Tuesday, April 29, 2008
(11:13 PM) | it:
'Murderous mothers and incestuous fathers, who are infinitely more widespread than paedophile killers, are an unsettling intrusion into the idyllic portrait of the family, which depicts the delightful relationship between our citizen parents and their angelic offspring' - Badiou, 'Sex in Crisis' The Century.
Current revelations with regards to the way in which 'citizen parents' can sometimes treat their children remind us, as if we needed reminding, both that Thomas Bernhard is always right about Austria, and that families, when they go wrong, go really really wrong.
Badiou in The Century attempts to reawaken the original impulse of Freud's thought by reminding us that 'he explained human thought on the basis of child sexuality' and that 'there is nothing either natural or obvious about the fact that the object of desire for a subject is borne by the opposite sex'. Both the 'naturalness' of heterosexuality and the sexual innocence of the child are simultaneously put into question by psychoanalysis in its nascent state, and it is Badiou's conviction that Freud's attempt to address the 'real of sex, rather than its meaning' has sadly become lost in the ubiquitous call for mandatory, yet hyper-moralised, enjoyment.
Badiou seems somewhat depressed about sex, in fact, and certainly not pleased with pornography ('Bénazéraf has not kept any of his promises'), despite the fact that it supposedly touches on the 'very essence of cinema insofar as it is confronted with the full visibility of the sexual' ('Philosophy and Cinema'). Nowhere do we find a communist hypothesis with regard to the future uses of a sexuality that responds to the insights of psychoanalysis in a non-hysterical manner.
For that we must turn to the deplorably overlooked, somewhat mad but absolutely brilliant Shulamith Firestone and her 1970 tract, The Dialectic of Sex (written in a white heat in her mid-20s, shame on us all). In the final chapter, 'The Ultimate Revolution', Firestone takes seriously the implications of what she calls cybernetic communism, the total emancipation of women (and men) from the shackles of biology via advances in contraceptive, reproductive technology and alternative models of work and social organisation (choice line: 'Natural childbirth is only one more part of the reactionary hippie-Rousseauean Return-to-Nature'). Not surprisingly, she ends up touching on the same 'real' of sex as Freud, that of child sexuality, only instead of merely noting it (shocking enough in the first place, admittedly), she attempts to incorporate it into her plans for a future utopia of collectives, work-replacing machines and no more pregnancy.
Following the 'complete integration' of 'sexegrated' women and children into society, Firestone argues that we will uncover 'for the first time', natural sexual freedom (her perverse technologism is the precondition for humanist practice). The sexual freedom of all women and children is summarised baldly in the following way: 'now they can do whatever they wish to do sexually': Cybernetics simply destroys the incest taboo. Relations with children would include, apparently, 'as much genital sex as the child was capable of ... but because genital sex would no longer be the central focus of the relationship, lack of orgasm would not present a serious problem.' This idea of the literal limits of child sexuality is pretty extreme, though not without its historical echoes in the intellectual climate of the time ('Certain children opened the flies of my trousers and started to tickle me,' said Daniel Cohn-Bendit. 'I reacted differently each time, according to the circumstances ... But when they insisted on it, I then caressed them.') The immediate cry of 'paedophile!' is enough to put a very rapid end to this kind of sexual utopianising both in theory and in practice, but 'the problem of children', as Foucault puts it, remains very much with us...a creepy secret in the basement of an otherwise perfectly normal-looking family house...
(4:45 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
The Fearsome John McCainIn an article about his health plan, I learn that John McCain thinks that a good idea would be "eliminating tax breaks for employers who provide health insurance for workers," replacing those tax breaks with tax credits toward buying individual insurance. I also learn that apparently Sen. McCain was unaware of the nature of individual insurance, including the fact that he himself would be unable to find insurance under his own plan, due to having had melanoma.
Does a scary black preacher outweigh a health plan that purports to help the crisis of the uninsured by actively discouraging employer-based health insurance? Stay tuned!
(11:18 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
The Party LineIn the comments to my post about hand-wringing, Amish Lovelock supplies the party line to which we all must adhere if we are to be victorious:
The Democrats are Strong! Invincible!In an e-mail, Scott McLemee adds:
Sailing the seas depends on the helmsman, waging the Democratic revolution in America depends on Barack Obama!
Loyalty to Obama! Loyalty to Barack Obama Thought! Loyalty to the Obama Revolution!
The Democrats Serve the People!
Dare to Think my Democratic Brethren! Dare to Act! Smash the Republicans!
Long Live the Democratic Party! Long Live Obama!
Dare to struggle, dare to win!
(12:00 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Tuesday Hatred: Down with the Blogs!I hate that there is so little actual left-wing media criticism in the mainstream blogosphere. Jonathan Schwarz is the only real example I know, and he's virtually never linked by anyone even remotely "big name." So I guess we're stuck with either the insane right-wing "critique" or the liberal critique that asks for the media to be "reality-based" and appears to be founded on the notion that the news media's function really is to produce an informed populace and that it is failing to live up to that for some basically contingent reason -- such as laziness, overidentification with the powerful, whatever.
I hate that the supposedly unfettered new public sphere of blogs has done little more than give amateurs a chance to publish their own little reflections on the extremely constrained range of acceptable opinions in America. I hate that I'm not sure whether liberals or conservatives hate the left more.
I hate having to wake up way earlier than usual for exams. I hate the thought that some people schedule all four of their exams for four consecutive days -- if I had to sit in that room by myself with a non-internet-connected laptop for even two days in a row, I think I would die.
I hate that I seem to have to go grocery shopping more and more often lately. I hate that I hate the shitty job that the baggers usually do and that I don't feel like I can criticize them for doing a shitty-paying job shittily.
I hate not being able to fall asleep. I hate evenings where I'm just killing time until I can go to sleep. I hate that the new episode of House Monday night was underwhelming.
I hate that I'm so lax about linking to Tuesday Love.
Monday, April 28, 2008
(9:32 PM) | Brad:
The Roots!Tomorrow is the official release of The Roots new CD, Rising Down. Some of you don't care, but I have a feeling others of you may very already downloaded it. (I, for one, have.) It's not as good from end to end as their last one, but there are definitely enough high points to make it one of the better large-label releases of 2008. A couple of videos to whet your appetite:
One that a white dude can dance to:
One that a white dude can run from:
(6:04 AM) | Amish Lovelock:
The Phenomenal Žižek
"There is something perilous as well as attractive about such an ethics; but in this book, it is a view that allows Žižek to defend the idea of revolution while rejecting revolutionary terror. For the point about Robespierre and Stalin, so he argues, is not that they were too extreme, but that they were not revolutionary enough – and that had they been so, political terror would not have been necessary. The Jacobin terror, for example, is seen somewhat implausibly as bearing witness to the group’s inability to carry out an economic as well as a political transformation. Something similar is asserted of Mao’s Cultural Revolution."
Sunday, April 27, 2008
(12:19 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Both Kinds of MusicLast night I reluctantly went to a country-western bar with some friends. There was a live band taking requests, and I leaned over to one of my friends and asked him -- sincerely -- if "These Boots Are Made for Walking" was a country song.
I had always suspected it, but this incident confirmed it: I can never be elected president.
(10:15 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Torture and Collateral DamageIn an apparent effort to lock in the title of "most brazenly lawless administration ever," the Bush administration has provided Congress with the legal reasoning behind its violation of the Geneva conventions:
The Justice letters allow that certain acts by interrogators -- sexual mutilation, for example -- would be unlawful under any circumstance. But when judging whether a specific interrogation practice would violate the conventions' ban on degrading treatment, the government can weigh "the identity and information possessed by a detainee," Benczkowski wrote.This reasoning seems to turn the "outrage of human dignity" into a kind of collateral damage. Yes, it happens, but the intent of the torture is to gain information to stop a terrorist attack -- if the point of the torture was just to torture, then that would outrage the conscience. In the same way, killing civilians in the course of a legitimate war is lamentable but blameless, while the terrorist act that directly targets civilians outrages the conscience.
He suggested that a suspect with information about a future attack could be subjected to harsher treatment, noting that a violation would occur only if the interrogator's conduct "shocks the conscience" because it is out of proportion to "the government interest involved."
Thus, even though the consequences of American action in the "war on terror" have been far more destructive than anything a terrorist could dream of doing, it's okay because we've instrumentalized the destruction, because we needed to do it in order to achieve some other goal -- in other words, it's justified because it was expedient.
Saturday, April 26, 2008
(4:03 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
The Audacity of WorryMany Democrats are worrying about whether the ongoing primary is hurting the Democrats' chances in the general election. My worry: that this public hand-wringing itself will hurt the Democrats in the general election. Having most of your side's leading public figures on the verge of despair over the party's weakness could very well become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The American people seem like, all things considered, they'd really prefer to elect a Democrat -- and so, naturally, the Democrats are trying their best to talk them out of it. Doesn't this sound like a nice, upbeat, and basically realistic response to the primary situation: "Yes, we have such a surplus of great candidates that we still haven't decided which will be our nominee, though we do know that either one will be a historic first"? But no -- it is the sworn duty of every Democrat to provide free advertising for John McCain's fearsome political skills and broad appeal.
(On another note, this post is yet another example of the fact that the culture of Democrats is absolutely saturated with the "consultant" mindset -- all we bloggers do all day long is talk about strategy, positioning, framing, rhetoric. Even calls to talk more about concrete policy are framed in terms of the perceived political effectiveness of talking about policy!)
(11:25 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
WeedsIn keeping with my longstanding tradition of blogging about premium cable shows, I must say that I loved the first season of Weeds and am indeed, like apparently every man she encounters, in love with Mary-Louise Parker -- but I am more skeptical about the second season. Things just seem to be getting overly complicated. In addition, I felt that all along, the music was just a little too "precious," and having various people (particularly Deathcab for Cutie) cover the theme song only compounds the problem.
Nonetheless, the second disc of season 2 could easily redeem the minor flaws, earning the season the coveted "five Netflix stars from Kotsko."
Friday, April 25, 2008
(12:00 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Friday Afternoon Confessional: The End of the EndI confess that as of Thursday, I have completed all duties related to being the convener of the PhD Students Association, including finding a replacement. I confess that I had anticipated that my exaggerated sense of duty and difficulty saying no would lead me to sign on for another year after no one volunteered. Losing the stress of planning a chapel service in the fall will add years to my life.
I confess that the first of my qualifying exams is on Monday and it's the one that I feel most confident on. I confess that I may also have a lead for some adjunct teaching work next year at a respectable institution, nicely rounding out the old CV. I confess that I've been neglecting my language work in recent weeks due to my impending exams and that I need to get to work on a new excuse for when exams are over.
I confess that I've recently started to pay more attention to how many L stops I've used. The occasion was when circumstances conspired to put me at the Montrose Brown Line stop, which I had never used before, and I realized that I was only three stops away from getting full coverage on the Brown Line. I confess that I've developed my own internal rules about what counts as "sincere" usage (as opposed to using the stop just to fill out my list), and I'm still not sure whether using a stop only for a transfer counts. If commenters could decide this for me, I would know whether I can rightly claim the Howard stop. I confess that getting the remaining three on the Brown Line could be challenging, particularly the Francisco stop.
I confess that the L stop thing is much less intrusive than a previous neurosis I developed about walking -- trying to find as many possible routes between two points that involved crossing only once per intersection. That is, my rules disallowed moving to a corner diagonal from the one where I was standing. I confess that T-intersections were a major help whenever I could find them, because I could get to the equivalent of the diagonal corner without technically "crossing the street." I confess that my system fell apart when I realized that there were no routes satisfying my rules between the Regenstein library and my then-girlfriend's house. Well, actually there would've been, but the main rule was that I couldn't go out of my way -- it had to fulfill the street-crossing rules while being equal in distance to the shortest possible route.
I confess that that last part feels more like a true "confession" than most of what I've written here over the years.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
(6:56 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Change is GoodI just realized that I'm "wasting" a lot of good links by sharing them through Google Reader rather than blogging them, and so I have updated the template to give you all the best of both worlds. I'm worried that the combination of the Amazon stuff and the links is a little tacky, and -- of course, since I am starting exams in a few days -- I'm now thinking about a more thorough overhaul of the site.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
(9:45 PM) | Dominic:
Wednesday Sex, With Diagrams1) I wanna get adjoint with you, baby
Would Lacan have written his graphs of sexuation differently if he'd brushed up against category theory at some point in his mathematical peregrinations? One thing's for sure: they wouldn't have made any sense to category theorists if he had.
All those commutative arrangements: circle-jerks, love-triangles, soixante-neufs between objects. Between you and me, entre nous: morphisms. Between myself and myself, the identity morphism. The net is cast wider: morphisms compose. There are universal properties, axiomatic restrictions: if you want to get to her, you have to go through him.
The ladies who came in first thing in the morning to empty undergraduates' bins at my college maintained a graph of who'd been having it off with whom, which was occasionally put up on a notice-board for general scrutiny. Some names appeared in the middle of dense clusters of arrows; some names didn't appear at all. My own deeds went unremarked. They were indeed unremarkable. It occurs to me that even by pluralizing the word "deed", I might be overstating things a bit. Depends what you're counting - I might have appeared with greater intensity in a graph showing the intangible, neurotic components of collegial intersubjectivity, and then again I might not. Amid so much general noise and fuss, who can tell?
ii) Is this thing switched on?
How do you know if your mojo is working? More generally, how does one arrive at a proper estimation of the effective range of one's own charisma? The problem here isn't only one of overestimation - there are advantages to thinking you're all that even when you're not, since confident fakery will do some of the work of the real thing. It's also a matter of knowing, and being responsible for, one's own glamorous powers.
In this respect I hope there's a difference between myself a decade and a half ago and myself a decade into the non-relationship ("this non-relationship that we're not having", as I called it at the very start) that became a relationship that became parenthood and marriage (in that order). It isn't just that I'm older, more confident, better fed and more - ahem - experienced. At eighteen I identified instinctively with Morrissey's "wish I had the charms to attract the one I love, / but you see, I've got no charms" ("Seasick yet still docked") even though I also recognised that this was at some level self-preserving bullshit: I undoubtedly had something, even then (as one old friend attested a couple of years ago), and less time to wait than I supposed before it would be put to the test. What I didn't have was any sense at all of my own ability to charm, fascinate or intimidate others - either the extent of this ability, or its limits. After ten years of living together with someone, I think I've started to learn a little about both.
Why is not knowing a problem? In some respects it is the problem of adolescence, the problem that adolescents try to resolve by experimenting with the different kinds of effects they can have on other people. But it doesn't belong exclusively to adolescents, not least because it never really goes away: perfect knowledge about where one stood in the flux of intersubjectivity would be a way of escaping intersubjectivity altogether, into the safe, predictable universe of solipsistic mastery. Knowing, or supposing one knows, that one has "no charms" is a bid for precisely this sort of mastery: a cop-out. So the old friend who thought I did indeed have something about me, something she called "power", also found that being around that power left her feeling emotionally bruised and demoralized, because I had absolutely no idea (or refused to countenance the possibility) that anything I said or did might possibly matter to her.
So the moral of today's sermon is: pay attention to your mojo! It's a disturbing thing to have there, whirring away like a little generator, throwing out sparks that might earth themselves in all sorts of unpredictable ways, and the wattage might be less than you'd wish (or more than you're comfortable with), but it needs and deserves to be honoured and recognised if it is not to show up as a demonic, controlling agency bent on distorting your own life and others'. The great gift of my married life so far has been that it has put me at ease with myself as a sexual person, and greatly calmed my propensity for thoughtless havoc-wreaking. Any woman who has actually enjoyed my company in the past few years has my wife to thank; and so do I.
(11:21 AM) | Adam R:
Unincorporated Commercial BreakAre you into Issuu yet? It's great. I consider it YouTube for readers.
In a move of Publishing Genius, I have converted the editions of This PDF Chapbook series into the Issuu format. The newest story by the superstar and literary powerhouse, Blake Butler, is remarkably engaging and remarkably twisted. So, read it there and if you like it, you can print a foldable copy at Publishing Genius (or order a really nice one by donating some money).
And then while you're there, read the interview with Stephanie Barber about her new book/DVD combo, which you can spend $20 on and feel good about. The six films on the DVD are damn earthsplitting. Or you can have your money back.
(11:06 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
The Candidate Who Will Not Admit She's DeadI've been looking over the numbers, and it appears that Clinton's net gain in delegates from Pennsylvania is going to be trivial. Obama is obviously going to win big in North Carolina, the last state with over 100 delegates left, easily erasing Clinton's gains. Indiana is still up in the air -- but that very fact indicates that Clinton is unlikely to win by enough of a margin to make a significant dent in Obama's delegate lead.
The only other states that seem to me, impressionistically, to be a lock for Clinton would be Kentucky and West Virginia, and even if she won 100% of the vote, it still would only cover around half of Obama's delegate lead. If anything, even after Clinton's "big win" tonight -- i.e., the "big win" where she engaged in massive deficit spending, after Obama virtually handed her an issue to beat him up with, and ended up with less than half the lead she had at her high point -- Obama is likely to show up at the convention with an even bigger delegate lead than he has today.
In conversation on this topic, Brad pointed out that this is yet another example of the media's profit motive distorting coverage. They hugely overplay individual states, even though the Democratic Party has no winner-take-all states. They go along with Clinton's arbitrary decisions as to which states count -- "Of course Obama wins in states where he wins! What about states were we win, though?" -- and with her exaggerated claims about her influence over the status of Florida and Michigan. Why? To artificially extend the primary and keep people glued to their TVs! The race has essentially been over for weeks now, yet people continue to tune in to idiotic debates, including one where the moderators' prep work appears to have consisted in scanning a few right-wing blogs 10 minutes before the show started.
At this point, the Clinton campaign is the media's best friend -- no wonder they're going easier on her now! If this thing extends to mid-summer, that keeps everyone in business during a traditionally slow time for news. (Nice bonus: in this case, the economic explanation has the benefit of accounting for the behavior of individual reporters as well as their corporate overlords.)
(10:31 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Adam Kotsko: Meth Cook?I just got back from Walgreen's, where I purchased two boxes of pseudoephedrine-containing medicine. The pharmacist was skeptical about whether I would be allowed to buy two boxes in one day, but the transaction went through, leaving me with 40 sweet capsules of the elixer of life. I can't help but think this is a setup, though -- in a few hours, the police will have my place surrounded.
Luckily I found the laundry key yesterday, so I could move my meth lab.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
(8:45 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Hillary Clinton's Latest "Make or Break"As essentially everyone in the world expected, Hillary Clinton appears to have won in Pennsylvania, though it's not yet clear by how much. The news media was, of course, painting this as a "make or break" for Clinton, and so now her victory "keeps her campaign alive." I don't know what the point of such language is: at this point, everyone knows that she is going to stay in until she is absolutely forced out, and perhaps even a little bit after that.
All these "make or break" moments are starting to remind me of the way the press tends to handle reports from Petraeus, or other similar events -- they act as though Bush might potentially pull out of Iraq if the results are negative.
(9:08 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Tuesday Hatred: My Name is My NameI hate not being able to find the laundry key. I hate that one of my few pairs of jeans now has a substantial hole in the "taint" region. I hate how many basic items I should probably replace, but will almost certainly continue to live with, as I continue to participate in our shared culture of deferred maintenance.
I hate that April really is the cruellest month, due to the beginning of allergy season. I hate not knowing what I'm actually allergic to.
I hate worrying that people are mad at me. I hate that this worry has been steadily increasing, even though my objectionable behavior hasn't been.
Monday, April 21, 2008
(9:06 AM) | Amish Lovelock:
No Shangri-LaLadies and Gentlemen.
I give you the Tibetan/China Question.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
(9:46 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
On Blaming the Lazy JournalistsTo talk about the laziness of the press corps in general, without reference to the economic situation in which the majority of journalists find themselves, is to buy into the notion that journalists should simply be "working for love." Marc Bousquet has discussed this phenomenon at length in relation to academia. Educators' sincere love of teaching and concern for their students provides a hook that allows their employers to exploit them more and more, paying them poverty wages and offering no job security.
In the journalistic context, the parallel would likely be fairly close: a reporter would be spending significant chunks of their own time investigating a story in detail, with no guarantee that their work would be published or help them professionally. In fact, in an atmosphere of continual "cuts," the idea of professional advancement is limited to writing a story that makes a big enough splash to allow the reporter to move on to a more prestigious, and presumably more stable, news outlet -- and so any time spent covering the local "beat" would be a waste. (Obviously my main source here is The Wire.)
The contemporary press and the contemporary university are two great examples of the destructive effects of inserting the profit motive into every area of life. Publishing is facing similar pressure, and health care is perhaps the biggest example. In each case, we are dealing with an inherently non-profit enterprise that, on average, needs to make only enough money to cover its expenses. When such enterprises are absorbed into capitalist enterprises, they are deeply distorted if not destroyed -- the health care system becomes a bureaucracy dedicated to finding more and more reasons to deny health coverage, publishing becomes a myopic quest to find the next mega-best-seller, journalism becomes stenography and sensationalism, universities become endowment-growing machines. And for what? Who benefits? A few individuals, certainly, but the ultimate beneficiary is just money itself -- more and more money gets stockpiled. It's absolute nihilism, and it's increasingly the structuring principle of every institution in American society.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
(10:24 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
The Media and the "Bottom Line"Many people, when discussing the media, seem to assume that media outlets do tabloid-style journalism because it's more profitable -- in the sense that people like it more than substantive journalism and it gets better ratings. In reality, if profit is the motive, then all you're looking for is something news-like to put in between the commercials. Therefore, "bottom line"-driven media outlets would tend toward tabloid-style journalism because it's cheaper to produce. That also accounts for the tendency of cable news to repeat things endlessly: it's a lot less expensive than going out and actually researching fresh stories.
It's not a matter of "pandering to the lowest common denominator" -- that is to say, the primary issue here is economic, not cultural. Much as I love Atrios's bitter rants, the problem isn't simply that the press corps is simply full of corrupt, lazy people (though it manifestly is) -- it's that[, as Bitch PhD pointed out in a recent conversation,] the regulatory environment in place since the 1980s has brought market pressures to bear on journalism in an incredibly destructive way. The profit motive doesn't have any real place in journalism. As long as a newspaper is basically breaking even, that's fine. Once the profit motive becomes dominant, you're going to end up doing something other than journalism, and that's exactly what's happened.
Maybe if Obama is so tired of the bullshit, he should come up with a plan to end corporate control of the media instead of just bitching about the stupid questions at the last debate.
Friday, April 18, 2008
(12:00 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Friday Afternoon Confessional: But I Am a Real WormI confess that, contrary to all common sense, having the Internet on my phone seems to have improved my quality of life. When I'm in Hyde Park, for instance, the ability to verify that I have no urgent e-mail has already saved me several trips to the library -- trips during which, upon seeing no urgent e-mail, I would then cast about on the Internet looking for something to do that would justify my trip. It's too slow to be very useful, and I can't imagine actually replying to an e-mail using the text-messaging typing method, but so far, it seems to be having a calming effect.
I confess that I feel like I am getting less e-mail now than I used to. I'm not sure whether this feeling is based in reality, nor am I sure that I would want to return to the supposedly higher volume of yesteryear.
I confess that I hardly ever check The Weblog's traffic anymore. It seems to have plateaued -- somewhere between 300 to 350 "visits" per day, according to SiteMeter's count. The weekly running average rarely dips below 300, as far as I can tell. Establishing that kind of steady traffic was a major step in my master plan. The next step would be to start charging my readers a nickel per "visit." It's really a bargain -- at a low flat rate, you'd get unlimited pageviews for a half hour after the first click.
I confess that with the Pennsylvania primary coming up, I've returned to my old habits of neurotically checking polls.
I confess that while reading Lenin on the CTA, it occurred to me that I far preferred being viewed as a Leninist instead of a religious nutjob (as I sometimes fear my usual reading material leads people to believe I am). I confess that I'm paranoid that my field of study will scare women away, though there has only been one instance where that even arguably seemed to be the case. I confess that I shouldn't blame poor old God for my problems like that.
I confess that I just went to Chipotle Mexican Grill's website to suggest that they put a restaurant in Hyde Park. As I said in that e-mail, every student I've talked to agrees they would do a brisk business. After causing a fast food restaurant to shut down (i.e., ratting out the unsanitary KFC next to my old place), I feel the need to give something back to the community.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
(5:35 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
The Wisdom of Mayor DaleyJust collecting Mayor Daley's unscripted public statements would make for a pretty entertaining blog. Today we got two gems. First, Daley's response to allegations that police were wrong to shoot the cougar found prowling around on the northside last night:
"First of all, it happened at 5:30 in the afternoon [in] the Roscoe Village community. It was seen running between buildings. The cougar charged a police officer," the mayor said.The last bit really seals the deal for me. Here is Daley responding to the notion that he's killing a bid for the state to take over and renovate Wrigley Field:
Daley noted that a principal at an elementary school where a day care program was still going on alerted the police of the cougar's presence in a school parking lot.
"Now, I just want to tell you, if the cougar attacked a child, they'd sue the city because the police officer didn’t do their job. So everybody second guesses, you know. So let the cougar run around and attack children. Everybody would be filing lawsuits, and yelling at the police and all the local officials … Too bad that we didn’t have an animal care and control personnel. [They] were en route to the scene. But again you have to make individual decisions. I didn’t see a neighbor run out and grab it and say, 'Oh I love you' and bring it in the house. This is unbelievable. I mean, I just, I just … 'Don’t worry about it.' "
Added Daley: "A cougar is a beautiful animal. I mean, it really is."
Well, you know, I've said, we have priorities. OK. And let's be realistic. OK. Wrigley Field, all the sports, everybody enjoys it. But we really have priorities. Now I need infrastructure for schools even before we even discuss that. Even before we discuss it you have to really work out infrastructure. You have to set priorities, and if you don't set priorities then you're out on a tangent. As I said, taking our sales tax money on behalf of Wrigley is something … why would we do that? It's a very valuable piece of property.His artful mixture of incoherence and scorn is a true national treasure.
(5:20 PM) | Brad:
More TV BloggingI've only seen the first two seasons of Deadwood, and I've heard very mixed reviews of season three, but right now I'm convinced it rivals anything else I've seen on tv. (Yeah, I know, it's been out a long time now, but we at the Weblog have never claimed to be "of the moment" culturally.) The complexity of its character development is, in my judgment, unparalleled. (The only deficiency in this regard, it seems, involves the black characters, which have thus far seemed a little token.) I'm also impressed by the rigorous fidelity to its chosen theme, the emergence of community, and how this very neatly parallels the evolution of those involved in the community. I suspect season three will incorporate a far more blunt criticism of Wild West capitalism, but so far I've really appreciated the subtlety of its critiques. And, yes, of course, there's the tremendous use of language. The final season could be a piece of crap, and I'd still crown the first twenty-four episodes as tv royalty.
The clip below is one of my favorites. It is also one of the most vulgar, and definitely not safe for work.
(12:47 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Morbid FascinationIf you're into morbid fascination -- and if not, why are you reading this blog? -- then you should check out this remarkably spiteful profile of Chris Matthews from the NY Times Magazine. I didn't realize how much I hated him until I read the first paragraph.
(8:41 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Tuesday Hatred: Your MomI hate the lingering feeling that I'm falling behind. I hate taking multiple days to recover from a night out. I both hate and love having only a week and a half until my exams start. I hate imposing on friends.
I hate it when MS Word's intuition is wrong (i.e., all the time). For instance, I had a document with several pre-existing bulleted sections, all fairly close to the left margin. I needed to add more bullets, so -- naively -- I clicked the "bullet" button. Based on the rest of the document, Word apparently reasoned that I wanted the bullets to be indented past the middle of the page. I also hate that the problem is so cumbersome to fix by hand, because you first have to drag the tab marking out of the way so that you can move the indentation. Then I have to put the tab in the right place. (I ultimately copied and pasted another bulletted section to duplicate the formatting.) I also hate how you can't avoid selecting the paragraph mark along with a full paragraph when using the mouse.
Also remember to love.
Monday, April 14, 2008
(3:39 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Obama and MarxAt first I was upset about this column comparing Obama and Marx because I'd misread the author's name as "Kristof" -- then when I looked back and realized it was Kristol instead, the world suddenly made sense again.
Of the many ironies of the column, my favorite is that Kristol is one of the main propagandists of a movement that has only managed to retain power through blowing smoke up religious people's asses -- that is, essentially taking advantage of the misguided resentment that Obama correctly diagnoses. Kristol has spoken respectfully of Obama before, and I assume that he wouldn't have brought out the big guns of calling him a Marxist if Obama hadn't hit a nerve with this one.
Friday, April 11, 2008
(12:00 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Friday Afternoon Confessional: Blogicide is PainlessI confess that I continue to be bored. I confess that getting these exams over with will be good. I confess that I am really glad to have some freelance work right now, but doing financial writing somehow manages to exacerbate my boredom.
I confess that though I love Dexter, I find the subplots that don't directly involve him to be a huge waste of time. I can't think of another good example of a great TV show that nonetheless completely fails to make us care about most of the supporting cast.
But seriously -- the boredom. I feel almost completely disengaged. If I'm not out till all hours, I'm just killing time until I feel tired enough to go to bed. I'm starting to feel like there is no horizon for this, that I'm always going to be bored the whole rest of my life, just going through the motions, pointlessly.
Maybe this is partly a matter of me over-identifying with a TV character, as I have sometimes done. Now I'm picturing myself as being Dexter, but without even the satisfaction of his serial killing. Although....
Thursday, April 10, 2008
(6:07 AM) | Amish Lovelock:
UnevennessIf this Olympic torch fiasco tells us something about anything at all it reinforces the truth of the unevenness of capitalist development famously embraced by the Webloggian phrase: "Get a Job! ...and some Human Rights!"
Take a look at the map of the torch route. It doesn't take one long to draw a corrollation between the places where the big protests have/will happen and the geographic locale belonging to Human Rights discourse.
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
(9:00 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Increasing State RevenueRevenues from Illinois casinos are apparently down 10%, leading them to ask to be allowed to stay open for 24 hours instead of their current 22 -- which would of course have the unfortunate downside of being bad for compulsive gamblers, but would presumably increase casino revenue and therefore the state's share thereof.
Keeping casinos open all night in order to extract more money from addicts is a good idea. What I'm wondering is why we aren't doing more. For instance, many states have a liquor monopoly. Applying a similar model, why couldn't Illinois have a state meth monopoly? If the state legalized meth, it would presumably lose some federal matching funds for fighting the war on drugs, but I'm sure the profits would far outbalance that. If state university chemists' contracts were renegotiated to include a monthly meth quota, not only would labor costs be taken care of, but we'd probably be getting some really good shit. The state wouldn't even know what to do with all the money.
This plan would have two other benefits. First, the downstaters would finally wind up contributing their fair share of revenue -- in fact, they might even provide disproportionate revenue, making up for all those years of Chicago subsidizing the sticks. Second, I could purchase medicine that includes pseudo-ephedrin without being treated like a criminal. Everybody wins! In light of Illinois's success, I'm sure the model would spread to other states -- Indiana, for instance, could probably sock away enough money to run the state for the next hundred years.
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
(12:00 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Tuesday Hatred: Gross Moral TurpitudeI hate reading Aquinas on ethics. I'm reading a "concise translation," and in many sections the thought that he wrote many times as much as I am reading is just soul-crushing. I hate that the DVDs of Dexter season 2 are not available, since I just watched the whole first season in 3 days. I hate that the best addiction I could come up with (aside from the old "workahol") is high-quality TV drama.
I hate the thought that I might have to register with a temp agency once I finish my exams. I hate that the alternative is to find more freelance stuff -- not because I don't prefer that option in general (I do prefer it), but because I will cross the threshold where I will have to start making estimated quarterly tax payments. That is one of those small tasks that seem to me to be insurmountable. The last one was when I thought I had to print a hard copy of my Zizek book and mail it to the UK. It seemed like the greatest obstacle I had ever faced in my entire life, something I could never achieve. (Ultimately, the editor told me that they actually prefered an e-mail attachment, despite what the contract said.)
I hate that my housecleaning instinct is being set off just as I'm in the middle of a bunch of freelance stuff. My primary goal will be to get rid of the last vestiges of salt from our floor. I hate that it seems possible that it might snow again after I do that.
I hate that, according to Harper's, cancer will apparently soon be contagious. I hate that my passionate love for Harper's, which once drove me to read every issue cover-to-cover within a few days of receiving it, has waned over the years. Is it me? Is it them? I even used to like the Lapham columns, despite their contrived style. It's probably me.
Sunday, April 06, 2008
(11:29 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
bell hooks at OlivetThis weekend, I received Olivet's annual report in the mail, and I am reading Teaching Community by bell hooks. This combination reminds me of a nice memory that strikes me as pretty illustrative of race relations at Olivet. When bell hooks' book All About Love came out, the bookstore put up a big poster that they left up for what seemed like months -- yet at no point did they actually stock the book!
Perhaps things have changed, though, because a few of the students pictured in the annual report are black. When I was there, we had to settle for just one black person in all the promotional literature -- and it was doubly misleading because she was one of the most gorgeous women ever to set foot on the campus. I feel sorry for those young men who came to Olivet expecting to find "exotic" beauties. It is true that evangelicals have been getting progressively better dressed over the years, but there's ultimately no way of hiding the fact that you're from Indiana.
Saturday, April 05, 2008
(9:38 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Down with the governor!The Illinois state House looks like it will pass a bill allowing the recall of the governor and other state officials, though it's unclear how it will fare in the Senate.
As one of the blogosphere's foremost Blagojevich-haters, I am of course strongly in favor of this bill. Blagojevich is a kind of worst-case scenario of a lazy and capricious governor, but I don't think that removing such a person goes far enough. There is a provision whereby at set intervals, the voters in Illinois are presented with the option of calling a new constitutional convention. At the next opportunity, they should do so, and the constitution should be rewritten to severely curtail the power of the executive -- above all, getting rid of the governor's power to veto legislation. In fact, ideally the governor should be appointed by the legislature, to remove any possibility of a perceived popular mandate to do more than simply coordinate law enforcement and administer the state bureaucracy.
Friday, April 04, 2008
(12:00 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Friday Afternoon Confessional: Proof of ConceptI confess that I've had my first Crazy Blind Date, and I believe the concept is sound. I may well shift over to this site for all my dating needs, leaving the women of The Onion/Salon/Nerve.com to pore neurotically over profiles and squander all their small-talk material over two weeks of e-mailing.
I confess that I seem to be deep in the "feast" portion of the "feast or famine" cycle that is my social life. I confess that I tend to make impractical decisions about sleeping arrangements when I'm in Hyde Park late at night.
I confess that I haven't read as much Aquinas as I should -- but who has?
Thursday, April 03, 2008
(9:00 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Favorite Titles in the "Worship" Section of the CTS Library
- Men on Their Knees
- He Cometh
Wednesday, April 02, 2008
(6:45 PM) | Brad:
Fichte Be DamnedToday, for the first time in many weeks, I went to the San Francisco Public Library's main branch. After grabbing lunch with my wife and one of her co-workers at an innocuous local chain, where the soup is bland and effortless, but cheap and filling, I made my way down Market Street. I'm always struck at how quickly the surroundings change as you move west of the Financial District. One block beyond the hectic stop & go of the cable cars and the congregated joy of the tourists on the way to or coming from Union Square, awaits the Tenderloin. Despite its reputation and realities, I've never found this area especially threatening; which is not to say I had any confidence that I would leave with my belongings, either through the misdeed of others or my own hedonistic desires.
Upon arriving at the library, a surprisingly graceful modern structure that I've always enjoyed visiting, I realized I desperately needed to use the bathroom. I did so, and then walked to the sink to wash my hands. As I did so, I looked up, fully expecting to find a mirror, whereupon I might make the required adjustments to my appearance, or simply to see a familiar face in this city of strangers. What I did not realize at the time, though, or at least failed to notice, is that there was no mirror. Standing directly opposite me, also washing his hands, was an old, presumably homeless, man. The only feature that stands out, besides his age, is his wizened nose, bent to the left, I can but assume, by the force of a lifetime's violence. We stood staring at one another for a few seconds, with neither malice nor pity, but as though peculiar reflections of one another. Itfelt as though twenty thousand tomorrows had slipped into today without notice or announcement, and did nothing but stare.
(4:53 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
FrontloadingIt's not Tuesday, so I wouldn't necessarily say I hate this, but I am always mildly annoyed when an online poll "frontloads" the answers with particular reasons. A recent example from the CTA Tattler blog gives a good indication of the basic problem I'm addressing. The question here is whether there should be certain train cars during rush hour that have had their seats removed, to allow more room for people to board. Here are the poll options:
What do you think of standing-room-only train cars?Setting aside the unfortunate use of "Fugeddaboutit," this is a clear case of non-exhaustive options. What if I think it's such a great idea that there should in fact be four seatless cars? Indeed, what if I believe that the CTA should alternate seated and non-seated trains during rush periods? This poll gives me no voice, whereas a simple "yes or no" would have made room for my own unique perspective.
Makes sense, as long as there are only two cars.
Fugeddaboutit! I want the opportunity to sit down if I can.
The CTA Tattler is far from the only offender in this regard, and I don't want to seem to be singling them out -- it's just the most recent example I'm familiar with. In fact, frontloaded polls are absolutely pervasive, and I would go so far as to say that this phenomenon is the main culprit for the proliferation of false dichotomies in this day and age.
(1:42 AM) | Amish Lovelock:
Become the thing that you are! ...you know, right now! that thing!I've been looking around for a decent Japanese translation of Nietzsche's famous "Wie man wird, was man ist" as I want to use it as an epigraph. The problem is that none of the 8 different Japanese translations of Ecce Homo I've consulted sounds right. The current English versions are:
"How you become what you are" (Oxford)
"How one becomes what one is" (Penguin)
The second being much better (and far less Alain de Botton) than the first.
The first Japanese translation I've found is an Iwanami paperback dating from 1928; translation by the liberal philosopher (and a defendent at the Lady Chatterley's Lover trial) Abe Yoshishige.
（direct translation: In what way do people become that thing in the/ir original/essential place)
= The Japanese here is perhaps the most elegant of all the translations but I don't like the use of 「本来」（honrai = lit. root-come/coming from root) meaning original, essential, natural or proper. The German "ist" is just "ist" and honrai seems to introduce an element of time that is superflous. It is not a matter of becoming what you used to be.
The next translation from 1942 is just bizarre. It comes from Sogensha's Nietzsche selection.
(Things that are/be and ways/roads that are/be)
The translator, German literature professor Abe Rokuro, seems to have given up and provided a completely different subtitle of his own choosing. His translation was revised and published again in from Shincho in 1950, this time with the German original and no translation.
Next is from 1960.
(In what way do people become themselves)
Up until the subject marker 「は」this is the same as Abe Yoshishige's translation minus the Chinese characters. But then we get "themselves"... Better than the notion of an original but no "ist" again; no Being.
A more recent translation by Nietzsche scholar and right-wing historical revisionist Nishio Kanji inherits this "themselves" and goes as follows:
(lit. People/in what way/themselves become)
The "wie" and the "wird" placed after the "man" then.
The most recent translation is from 1994 and revives a lot of the 1928 version while keeping the "self".
(lit. People/in what way/themselves/that thing in the/ir original/essential place/become)
Unhappy with all of these I've tried to translate it myself but there is no decent way of getting "was man ist" into Japanese without having to go into lengthy explanations saying things like "to be the thing that you are. you know, the thing that you are right now, that thing". I've thus decided to stick to the German even though this does pose a problem of consistency as the other epigraph I want is from English and has a good translation...
(12:31 AM) | Brad:
"For you to steal a character or a story isn’t real theft. But to steal a landscape, that is a very, very serious crime."Errol Morris talks with Werner Herzog about cinema, documentaries, serial killers and digging up corpses. Oh yeah, this is the best thing I've read in weeks.
Tuesday, April 01, 2008
(10:32 AM) | Dave Belcher:
Tuesday Hatred: Ressentiment editionI hate doctors. I think I've seen about 8 or 9 now, and not one has any clue what it is that is plaguing my...brain, vestibular system? (they don't know that either -- I have been troubled by some kind of "disequilibrium" problem, which apparently is not "vertigo," for roughly 9 months now...and it's fairly debilitating). So, I'm generalizing my hatred: I hate them all.
I hate how easily I become frustrated at bad news -- two rejections from the AAR again this year. Maybe next year I would do better to propose something about shifting religious identities due to the postmodern hybridity of subjectivity in a poscolonial era or something (according to Žižek, I would at least serve to receive thousands of dollars to perform my research!).
I hate Gmail. Not only do they read my mail, but every time I get on, they seem to be "experiencing technical difficulties" -- another way of saying: "We currently have our heads WAY up our asses."
I hate that Davidson couldn't stop the hegemony; even though technically having four top seeds in the Final Four is a completely new thing, a Final Four with an unexpected no-name is always more exciting.
I hate how apathetic I am to everything...I can't even hate properly...I can't find the true source of my hatred...but it still grants valuation to everything. My hatred is so blinding that it imposes itself upon everything, subsequently acting in my place. I need a proxy for my proxy.
Don't forget to show some love.