Thursday, July 31, 2008
(9:53 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
On the old saw, "I'd hate to see how you treat your students"Academics often hear this complaint from online correspondents who feel their opinions are not being sufficiently respected. The correspondent is thankfully able to handle the abuse with aplomb; the same cannot be expected of vulnerable undergraduates. (The sinister undertone: the academic should likely be barred from teaching.)
What the correspondent is missing here is that a teaching situation is fundamentally different from a lively debate among peers. In the former situation, one expects ignorance, cliched opinions, faulty reasoning -- that's why the students need to be in class, after all. In the latter situation, no matter how often this expectation is frustrated, one also expects that voluntary participants in, say, a political debate will have some type of knowledge, some consciousness of what types of arguments are common and which are novel, etc.
Most often, of course, they do not. Instead, they simply wish to vent their political impulses in much the same way they would vent to a close friend about a fight with their spouse or significant other -- and indeed, they appear to have as much emotion invested in their ignorant, cliched opinions as they would in such a fight.
An academic in such a situation is in a double-bind. On the one hand, if they genuinely treat the person as a peer -- that is, if they subject their arguments to sharp criticism and demand facts -- they will be dismissed as moral monsters who like to torture 19-year-old business majors. On the other hand, if they treat the person like the ignoramus in need of instruction that they are, then the academic is a patronizing elitist: "You think you're so smart -- well, all you've got is three letters beyond your name! Up there in your ivory tower, you haven't gained the rich experience in 'real life' that I have attained in my work as an insurance adjuster and reader of right-wing blogs!"
In short, whatever the virtues of "book smarts," they will inevitably be shouted down by "street smarts."
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
(10:41 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Dreaming LifeYesterday I made significant progress on my dissertation chapter. I finished probably the most conceptually difficult part, bringing together Bonhoeffer and Jean-Luc Nancy, and I was feeling good.
Apparently I was not as satisfied as I thought, though, because last night I dreamed that I was writing a book on Nancy as a kind of side project to keep me from being bored while doing my dissertation. I had made rapid progress and already had four chapters, but I felt I needed a fifth one to round it out. Casting about for a topic, I thought, "Oh, of course, I can do a chapter on The Experience of Freedom." Then I wrote it up in a matter of minutes. Another book, in the bag!
Although this dream probably does reflect my vast ambitions, arrogance, pretentiousness, etc., I think that more fundamentally it falls into the same category as when I've had a data entry job through a temp agency and I dream of data entry.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
(1:17 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
I'll give you something to cry about!Instead of its current approach, the media should repond to accusations of bias or unfairness by doubling down.
John McCain's complaining that they are unfair to him after they've spent years hanging on his every word and explaining away every "gaffe" -- and by the way, exactly what the fuck is a "gaffe," and do they ever occur outside of political campaigns? -- and they should punish him for it. Similarly, after being the inevitable front-runner for months in the media narrative, Hillary suddenly started complaining about how much the media loved Obama -- again, she should've been made to suffer for that.
The only language these politicians understand is force. A few months of aversion therapy, and they'd be thrown back on actually trying to make a case for their candidacy rather than "working the refs."
(12:01 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Tuesday Hatred: Complaints about Google ServicesI hate that Gmail is not able to take into account the fact that I have received a delivery failure notification for one of the addresses in my contact list. It seems that it should be able to notice the error, then move that address to the bottom of the auto-complete list. I hate that searches for "to:" and "from:" are so unpredictable -- I can type in the name of one of my most frequent correspondents and get zero results.
I hate it when I search for businesses near me on Google Maps and it gives me a zoom out to the entire Midwest with twenty options. We must have very different ideas of what counts as "nearby." Even worse, when I click on a particular option, it does not recenter the map nor does it give me an intuitive way to zoom into that spot (say, at the smallest zoom that still shows both my house and that business).
I also hate that Google Maps apparently does not acknowledge the existence of the Red Line north of Roosevelt, only showing stops that are transfers to other lines. It does give me the Red Line if I ask for public transit directions, but only reluctantly -- it much prefers for me to take the Brown Line to Belmont and then take the Purple Express to Evanston, for instance, even though it's almost always much faster to take a bus across to the Red Line. I hate that it constantly wants me to take the Lincoln bus all the way to Fullerton and then get on the Brown Line, even though the Lincoln bus stops at the much closer Western Brown Line. Even more ridiculous is its desire to put me on a really circuitous bus route when my stated final destination is a rail station.
They should have the ability to reroute and then take people's suggestions into account in constructing future routes (for instance, it could start to realize, "Huh, people really don't want to take the Green Line to Garfield when they're headed to a destination at U of C. Interesting. Maybe I won't send unwitting tourists in that direction"). Computer route planning systems are inherently limited, and allowing user suggestions is the only way to get around that.
(12:00 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
"Next, as in NOW, right NOW!"A local television station plays reruns of South Park. Episodes are preceded by a brief summary, then the announcer says that the episode is "next, as in now, right now!" The entire quoted portion is said in an urgent, breathy voice.
I do not understand why they do this.
Monday, July 28, 2008
(7:15 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Fun FactOn Sunday, The Girl and I went to brunch. Her glass was empty at one point, and the waiter brought out an unsolicited refill, saying, "Diet Coke, right? It looked like a diet." He was in fact correct, and I said, "Good eye." He responded that there was a very distinct difference between the two -- you can almost see through regular Coke, and Diet Coke is much darker.
I did not know that.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
(10:03 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
John McCain: Absolute IdiotIf McCain somehow wins the election, my big worry is that he's so stupid that he'll nuke us all by accident. We will all be longing for the competence and polish of the Bush administration.
As The Girl just said in chat, "someone who can't use the internet cannot be trusted with WMDs."
Saturday, July 26, 2008
(4:13 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Catholic BaitingIn comments to an Unfogged post, I came up with a great way to bait Catholics that would actually directly involve an area where the political influence of Catholicism is having a concrete negative effect on a disadvantaged group -- a woman should wash down a morning-after pill using communion wine. Ideally, she would chew up the communion wafer, insert the pill, then use the wine to wash down both at once.
Beside something like that, putting a nail through a communion wafer and putting it in the trash seems distinctly amateurish.
Friday, July 25, 2008
(12:00 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Friday Afternoon Confessional: Life TogetherI confess that this week my productivity seems to have declined due to having too much time to work. There is only so much time I can put in writing on any given day and still have it be beneficial. On days when I have an evening engagement, then, I try to schedule that block of time for the afternoon. On days when I am totally free, the urgency of doing it in the afternoon is lost, and in addition I'm faced with the prospect of having nothing to do in the evening if I write too early. After putting it off, however, I often find myself further procrastinating, until I reach the point when it's "too late" to start and I might as well just wait until tomorrow.
I confess that I have been lazy in my research assistant work and on transcribing some lecture notes that fellow students want to purchase from me. I confess that I have been watching too much TV, even by my lax standards.
I confess that my apartment is starting to feel dingy, though everyone who visits still considers it remarkably clean. I still have not reached my "threshold," which is perhaps higher than usual since I would feel stupid taking an afternoon out to clean when I am behind on my self-imposed writing schedule.
I confess that the relative lack of comments this week has bothered me.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
(3:40 PM) | Dominic:
Wednesday Sex: Not Just For WednesdaysWe might ask what it is about sexual difference that makes it different from other differences, from the difference that is "what there is" according to Badiou. In particular, what is it about sexual difference that affords it, according to a familiar line of critique, the power of delegitimising any and every project of universality, any and every construction of a "same" capable in principle of including everyone?
The kernel of the problem emerges with some clarity in the context of arguments against women's priesthood. Christ - so the argument goes - is simultaneously the "son of man", humanity restored to its original creaturely perfection, and "biologically" male. If we affirm that Christ is God incarnate, then we affirm that he is not not human, and therefore not not the bearer of a binary sexual trait: not not a man. Now, the role of the priest is to personate, imperfectly, Christ's perfect humanity: to be the "vicar" of Christ. The humanity of the priest is vicariously Christ's humanity; in particular, his biological maleness is vicariously Christ's biological maleness. The humanity of women cannot be vicariously Christ's humanity, because it obviates Christ's biological maleness: the woman priest figures forth in her female person a castrated Christ, a Christ missing part of his full humanity. It follows that a Christ capable of being personated vicariously by a human being of the opposite sex would not be a fully-human Christ; and a church that affirmed a less-than-fully-human Christ would have to be considered wholly renegade.
Now, the discrepancies between the humanity of this or that male or female (or otherwise-appointed) person and the humanity of Christ are clearly necessarily manifold. There is no vicariousness without discrepancy, no priesthood without unchristlikeness. But we must then distinguish between two kinds of discrepancy: that between perfection and imperfection, and that between likeness and unlikeness. What opponents of women's priesthood seem to think is that the male priest's manhood, if perfected, would become Christ's manhood: his distance from Christ is his imperfection. A woman cannot be perfected into Christ: perfect womanhood is Mary. Women are not more imperfect than men, but differently imperfect (and differently perfectible). There is between Christ and Mary, two models of perfection, a symmetrical relationship of like to unlike rather than an asymmetrical relationship of perfect to imperfect.
One may well feel that this entire schema is simply too stupid for words. Nevertheless, there exist counter-arguments. For me the most convincing is that which begins by acknowledging that Christ's full humanity entails that he bears, like all human beings, an amalgam of particular traits: the person of Jesus is, in particular, male and Jewish; but also Nazarene, the son of a carpenter, a subject of the Roman Empire and so on. Jesus of Bethnal Green would be a different person from Jesus of Nazareth, as would Jesus the son of a private equity fund manager. A Haitian Jesus would be in certain respects more Jesus-like than an American one. None of these traits can be said to be either more "contingent" or more "essential" than any of the others. What can it mean for such an amalgam to be perfected?
It is quite possible for a particular human individual to bear traits that, carried all their way to their ideal forms, are finally incompatible with each other. "Being myself" means being a rattlebag of things that don't especially go together, which is what makes "being true to myself" such a doubtful enterprise; one can only "be true to" that which is subtracted from such an amalgam. (The ever-popular alternative is to make an idol of some figment of oneself and repress the remainder). What makes Christ truly Christ is not in fact the amalgam of traits that he bears, but that he calls God "Father". To imitate Christ is first of all to pray as Christ prayed, and taught his disciples to pray: "Our father..."
The joint predication of Christ's perfection and of his maleness does not specify an ultra-male Christ, but a Christ whose amalgam of particular traits, maleness among them, is made the support of a filiation. There remains a difficulty, obviously, over the masculine coding of this filiation. A Christ who prayed to the Goddess, to the universal mother, would no longer be the Son of the Father. This is a serious problem, which has at bottom to do with the purity of the male line. For the time being, let's just note that the address-structure of the Lord's Prayer is universal at one of its posts: anyone can be an addressor. The Son announces that all are to address the Father as "father", undoing the binding of the male line to a single male heir. Christian fidelity is the impure filiation of impurity - of human beings, in all their amalgamated particularity - to that which, subtracting itself from the differences which are "what there is" in the amalgam, convokes a new body, a novel configuration of the nothing new.
Whatever personal qualities or qualifications one might desire in a minister, and however one might attempt to evaluate the viability of a person's professed vocation to the priesthood, it is clear that in the matter of vicarious personation of Christ what counts is that one should be human, bearing an incompossible amalgam of traits, and that one should place this amalgam in support of a universal filiation. There is no single trait, be it of race, gender or sexual orientation, that can separate anyone from this filiation. Or bind them to it, for that matter: there is no priestly caste. Literally anyone can be called to be a priest - a thought which is not altogether comforting.
(11:06 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
I watch a lot of TV: Or, On misplaced loyaltyThe first episode of season 4 was promising, but subsequent episodes have been very disappointing. There is only so far into the season you can go without exhausting the excuse of still "setting things up," especially when there are only 13 episodes.
My loyalty to shows can become a problem. Perhaps Weeds will redeem itself, but I had no reason to believe that Prison Break would -- yet I continued watching. If we had been a Nielsen household during the last season of Prison Break, I don't think I would've been able to live with myself. As it stands, Fox should give me some kind of award. I'd like to say I'll boycott the next season for (ridiculously) bringing Sarah back to life, but I am unlikely to go in and take it off the DVR's list of shows to record and I am almost certain to be bored and depressed enough this winter to sit and watch the thing.
Hopefully they will at least maintain the tropical setting, so I can enjoy the weird lighting and the characters' perpetual sweatiness during the harsh Chicago winter.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
(3:26 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Sure, the economy might suckBut look at it this way: at least you're not living in Soviet Russia!
The evidence for the badness of the Soviet Union: free heating and long (also free) commutes. Perhaps not the most resonant examples in times of rising oil prices. Encore un effort if you want to be an apologist for capitalism!
(10:54 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
A Note to Right-Wing and Centrist PunditsThe surge didn't work. The majority of positive effects associated with the surge were underway well before the surge was even thought of. And even the fantasy version of the surge (including everything good that happened six months before the surge) didn't achieve the stated goal: stabilizing the security situation in order to make room for political reconciliation.
McCain was not right about the surge. Obama's opposition to the surge was not a case of dogmatic opposition to the war blinding him to a brilliant idea. The surge was a failure on its own terms, even though it improved security somewhat around Baghdad. Similarly, the Iraq War was a collosal clusterfuck even though it succeeded in removing Saddam Hussein from office. It's strange, I know -- something can fail while still creating positive effects.
I'm pretty sure that hanging the entire rationale for your candidacy on one of the few policies in Iraq to arguably have some positive effects despite its overall failure is a bad strategy. Perhaps McCain will manage to persuade some people who are currently undecided, though, meaning that his strategy will have been successful, regardless of whether he achieves his stated goal of winning the election.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
(9:09 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Tuesday Hatred: Dear PrudenceI hate that Jared's apartment burned down. Please visit this post to donate.
I hate running out of cereal. Even more, I hate running out of toilet paper. Normally I try to stay stocked up, replenishing well before I'm out, but within the last several days, I've run out of both.
I hate that there are people seriously considering voting for John McCain. Everything he does somehow manages to be even stupider than the last thing. By the end of this campaign, he's going to be promising an investigation into alien abductions -- as a way of stimulating the economy.
Monday, July 21, 2008
(3:10 PM) | Anthony Paul Smith:
Help Jared SinclairFriend and contributer to The Weblog Jared Sinclair has just lost everything except for his computer and notebooks in an apartment fire. Jared is a talented musician and lost his guitars and recording equipment in the fire. He is also an avid reader and had a pretty nice library that was lost as well. He didn't have renters insurance, so he really needs as much help as we can give him. The link below will allow you to donate directly to him. Please let others know as well.
Help Jared Sinclair by donating now.
UPDATE: Jared, ever the artist, made a video tour of his burned out apartment.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
(1:25 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
The Passion of Manohla DargisI have long enjoyed A. O. Scott's reviews in the New York Times, which for me are equalled only by those of The New Yorker's Anthony Lane. So it is with some disappointment that I must say that the Times' newer reviewer, Manohla Dargis, is terrible. She mixes overwriting with cliche in a way that is unprecedented in the history of prose.
Take, for instance, her review of The Dark Knight. She approves of the casting in the new franchise that began with Batman Begins: director Christopher Nolan "brought a gravitas to the superhero that wiped away the camp and kitsch that had shrouded Batman in cobwebs. It helped that Christian Bale, a reluctant smiler whose sharply planed face looks as if it had been carved with a chisel, slid into Bruce Wayne’s insouciance as easily as he did Batman’s suit." Shrouded in cobwebs? Insouciance?
Here's another highlight: "In and out of his black carapace and on the restless move, Batman remains, perhaps not surprisingly then, a recessive, almost elusive figure" (my emphasis). On the restless move: I don't even know how to respond to this. Tinkering with a cliche I can see, but "on the move" seems to be closer to an idiomatic expression than a cliche properly so called -- and so the interruption of an adjective is jarring, in an unproductive way. One begins parsing out the intended meaning: is Batman's "move," on which he is, what is restless, as opposed to Batman himself? What is gained through this locution that "restlessly on the move" would not have achieved? I will admit that "and on the restless move" has a certain iambic quality that arguably communicates movement -- but the movement on the level of rhythm is arrested by the oddity of the expression, an oddity that has no apparent function other than to fit into the very rhythm it disrupts. Do we really need our movie reviewers writing experimental prose, especially when the experiment fails so badly?
Also, "carapace"? Thesaurus addiction destroys lives.
Even worse was the opening paragraph of her review of The Bourne Ultimatum, the review that first brought her to my attention and that I vividly remember over a year later:
Jaw clenched, brow knotted, body tight as a secret, Matt Damon hurtles through “The Bourne Ultimatum” like a missile. He’s a man on a mission, our Matt, and so too is his character, Jason Bourne, the near-mystically enhanced superspy who, after losing his memory and all sense of self, has come to realize that he has also lost part of his soul. For Bourne, who rises and rises again in this fantastically kinetic, propulsive film, resurrection is the name of the game, just as it is for franchises. This is the passion of Jason Bourne, with a bullet.My favorite part: "our Matt."
One also reads with horror the opening paragraph of Dargis's review of Sex and the City, a trainwreck of alliteration that is unprintable on a family blog such as this one.
Saturday, July 19, 2008
(9:55 PM) | bitchphd:
Psst, everyoneIt's Adam's bday.
Friday, July 18, 2008
(12:00 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Friday Afternoon Confessional: HellaI confess that my much-discussed problems with German appear to have been mainly Adorno's fault rather than the language's fault. I've switched to Erik Peterson as a reading text, and it's going much more smoothly. I confess that using the Super Memory software to learn vocabulary has been helpful. I confess that I probably need to get back into the habit of stumbling through a few lines of Greek every day, too.
I confess that it is way too hot out.
I confess that when Anthony told me that someone attempted to post a comment on this post of mine asserting that "100% of the verse in the Bible condemn homosexuality," I decided to start a verse-by-verse commentary:
"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth" -- see, it doesn't say "the earth and the earth." Already, we see God's intention is to have complimentary pairings.That was as far as I was able to get. I think it's an interesting hermeneutical lens, though.
"Now the earth was formless and void" -- because of all the sodomy going on.
I confess that when this is posted, I will be watching The Dark Knight.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
(1:46 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Band NamesOne relatively unexplored source of potential band names is office equipment. For instance:
- The Staplers
- The File Cabinets
- The Three-Hole Punches
- The Greasy Staplers
- The Groaning File Cabinets
- The Three-Hole Punches of Love
(8:47 AM) | Brad:
Postcard van West VlaanderenSint-Sixtusabdij van Westvleteren. Now considered by many alcoholic authorities as the best beer on the planet, the monks recently got with the program a little and realized they could make a bit more money from their most famous product -- though, after eating what seemed like two pounds of it, I can testify that their paté is just as much reason to visit.
The pick-up site looks like a drive-thru, but it is far less convenient than one might think. To get a crate of 24, and you're only ever allowed one crate p/month, you have to call months in advance to make a reservation. Actually, you make a reservation for a reservation, because you have to wait several days or weeks for a return call, indicating when you should come by and what will be available. Even then, when your appointed day arrives they may not even have the exact variety you were dead set on drinking -- choices being, the 'blond', the '8' and the '12', all of which, I can attest, are exquisite and worth all manner of hardship to acquire. Upon receiving your share of that which can only be called happiness, use it wisely, the monks then make you promise not to re-sell it, which of course you do with haste. Or, so it seems anyway. In Brussels, I saw a crate of 24 being sold near the Grand Market, for nearly seven euro a bottle.
Or, you can do like me, visit the abbey around lunch, enjoy a meal with two '12's and one '8', two pounds of paté and fresh bread, one heaping helping of ice cream made with their beer, and then stumble around the 7 km walking-path whilst belchy and bloated. Soon thereafter, I found the skies darkened by clouds and night, my sense of consciousness fading, stinking of beer, cheese, and the marijuana one inevitably happens upon during such events, listening to the Saxophone Summit and Wayne Shorter Quartet at the Gent Jazz Festival.
It was, I suppose, like any other day in Belgium. But a special one all the same. I will miss my second home.
UPDATE: Further photos of my adventure in beer, for the interested and those uninitiated in the glorious ways of Belgian beer, can be found here.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
(9:42 AM) | John Emerson:My recent Weblog post "Obama's at the country club looking for the real killers" has been plagiarized: "Obama loves America the way O.J. loved Nicole".
You read it here first. Do I understand America or what?
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
(7:04 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
A worryIs Obama asking us to get out of the impossible war in Iraq so that we can become more embroiled in the, if anything, even-more-impossible war in Afghanistan?
Isn't there some kind of third option that doesn't involve responding to terrorism with an interminable military occupation? For instance, maybe Obama could consider saying that, in addition to using 9/11 as a pretext for a war against a completely unrelated war, Bush was criminally negligent in allowing the attack to happen in the first place. That is to say, one crucial, yet oft-overlooked, tool in our anti-terrorism arsenal might be basic competence -- paying attention to memos entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike the US," for instance.
I've repeated this often, but two of the 9/11 hijackers were living with an FBI informant! It doesn't take a vivid imagination to envision actually catching them before they attacked, rendering the interminable occupation of any country -- even a country that provided a training ground for the failed attackers -- completely unnecessary. Conspiring to kill a bunch of people is actually considered a crime in itself, believe it or not, so we could've just put the would-be attackers in prison.
Hell, we probably could've also managed to avoid the whole thing where we rounded up foreigners more or less at random and tortured them for six straight years, too, simply by following traditional law-enforcement and intelligence-gathering practices whereby we assume a goatherd is just a goatherd unless we have a really good reason to think otherwise. Once we identified probable members of the conspiracies, then we could've tried to extract information through some kind of incentives and negotiation rather than through sheer brute force -- perhaps even getting some of them to wear wires, etc. You know, like on TV when they're trying to infiltrate the mob! A lot of these terrorists are engineers, etc., so maybe that strategy would even produce a situation where instead of assuming that swarthy people are terrorists, we assume that the newly-arrived swarthy engineer is in the witness protection program because he helped to unravel a terrorist organization. A hero, really.
But no -- instead of going that far, let's depart like two steps from Bush: yes, the proper response to 9/11 is an insane nation-building project, but in Afghanistan, not Iraq.
(1:23 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
The ProcessA White Bear writes the following in comments:
The process seems to me to be:
1. You write this blog on the internet, so you must desperately want advice from strangers who wander by.
2. My advice is that you are obviously a pig-headed idiot/slut who is insane and requires a lobotomy/serious dicking [for the ladies].
3. How can you not want my excellent advice? Believe me, I, a stranger on the internet, have your best interests at heart. I just want you to be happy, and by taking my advice, you can achieve enlightenment.
4. What do you mean, I don't know you well enough to give you advice? I read every fifth word in like three of your posts, so we're basically intimates now. Your BLOG is on the INTERNET where I can READ it.
5. Who are all these people telling me I'm being stupid? They're your little echo chamber circle-jerk, aren't they? Just because they've known you for years and are mostly your intimate friends, they think they know you better than I do. Hah. HAH! How much do you pay them to stroke you off all day?
6. BAN me then! BANISH me, you tyrant! I will go down in history as the hero who finally vanquished your ego! I will have triumphed forever if you delete my comments! It will prove that you know how right I am and how wrong everyone who has ever known you is! I'll not sleep for weeks, with the smile I'll have on my face, knowing how I wormed my way into your brain and forced you to recognize yourself for the first time in your life! BAN ME.
See, if you just skip to 6, you don't have to hear the entire thing every time. It's inevitable.
Yes, my blog is a circle-jerk for people who actually care about me and read the posts carefully. If you want to join in, we have a pretty good time. If you don't, go read someone else's blog.
(11:39 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Meta-Blogging: Or, On being an assholeThere seems to be a widely shared misunderstanding of precisely what makes me an asshole. That I am an asshole is well-known, and I will not dispute it here. The problem is that people seem to believe that I am an asshole who:
- does not countenance disagreement and
- wants every comment on this site to be laudatory.
The real triggers for my annoyance, however, are as follows:
- Boring comments: This includes things that I've heard a billion times before, so conservative and religious right talking-points all fall under this category. Stating boring conventional wisdom in general, especially without acknowledging that it is boring conventional wisdom, is also objectionable, even moreso when I have stated and rejected the conventional wisdom position in the post itself. In the latter case, the appropriate response is not simply to assert the conventional wisdom position, but to produce a novel and convincing argument in its favor. (Referring to irreducible facts of "human nature" does not fulfill this requirement.)
- Misreading my post: Nothing in blogging bothers me more than people's apparent sense of entitlement to respond without carefully reading what they're responding to. I don't object to people disagreeing with me -- just make sure you're actually disagreeing with me. As a blogger, I obviously like to know that people are reading my stuff, so including simple clues can help you avoid conflict. For instance, if you wish to defend a conventional wisdom position that I have rejected in the post, don't just assert it as though I didn't think of it. Instead, you can say, "I know that you reject this position in your post, but..." or "Even though it's conventional wisdom, I think in this case it actually is simpler just to assume that X is what's going on...." See? It's so easy.
But if you want to come to my blog that I pay for and talk to me, maybe you should learn how to deal with me. Maybe you should cut me a little slack and realize that I'm human, too, with actual human faults and some less than desirable behavioral triggers -- rather than, say, idealizing me at first and then lashing out at me when I turn out not to be perfectly affirming of you. Weird, I know! I have such strange ideas of how human interactions should go, sociopath that I am. Still, I thought it might be helpful to people for me to put this out there.
UPDATE: I am going to be more aggressive in comment moderation from now on. No current regular commenters are in any danger of running afoul of my new policy, which will basically include deleting comments that fulfill the above criteria rather than getting into pointless arguments with the people. At some point, I may also decide that preemptive moderation of some kind is necessary -- that would be a pain, but comment volume is not super-high on this site anyway.
(12:00 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Tuesday Hatred: All y'allI hate colloquial abbreviations of pronouns, especially "ya" and "'em." I am willing to tolerate "y'all," but only in the context of the phrase "fuck all y'all."
I hate taking a cab. Late at night, sometimes it seems like a better option, but I always watch the meter and get more and more antsy. $7 to get home! I could've paid $2 for the CTA! I'll never understand people who take a cab because they're running late -- just be late, I say.
I sometimes hate the "always on" aspect of graduate study and academia in general. You know how a lot of people have a defined time when they're working, then they are able to relax and enjoy themselves outside of that time? I can relax and enjoy myself to a certain degree, but it's to the point where I am instrumentalizing it -- the ultimate goal is to make me better able to work, and when it gets excessive, I start to worry that I'm somehow falling behind.
Monday, July 14, 2008
(10:06 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
More Asymmetry of ParodyThe proposed McCain New Yorker cover is yet another illustration of the asymmetry of parody. The Obama cover is of course all about the ridiculous lies that paranoid conservatives have made up, whereas basically everything in the McCain cover is true -- the only possible exception being the implication of extremely frail health. Obama is not really a Muslim terrorist married to a black radical, but McCain really is corrupt and really does love war.
Of course, the Obama cover is really a liberal skewering of conservative paranoia, but it could easily be imagined as a sincere conservative attempt to skewer Obama -- just as with Colbert, the parody functions through decontextualized repetition. A conservative satire cannot take the same strategy -- it must introduce some exaggeration or distortion.
(2:54 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
A New Approach to GentrificationPerhaps if white yuppies want to claim bad neighborhoods, they should start their own gangs and initiate turf wars.
Sunday, July 13, 2008
(11:46 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
T-Shirt IdeaIf it were to come about that Osama bin Laden were actually captured and was then tortured, one could make a t-shirt with bin Laden's face and the caption, "By his wounds we are healed."
Saturday, July 12, 2008
(12:53 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
NicenessWhat is our opinion thereof?
Friday, July 11, 2008
(12:00 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Friday Afternoon Confessional: Fiscal Austerity MeasuresI confess that, as happens every six months or so, "money is tight." Don't worry: I am by now a skilled financial manager, having attained valuable scrounging skills through years of graduate study. I confess that I have been a real spendthrift in recent months, but I do not have a lively sense that the present situation could've been avoided.
I confess that a friend of mine told me about a potential job teaching a 4/4 load for $30K way down on the south side, and I'm seriously considering taking it if it becomes a real option, simply because I'm sick of having to piece things together every month.
I confess that I'm starting to hope for Amazon referrals to pick up somewhat. In fact, now might be an opportune time to explain the system to you. As you know, I have customarily had two graphical links to Amazon products in my sidebar up at any given time. When you click one of those links and buy something -- anything at all, not necessarily what I linked -- I get a cut. The percentage is not huge, but it can add up over time. It would be especially beneficial to me if someone were to buy a laptop or other big-ticket item through one of my links. By using my links, you are essentially taking money directly from Amazon's pocket and putting it in mine, thereby "sticking it to the Man." I encourage everyone to do so at their next opportunity.
I confess that working on relatively mindless financial writing all week was something of a relief, and not only because I'm getting paid.
I confess that after a grand total of four times jogging, each for about a half-mile, I have managed to injure my ankle. If I end up having to go to the doctor, that will be extra humiliating. I suppose that I will need to continue my habit of taking brisk walks through the neighborhood -- you know, like a middle-aged woman.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
(3:26 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Ricky Gervais meets Larry DavidPart 1 of 6:
The rest: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
(Thanks to Brad for alerting me of this.)
(11:12 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
ArroganceOne of the most frequent charges levelled against bloggers is arrogance. At the same time, it is among the most content-free charges possible. On a certain level, the very act of having a blog is arrogant in so far as it means assuming that people want to read your thoughts. Even worse is forcefully arguing in favor of one's own beliefs: yes, of course, you, the Mighty Blogger, have sole access to wisdom and generously enlighten the peons.
The very act of stepping into the public square, the very demonstration of even the most minimal degree of self-assurance, is an unpardonable sin. We must all be humble agnostics -- so it's no wonder that woman bloggers are subjected to greater harassment and vilification, given cultural expectations of female passivity.
Bloggers with academic ambitions are often subjected to an appropriately nuanced version of the arrogance charge: they are pretentious. Again, this charge is completely content-free, completely unrelated to any notion that someone is pretending to be something they are not. In fact, if one has read all that one claims to have read, etc., that is even more pretentious, because intellectuality can only ever be a put-on. (See the entry for pseudo-intellectual here.) The very claim to have an interest in the intellect is inherently overblown, and so any particular instantiation of that interest necessarily falls short of the implicit claims to genius, world-historical status, breaking the history of thought in two with one's every word, etc.
The charge of "pretentiousness," of course, is a simple application of the same logic that leads to the general accusation of "arrogance" -- it punishes a particularly offensive claim to be a non-humble non-agnostic.
What's more, since everyone is presumed to be a humble agnostic, the very attempt to be anything but that is implicitly a claim of superiority over the unwashed masses. Thus the very act of publishing a blog is, paradoxically, an anti-social activity -- a "fuck you" to the general public. Fuck you, you ignorant depressed people, fuck you all -- I am going to make you listen, I am going to inflict my thoughts on you from my godlike perch, I am going to hit you over the head with my rightness until you bleed.
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
(12:00 AM) | Jared Sinclair:
Is That It?[This short story is dedicated to Adam, Anthony, and all my old Illinois friends. I miss you all, comrades.]
Five years ago today, Saul Zuero, now an obscure philosopher and former zoo janitor, then an obscure zoo janitor and former philosopher, discovered what was and remains the World’s Only Officially Documented Miracle. All doubts have been dispelled, all possible scientific explanations exhausted. All things being equal (and in spite of the fact that there is every indication that they are not), only one avenue of theoretical causation remains open: the Divine. It happened in Chicago, on a Tuesday.
— Part One —
“You!” she cursed, wagging a long-nailed finger at Zuero. Her lips, curled in anticipation of her invectives, were a ghastly shade of pink, lighter than her quick-tanned skin.
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
(12:00 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Tuesday Hatred: Writer's BlockI hate writer's block. Thankfully I don't get it too terribly often, but when it happens, it doesn't seem to come from not knowing what to say, but rather from not knowing what order to say it in.
On the chapter I'm working on, I had a situation that was very closely parallel to a chapter from my Zizek book. I knew that I had X number of things to cover in the chapter (or the remainder thereof, in the current case), but one didn't seem to fit neatly, so I initially decided to put it first just to get it out of the way. All my attempts to follow through on this plan failed -- in the case of the Zizek book, I started the relevant section probably six or seven times and could never find any momentum, and in the present case, I just didn't try to write anything at all.
Cycling through other possible orders, I found many that seemed to work, but all of them excluded this troublesome part altogether, which was not an acceptable solution. Finally, in both cases, I had a sudden insight into a structure that would tie all the required parts together with a deep inner necessity -- and it was absolutely crucial that I put the previously out of place part first if my argument was to make any sense at all. I hate that my life so often seems to be pulled directly from Hegel.
I hate that I haven't been able to follow through on not caring about traffic stats for AUFS, as the original concept of the blog required. I hate having a blog whose title is difficult to type.
I hate being the only person in a subway station. I hate how much of a spendthrift I've been in the last few months.
Interested readers will find this post's evil twin, the Tuesday Love, at this blog.
Monday, July 07, 2008
(10:56 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
An AUFS UpdateI have finished my reading of Agamben's Il Regno e la Gloria and posted the results -- including a PDF compilation of my notes -- here.
In comments, Alex asks if I will be making this a regular practice. What's perhaps more important is for it to inspire other academic bloggers to make it a regular practice, because it seems like the perfect kind of thing for an academic blog to do -- both for the audience and for the bloggers themselves.
Saturday, July 05, 2008
(1:16 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Hitchens and ChestertonFrom Adam Gopnik's recent New Yorker article on Chesterton, "The Back of the World" (not online):
The really startling thing in the book [The Man Who Was Friday] is Chesterton's imagining of the anarchists as philosopher-demons. It's easy to forget just how scary anarchists could seem at the beginning of the twentieth century. In the previous quarter-century, they had killed a French President, an American President, and the Russian Tsar, and had bombed the Royal Greenwich Observatory, near London. (The same score now--Sarkozy, Bush, Putin, and the London Eye--and we'd all be under martial law.) "Anarchism," for Chesterton, has the same resonance that "terrorism" has for English writers like Amis and Hitchens exactly a century later: it represents a kind of vengeful, all-devouring nihilism that is assumed to be pervasive and--this is the crucial thing--profoundly seductive, sweeping through whole classes, of intellectuals, or immigrants, or, especially, immigrant intellectuals. Chesterton's portrait of Syme could be the portrait of the "awakened" post-9/11 liberal: "He did not regard anarchists, as most of us do, as a handful of morbid men, combining ignorance with intellectualism. He regarded them as a huge and pitiless peril, like a Chinese invasion. [...]"If the parallel between Chesterton and Hitchens et al. holds, then let's see if we can extend it. On the one hand, at least as far as this article shows, Chesterton essentially missed a phenomenon that was actually hugely seductive to intellectuals and was going to exert actual world-historical influence on an unparalleled scale, namely, international Communism. On the other hand, his ideas wound up being pretty closely parallel to another world-historical force that represented a much more significant and systematic nihilism, namely, fascism. I think the second point is pretty clear in Hitchens' case. The question would be whether there is a parallel for the first in our circumstances.
(12:42 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
A QuestionDid I intend to be a writer or an academic?
Friday, July 04, 2008
(12:00 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Friday Afternoon Confessional: José Can You SeeI confess that I'm not clear on the extent to which my allergies actually did disable me this week, as opposed to providing a ready excuse not to get much work done. I confess that in any event, my writing process is going much more slowly than I had anticipated.
I confess that this bumper sticker looks more and more prescient lately. I confess that I probably would've predicted this kind of thing back in January, but then I drank the Obama Kool-Aid.
I confess that the vicious cycle of hovering over the computer "checking" things is very difficult to break.
I confess that I want to write an academic article about Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Thursday, July 03, 2008
(11:03 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Special TV OffersIs there any possible mechanism by which they could know if you were calling within ten minutes of the end of the commercial? Especially one cheap enough to pay for itself by denying callers their bonus items? I suppose that throwing in something worth $100 for free does add up.
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
(9:27 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Degrees of RacismSEK's latest post mentions the fact that Jack Bauer often finds himself trying to disarm bombs planted by a "dark foreigner." That prompted a question: is it actually more racist that the dark foreigners are almost always acting on behalf of some evil white person?
(8:03 AM) | Dominic:
Wednesday Sex: Ejaculatio PraecoxSo, er, I basically did this week's sex post yesterday, over at poetix, and now I'm all spent. If anyone wants to do a Weblog-exclusive sex post today they're welcome to. I'm just going to curl up and have a little snooze now...
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
(12:01 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Tuesday Hatred: O Canada, O CanadaI hate my allergies. This year, the trend seems to be away from extreme symptoms and more toward simply draining me of all energy and motivation.
I hate the fear that wells up in me whenever I think seriously about the academic job market. Everyone assures me that I'll "be fine," and hopefully they're right, but going a year or two without getting a real job would be a major blow to my emotional health -- not only because of the lack of recognition from the big Other, but because it's tough to imagine continuing my present financial condition indefinitely. I suppose that once I actually finish the degree, my desire to minimize hours will at least slacken somewhat.
I hate that the trucking company my dad works for shut down without warning this weekend. He is guardedly optimistic that he'll be able to find something else relatively quickly, but that is a very scary thing to have happen at that stage of his life.
I hate that our whole system is still based on the model of the 1950s and 60s, where loyalty to a company was rewarded with essentially lifetime employment, and that so much of that system is actively destructive in the era of mass layoffs and "flexible" labor. The health care "system" is a great example of that.
I hate that there are people in the US who are even seriously considering voting for a Republican in the upcoming election, much less people absolutely committed to doing so. What more could the Republicans possibly fuck up to dissuade these people? Would accidentally nuking a US city be enough? It probably depends on the city, now that I think about it.
I hate the thought that I would ever forget about love.