part of my masters thesis (accepted "with distinction") at the Chicago Theological Seminary; that thesis, consisting of a translation with accompanying commentary, is currently on file at that institution's Hammond Library.
I encourage all interested parties to read this text, to treasure it in your heart, to save it on your hard drives and web spaces, and to distribute it as widely (but also as prudently) as possible.
Saturday, June 24, 2006
(10:06 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
CrazinessAs of yesterday, I had 40 more books left to read on the 20th Century Theology list. I went to the library in order to have more of them on hand, so as to avoid for as long as possible the psychological obstacles related to feeling like I have to read a particular book. Here are the books that I now have in my apartment:
I listed them in no particular order because I plan to read them in no particular order. This is craziness. But there is one nice feature here -- although I'm overwhelmed whenever I look at the list, I am also sincerely interested in almost all the books on it, to some degree (with the possible exception of Reinhold Niebuhr).
Hegel, Philosophy of History (currently reading)
Feuerbach, The Essence of Religion
Schleiermacher, Speeches on Religion
Rosenzweig, Star of Redemption
Lindbeck, The Nature of Doctrine
Otto, The Idea of the Holy
Altizer, Genesis and Apocalypse
Levinas, Difficult Freedom
Troeltsch, Protestantism and Progress
Boff, Trinity and Society
Oduyoye, Hearing and Knowing
The Troeltsch had an author photo in it -- looking at it, I realized that I had always pictured Moltmann on those rare occasions where I conjured up a mental image of Troeltsch. (It's a little scary to me that I feel completely 100% confident in the spelling of the name "Troeltsch.")
Onward to Hegel -- and victory!
UPDATE: I know that Hegel is a really important and complex thinker, and so I'm hesitant to say anything "negative" or "critical" about him before studying more in-depth, but I wonder if maybe he might not sometimes say things that could possibly be construed as perhaps a little... racist? I mean, I know it was a different time, and we can't impose our quote-unquote "politically correct" standards on him, but still.
UPDATE (2): The blockquote in this post is pretty funny. I can't wait until The Christian Century publishes a take-down piece about The Weblog -- or AKMA, I guess, which is the "biggest" theology-related blog I can think of off-hand.
Does anyone want to start a journal or magazine for radical left-wing theology? Word on the street is that such voices have had very few venues since Christianity and Crisis shut down. I once broached this topic before at CTS, and the faculty seemed pretty supportive -- but the student response was somewhat disappointing, and I got busy with other things. Maybe this is the kind of effort that is best saved for after the PhD.
UPDATE (3): So it's Sunday and I'm still reading Hegel. I am using the old Encyclopedia Brittanica/University of Chicago "Great Books" edition (generously donated by an erstwhile Weblog reader), which has the benefit of also including Philosophy of Right, but the drawback of being basically a reference work and thus being printed accordingly -- very large pages, two columns, relatively small print. All of my normal expectations about pacing my reading have been shattered, similar to what happened when I was reading out of the Ante-Nicene or Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers volumes.
I suppose that if I could ask Hegel one question, it would be as follows: "It seems to me that the first three steps in this historical process took place relatively close together -- Persia, succeeded by Greece, succeeded by Rome. Why is it, then, that the final step takes probably longer than the first three put together?" Or is he saved by the contrivance of claiming that the German period is divided into three phases parallel to the first three? After all, for a revolution to "take," it has to happen twice -- so presumably the entire history of Spirit has to be repeated twice.
Alright, I've convinced myself. The guy's argument is bullet-proof. Plus he says that Islam is the religion of fanaticism directed toward sheer destruction! And here I thought that this wasn't going to be "applicable."
UPDATE (4 [5:18pm]): Roughly ten minutes ahead of the schedule I set myself after writing the last update, I have finished Philosophy of History. Process theology's much-vaunted solution to the problem of evil is decisively debunked: the solution to theodicy is not ... um, process-y stuff, but rather a rationally organized constitutional monarchy. I knew there would be a happy ending. (Based on a comparison with my roommate's more traditionally formatted copy of this book, I have plowed through the equivalent of 250 pages -- a much more satisfying figure than the mere 100 that I objectively read today.)
Now I'm thinking that I'll read my page and a half of Latin for today, then maybe play some piano, then who knows? Who knows?!
UPDATE (5): At this point I'm just doing an update for the sake of it. There's a pretty nice park northeast of my house, I just discovered. That's in addition to the one that's southeast of my house. I took a walk -- because I'm living a secluded life of monastic discipline, I have to specifically schedule in a time to walk around outside. I asked one of my CTS colleagues if she could loan me her dog for this purpose, but she has not yet responded. I suspect her answer will be "no," since this would require her dog to travel a considerable distance, just to begin her official "walk."
That was one thing that was nice about having Wrigley McElroy living at my house, a ready excuse to go out for a walk. I've been thinking back to that period in my life a lot lately, my first semester at CTS, when my work schedule and the commute imposed a pretty strict reading discipline. Part of this involves listening to a lot of the same music that I associate closely with that period, and I can't decide whether this is cause or effect. (The primary thing is Godspeed's Slow Riot for Zero New Kanada. My music taste is, as they say, "introductory." I've kind of stopped seeking out new music -- now it's all a recapitulation. I'm reliving phases of my life over and over. "The American government is one systematic government that nobody can trust. I don't trust them myself.")
Lauren called at around 6:00, saying that she was at 394 and I-94. Her predicted arrival time was approximately "in a half hour." Due to various factors, I felt this prediction was "wildly optimistic." Although time has shown that I was correct, I do worry that I'm developing a kind of geography fixation. It started off when I was on the lawn mowing crew back in Michigan and my co-workers recruited me to drive the truck. All of a sudden, I had to memorize the grid of streets in the county (something I'd never gotten around to before), as well as learn how to back up with a trailer. My short-lived pizza delivery job in Kankakee County continued the basic trend, but it wasn't until I moved into Chicago that geography threatened to become a full-fledged obsession.
This is becoming the longest post ever. Maybe I'll just keep updating it throughout the week, too.
Friday, June 23, 2006
(8:14 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Friday Afternoon Confessional: WalkingI confess that I am overly sensitive and at times even paranoid about money issues, an unfortunate but apparently unavoidable side-effect of my chosen lifestyle. I confess that I took it really personally when the clerk at Dominick's wouldn't swipe her card for me.
I confess that sometimes I feel like most people have really poor follow-through. I confess that people who don't answer my e-mails really bother me -- being bad about e-mail makes you a bad person in my book. I confess that these traits make me hope that by the time I'm entering the academic job market, electronic publishing (at least for journal articles, if not for books) becomes more mainstream and more tenure-friendly, because it is obviously way faster and more efficient to publish with electronic journals, and it seems to me that there might normally be an element of timeliness to articles, moreso than for books.
I confess that I'm proud to say that my mom's first year as a teacher was a huge success and that my dad is in the final stages of putting together what promises to be a really solid rock album.
I confess that I'm having trouble finding work this summer and that my sense of fatalism about the whole process is probably not helping. I confess that if Craigslist gives a representative picture of the job market as a whole, then there is literally no justice in the world.
If you need to unburden yourself in any way, the comment box is here for you.
Thursday, June 22, 2006
(11:16 AM) | Brad:
Thursday Animal Blogging
Anthony's been telling me for weeks that I need to take up his mantle as the Weblog's resident animal blogger. For lack of anything more substantial to say at the moment, I think I'll finally do so . This is Ireland. When she is not sleeping, she is begging (both depicted here).
I have learned a couple of life lessons from her, though:
- When somebody tries to hump you without asking nicely, scare the be-jesus out of him & everybody else by attacking him, and then later, after things have cooled down, steal his cookies.
- In a fight, always, without fail, go for the neck and the extremities (not sure how practical that one is).
- Don't be ashamed of your crotch or afraid of anybody else's.
- It's fine to sleep on the vent & hog the air conditioning when you're the one dressed for winter.
- What's good enough to be begged for once, is certainly good enough to be stolen. (I think she learned that one from my neighbors, in fact).
There are, of course, more. But I'd hate for somebody to think this is anything more than a cynically Leftist, religious blog.
(9:52 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Against National SecurityOur nation's security is killing us. First of all, there is the huge and ever-growing military machine, which all relevant portions of the political spectrum have agreed is uncuttable. Our advantage over the rest of the world is already so huge as to be farcical -- but even more farcical is that increased spending on the traditional military has been justified by the threat of terrorism, against which traditional military force is virtually useless. We're drowning in debt, we're cutting needed social programs, we're sitting back and letting the people of New Orleans die -- all so that we can use our magical missile defense system against Al Qaeda's mighty box-cutters and provide the wonders of ineffective parliamentary government to a country that doesn't have consistent access to electricity.
Second, when national security becomes the unquestioned primary (or even sole) rationale for government, then it's only a matter of time before the national security apparatus starts lashing out against the citizens themselves. Thankfully we're still in the early phases of this, although the democracy-hating paranoia of the Bush regime means that we can't really know for sure how many of our fellow citizens might be off in some secret prison. But we should have known what was coming when innocent foreigners, guilty of nothing worse than perhaps a certain forgetfulness about paperwork, started to be indefinitely detained without charge and without access to legal counsel.
One might say that the innocent have nothing to fear in a national security state, but on the contrary -- it is precisely the innocent who have the most to fear, who can be tortured and detained endlessly for their refusal to give up information they never had in the first place. Because it's not about information at all, in the end -- it's about fear. Isn't that what stands at the basis of having a standing army: making sure other nations fear to attack us? And so when national security (note that I'm not putting this in scare quotes: these phemonena are inherent possibilities of the concept of national security) is allowed to propagate into all areas of life, the production of fear becomes an end in itself. Look at the history of the Latin American terrorist rulers whom we good Americans trained and financed: anyone can be "disappeared," at any time, so that fear becomes inescapable, so that the arbitrary violence of the state gets closer and closer to being the sole reality.
The terrorist attacks of 9/11 were terrible atrocities. In a rational world, however, we would have simply tracked down the perpetrators and brought them to justice, while allowing our collective mourning to run its course. There was no need for that day to "change everything," any more than Oklahoma City "changed everything." As soon as the Bush regime (with the complicity of the rest of our political elites) used those horrible attacks as a pretext to make national security the number one priority of our political life, they became an implicitly greater threat than Al Qaeda or any of the other dead-end fanatics out there could ever be. While Al Qaeda was lucky to be able to pull off one spectacular attack that incidentally resulted in the death of 19 of its most highly-trained men and that ultimately advanced none of their political goals, the executive branch of the United States federal government has virtually limitless violence at its disposal -- and as we're learning more and more, they're not afraid to use it.
So to whatever extent "the terrorists" or "Islamofascism" or "Saddam" or "Iran" or whoever else are supposedly a threat to us -- and who knows, maybe they actually are to some extent -- the government itself is an infinitely greater threat. That's what national security means.
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
(12:24 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Education as UselessThe single biggest error in discussing education is the assumption that the purpose of education is to prepare people for jobs. Training for particular lines of work is always necessary and sometimes needs to take place in formalized ways, but for most jobs, on-the-job training is the only realistic possibility. The attempt to turn universities into sites of credentialization leads not only to the corruption of the university, but also to the corruption of the mechanisms of professional advancement. For instance, my uncle has decades of managerial experience, but has repeatedly been held back professionally by his lack of proper degrees. It's ludicrous to assume that someone can step in and start doing a job -- and indeed, presumably do it better than someone who has long experience in doing it -- simply by virtue of having attained a degree. The attempt to institute a formalized meritocracy based on university-mediated credentials simply introduces a fresh layer of arbitrarity and injustice to an increasingly irrational job market.
One might be glad for this in that it provides a broader demand for university education, but as stated above, it actually ends up corrupting the university system. First of all, it presents education as a phase to be gotten through and left behind -- a technicality that must be endured. Thus, genuine education comes to be seen as an unfair imposition, an attempt to cheat someone out of a credential for which they are, after all, paying a lot of money. The students' pre-existing views must be "respected," which comes to mean leaving them basically intact. Instead of a globally competent teacher, the instructor is viewed as a very narrowly focussed expert whose forays outside of her area are seen as in a way more illegitimate than the expression of an opinion by a person on the street. Increasing reliance on disposable adjuncts or on graduate students further undermines the student-teacher relationship, as the students come to understand that their teacher "isn't even a real professor."
What is needed is an insistence on the profound pointlessness of education -- that is, on education as an end in itself. We as a culture are not averse to pointless activities -- we gladly pay money to play video games, watch television and movies, listen to music, browse the Internet, sit idly at bars talking with friends. Very few of us feel that such things make us better citizens, better prepare us for jobs, etc., and yet we pour huge amounts of money into them, simply based on their inherent satisfaction. Rigorous intellectual labor is simply satisfying, in itself. We should be willing to pay for it based solely on that, without recourse to some further goal.
Our goal-orientation is precisely what produces the profound sense of boredom in our society as a whole. Nothing (aside from the entertainment media) is taken to be valuable in itself, but only in terms of some future payoff -- yet the future payoff never comes. For instance, with education: most people fully expect at best to tolerate and at worst to actively hate the jobs their college degree will supposedly enable them to attain, and that expectation is very often fulfilled. Thus the job itself becomes a means to the end of providing for one's children -- but the normative expectation for family life is an endless shuttling from activity to activity... all directed at the end of getting into a good college, so that the children can perpetuate the cycle.
Why not cut it off at one of the early phases? Why not say that education is preparing people for education, for the enjoyment of satisfactions that will continue throughout one's lifetime, for a life of learning and teaching? Then the answer to the perennial idiotic question of "When am I ever going to use this?" will be simple: "You won't use it; you'll enjoy it."
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
(12:01 AM) | Ben Wolfson:
Tuesday Hatred: Forsan, Forsan, ForsanI hate that I probably won't be able to do the Tuesday Hatred after this one until mid-September. Who can be found more hateful than I to lead the lusty chorus? None. None more hateful.
Why am I so disabled? Because I'm going to Berlin. It may seem churlish, but I've got some hatred on that subject and I'd like, with your permission, to share it with you. First and foremost, this whole "leaving for two and a half months" thing is coming at something of an inconvenient time for me. I hate not only this inconvenience, but also myself, for the diffidence that has not lessened but rather increased the hated inconvenience. In fact it is literally inconvenient; that is, it is preventing a convening. I also hate packing and, more than that, having to decide what to pack. The last time I was on a similar trip (three months long, mostly in Greece) I believe I brought four pairs of pants and five shirts. While that worked in the sense that I was never forced to go out naked, I'd rather have a little more variety in my wardrobe this time around. However, travelling light has for me the force of a deontic injunction. Not to mention I'm sure I'll forget something of moderate importance, like my passport.
I hate anticipating that, since I'll be living out in west nowhere, and since my German is, how shall I put it, not very good, I'll be so lonesome I could cry.
I love the word "emolument".
Monday, June 19, 2006
(6:03 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
You know what would hurt?Let's say that one were in the habit of doing daily push-ups, and furthermore that it was very hot and humid on a particular day. Let's further assume that one has hardwood flooring and that one is inclined to sweat while exerting oneself physically. Under such circumstances, it seems possible that one's hands could slip, with the result that one's face would be slammed against the floor. The very quality that makes the slippage possible -- the floor's non-carpetted status -- would also serve to increase the painfulness of the face-slam.
So yeah, that would hurt. (No, it didn't actually happen to me nor to anyone I know.)
(10:44 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
My Summer: The Sinister "Phase Two"Based on my original projections, I should be plowing through a book a day in preparation for the 20th Century exam at this point -- I thought I would have basically everything else "out of the way." The Nancy directed reading took substantially longer than I had anticipated, though, and I only just finished last night. Apparently taking detailed notes on hundreds of pages of dense philosophical prose is not something that can be churned out in a couple days.
I just counted up the 20th Century list, and there are 69 authors (although for a few of them, there are two books recommended -- thankfully with an "or" in between them). Of those, I have apparently read 27, though I have no idea how that could have happened. So if I wanted to have the whole list read by the time classes start, that would give me 77 days (not counting today, when I plan to sit around eating bon-bons and watching The View). 42 books over the course of 77 days would give me just under two days per book -- much more manageable than the projected "book a day" figure. Of course, that still doesn't address the issue of actually assimilating and synthesizing that many books. So yeah, I don't know what's going to happen there. I had hoped to take the exam early next semester, but we'll just have to see how things go.
Other than that, I had hoped to get my presentations done for the AAR/SBL before classes start -- the Zizek one will basically write itself at this point, since I've already done a class presentation and a portion of the take-home exam on the topic, but the panel will be a bigger issue, most notably because the stakes are higher.
After finishing up the directed reading, my heart was filled with a desire to write a combined review of the two studies of Nancy that have come out in the last couple years -- B. C. Hutchens' Jean-Luc Nancy and the Future of Philosophy and Ian James's The Fragmentary Demand: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Jean-Luc Nancy. I thought of asking JCRT, but I feel like I've kind of saturated that market for now. I have made one other inquiry and haven't heard back yet -- but if any journal editors are reading and would be interested in such a review, feel free to contact me. I would also be willing to accept any review copies of the James book that any readers may have access to.
In conclusion, I learned from Derrida's book that Nancy has written something entitled La naissance des seins [The Birth of Breasts]. I don't know when I'll get around to reading it -- the Regenstein doesn't have it, and I've sworn off paying shipping from France -- but if any publishers are reading and would like to commission me to translate it, I'd be willing to do it, just out of sheer curiosity. The 20th Century exam can be put on hold in favor of Nancy's book on breasts.
(8:03 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Moral SymmetryI recently read some comments in the form: "Our leaders have been doing awful things abroad for most of this century -- but isn't it morally problematic that some leftists are apologists for communist atrocities?"
These kinds of remarks are a mainstay of blogospheric faux-produndity. I don't have much use for such sentiments. Even if I were to say, "Stalin was the greatest man who ever lived," that would not make me morally equivalent to Donald Rumsfeld or Dick Cheney. They are war criminals; I am, at worst, a dumbass. Dumbasses are obnoxious, and you probably don't want to invite them to a party, because they'll end up cornering some over-friendly and indulgent person the whole time talking about all the slanders committed against Chairman Mao. War criminals, on the other hand, cause mass death and destruction.
I know that many people make moral judgments based on intention, as though it's just an accident that Donald Rumsfeld has the power he does -- presumably if I were in his position, as an ardent communist (in this hypothetical scenario), I would be "just as bad," with another ideology whose "badness" level is approximately equal to neoconservativism. That kind of logic misses the point here. If I really were an ardent communist, obviously I would try to organize a group of people who would, if necessary, be willing to kill a whole lot of fucking people so that we could seize power. But since you don't hear much about communist cells assassinating the Secretary of Defense, presumably all of these marginal figures on the left aren't really serious about what they're saying. In real life, they want the comforts of consumerism, and they want to vote for Democrats every couple years, and on top of that they want to feel morally superior to others, but without actually having to do anything.
Sure, it's morally bankrupt, but I don't think that it approaches the level of, say, "crimes against humanity." No one is crippled for life by my apologetics for Stalin. No one loses their father at age five because I want to pose as a Maoist. My avid reading of Chomsky books does not replace a once-fertile countryside with a mine field.
People need to realize that in the United States, "the left" seriously does not pose any threat at all, to anything. In fact, as a group, they make important contributions to the economy.
Sunday, June 18, 2006
(9:46 AM) | John Emerson:
Gary Becker's "Treatise on the Family"
(I've been cyber-sniping at economists for some time now, mostly here and at Crooked Timber. Computer death and travel interrupted my series, but I'm ready to start up again. This time I'm writing about an actual work by an actual economist.)
In 1992 Gary Becker received the quasi-Nobel Prize for economics: "Gary Becker's research contribution consists primarily of having extended the domain of economic theory to aspects of human behavior which had previously been dealt with - if at all - by other social science disciplines such as sociology, demography and criminology." The press release specifically mentions Becker's Treatise on the Family, published only 11 years earlier, summarizing it as follows: "A basic idea in Becker's analysis is that a household can be regarded as a "small factory" which produces what he calls basic goods, such as meals, a residence, entertainment, etc., using time and input of ordinary market goods, "semi-manufactures", which the household purchases on the market."
However, this is a bowdlerized version of what Becker actually said. In the section "Household Production Functions (pp.7-8), he writes
|"[T]ime and goods are inputs into the production of 'commodities' which directly provide utility. These commodities [i.e., those produced in the household -- J.E.] cannot be purchased in the marketplace but are produced as well as consumed by households using market purchases, own time, and various environmental inputs. These commodities include children, prestige and esteem, health, altruism, envy, and pleasures of the senses."|
In other words, the family is a small factory producing commodities, such as children. It's not hard to understand why the Bank of Sweden Nobel Committee cleaned up Becker's language a bit.
Now, taunting and throwing down snark are important tools in the economist's rhetorical kit. If you can get the layman huffy and indignant (for example, by defining children as commodities, or talking about "child-markets"), he'll be softened up for the second punch in the combination: a lot of math which the poor sucker is unable to understand. The economist then looks coolly at the hapless, innumerate, sputtering fool with his conventional, sentimental, Luddite ideas about children, explains how important it is to "learn to think like an economist", and proceeds with his exposition while the preppy audience applauds uproariously.
The Bank of Sweden people probably thought that Becker went a little too far here, so they subsumed the child-commodities under the harmless catchall "etc." But this is more than a rhetorical bug to be remedied with a simple patch. The supposed child-commodity marks a major problem with Becker's theory.
Imagine someone raising goats, which are in fact commodities. You put money and time into your goats, and with luck you can sell them for a profit. Or you can kill or eat them. Or if they become a nuisance, you can give them away or have them put to sleep. Commodities don't really cause a big nuisance. Children, on the other hand, are strictly money down the drain. You can never sell them, and you can't eat them or get rid of them. They impose major legal obligations, because you are both responsible for their care and for their behavior -- yet once they become adults, they no longer have any obligation to you.
If children are commodities, they're the worst commodity imaginable, more comparable to losing lottery tickets than to anything else (except that you have no legal obligations toward lottery tickets). At one point (p. 194) Becker puts in a patch explaining that parents get "psychic income" from kids, but that's a risky move: if you let me allege "psychic income", I will be able to claim that Albania is the richest nation in the world. There are good reasons to think that childraising is irrational.....
A question Becker does not ask is "Why would any rational modern individual choose to raise children?" Children are tremendously expensive, especially in opportunity cost, and at age 18 they're lost to you. "Psychic income" is a rather feeble kludge, and it isn't really income anyway, because it isn't any more fungible than children themselves are. There are many good non-economic explanations of why people have children -- religious duty, family duty, community spirit, love, etc -- but Becker is trying to replace non-economic explanations of this kind, sentimental and Luddite as they are, with rational economic explanations. Furthermore, most non-economic motives for having children involve group membership rather than individual rationality, and except when speaking of child-raising, economists always strongly favor individualist motives and forms of organization.
This is not a trivial question. On the one hand, theoretically it has to do with the origins of human capital (what used to be called labor). The production of human capital is presently entrusted to an archaic, anti-individualist, sentimental, irrational Luddite form of organization: the family. This would seem to be both a defect of analysis (one which Becker has failed to correct) and a vulnerability of the system. And on the other hand, in fact, in the developed world there is a real problem with fertility, which has fallen below replacement in many countries. It seems that, if people are free either to have children or not, they will have fewer of them. (By "people" I mostly mean women, of course -- though childraising is costly to fathers too).
Becker distinguishes his "economic analysis" of the family from the more conventional analysis of "economic aspects" of the family. This leads to a peculiar dilemma. Economics can be normative or descriptive -- either explaining the best way to do things, or else analyzing what people actually do in terms of rational choice. In economics' areas of strength -- the description of the world of industry, business, and finance -- a critical version of the normative mode is dominant, and economists are not shy to say that actual institutions are irrational and should be changed.....
But when Becker tries to extend the scope of economics to the family, which has not previously been treated in terms of rational choice, he avoids normative criticism entirely. He consistently looks at the recent-traditional American family and finds economist's explanations why it is already rational -- i.e., he rationalizes it, in the bad sense. It's rational and fair to favor the boys over the girls, it's rational and fair to favor the elder son over the others, and it's rational and fair for the wife to stay at home. (In asides, he also explains that the American class system and the system of international trade are also rational and fair.)
It didn't really work very well. Becker's theory is pretty shoddy. And that's why we see Becker's political allies, Pat Robertson and James Dobson, riding to the rescue. If childraising is, in fact, economically irrational, then we need some other way to convince women to produce units of human capital. And Robertson and Dobson and their allies can do this -- if they're allowed to rewrite a few laws.....
The world would be a better place if economists themselves would sort out their field and share the actually-valuable part of the field with the rest of us, separating it from the crap, but even the nice ones seldom do this. The field elicits loyalty from its members, and for good reason. Economics is the king of the social sciences, and looks down on the humanities with scorn. Economists always have jobs, and only the densest of political leaders dare ignore them (e.g. Dubya). If I were writing in 1450 I'd be writing against scholasticism and canon law, but this is the twenty-first century, and it's the economists who are in command now.
Frankly, it bothers me that Becker is as well-respected in a field as powerful as economics, and even got a Nobel Prize of sorts primarily for this snarky, rather deranged book.....
Saturday, June 17, 2006
(8:56 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
The KankA mere three days after handing my truck over to my mom to put it in storage, I am going to visit Kankakee. This has always been the missing link in my plan to get by without a vehicle, but it appears that hope is on the way:
PB is performing a feasibility study for the extension of Metra Rail’s passenger service from University Park to the City of Kankakee, Illinois along the Canadian National railroad right-of-way. This feasibility study is being performed for an intergovernmental task force comprised of Kankakee and Will Counties, and the municipalities of Aroma Park, Bourbonnais, Bradley, Kankakee, Manteno, Monee, and Peotone. The Task Force members and the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) are funding the study.All the little town names down there are great, but "Aroma Park" is my favorite by far.
The project will examine the feasibility of providing commuter rail service to Kankakee County, located 38.6 kilometers (24 miles) south of University Park, and 19.3 kilometers (12 miles) outside of Metra’s 6-county legislated region of operation. PB will evaluate the feasibility of linking Kankakee County into the existing Metra system, and will examine several different engineering and planning scenarios to determine the most efficient and practical plan for a future rail extension.
I've heard from local sources that the city is buying up land to use as a parking lot; presumably the station will be right next to the current Amtrak. This is a good thing for the area, and I'm sure that they'll have the ribbon-cutting ceremony on the exact day that the last of my friends moves away from Kankakee.
Friday, June 16, 2006
(7:29 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Friday Afternoon Confessional: The Thickness of the SchtickI confess that I am tired of Stephen Colbert. I don't begrudge him his right to earn a living, but that doesn't change the fact that his show is basically doomed to be "Colbert does Colbert" for the rest of its tenure. Whatever happens, though, his performance at the White House correspondents Dinner will have redeemed him.
I confess that I find the Brown line to be much more conducive to reading than the Blue line was, probably because it's a longer trip. I confess that I'm occasionally tempted to just sit on the train as it goes around the Loop and comes back, so that I can get some reading done.
I confess that I have entertained the idea of trying to read Ulysses entirely on the toilet. Although I have not given up on that grand ambition, I have now switched to a new plan: reading Empire entirely on the toilet, at Lauren's house. Seemingly ever since she moved into the community where she currently lives, Hardt and Negri have been staring me down in the bathroom. Within the last couple weeks, I've decided to pick it up, and now I'm on approximately page 10. I think this is doable. Maybe it wouldn't "count" since this is a reread, but the first 500 pages of Ulysses would be a reread anyway, probably the third or fourth reread.
I confess that my entire life has gradually become blog-fodder.
Thursday, June 15, 2006
(4:34 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
How I'll make my millionsI just had an epiphany, one that will fundamentally alter the course of my life. I need to write a book, one that will sell millions if not billions of copies. My title? Touching Base With God: The Seven Principles of a Results-Oriented Prayer Life.
(8:36 AM) | Brad:
Suspending Disbelief; or, How I Learned to Stop Disbelieving and Love Shitty Entertainment
(...) it was agreed, that my endeavours should be directed to persons and characters supernatural, or at least romantic, yet so as to transfer from our inward nature a human interest and a semblance of truth sufficient to procure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith.
It is summer movie season, and with it comes that failsafe, seemingly intelligent excuse for liking the shittiest offerings Hollywood has on tap for the year: the willing suspension of disbelief. The way this works is pretty simple. Bright person A & B go to see, say, X-Men 3. Bright person A walks out with a scowl, aghast at how poor a movie it was, what with its inexplicable introduction of characters that do nothing for the story, amazingly bad direction of Hali Berry (& considering how poor an actress she is already, the effect is startling), & a stated desire that he could have at least seen Famke Jansen in her underwear a little longer. Bright person B, however, walks out shrugging, arguing that while it is not a great movie it was good summer fun, mindless entertainment, & that all one needs to do in order to enjoy it is to suspend your disbelief.
Much like the "theory of Advancement," though, I have to wonder whether all this is just an excuse to like shitty entertainment. (For more on advancement, see one of my favorite blogs here.) Don't get me wrong. I like a lot of crap. I, for instance, find myself watching a surprising amount of Animal Planet. More to the point, I'm not a complete culture snob. I grew up collecting comics, and remain unwilling to part with any of them. I really liked the first two X-Men movies. I have a strange fondness for the Will Smith / Martin Lawrence buddy flick, Bad Boys (though not the ill-advised sequel). In short, I know how to enjoy "mindless fun." But I refuse to employ Coleridge to either validate or defend the mindlessness (or relatively shittiness) of that fun. I'm even growing wary of the Zizekian route of redeeming, to some extent, shitty movies & crap culture for the theoretical moves & points I can make with it. (This is quite an admission, what for the paper I wrote about the ultimate in trash culture, Las Vegas.)
None of this is meant to attack your individual preferences. It is, however, about the, ultimately needless, justifications we use for our preferences. Using "the suspension of disbelief" as the defense for liking crap entertainment would seem to place Coleridge's poetry -- or, if nothing else, his Biographia Literaria -- all too quickly on the level of a big-breast-exposing B-movie? And this I cannot abide, if only because reading Coleridge is rarely so engaging! And while there is something fun, and sometimes even profoundly insightful, about using, say, Tremors 3 or Police Academy, to illustrate how popular culture already knows the truth it must also repress, I'm reminded, not without irony, of that scene from Fight Club where Tyler Durden asks Ed Norton's character:
There is, perhaps, a danger (or at the very least an irritating tendency) to making a cultural artifact either dumber than it needs to be & thus expecting very little of it (as is the case when too easily employing the "suspension of disbelief"), or far smarter than was ever warranted. Either way, it threatens to level the field of aesthetics, desensitizing us to the appreciation & impact of art that matters, wherever it crops up (be it in the museum or in the subway or on television). In short, it moves us one step closer to embracing as a people the artistic vision & philosophy of Andy Warhol. And I'll be damned if that's not evil.
"How's that working out for you?"
"Keep it up then."
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
(8:37 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
To me, the icon for the "Wireless Setup Wizard" is evocative of nothing so much as
I noticed this while looking for an "Alarm Clock" feature for the computer. I think they ditched that after
UPDATE: This was definitely a shit and garbage post.
UPDATE (2): Thanks to Adam R. for pinpointing what the icon is really evocative of.
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
(10:18 PM) | Dominic:
Militants Do It DiagonallyI was hoping to report that I had finished reading Badiou (or Being and Event, at any rate), and could therefore offer some kind of critical synopsis of the work - a book report, say, or perhaps a lighthearted account of the vicissitudes of attempting to digest the sections on the cardinality of the powerset of ω0 while travelling on the London underground. As things stand, I've now read through to the end of the book; but I don't feel in any sense as if I've finished it.
The meditations in the latter part of the book, dealing with the subject, the indiscernible, generic procedures and forcing, move quickly over some technically very dense material, and much of the enjoyment I had been taking in the earlier mathematical presentation was lost when this shift in pace occurred. And a puzzle from earlier on remains unresolved: the self-belonging of ex in the mathème of the event remains a mysterious stipulation.
Intuitively, the latter suggests something like the fact that the name of the revolution simultaneously nominates and convokes the praxis (or procedure) of the revolutionaries; but the name of the revolution is not itself the revolution, and its belonging to the revolutionary situation is not the same as that situation's belonging to itself. There may be some significant reflexivity to militant praxis over and above its having a name for itself (the more fecund militant movements, in politics as in aesthetics, tend to have a self-critical, "emergent" or auto-poetic dimension; the ones that don't are called dogmatisms); but I'm not convinced that self-belonging in a set-theoretical sense provides an apt conceptual model for this. It's just a bit too convenient that it also happens to violate the axiom of foundation, thereby placing the Event beyond the pale of axiomatic set theory qua ontology.
So I remain at a loss, both to understand what the mathème of the event is supposed to be indicating, and to understand the proper relationship between the faithful procedure of linking multiples to the event via an operator of fidelity - realizing the kingdom of the Event-which-is-not by traversing the presented situation of which one is an inhabitant - and the generic procedure involved in forcing an indiscernible. I'm not sure if the relationship is properly mathematical, or metaphorical, or both, or neither. It's an open question; I'm left with the desire to read more, and try to make a little more sense of it all.
Reading Being and Event has changed my thinking in a couple of ways: firstly, it's deeply enriched my mental map of mathematics, by guiding me through the fundamentals of axiomatic set theory and showing me the basic connections between those fundamentals and some other mathematical topics; and secondly, it's made me feel much more kindly disposed towards militants of various stripes, for whom Badiou himself has an infectious admiration that is not, I believe, reducible to self-admiration (or admiration for a former self). So it has certainly repaid the effort; although I should say that every time I tried to read a section on the tube, I ended up having to go back and read that section again, twice. I look forward to the forthcoming book on category theory, and can only regret that even if certain well-placed individuals were to forward me sneak-previews of parts of it, my lousy French would leave me hopelessly ill-equipped to make the slightest sense of them.
(7:48 AM) | Angela:
I confess to worrying about the length of my confessions and the fact that I now need to categorise them!Weblog related confession:
I confess to not having read The Weblog for a long time because I became tired of reading the words "Nancy" and "Agamben" when I had no intention of reading either of them or desiring to know what they had to say.
I confess to not having read the Weblog because I have no language skills and no likelihood of acquiring them any time soon.
I confess to not bothering with The Weblog for ages because my interests are theological and everyone here seems interested in theorists who are not overt theologians.
I confess that I probably would not have read the Weblog even if it had been stuffed full of theological material, but would have found another excuse.
I confess to being annoyed that Adam took me off of his blog roll even though I didn't post for ages.
I confess to realising that Adam didn't take me off of his blog roll, but I logged in with the wrong blogger account.
Anglican related confession:
I confess to desiring that Anglicans had some form of Magisterial guidance whilst at the same time despising whatever it would be that Anglicans would come up with to perform such a job.
I confess to considering that I quite like living in an Anglican theocracy, and considering that maybe I'd like to somehow defend such a perspective. I confess that I can't think of any better kind of government to live under.
Theological related confession:
I confess to a general irritation that I still think in terms of "conservatives" and "liberals" whilst having developed more than enough nuance to think beyond such terms.
I confess that I still have a very love/hate relationship with "conservatives" and a hate/hate one with "liberals".
I confess that I still consider "conservative" theologians to make better arguments than "liberal" ones, and I also confess that this winds me up.
I confess to hating that I have become the kind of theologian that I would have hated to become ten years ago.
I confess to figuring that fifteen year olds probably aren't the best models from which to decide whether this really matters.
I confess to finding books about sexuality and gender far more interesting than books about better distribution of the world's income.
I confess to being annoyed that I have a really bad memory, and I confess to being annoyed that I can't name all 7 agreed ecumenical councils with a brief summary of what was decided at each. I confess that I am more annoyed that I'd like to be able to name all 14 ecumenical councils, but never either bothered to learn them or heard a series of lectures about all of them.
I confess that I still think confessional theology is the best way to teach theology in both schools and universities. I confess that I consider a lot of confessional theology to be really bad.
Liberalism and religion related confession:
I confess to really hating to hear people speak of "multi-culturalism", "diversity" and "tolerance" because of the refusal to acknowledge that such a perspective is quite violent. I confess that despite objecting to tolerance, I have no better alternative. I confess to being supremely irritated about this, and scowling in a corner looking intolerant whenever anyone speaks of tolerance.
I confess that I have quite come to enjoy thinking that the best perspective from which to critique a perspective is from within a perspective, with the knowledge that such a perspective comes from outside the darned perspective.
Confessions pertaining to books
I confess to coveting books from Amazon.
I confess to writing lists of all of the books that I want to get hold of on little post-it notes and then losing them and having to start the whole thing over again, with the added annoyance that I know I'll have forgotten some of them.
I confess to failing to read as much as I'd like, even though I know that if I had more time, I wouldn't read.
Confessions about life in general
I confess to having finally given up thinking that life might somehow improve when I grow up.
I confess to attempting to extend my degree into another year because I have entirely given up any desire to do academic writing, and consider that putting it off is the best thing.
I confess to not confessing on a Friday and feeling bad about that because it's somewhat of an individualistic option. I confess to being annoyed that I have been shaped enough to know how to behave communally and yet I still fail!
I confess that I hate arguing with people who know less than I do. I confess that I hate arguing with people who know more than I do. I confess that I am bored with arguing with people who know about the same as I do.
I confess to adopting ideas that I've not really thought through because somebody else has, and I trust their judgement.
I confess that I have downloaded lots of music from Itunes, even though I hate their conspiracy to prevent ordinary MP3 players being able to play their music.
(12:07 AM) | Ben Wolfson:
Tuesday Hatred: A Conflagration Devoutly To Be WishedOooooooh, it just burns me up that I can't find the words to "The Noise of Foreign Wars" online! It's not that easy to figure out what they're singing from the recording, people! I'm also not too pleased that I continue to fail to know how to make hospital corners, even though I could find that out online pretty easily if I really cared—or so I suspect, since as you've probably realized by now I don't really care. Not that much.
I hate that my beautiful blue eyes mean that it's probably a bad idea to stare for very long at a lighter's flame from six or so inches away, but that's exactly what I have to do in order to practice my latest hobby: melting sticks of sealing wax and sticking them together, and then melting and shaping them further and making the colors run together nicely and the rest. Relatedly, I hate that the blue sealing wax is much more prone to burning and catching on fire than is the green.
I hate that as a result of deadline-based leniency, my paper that isn't due until September will be hanging over my head all summer. I hate that I didn't start thinking about early enough that I could actually have ordered the books I'd need to do it (Deceit, Desire and the Novel and, for all I knew back when I wasn't thinking about it, other things besides) in time to actually, you know, have them by now. I hate that I'm so far away from the Seminary Co-op, which has it in stock. (Though maybe not anymore, since it's thence I ordered it. 10% discount woo!)
I hated the crowd at the place where I saw the USA-Czech Republic match this morning. More about this I will not say.
I sort of hate that my hatreds are pretty trivial. Maybe I can serious the joint up a little by saying that I hate Rear Admiral Asshat at Guantanamo for reasons with which I'm sure everyone here is familiar. But even saying that is trivial, because of course I do. That's not interesting.
Maybe I'll mention this when the Tuesday Love goes up (guess not), but I love the new Ocrilim album, and the fact that I was looking through a bittorrent site and saw that someone had posted a torrent for … the Merzbox. Nutty.
And now, my minions … come, and hate with me!
Monday, June 12, 2006
(4:31 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Irrational Reading DesiresWhat I'm looking for in this post is the (owned but unread) book that you would most like to read, but can least understand why.
Perhaps it would be helpful if I told you mine: Elementary Forms of Religious Life by Durkheim.
(1:03 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
SpamFor a while, Anthony had me convinced that I should clear out my spam folder in Gmail once a day, but then I decided that was one neurotic habit too many. It's been a couple months now, and given that the spam folder deletes messages after 30 days, it looks like I get roughly 4500 spam messages a month, or around 150 a day. This doesn't include the 10 or so messages a day that escape the filter.
That just strikes me as a lot. I'm not sure why spammers seem to think that rendering everyone's e-mail account unusable would benefit them. Perhaps they figure that people are used to e-mail by now and that if the spam revolution was achieved, people would just switch their usage habits -- instead of keeping up with business associates, they would just click links to find captivating Russian cumshots or cheap Viagra.
Sunday, June 11, 2006
(11:06 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
A Note on Plato and Unrelated MattersFrom a post at The Valve:
Writing socratikoi logoi - Socratic dialogues - was a minor, literary cottage industry, and Plato entered the field comparatively late. (Did you know that? Many people do not. It really ought to figure in our conception of Plato more than it does.)My mind has officially been blown. The rest of the post gives some details of what we know about the many, many Socratic dialogues that have apparently been lost.
You might also want to check out the Long Sunday Carl Schmitt Symposium, which contains contributions from me and Anthony.
On the Nancy translation, there's really no hurry. I'd be surprised if I got done with my section before the end of the week. If we have a first draft by next Monday morning, I'll be very pleased. Thanks to everyone who has already begun work. Also, even for those who are not part of our translation team, I still have like 45 Writely invitations I can give out, if you're into that kind of thing. (Unfortunately, it doesn't do footnotes. In fact, it seems to have roughly the formatting power of your average Blogger compose window, but the collaboration tools are a nice addition. Perhaps someday we'll have the ability to do genuinely collaborative blog posts -- especially now that this Writely thing joins Blogger as part of the Google Empire.)
My Nancy directed study continues to take more time than I had anticipated. Maybe by the end of next week I'll finally be free.
Saturday, June 10, 2006
(8:17 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Surprisingly enoughGetting crapped on by a seagull isn't that big a deal. Of course, in my case, it was on the back of my shirt rather than on my head. Yet I imagine that even if it had been my head, it would have been a fixable problem -- my fellow citizens would surely rally to my aid, offering kleenex, handkerchiefs, etc., and everyone would feel really good about this Genuine Human Interaction Among Strangers In The Big City. (I suppose that in good blogger fashion, I should give a "hat tip" to David Foster Wallace for the Capitalizing Every Word Of An Entire Phrase Thing.)
"That's why I love living in Chicago! People aren't really obtrusively friendly, but if a bird craps on your head, you know you're not alone." Of course, in this case I was sitting at a picnic table with Lauren and two of her friends from out of town, taking a lunch break at the Chicago Blues Festival, having just seen Big George Brock. (One of these friends had read that Big George spent some time as a bear wrestler; when asked about it after the show, he said, "I've wrestled a bear or two in my day.") No strangers needed to come to my aid; I was well-stocked with people I already knew.
Believe it or not, I was eating my very first Chicago-style hot dog at the time of this incident, or else I had recently finished it. We were sitting around enjoying ourselves, and this lady walked up to me and said a bird had pooped on me. She seemed very sorry to have to be the one to deliver this news.
We spent a lot of time in the Art Institute, too -- last night we took in one of the free lectures, then today we just wandered around, primarily in the medieval stuff, at Lauren's request. I knew of one particular painting that had multiple stories depicted on it, but it turns out that the Olivet professor who pointed it out on the Art Institute tour (as part of the retrospectively very worthwhile "Intro to Fine Arts" class) only pointed it out because it was such an extreme example. There was a depiction of the Fall, for instance, where the foreground was Adam and Eve eating the apple, and off in the distance they're being expelled from the Garden. In another one, the main image is the Last Supper, and in a corner -- as though you're seeing it through the window -- Jesus is washing the feet of the disciples. The other corner is a view of a city street.
I can't quite put my finger on why, but I normally avoid the Impressionists like the plague, even though they're the pride of the Art Institute. I prefer the later modern art, because it's more obvious on first glance that I don't understand it. Of course, this excludes the forms of modern art that seem to be created for the sake of their theoretical blurb.
We've had this discussion before. Looking back at the post, I recognize now that I would never walk all the way from the Art Institute to the Museum of Contemporary Art. Of course, back then I was a suburbanite who was intimidated by the bus -- now I'm putting my damn truck in storage and going carless, in complete contradiction to everything America stands for. I'm a veritable CTA evangelist. Last night I even convinced Lauren to get a Chicago Card Plus.
Ah, Chicago! The city of broad shoulders! All the amenities of a world-class urban center, with a Midwestern sensibility! Why would anyone ever want to live anywhere else? Why?!
(2:31 AM) | Anthony Paul Smith:
Drunk Request.Dear Maureen (sp?),
You said that you would help us out with the third paragraph of the Nancy translation. You also said I was smart enough to find your email. Well, truth be told, I'm not. So how about you stop lurking and comment here so I can get in touch with you about that.
Friday, June 09, 2006
(8:11 AM) | Tara Smith:
Friday Afternoon Confessional: Cruel and PrettyI confess that my sins are boring. I confess that when I was asked to speak to a 12-step recovery group last week I considered inventing personal addictions so that my life would sound "edgier" and make more sense in that context. I confess that even that last statement is abjectly false: I'm so boring that I would never just "make stuff up."
I confess that I'm making time to drive eleven hours over the next thirty to visit my friend who just had a baby when I couldn't make the same time to visit my grandma who is undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer. I confess that, while uninteresting, I am certainly contemptible.
I confess that despite everything I harbor an unreasonable amount of goodwill toward myself. I confess that I also harbor an unreasonable affinity for the British spelling of words like "harbour" but that I could never bring myself to actually use that spelling without scare quotes.
I confess that the hardest part about writing this post was coming up with a title.
Thursday, June 08, 2006
(9:02 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Remembering Guantánamo BayAs we know, apparently our nation's guests at the Guantánamo Bay resort in Cuba were treated very well. They were served rice pilaf, for instance -- a dish that I had actually never heard of before learning that those who were temporarily relocated to a lawless no-man's-land on the territory of one of America's greatest enemies were enjoying it, presumably even as I watched the news report.
I get the impression that it was something like a very long summer camp, and according to some reports, the detainees are responding to the end of their tropical vacation in a typically American way: through t-shirt creation. Several of the more artistically-inclined guests put together a series of patterns bearing the following messages:
For their children, they came up with this little number:
Red Team 4-EVA!
Camp Softball Champions
Guantánamo Bay '05
Pass the Pilaf!
One of the guards took their designs to a Cuban screen printing shop, but unfortunately, due to the embargo, they hadn't had t-shirts in stock for six years.
My father was indefinitely detained at Guantánamo Bay...
and all I got was this stupid t-shirt!
It occurs to me that although our resort appears to be stepping down its operations, it might be a good idea to officially incorporate Guantánamo Bay into the territory of the United States, somewhat along the lines of the District of Columbia -- just so we never forget how we showed those terrorists what it really means to respect human dignity, even in the very worst circumstances. And of course, no non-state territorial entity in the United States would be complete without a clever lisence plate motto like that of Washington, D.C.: "Taxation without representation."
Oh, the wry wit! So characteristically American! I wonder what the future residents of the Guantánamo Bay district would put on their lisence plates.
(1:06 PM) | Aryeh Rafah:
Permanent PossibilityI know that most of the readers and participants around here probably aren't all that keyed in to the daily goings-on in the markets. These days, that's a nice state to be in: stocks have taken a major beating over the last few weeks, and today has been particularly bloody. Since May we've seen sell-ofs sparked by discrete events or sector-specific hiccups, but today everything is down, and in a big way: oil, emerging markets, blue chips, biotech, semis, small caps, everything. Japan is off 3%, Europe 2%; Brazil's Bovespa is down over 4% over the last 48 hours.
Impending global financial collapse? Hardly. A good test for those with weak stomachs is what it is. And the real lesson, which I myself forget half the time, is that profits can be made from any major movement.
Yesterday, for example, I bought some VIX call options (the VIX is an index that tracks market volatility) - basically just an educated guess that things would be tumultuous over the next month. At the moment, those calls are up 67%, which offsets my losses elsewhere more than three times over.
So don't ever let your broker or financial advisor or smartass cousin give the excuse of "rough spots in the market" for bad performance.
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
(11:34 PM) | Anthony Paul Smith:
Horror of Horrors!I have a post up at Long Sunday for the Carl Schmitt Symposium.
(9:54 PM) | Anthony Paul Smith:
Translation AssignmentsSo I've split up the short piece we're all going to translate. I tried to do it the most egalitarian but some people will have more work to do than others.
John R. - Paragraphs 1-2
Matthew - Paragraph 3
Myself - Paragraphs 4-5
Craig - Paragraph 6
Matt - Paragraphs 7-9
John Emerson - Paragraph 10
Adam - Paragraphs 11-12
For editing purposes we've thought it would be best if each person was responsible for the set of paragraphs above and below their own. For example, this means that John R. would need to look over Matthew's and Adam's translation and comment on it. Having three people on each paragraph should help keep the thing uniform and create a better overall translation.
We'll be using Writely for the project (see Adam for an invite).
(10:03 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Supporting TroopsIt's probably the case that the American troops in Iraq are not getting regular orders to massacre civilians. It's also probably the case that most of the American troops in Iraq would behave like decent human beings if they were leading their normal lives back in America. I see no reason to believe that the soldier who shot a wheelchair-bound old man in the head in Iraq would not hold open the door for me if I were carrying several packages, for instance. Certainly the soldiers who shot infants and children would have promptly gotten up to offer a pregnant woman their seat on the bus. And none of us could entertain the least doubt that all of them would stand reverently, hand on heart, while the national anthem was being sung at a minor league baseball game or a church service. We're basically dealing with decent Americans here -- on this, there is no question.
And if we were dealing with a situation in which they were defending the freedoms of America against aspiring foreign conquerers, I have no doubt that they would behave appropriately. If they were fighting in a war against presumed equals, who demand respect as much as opposition, they would be the very image of noble citizen-warriors. But they're not defending their nation's freedoms, and no equal enemy could possibly exist in the current situation. That's what makes sentiments like this paragraph from Peter Daou (quoted approvingly by Tom Tomorrow) so naive and dangerous:
In their rush to ascribe malicious motives to anyone who draws attention to the horrors in Iraq, these people [right-wing war supporters] ignore the obvious, i.e. that the greater the aberration, the more newsworthy, not the less. In other words, it’s because the war’s critics have faith in the character of our troops and our nation that they are so deeply troubled by such grotesque deviations from the norm. It is the war’s critics, not its blind supporters, who assume the best about our military and who harp on stories like Haditha because it is contrary to everything they believe about America. The contrast is stark between those who rise in condemnation and those who shrug off a few slaughtered women and children.In reality, the "America" these liberal war critics believe in simply does not exist. Massacres are not exactly abberations, but instead represent the "truth" of the kind of war that Iraq is -- that is, a resource war launched by people with no respect for the basic principles of international law or human rights.
We can't pretend that America is just one country among others, and we can't invoke general principles like the right to self-defense in order to justify the specific ways that our military functions in real life. In fact, the ideal country invoked by just war doctrines simply does not exist any more, and all ideas of war based on that fantasy are worse than useless. In reality, in the actual world we live in, we can say with some confidence that the majority of militaries exist for the following purposes:
- To solidify US hegemony -- whether through so-called "humanitarian intervention" or through wars of aggression such as Iraq (i.e., the US military and associated mercenary forces)
- To be pressed into the service of the former (i.e., the armies of allies and potential allies)
- To terrorize a nation's own citizens (i.e., the armies of "rogue" or "failed" states)
(8:53 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
An All-American Reading Group?Why do all the reading groups in this corner of the blogosphere have to be about Nazis and messianic Marxists and Maoists? And why always Europeans? Why not have a reading group on something patriotic and American? Why not apply our degenerate, left-wing, America-hating, probably gay minds to something edifying? Like, for instance, THE FEDERALIST PAPERS?!
I was thinking it would be nice and symbolic to begin the reading group on the fourth of July, but we could start earlier. Although the first paragraph was stupid, this is a serious idea and probably something that "people like us" need to do -- I have long suspected that it would be much more "subversive" to return to the Founding Fathers than to St. Paul or Augustine.
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
(12:42 AM) | bitchphd:
Tuesday Hatred: Girls are PettyObviously I hate it that Ogged has cancer. I hate the headache I have. I hate how difficult relationships are, especially with people you're really fond of, because those should be the easy ones, but they're not. I hate my messy study. I hate being behind at work, especially when it's still early in the summer. I hate the title suggestions Ben is coming up with for me. I hate that the mice aren't more friendly (but I don't hate that all that much, because they are too cute to really hate anything about them). I hate the Bush administration and its ridiculous distraction technique of pretending that gay marriage is an issue. I hate that my best friends here just had to pay $3000 to adopt their own children because they're lesbians and they needed to safeguard their legal parental rights. I hate being lazy and out of shape. I hate wanting more money when I'm in the company of people who are a lot more broke than I am, but I still wish I had some real disposable income. I hate being greedy. I hate needing a haircut and being too lazy to get one. I hate that my boyfriend's lawsuit is dragging on and on for-fucking-ever and may or may not actually be successful. I hate insurance companies.
I hate bad coffee. I hate being out of half and half. I hate not knowing where I'll be living in a few months. I hate thinking that it'll be here.
I hate not being able to concentrate.
Monday, June 05, 2006
(4:10 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
"a consummation devoutly to be wished for"Who first coined this phrase? I've gone through page upon page of Google results and gotten not even the slightest indication.
UPDATE: At 3 Quarks Daily, it is argued that the nomination and subsequent defeat of Hillary Clinton are "a consummation devoutly to be wished for."
(12:18 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Upcoming Events: Ladies' Week?This week, Bitch PhD will be doing the Tuesday Hatred. Next week we will hand the reins back over to Ben Wolfson. Also this week, Tara Smith, a graduate student at Trevecca Nazarene University, will be presiding over our Friday Afternoon Confessional. This is obviously a much higher rate of female participation than we normally experience here at The Weblog, and I would encourage all of our co-bloggers with ovaries to join in making this a full-fledged Ladies' Week. (As of today, self-identified women with posting powers include Bitch, Tara, Infinite Thought, Jodi Dean, Marta, and Angela. Others can be added as desired.)
Over the course of the next week, our intrepid crew will also begin work on the Nancy translation, an unprecedented blog-based collaborative venture. I propose that anyone who still wants to participate should make it known by the time I wake up tomorrow morning, at which point Anthony has agreed to divide up the text into appropriate chunks. I had initially planned on doing this through blog-based methods -- posting one's section, then opening up comments for suggestions and corrections -- but Writely [UPDATE: link added] has also been proposed as a possible tool. I have an account and can invite people as necessary. Feedback on the relative desirability of these methods is solicited.
In my own life, I anticipate being able to finish off the Nancy Directed Study That Will Not Die by the middle of next week, at which point I should probably begin work on the 20th Century Theology exam -- starting with writing the paper, at which point I will have no outstanding incompletes, a rare feat for a graduate student. The reading list is also the syllabus, which is divided up into class sessions. On some of the class sessions, I am doing pretty good -- just a couple books and I'll have it done. On some, I have read precisely none of the six to eight books in question. I really don't even know where to begin -- chronological order, or filling in gaps so that I have the all-important "feeling of completion" every now and then? How detailed of notes do I need to take on each of them? I was hoping to take the exam some time in the fall, but now I don't know. I guess it's not that big a deal either way.
Saturday, June 03, 2006
(7:36 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Note sur le terme de « biopolitique »Here is my transcription of Jean-Luc Nancy's essay on biopolitics. I have no idea how to go about coordinating a group translation, but we can give it a shot in the comments.
(WARNING: In an essay on a confusing neologism, Nancy introduces his own confusing neologism.)
As an aside, I recommend that everyone download and install Foxit PDF Reader and use it as the default program for opening PDFs in your web browser. I've had problems with using the search function on a couple PDFs, but it is seriously orders of magnitude faster than Adobe Reader -- and especially faster than the full Adobe Acrobat. I'm not sure what Adobe is doing to make their program so slow -- probably adding "features" or something.
(11:40 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
State RacismNancy has a short text on "biopolitics" that is remarkably clear and, I think, pretty interesting. I'd like to make it available in some form, because it seems that it would add to the conversation that's going on. Since translation -- even a relatively easy one, as in this case -- is kind of a lot of work, I'd like to take an informal poll of how many interested parties would be able to get by if I just typed out the French text and made it available here. Translating it isn't that big a deal, but it would just mean that I'd have to take longer to make it available, since I'm kind of swamped with trying to get the bulk of this Nancy stuff done before Ted (my advisor) gets back from Korea.
It's found in Jean-Luc Nancy, La création du monde : ou la mondialisation (Paris: Galilée, 2002). The book is under contract to be translated by SUNY, though I have not been able to find an estimated release date. (I gained this information because I wanted to translate an essay out of the book -- and, let's be honest, eventually the whole damn thing -- but someone got to it first.)
UPDATE: It just occurred to me that the title Une pensée finie, which is translated "A Finite Thinking," could also mean "A Finished Thinking."