Sunday, June 29, 2008
(2:13 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
A Naive Question on MugabeWhy have the election at all? At the moment it became clear that Mugabe would use violence to coerse people to vote for him and especially once the opposition candidate dropped out, he had effectively maintained his hold on power -- so why go through the farce of an election and inauguration ceremony?
(10:57 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Recently Viewed Movies That Exceeded Expectations
- Get Smart
- Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle
Saturday, June 28, 2008
(9:49 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Another Point about TortureBob Hebert writes about torture, continuing his long streak of addressing the most important issues while being almost completely ignored. His arguments were familiar to me, and they are more than enough to convince any reasonable person that torture should never be allowed.
I did think of an additional point, however -- at some point, these "bad apples" are going to return to civilian life. A good number of them will likely go into some form of law enforcement. Do you really want someone who sodomized a prisoner with a broomstick, forced a prisoner to howl like a dog while urinating on him, etc., etc., putting handcuffs on you?
Friday, June 27, 2008
(2:42 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
The Primal Forces of NatureA classic scene from Network, which I recently watched:
(12:01 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Friday Afternoon Confessional: Caring is CreepyI confess that I have read as many contemporary works on my dissertation topic as I am able to handle for now and that I want to begin an initial draft of the first chapter. I confess that the accelerated dissertation schedule I have set for myself alternately seems to be insane and to be the only way for me to maintain my sanity.
I confess that the standard dissertation format, at least in theology -- in which one plows through chapter after chapter of summary of the recent debate, then enjoys the release valve of the final "constructive" chapter, which in any rational system would be the beginning of the book rather than the (tenuously connected) end of it -- seems to be pretty soul-crushing for all involved.
I confess that I'm getting fatigued from reading Agamben, though I may well be reading his masterwork.
I confess that I'm not eating enough fruits and vegetables. I confess that in the two weeks since I "started jogging," I have gone jogging three times.
I confess that while out with a friend on Tuesday night I suddenly fell into a spell of intense loneliness, tinged with despair. It remained consistent all day Wednesday as well, dissipating somewhat on Thursday. I confess that writing about it here appears not to have helped.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
(2:43 PM) | Adam R:
Updated: Postcard Life StoriesHey.
I wanted to tell you that author of three novels Michael Kimball is doing a thing that is awesome.
He is writing people's biographies on postcards. He will do you. He wants to. Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story (on a postcard).
Daniel Trask, author of two novels, might get into trouble for DMR, his book about taking retards to the zoo. Apparently, the Massachusetts Department of Mental Retardation isn't happy about it.
(2:42 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
A GoogleplexI notice that one can add an RSS thread for Google Reader -- presumably one's own list of posts -- to Google Reader.
I was one click away from doing it out of curiosity, but then decided against it. I didn't want to risk creating an infinite regress situation that would swamp my account, Google's servers, and ultimately the Internet as a whole.
(10:40 AM) | Brad:
AmazingVia the Advanced Theory Blog, I came across this absolutely brilliant remix of Radiohead's "Nude." It defies any description that will do it much justice. Just watch.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
(1:58 PM) | John Emerson:
Obama's at the country club, looking for the real killers"Obama's the guy at the country club with the beautiful date, holding a martini and a cigarette that stands against the wall and makes snide comments about everyone who passes by" (Karl Rove).
"The key to the statement is that in the image he is with 'a beautiful date.' Not Michelle Obama .... When you think of a "beautiful date" specifically at a country club, do you picture an African-American woman? Would Rove's target audience? Or do you picture him there, a black man, smoking a cigarette indoors at a country club, with a white woman on his arm?"
(HW at Talking Points Memo)
What you picture is O.J. Simpson at the country club with Nicole -- or, more recently, O.J. with a different white woman at the country club where he's looking for "the real killers", the way Obama will be using ineffectual police measures to find the terrorists.
Fortunately, the other black man in America's country clubs is Tiger Woods. But for that, Rove's meme would have won the election. Give him points for virtuosity and effort.
(2:01 AM) | it:
Wednesday Sex: Americans Aint Getting None![This shameless attempt to generate irritated comments is brought to you this week by Infinite Thought, who is currently a sexy vampire, like Drusilla in Buffy, having recently been diagnosed as being allergic to the, er, sun].
Despite Elvis, despite all your bleach-blonde hardcore, and despite all that geo-political muscle-flexing, it is quite clear that Americans aren't really having sex at all, or, if you are, aren't doing it properly. You also can't flirt very well and don't understand insinuation. I blame one thing: the CV. The constant demand to sell your very being in every possible social situation leaves no room for any other mode of address than 'Hi, I'm Chuck. I've been with Shell for five years and before that I was with Evil Arms Corp Inc following my MBA from Harvard.' I imagine sex between Americans, when they ever do manage it, is interspersed with one or both partners getting up at various points to sit at their laptops and work on their employment history.
The economic precariousness of American life combined with the post-puritanical imperative that all work is good and that anyone can make it if they just try hard enough is not entirely the fault of its good citizens. Indeed, there is much to be said for the pioneering expansiveness of hard-working Americans, with their no-nonsense friendliness and direct modes of address. Don't misunderstand me: I like Americans. I just don't know how one would sleep with one. Would it be a business-type arrangement? A form of exercise? A short-cut to a job offer? Something to put on the CV?
Part of this sexlessness involves the decision about what a body is for. Half of you seem to have decided that it is a machine for processing fat and have turned yourselves into lard-factories for that purpose alone. The other half seem to be on a bid for immortality with levels of health-fanaticism that make Arnie in The Running Man look like Homer Simpson. Neither of these corporeal cults are sexy. I mean, I'm not claiming that British folk don't eat too many pies and look like pasty, rotten-toothed minor Dickens characters, but after a couple of pints we are pretty sexy, at least we think we are, and therefore probably are, a bit.
Americans, because they are remarkably consistent as characters whether drunk or not, are less able to create the excitement that arises from a previously rude person becoming friendly, or vice versa. Your frat-boy stripper-raping jocks would do exactly the same horrible things after twenty beer-stands as after three (besides, your beer has no alcohol). Your whiny, inappropriate-sense-of-self-deserve women would still bitch and moan in bed in the same way as they would outside of it: 'he didn't even bother looking for my G-spot! Lo-ser!'
Still, perhaps the impending global economic crisis will create great roving hordes of desperate, ambiguous sexy Americans who'll do anything for the kind of approval no longer available in the job market. It's the only way to break the tyranny of sex-as-work, you crazy puritans!
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
(12:01 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Tuesday Hatred: Strangely warmedI hate allergies. I hate it when allergies make the prospect of a casual stroll to enjoy the nice weather seem too exhausting to contemplate.
I hate having been such a spendthrift of late. I hate that I still don't have any teaching work for next fall. I hate how bad a lot of academics are about answering e-mail. I hate the many inexplicable delays that characterize academic life more generally.
I hate that several packages have yet to arrive: two books I ordered from Amazon, plus additional copies of my Zizek book.
I hate it when several figures from my past come back in rapid succession.
I hate it when people say "the surge" was a success -- and even more when those same people take that made-up success as evidence that we'd be stupid to leave.
And you should also love, if you have it in you.
Monday, June 23, 2008
(5:49 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Weird!From the front page of the NY Times website: apparently Obama has yet to appear at a mosque and asked a Muslim representative not to speak on his behalf at one. I have absolutely no idea why this would be the case.
(1:59 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Soviet-styleCR alerts us of a Bloomberg column in which it is averred that opponents of suburban sprawl "would apparently love nothing more than for the population to be confined to Soviet-style concrete-block high-rises and be forced to take state-run streetcars to their little jobs at the mill."
Let me say that I, for one, would be in favor of Soviet-style concrete-block high-rises and state-run streetcars (are there other kinds of streetcars?). As one who grew up in the suburbs, I often felt confined to my own home. It was spacious, of course, but at the same time rather lonely. Presumably in the Soviet system, I could've had easier access to friends.
Perhaps there would've even been some type of make-shift yard or playground generously supplied by the authorities. We did have a nice swingset with monkey-bars, etc., in our yard, but again -- it wasn't as much fun for just me and my sister. Even if we didn't have many friends in our stark, concrete building -- nothing really matches the hominess of cheap drywall, after all -- we would've had access to the aforementioned socialized transit system.
Indeed, even after becoming adults, we would've been able to get around without needing to personally operate a piece of expensive and quickly-depreciating heavy machinery on which we'd need to pay exhorbitant insurance premiums mandated by state law. Perhaps that trade-off would've meant working fewer hours at the good old mill! More time for family, for friends, for repainting the concrete walls. Hell, more money for paint! Though one would assume that the only color of paint available would be grey.
Oh, how I sometimes long for the stark Soviet upbringing! I imagine that it would've been possible to give people simple and rational directions to my dwelling place, rather than saying, "Yeah, go up Deer Creek Lane and then kind of follow the curve around. Then turn right and follow that curve to the left, and we're the fourth identical house on the right. It's the one with the nice big yard we never fucking use because we're working so many hours, to pay for the landscaping that we put in to keep our neighbors from bitching about our ugly yard -- which we can't actually verify that they're doing, because we never talk to them."
Sunday, June 22, 2008
(9:54 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
SacrificeEven at this late date, one often hears pundits speak whistfully of some alternate history where Bush would've asked the American people to "sacrifice" -- either after 9/11 in general or specifically with regard to Iraq. Normally the idea is that there is something morally beneficial inherent to "sacrifice," even in service of a bullshit war. Frank Rich's column today includes a somewhat strange variation on the theme:
Perhaps if Americans had been asked for shared sacrifice at the war’s inception, including a draft, they would be in 1968-ish turmoil now. But they weren’t, and they aren’t. In 2008, the Vietnam analogy doesn’t hold. The center does.I'm not sure what to make of this. Would it be better, in Rich's mind, if the American people were in turmoil over the war? If we follow the Vietnam analogy, it seems that the "sacrifice" would incline at least a significant majority of people to be more receptive to McCain's promise of victory -- after all, we don't want to have done all this "sacrificing" for nothing!
To the extent that I can decipher his intention, it does seem that Rich thinks "turmoil" would be a truer, more authentic reaction than the complete tuning-out that he is discussing in the rest of the column. Even for a war opponent, it would appear, "sacrifice" has the magical property of making things more deeply meaningful.
I predict that no matter who wins the presidential election, we're going to see a lot of commentary calling on the new president to break with Bush by calling for "shared sacrifice" -- on climate change, on Iraq, whatever. We just need "sacrifice," damn it! We need our president to preside over "sacrifice!" Bush's mistake wasn't lying our way into war, constantly defying the constitution and the law, instituting torture -- no, it was leaving us to our sordid little lives, failing to give us meaning through "sacrifice."
Saturday, June 21, 2008
(12:05 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Making Sexism Sexy AgainA recurring motif in recent movies -- particularly Judd Apatow-brand film products -- is that if men fulfill their most basic human duties, such as treating others like human beings, displaying basic competence in any activity, etc., women will fall in love with them. It's not even that this marginal effort will allow the woman to finally see the diamond in the rough that the man really is -- it's just that there literally are no better options out there.
On the one hand, the most likely interpretation of this phenomenon is sexism. On the other hand, maybe we men have unconsciously colluded to depress expectations to such a degree that these movies turn out to be fair-minded sociological portraits -- yet more proof that homosexuality is not a choice.
Friday, June 20, 2008
(12:01 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Friday Afternoon Confessional: Profound MumblingsI confess that I walk around my neighborhood assessing people's lawns. I confess that though my current landlord takes much better care of the lawn than my previous one, I still sometimes wish he would edge. I confess that sometimes when I look at the huge field of a school along the Brown Line, I daydream about mowing it. My summers of lawn care have permanently scarred me.
My grocery bagging days have produced a similar effect. I confess that the dedicated baggers always do a shitty job (two items per bag! throw the pasta sauce in with the bananas!), but the cashiers normally use some basic common sense.
I confess that I'm not good on the phone. People always seem to assume I'm upset or depressed, especially if they don't know me well. Text messaging is really the way to go for me, and I confess that I quickly became addicted, even before getting my phone with deployable keyboard.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
(10:25 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
The Ultimate ATMAt a bank near my apartment, there is an ATM that formerly asked you to input the desired amount "in multiples of $1.00." I normally inputted an amount such that the withdrawal and the fee would add up to a round number, making myself one of the few people with exact change in a world full of $20s.
One weekend, the ATM was shut down for repairs, and when it came back, it asked you to input the desired amount "in multiples of $5." It was disappointing, but better than nothing, and I still strategized my withdrawal amounts to get $5s. Then yesterday I went to the ATM and inputted $57.00, apparently thinking of what the total withdrawal would be with the fee included. Imagine my surprise when it gave me the exact amount -- it had been capable of giving ones the whole time, and the message to input the amount "in multiples of $5" was apparently just a polite request.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
(11:39 AM) | Dominic:
Wednesday Sex: Design for FantasyGuest post by Owen Hatherley, he of Sit Down Man, You're A Bloody Tragedy, amongst other locations.
The book does this, interestingly enough, by using plagiarism as estrangement. The hotel proprietor leaves in each room a White Book (cunningly concealed in one of those perennially unread hotel Bibles) in which subtly reworked explicit versions of Oscar Wilde, Pierre Louys and Guillame Apollinaire are accompanied by hardcore parodies of decadent artists and/or lithographers like Aubrey Beardsley, Franz von Bayros, Alphonse Mucha and Egon Schiele (who have little in common other than their sinuous lines and prurience) - Alice uses this, amongst other things, to coax her friends out of the conformist identities they've set up for themselves. Of course, when questioned by Alice (a part-time pornographer herself) the proprietor strenuously denies these are forgeries. The book intersperses these morphings of original works with Gebbie's own stylistic promiscuousness to the point where they blur into one another. Decadent art provides a way for them to blur their fantasies and their experiences to the point where the gap between one and the other seems irrelevant.
'...I mean of course it's all terribly decadent, wallowing in the senses like that, all pleasure and no purpose. Everything just decoration and icing sugar...'
Wendy, who has attempted to become a suburban housewife after her days frolicking with Peter and his Lost Boys, is married to a Harold, a (seemingly asexual) closet case, who disapproves somewhat of the hotel architecture, which has many similarities with the work of Otto Wagner - a box where every surface is filled with tendrils and phantasmagoric embellishments. He dismisses this effeminacy to the proprietor as mere 'noodles', and continues: 'if you're talking about real artists for our time, you can't beat the chappies who design our ships'. As well a dullard and closet case, Harold is clearly a closet Corbusian, his gripes seeming like a declaration from L'Espirit Nouveau. Or even a Vorticist, the actual contemporary art of 1914: and with Lewis he would have disdained decadence and 'the mid-Victorian languish of the neck'. Lost Girls draws on an art that was already finished by 1900, and Cubism and Futurism are nowhere to be seen - the only concessions to the early 20th century are the odd lifting from Matisse and (of course) an orgy at the premiere of Le Sacre du Printemps. The line of Lost Girls is nearly always curved, sinuous, no cubistic sharpness or rectilinear geometry to be seen. The art of the 1890s, still present in the minds of these older women (ranging from their 30s to 60s) holds out unfilled possibilities, of a world of untrammeled fantasy, of hallucinatory, languid sexuality unencumbered by work or by war (although colonialism and the approaching catastrophe are always lurking at the corner of the frame).
For the Lost Girls, then, all that will come after - from the war onwards - is by implication an effacement of fantasy in favour of a machinic empiricism. The irrationalist line, meanwhile, serves to take the characters out of the everyday lives they've imposed upon their fantasies, and return them to their real desires, those that they have to hide in polite society. Whether or not their fantasies could be imposed upon a machine aesthetic, meanwhile, is another matter. In short, can we imagine a Constructivist pornography, or would it have to be tied up with all the things - power and sadism, mainly - which are absent from the girls' fantasies?
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
(5:41 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
A Literary OrganI would be remiss if I didn't mention that The Valve, a literary blog founded to help advance the discussion of literature, has -- after just over three years of existence -- finally decided to engage in an extended discussion of a particular work of literature, namely, George Eliot's Adam Bede. A bold choice, to be sure.
They appear to have set themselves a reasonably leisurely schedule, so I'm sure that we'll still be able to count on all the philosophical quibbling, pop-cultural analysis, and really fucking long posts by Joseph Kugelmass that we've come to expect from the site over the years.
(8:59 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Tuesday Hatred: True CrimeI hate alarm clocks with overly aggressive snooze features. I hate it when the mail for the whole building comes in one big unsorted pile. I hate buying an externally beautiful red pepper and finding that it's rotten on the inside -- though doing so did teach my a valuable moral lesson.
I hate John McCain. I hate his horrifying grimace:
I hate to think what this campaign season would look like if Mitt "I'm quitting so the Democrat terrorists won't win" Romney were the nominee.
Now go love, you hateful, petty bastards!
Monday, June 16, 2008
(3:46 PM) | Brad:
AntiheroesIs George Saunders this generation's Kurt Vonnegut? If so, he needs to grow a better beard. Barring that, he has a great piece of prose in the most recent The New Yorker. Complete with one of the better closing lines that magazine has seen in years.
(1:21 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Worst Bloomsday Ever!What will the blogosphere do for the four to six weeks before Ogged inevitably ends his latest retirement?
Sunday, June 15, 2008
(4:35 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
A Question on Taxi Driver [SPOILER ALERT!!!]You know that part after the violent bloodbath, where there's the letter from Iris's parents and the newspaper clippings about how he's a hero, then he's fine and gives Betsy a ride -- we're to understand that as some kind of fantasy he's experiencing as he dies, right? If it's considered "real" within the frame of the movie, then that's just ridiculous.
(1:08 PM) | F. Winston Codpiece III:
Happy Father's DayOn this joyous day, when fathers across our great nation and, indeed, all around the world are receiving neckties and Tom Wolfe novels from their adoring offspring, I have only one question for my many illegitimate children: Would it have killed you bastards to call me?
I understand that the situation is complicated by the fact that I have made sure that your respective mothers do not know my phone number or, in many cases, my name or facial appearance, but the Lord rewards those who do the research necessary to the appropriate display of filial piety (cf. Judges 3:20-25).
Saturday, June 14, 2008
(5:54 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Remember They Might Be Giants?One of my favorite TMBG hits is "Kiss Me, Son of God." Searching YouTube for a video, I found this anime video, which is actually pretty well-done:
This video is less well-done -- it appears to replace the audio for a scene from Total Recall with the song, with no editing whatsoever. A strange project, surely, but perhaps not as strange as this slideshow of Lenin photos accompanied by "I Will Always Love You".
The fact that I've linked that Lenin video before seems to me to be a sufficient pretext for returning to another classic Weblog link, my favorite essay on Heidegger and ancient Egyptian religion, "Autofellatio and Ontology." It was originally given as a public lecture, but YouTube unfortunately does not appear to have the footage.
Friday, June 13, 2008
(12:00 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Friday Afternoon Confessional: Star-StuddedI confess that reading this interview with the creators of a softer world made me want to start a collaborative online art project, but Brad wasn't online at the time so I gave up on the idea. I confess that this one is one of my favorites, a trait I likely share with virtually every fan of the site.
I confess that my supposed desire to create a Weblog book may be part of my ever-more-elaborate plan to procrastinate on my dissertation. Recent steps in that direction have included the following:
- Learning a new language to read a book that will soon be available in a language I already know.
- Starting an intensive program to learn the vocabulary for a language that I need only for the sake of one text in my dissertation.
- Obtaining new piano sheet music in my first attempt to learn a new piece in over three years.
- Vaguely expanding my cooking repertoire.
I confess that I have still never had bánh mì, even though Mike recently discovered that we live like three blocks from a Vietnamese bakery. I confess that I sometimes miss Kankakee's fabled Chinese buffet, Great Wall King, which must mean I'm still a suburban midwesterner underneath my sophisticated urban trappings -- and the trappings aren't even that sophisticated!
Thursday, June 12, 2008
(2:47 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
It's time for another "Good Idea, Bad Idea."Good idea: taking up jogging to promote health and wellness.
Bad idea: jogging for the first time in years when it's 87 degrees out.
(12:00 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
On My Greatest HitsSad but true: I've been thinking about making a book out of The Weblog. I've talked to Adam Robinson about doing it through Publishing Genius; I've e-mailed John Emerson to discuss the possibility of self-publishing. My motivation is to bring a kind of closure. I wouldn't shut the blog down, because it's settled into a pleasant routine, but at the same time I've been thinking for a couple years that my best writing in the blog genre is behind me.
The only step I hadn't taken was reviewing some of the archives, and tonight, more or less at random, I did. In some posts, I espoused some opinions I no longer hold, though that problem isn't as acute as it was with my ancient archives from The Homepage. The main issue, though, is that there is such an adolescent quality to my personal writings. Instead of trying to develop a non-adolescent way of writing about them, I just stopped -- and the loss of the "personal" posts, even more than the shifting of "academic" materials over to AUFS, probably accounts for the shift in the character of this blog.
One might also say that the division into two blogs eliminated some of my more speculative philosophical-theological posts, but it's hard to tell whether the division was cause or effect. I wrote a few posts in the old style on AUFS, notably this one, but as I begin to develop my intellectual project in a more formal way -- a project that is not discontinuous with what I've written on this blog over the years -- I have been much less inclined simply to "throw stuff out there" in quite the same way. Yes, I could be talking a lot about my dissertation project, for instance, but I don't think that doing so would actually benefit me in the same way that thinking out loud on the blog used to.
The changes in my life that have been most reflected on the blog -- gaining some distance on my more adolescent struggles and starting to chart out my thinking and writing on a larger scale -- have been unambiguously positive, and I'm much happier on average than I was when I was producing my "best" blog material. At the same time, reading the old stuff made me sad, made me want to somehow recapture that moment. Perhaps I'm describing nothing more than simple nostalgia, which is harmless enough. Yet I wonder if perhaps the best way to gain closure is to acknowledge that a particular door has already been closed for a while now.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
(1:51 PM) | Brad:
Wednesday Sex Addendum LinkThe Worst Things I've Done to My Partner During Sex
(9:07 AM) | Dominic:
Wednesday Sex: Andrea DworkinOne of many memorable phrases in Andrea Dworkin's Ice and Fire is her description of a female lover who "fucks like a gang of boys". Dworkin is generally seen as promoting, in opposition to the "metaphysics of power" implicit in penetrative intercourse, a kind of diffuse eroticism of caresses, and this in turn is generally construed as lacking in gusto, the sort of thing one might go in for if one lacked the manly vigour to deliver a good hard poke where it was needed. But the sex in Dworkin's fiction is seldom less than shattering; even the bad sex, of which there is rather a lot, is often fiercely and disturbingly eroticised. Near the start of the Ice and Fire, a group of children play a game called "witch" which involves boys chasing girls; if you're caught, you get put in a cage. Dworkin vividly describes the thrill of running, being chased, wanting to be caught and wanting not to be caught: the adrenaline rush produced by the dread of capture. It's evident that this is a fun game, a game the girls want to play, even if they might want to be in pursuit rather than pursued from time to time.
Dworkin's problem is not that female sexuality is diffuse, placid and affectionate while male sexuality is selfish, genitally focused and violent; her sexual politics do not amount to a demand that men adopt the "female" sexual persona so that we can all flop around together in lacy undergarments cooing like soft-porn lesbians. The problem is that this separation of roles, which filters the components of generic sexuality and assigns them arbitrarily by gender, is ideologically subservient to the metaphysics of male domination: it insinuates that metaphysics into the most intimate bodily experience.
A secondary problem is that Dworkin more or less wholeheartedly buys into the notion that sexual pleasure is self-shattering or dislocating: that it dissolves the body's boundaries, releasing it from its fictive integrity. This self-shattering is ambiguous: it may be construed as the liberation of desire, the realisation of some deeper and more complex self concealed beneath the crust of habit; or it may be construed as destructive of selfhood, as annihilation. Dworkin argues that there is a tradition of male sexual ideology (manifest in both pornography and scientific writings on sexuality) that represents women's sexual pleasure as destructive of selfhood, as submission to a superior force which objectifies and pulverises, and that this view of female sexuality is not compatible with a view of women as sexual (or political) subjects. By contrast, where male (heterosexual) literature characterises men's sexual pleasure as self-shattering, it represents this shattering either as liberatory or as wilfully self-annihilating ("expense of spirit in a waste of shame"), rather than being-annihilated: there is comparatively little in this tradition to suggest that men's authentic sexual being is realised by their being pummelled into oblivion.
Where contemporary feminists tend to take issue with Dworkin is over the experiential character of intercourse: the idea that fucking men weakens your bodily and political integrity (the one grounding or shadowing the other) doesn't fit with their self-experience as (or aspiration to be) both sexually and politically active and confident. That fucking women them diminishes them (and, also, that being fucked and being diminished by being fucked are natural for women, are what they're there for) is evidently an idea that misogynists have about women - but it would be oddly self-hating for women to have the same idea about themselves.
Dworkin's response to objections along these lines was to insist that, whatever private libidinal spaces people might carve out for themselves, the political reality of male dominance meant that the misogynistic conception of women's sexuality had been institutionalised, was continually promoted in the guise of sexual "fantasy", and needed to be confronted at every turn.
(7:37 AM) | Amish Lovelock:
Finish the sentence...!!!The best time to blog is...
Penguins only ever jump when...
In French Agamben reads like...
Hilary Clinton's handbag was found on...
When Boris was in Somalia and caught the flu he said to me that...
Where in the world did you hear...
Collective action is the best solution for...
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
(12:00 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Tuesday Hatred: PerculsusI hate this gloomy weather, but even more, I hate what it does to my mood and motivation levels.
I hate it when something well-paid is also boring, producing contradictory incentives. I hate the vague sense that the petty insecurities cultivated in academia will never fully go away.
I hate that the only solution to having had too much coffee appears to be having even more coffee. I hate that it took me nearly a year of living in this apartment to figure out that the strange smell that periodically arises in the kitchen stems from the dishwasher getting full.
I hate the recurring "villain" character on Law and Order: Criminal Intent. I hate that there's nothing on TV and won't be for months.
I hate that the linking culture in blogs seems to be all but dead.
I hate that Tuesday Love has been so unreliable of late.
Monday, June 09, 2008
(6:53 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
So, um....I changed the template. I know it will be a shock since the last major renovation came while I was still living in Bourbonnais. I believe it can still be improved, and I welcome tips (aside from just changing it back). In particular, if someone can produce a new stylesheet that will make the two columns on the right more elegant, I welcome that.
(2:02 PM) | Adam R:
Poetry Offer!I am writing a book of poetry to be published by Narrow House Press. It will be out in the winter. It will be really awesome.
This book, it is going to be made up of poems about people. Here is what I have so far:
Elisabeth Elliot the evangelist
my grandmother Erma Ruth Rogers Tyner
Helene Cixous the post-structural feminist
a crazy guy I met on the street
Frederic Law Olmstead who designed Central Park
Xanana Gusmao the PM of East Timor
Joe Louis the boxer
Mario Mendoza whom they named The Mendoza Line after
and Soren Aabye Kierkegaard the strange Dane
I am also taking requests, so if you think of someone I should write about: comment away. If a poem about that person makes it into the book, I will acknowledge you as the originator of that person. Why not?
(12:52 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Language UpdateOn Saturday, I got fed up with the huge number of readings in my Italian book and decided to skip through only to the grammar sections. The verb conjugations and other grammatical points were eerily similar to French. Also, with some exceptions, the vocabulary seemed to be largely a matter of picking up on the different spelling patterns in Italian, which I got through the aforementioned excessive reading passages.
(A sidenote: the book I used, From Italian to English, left much to be desired. The explanations were unclear, the readings did not closely match the grammar, and the vocab help was haphazard at best. The guy would also just plop in multi-page lists into the middle of chapters: every irregular past participle, for instance. If Italian is the first language you're trying to learn to read, this book would be a disaster. Coming at it with knowledge of French and Latin, though, it was adequate, and I assume that most grad students would be more likely to be learning Italian as a supplemental language rather than their first one. Overall, the one-star review on Amazon is generous.)
Sunday morning, I worked through the first few pages of the Agamben book that motivated this bizarre quest to learn Italian, and I have posted the results here, in what I hope will be the first in a series of posts giving you, the blog-reader, an inside track into cutting-edge untranslated theologically-inflected political theory.
It brought me a feeling of joy to successfully read Agamben in the original, albeit slowly. I wonder if learning a language for a particular author, rather than for purposes of general erudition, tends to be more effective.
Saturday, June 07, 2008
(4:18 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Language OverloadI fear I am reaching a breaking point in my language acqusition. This sensation is slightly over-dramatized because I am on a crash-course to get through an Italian grammar book, a task requiring over two hours a day at the pace I've set myself. I am taking this on when I have just barely started in on actually reading a Greek text and when my German has felt like it is in an even worse state of disrepair than usual.
Why am I doing this to myself? The main reason is that I want to get some working knowledge of all the primary languages I'll have to deal with in scholarship before leaving graduate school. I may be able to maintain them, at least to the point where I'll be able to get them back up to a usable level whenever the occasion comes up, but taking on a new language after getting a job seems unlikely, at least for the first few years.
My worry is that I've overextended and set myself up for failure. At least the Latin and Greek will more or less take care of themselves in the course of my dissertation research -- and I'm enjoying the convenience of learning vocab for both through the Supermemo software.
Getting a decent German vocab list for Supermemo seems like the holy grail for me at this point, because my real problem is vocab rather than grammar. I may ultimately have to make my own, perhaps based on a book of theological German vocab that I got out of the library (it includes many philosophical terms as well). But then there's the danger of overextending my Supermemo time -- though it seems to get down to like 5 minutes a day of repetitions after you get over the initial hump. Having gone through the very basic Greek vocab list before sitting down to read was a huge help, in large part because the memorization process naturally led me to break down words into their constituent parts, which is also crucial for German.
Then of course, at some point I need to figure out a way to learn how to actually speak one of these languages.
Friday, June 06, 2008
(10:29 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
First Jesus, now Batman?Thinking about the new Batman movie and the new franchise generally, I have come up with the basic plot for a future sequel that introduces Robin. First of all, as will become clear, this plot absolutely requires that Gael García Bernal be cast as Robin.
I don't know how Robin should end up being taken under Bruce Wayne's wing, but I think he needs to come from a lower-class background -- maybe there could a scene where he disrupts one of Bruce Wayne's parties, illustrating that he's a kind of foreign intrusion of energy into an otherwise hermetically sealed world. After he leaves in a huff, Bruce goes up to his room to comfort him, Robin is initially hostile -- but it's because he's embarrassed. You see, he's developed something of a fascination with Bruce, and his impetuous nature leads him to make a move. Bruce is shocked, but receptive. They start an affair -- preferably secret, to work with the whole secret identity angle, etc.
So Batman and Robin are gay -- this is no big surprise. The elegance of this solution, though, is that it explains why Robin is out there putting his life on the line with Batman -- he's doing it out of love. As I said, I haven't worked out how Robin comes to be in need of housing at the Wayne mansion, but it probably shouldn't be because his parents are murdered -- both because that would presumably make him underage and, more importantly, because it would heighten the contrast between Batman's grim quest for vengeance and Robin's youthful exuberance. Also, it would be elegant in that the same character trait that caused Robin to make an advance would also lead him to be implacable in his quest to find out what it is that Bruce is doing every night, as well as to decide that he needs to participate -- probably through some scene where he ends up coming along and his life is endangered. Batman says: "Never do that to me again!" Robin retorts: "Since I'm coming along with you from now on, I guess you'll need to train me so I can fend for myself!" (The dialogue could use some work.)
Probably Batman needs to be really grudging about the whole thing, until Robin finally proves himself by saving Batman's life in the course of the dramatic final confrontation with the villain.
I totally think it would work. America's ready for a gay Batman, and I'm ready for the millions of dollars this would bring me.
(12:01 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Friday Afternoon Confessional: IndulgencesI confess that I got a new phone and might actually be in love with it. I confess that having used an ancient phone for so long has likely kept me from fully understanding its inadequacies. I confess that I signed far too long of a contract to get it for free (after mail-in rebate). I confess that the whole notion of a mail-in rebate is so transparently a rip-off that I can't believe people have put up with it for so long.
I confess that I have occasionally been staying out way too late recently, and weirdly, it almost always seems to happen when I'm out with one particular person.
I confess that I have begun a crash course in reading Italian, all so that I can read an Agamben book that will be available in French in a couple months. I confess that I am not enjoying reading the contemporary literature surrounding my dissertation project, though I am relieved to find that my initial intuition that my angle is unique has been borne out thus far.
I confess that in my quest to find adjunct teaching work, I got some wrong information and e-mailed my CV and cover letter to a retired professor who was reportedly on her deathbed.
Thursday, June 05, 2008
(10:21 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Getting Rid of ClintonObama's not really going to have to name her as his running mate, is he? One of the benefits of the coming election is that we get to get rid of a power-mad vice president -- if we're going to not only install another one, but also have a rogue former president regularly wandering the halls, then I don't know what to conclude but that the terrorists have won.
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
(5:14 PM) | Dominic:
Wednesday Sex: Extemporaneous Quickie
I always try to explain to people that marriage isn’t that interesting. It is no different from a whole host of other aspects of human life, and no more interesting. Which isn’t to say it is bad, or really that it is good, it is just sort of a fact. What you do with it, that is what makes it interesting or not.
APS, in comments over at AUFS
As with marriage, so with sex in general: "it is just sort of a fact". What sort of a fact? One of the "facts of life", in spite of the best efforts (to date) of Schopenhauerian cybernetic feminists; but also a social fact, part of the matter of opinion. Sex gossip and biopolitics - what a pair! One minute you're joking about who copped off with whom last Friday, the next you're red in the face arguing with someone about abortion rights, or feeling "deeply uncomfortable" about so-and-so's advocacy of sexual relations between professors and students, or wondering whether you ought to delete those scans of Lost Girls you have on your hard drive, not that it'd do much good, they have forensic data recovery experts who can find evidence of dodgy downloading in the dust on your motherboard nowadays...*
It occurs to me that we have a problem in thinking these two things together, sex as a social fact about which everybody is, broadly speaking, fairly comfortable, and sex as something people feel it's terribly important to be in favour of (or in certain circumstances against). On the one hand, rivalry and opinion, gossip and innuendo, which accommodates and neutralises, makes it possible to live with the sex lives of others; on the other, exhortation and prohibition, and consequences that are not the punchline of a joke.
Undoubtedly the correct move here is to see both the "vulgar" symbolisation of sex in everyday language and the "law" of sex (which manifests itself both as the prohibition of enjoyment and the demand that one demonstrate one's sexual normality by expressing oneself - in appropriate ways - as a sexual being) as forming a system which works to suppress or manage a third term: sexual awkwardness, which offends both the puritanically disgusted and the evangelists of sexual liberation, which sexual jokes in their cruelty and bluntness conjure and exorcise in the same gesture.
As with sex, so with marriage. Marriage is, to tell the truth, an awkward business; not, as the ideology of capitalist heteronormativity would have it, a seamless partnership of equals who share the same core values and work together towards common goals, but the jamming together in a confined space of two frightened mortal animals who have somehow to learn how to be kind to one another. It is quite rational to want to avoid this situation, and people have come up with all sorts of exciting utopian ideas about how to accomplish this; but at the same time it is "just sort of a fact" that we are in comparable situations with other people to whom we are not married all the time: our kinfolk, flatmates, people we work with, people who happen to have got on the same tube train as us during rush hour...
* Not that I've anything on my hard disk I'd be ashamed to show my mother.**
** I keep that shit on the USB drive, along with all my terrorist training manuals and photographs of railway terminuses and public buildings.***
*** You're supposed to say something like "just kidding!" here.
(4:15 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Wednesday Sex: Agape LoveWe apparently did not have a Wednesday Sex scheduled for today, but by the grace of God, some appropriate material landed in our collective laps. First-time commenter will-of-IAM came to us this afternoon and shared the following:
for Adam Lotsko... bro, God made you in His image; problem is you have been gifted with a great brain; us Jews understand God uses His Right brain (faith) and all else goes south, going to the left side (reason)... God, your True Father simply wants a relationship with you; for you to RECEIVE His Love, through Messiah, ACCEPT His Love and then love Him back; that simple; relationship; NOT religion or religious dogma... His First Commandment was simple to Love Him; He doesn't expect you to Love Him like He desires unless you can receive His love, like a little child... understand? - where I failed in this God thing was this simple thing: I, MADE God into my image... and I was very dis-appointed in Him and the church; a bunch of creeps and fanatics but there ARE some out there who Love Him will extend His Grace/Truth to those who accept His Free gift... Eph 2:8-9 comes to mind... don't throw out God and a personal relationship with Him because of bad religion and the order of CRAP that some DENOM-I-NATIONS (demon nations) bring to the table... Just respond to His adoption; your part is to humble yourself, cast self down and receive His Love; His care and His Grace... that's all... for you dude; I have children and they know it's real simple; we all are selfish; owe God a debt; Yeshua/Jesus paid the debt so we can be adopted and TREATED like sons of God; we do suffer but life without God's direction sucks worse... we MUST become a Worshipper of God or we want to BE worshipped... Narcacism is really wanting to BE worshipped... agree? - the greatest Gift we can get from God/Messiah is the Holy Spirit; unless we yield to Him and are born-again by His power, we can't fellowship with God... someone has to get off the throne of our souls and thought life... U will get it; just start over and BE LOVED and CHERRISHED for whom HE created; Psalms 100:3... hand in there dude... later... Atlanta, GAJust when we thought he was finished, he returned and posted, unprompted, some further reflections:
I was personally a foot [ed. note: in a later comment he clarifies that he meant to say "fool" and indicates that he laughed out loud on noticing his mistake] to think God would do things my way; like the SECRET thing out there; who are human's to think God responds to human's like Him being a Jenie or something? LOL! - I have seen Holy Angels and demon's and our words activate one or the other camps... God CREATES with His Mouth (His Words) and so do we; sort of! - the tongue is the most prideful, arrogant and destructive force in the Universe... God set up the rules... but what drives the tongue? the Human Heart (spirit)... what feeds our human spirits... the thought life... so there is really NO original thought of man; the source is either God or the other realm of darkness... human's were MEANT to be responders and RECEIVERS... thus God orchestrated us and made us to RECIEVE first; then give away what WE RECEIVE; we are not originals; we were created! we WERE CREATED to BE LOVED; then LOVE BACK Vertically and then horizontally... - a mystery... but I know the deep waters of bitterness, judgment and NOT forgiving the evil of others sent towards me... I chose NOW, yes chose, to BLESS my enemies; pray for those who hurt me and release them to God for His dispostion and justice; who am I to bring another before God when I miss the mark of perfect love every day? Christ In Me, is my only Hope of Glory... I AM now His living temple of Love... but I have a daily, moment by moment choice to respond in Love or the other side of the coin... that's the mystery... I AM NOT a robot; but I can yield like one to the river of Love, AGAPE Love, within me... pretty simple... :)"When you penetrate to the most high God, you'll believe you're mad, you'll believe you've gone insane...."
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
(12:00 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Tuesday Hatred: Naptime, dammitI hate being asked if I have a minute for the environment or for any other worthy cause. Why? Because I emphatically do not have a minute or even a second for anything but myself and my immediate needs. I am a morally bankrupt person who will never know the true happiness that comes only from filling out a form and giving a piddling amount of money to a charity I know nothing about. I will never be able to contribute as positively to the environment as those who likely end up on a million mailing lists for similar charities. (We recycle our junk mail; do you?)
I hate that I've gone so long without buying new clothes when, in point of fact, doing so is an incredibly easy thing. I hate that I've been walking around in a pair of jeans with a crotch tear for over a month, despite the fact that I have easy access to dozens of exciting retail locations via the CTA -- and I'm signed up for double cash back rewards from Discover on clothing purchases all through the summer! I'm actually making money!
I hate that my plans for "getting" certain L stops -- itself a ridiculous goal -- are becoming increasingly contrived. For instance, the only plausible way to "get" the Chicago Blue Line stop seems to be to go to my favorite restaurant in Logan Square (or indeed anywhere: El Cid) and the foreign-language bookstore downtown in the same day (the order doesn't matter, thankfully). I hate that if I were to go to that bookstore, I would probably seriously consider picking up a copy of Hegel's Wissenschaft der Logik, as recommended in this interesting thread. I hate that the poll stopped working on that post and caused this page to take forever to load all weekend.
I hate that my cell phone battery seems to be dying. I hate that the same laziness that keeps me from ever buying clothes has also kept me from making the minimal effort of going to a Sprint store and redeeming my $150 credit for a new phone.
I hate it when writers use "query" as a proximity-induced synonym for "question." More broadly, I hate it when writers back themselves into a corner that requires extensive use of proximity-induced synonyms. Such patterns often arise when an author is apparently insecure that another person's argument, which they are merely describing, will be attributed directly to them -- so we're subjected to the endless, "Anselm says," "Anselm argues," "Anselm contends [one of my least favorites]," "God's honor, Anselm insists, must be satisfied...." The thing that is annoying about "query," however, is that it is so seldom necessary even as a proximity-induced synonym. Take this excerpt from Darby Ray, Deceiving the Devil: Atonement, Abuse, and Ransom:
The question of how God works in the world to confront evil is the question at the heart of this book. The Christian approach to this query, referred to as the doctrine of atonement, focuses....Was a proximity-induced synonym really necessary there? Let's try it out without it:
The question of how God works in the world to confront evil is the question at the heart of this book. The Christian approach to this question, referred to as the doctrine of atonement, focuses....I think the second version is actually much smoother. "Query" is a contrived word and calls undue attention to itself. The repeated "question" feels much more natural and keeps the style in the background, which seems more appropriate for the kind of book Ray is writing. She could also recast the sentences so that one of the repeated "questions" could be replaced by "one." (I will also quietly note that Ray overuses -- i.e., uses at all -- "eschew.")
I hate that I seem to be picking on Darby Ray when in fact the proximity-induced synonym syndrome is one of the most widespread afflictions in academic writing.
I love that "proximity-induced synonym" appears to be yet another Kotsko-brand Academic Coinage, joining academic Stockholm Syndrome and magnum opusculum.
Sunday, June 01, 2008
(10:32 PM) | Adam Kotsko: