This is great- The Surrealism Compliment Generator.
Sunday, April 30, 2006
Friday, April 28, 2006
It's that old teacher's trick: give 'em a non-issue to argue back and forth about and avoid the danger of unstructured time. The spectacle trots out the issue and hypes it up and we feel that we have to take one side or the other knowing fully well that they're both full of shit. "Well, what are you going to do? Not take a side? Are you some kind of nihilist?!"
In one corner of the ring, that cherished myth- the body can remain pure if only it is not broached. Nature can be ordered. Order can survive entropy. Apollo wins out. We get to have our little clubhouse with people just like us. No wetbacks allowed. We can maintain our superior culture of Red Lobster's and The Love Boat.
The problem is that there is no us and them, no order, no purity. The mind imposes order on an image of chaos that is the only true image. The walls were broached a long time ago.
In the other corner of the ring, that other cherished myth- buy in and be happy. Why can't immigrants have the same purchased happiness that people on television have? Why be denied the opportunity to settle down and lead a boring middle-class life like everyone else? One-part your heritage and one-thousand parts manufactured joy. Why isn't the American Dream available to them?
But, why wait to be told what the future holds for you? Why beg for acceptance from bigots? Why is the only world that's possible just like this one? How did we go from three worlds to one and a half?
Our position: We reject both myths. We reject the myth that life is best lived in isolation as well as the myth that the only happy life is that which most resembles the spectacle.
"Social networks -- such as having close friends and staying in contact with family members -- help protect against the damaging effects of Alzheimer's disease a new U.S. study finds."
"Intelligence is function of feedback. The more feedback you get, the more intelligent you become. The less feedback you get, the stupider you become."
-Robert Anton Wilson
Camille Paglia argues that the model for giving students a multicultural and gender positive education is Erich Neumann's classic The Great Mother! In doing so, she makes my week. One of my first teaching experiences involved trying to use Neumann to explain a statue of the Venus of Wilendorf to a group of freshmen. Needless to say, it failed. But, Neumann is great because he's Jungian, but not dippy about the goddesses, who could be quite fearful. And academia needs a return to the mossy matrix of nature.
"To erase nature from the humanities curriculum not only inhibits students' appreciation of a tremendous amount of great, nature-inspired poetry and painting but also disables them even from being able to process the daily news in our uncertain world of devastating tsunamis and hurricanes. "
Well, speak of el diablo!- it looks like Mexico is going to legalize possession of small quantities of marijuana and cocaine. So, users would be off the hook, and police could focus on the dealers and their cartels. I do wonder if Mexico could legalize possession of larger quantities without pissing off the United States. Anyway, it makes sense to stop treating users as a public menace. If we're going to arrest everyone who walks around in an altered state of consciousness, there are a lot of Christians who'll go to jail!
I've said recently that I think the arguments against marijuana use are baseless. So, I'll go out further on the limb and say that cocaine had only a slight physiological effect on me when I've used it. And certainly nothing like the movies or the anti-drug ads suggest. Mostly, cocaine is just really boring. Walking around with a racing heart, a runny nose and an auditory experience roughly similar to having a metal bucket over my head? No thanks.
I do wonder though... if Mexico is admitting that there will always be drug users, how long will it take for them to start licensing dealers? And will this mean war with the U.S.?
Thursday, April 27, 2006
These two sullen teens were arrested in Spring, Texas for lynching a hispanic teen and sodomizing him with a pipe for trying to kiss a white girl at a party. He will likely die.
"The crimes committed in the name of nationality have scarred the twentieth century like no other. On every occasion that its obituary has been written, it has risen from its deathbed with renewed vigor."
"The tribal relationship was tight and vital and terrible. It feared strangers, and forbade any touch with them, for they seemed poisonously polluting. It made a nucleus of people definite as a stone, hostile to anything unknown, living within and for its own small group, looking to its totem for sustinance in life and death, glorifying, or even worshipping its common ancestor."
So, anyone notice that it's been nothing but drugs, spankings, and zen koans around here lately? There's four reasons for that:
1) I got sick of reading myself bitching about my lousy university. I'm guessing everyone else did too.
2) I've been sort of obsessed with the idea of freedom lately- why people reject it and where it can be found.
3) I was a bit tired of trying to stay on topic or figure out what was appropriate here.
4) My imagination needs to run wild. It's springtime.
One of the strange things I've learned in teaching is that most people basically want to be told what to do. People always tell you that students love "active learning" and getting involved in a group educational process and thinking for themselves. So, you go in expecting this 60s style rap session.
But, not really. Actually, most of them are happy as a clam if you give them a lot of direct orders in a fairly loud voice. They don't really like freedom. There's something elevating about strict hierarchical structures. For some reason they do well when they don't have to think for themselves. Oppress them too much and they're miserable. But, give them more than a tiny bit of freedom and they feel lost. So, after a while, you realize that what they want is a benevolent dictator. Don't get me wrong- they want to be flattered and soothed and told that they're brilliant as well. But, most of them crave vertical authority. The ideal teacher is a dominant personality.
I've also noticed this to be the case in every job I've ever had. People panic when there's nobody telling them what to do. The vast majority of them will never want to take initiative. It just upsets them. Why do you think they need political parties and churches anyway? They need authority.
I think the mistake we make in historiography is in seeing history as "Power" and "Resistance" waging it out for all of time and eternity. What about the myriad ways that people ensure they will be controlled? What about the passive-aggressive stunted personality that seems to go along with democracy? What about the fear of freedom?
Okay, so now there's another plagiarist in the news. Kaavya Viswanathan is a 19 year old at Harvard and she wrote a chick-lit book entitled "How Opal Mehta Got Her Groove..." I mean, "How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life." And it's apparently filled with passages from another teenage chick lit novel entitled "Sloppy Firsts" which is on my reading list if I ever get sent to jail and want to take my mind off of getting raped. I'm not sure these sort of books are really that hard to write in the first place. Don't they all have the same theme? "Most people go through an adolescent phase of thinking that the world revolves around them. But, they have to outgrow this and learn to socialize with others in some meaningful way. Unless they're American women, in which case the answer to every life problem is to go shopping more often." How hard can this be to write?
Apparently, the trick isn't writing anyway. It's hooking up with a groomer and a team of co-authors and looking good enough to go on The View. Like Ashley Simpson, Kaavya's parents seem to have seen her more as a product than a person, and they paid some company to get her into Harvard while getting her hooked up with the publishing company. Also like Simpson, I'm guessing the internet will soon be abuzz with the usual losers piling on and taking her down to assauge their constant sense of free-floating resentment. Making things worse for her, she's claimed that she unconsciously absorbed the passages in question.
But I feel bad for her. Why? Because she's 19. Who exactly can write a 320 page book while starting at Harvard at age 18? Who possibly could have the life experience to write a book at that age?
The plagiarism is terrible. But, something makes me think that I've seen these sorts of parents before- status-obsessed, amoral stunted personalities living through their children. I went to school with the sort of kids these people produce. They're Stepford Children. Their parents have taught them to see every moment in life as a chance to one-up someone else and get Mommy and Daddy off their back for a few minutes. The goal isn't to live up to your potential- it's to get the gold star and the pat on the head to gloat about. Can you imagine being raised with such a manichean world-view? Would you really know that it's worse to do something wrong than it is to fail your parents? I don't know.
I hope her next book is entitled: "How Opal Told Her Parents to Piss Off"
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
This photoseries by Andrea Giacobbi is simply incredible. So much of it corresponds in an eerie way with subconscious images and dreams of mine. When I ran accross the TAZ picture I realized there was a sort of synchronicity there. Of course, she has abilities that I will never possess. So, check out all of her images of this secret world.
Just reading this account of five sheriff's deputies who were arrested for the horrific torture they used in a Tennessee drug raid.
"The police are attempting to get the illiterate man to sign an admission of guilt without telling him what it says. They beat him, over and over, hook electrodes up to testicles and shock him, threaten to kill him, and threaten to go after his family. Early news accounts reported that the torture continued well beyond the end of the recording. After the tape ran out, the same deputies apparently repeatedly submerged the guy's head in a fish tank and a bath tub, threatening to drown him unless he confessed."
So, you have this guy who, seemingly, is a nobody and they torture him for hours to prevent him from selling 'dope' to other adults? What exactly was the goal here? During the section of this grueling torture session that his wife secretly taped the officers talk about the fact that he sold dope in front of his child and how he's suffering because he's been "living wrong". But, why exactly is this sort of paramilitary response necessary in dealing with an insignificant drug dealer? And I guess the question is why are drugs illegal anyway?
I've never really thought much about it. The laws always seemed intrusive to me, and moreover seemed ridiculous after I actually had tried most drugs. Honestly, the official reasons seem rather unconvincing (you'll go crazy or die), but so do the pro-legalization conspiracy theories (the paper companies are in it with the government). But, why in the world is marijuana still illegal? Here are the reasons I've heard:
1) Public health. This one works in the case of cocaine, but not if we're considering marijuana, which seems by all accounts to have about the same health risks as smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol. It does have a hallucinogenic quality, but I'm not convinced that controlled hallucinations pose a serious danger. Surely, these effects are more dangerous in clandestine backroom situations, no? Wouldn't a pot bar be safer?
Complicating things even more are the health benefits of pot smoking. It seems like it would be harder to keep hammering the "public health" nail when doctors start saying that marijuana is actually beneficial for some sick people.
2) The Paper Companies. Okay, I can believe that companies want to make money, and that they pull a lot of weight with the federal government. But, why aren't any corporations lobbying for drug legalization? Wouldn't they stand to make a fortune? And aren't hemp products legal anyway?
3) Politics. I do think part of this is the fact that the anti-dope paranoia was serious in the 1930s, and now it's hard for the government to "stand down", so to speak. What percentage of adults have smoked dope? By some accounts, there are as many as 17 million pot smokers in this country. I'm guessing the paranoias of the 1930s (Basically, that marijuana would cause negro jazz musicians to rape debutantes and strangle innocent bystanders) aren't taken seriously by anyone today. But, marijuana symbolizes something in the popular imagination that no politician wants to align themselves with. Drugs are subversive.
4) The Drug War justifies itself. Surely the drug war is big business in the sense that it's very hard to sieze property from drug dealers and there is money to be made in building prisons. I'm guessing that those sheriff's deputies are a-okay with an endless "war" against our own citizens. But, does anyone see any good results in this war? Isn't it so transparently irrational at this point that people would have to vote against it? How do we accept such excessive discipline?
5) Drug users are unproductive. Again, this seems like a product of the 1930s mentality- Taylorism run amok. But, how do I know things have changed since then? I'm in academia- notoriously a haven for the unproductive. And with corporations monitoring their workers' keystrokes, maybe there is still an emphasis on productivity in social engineering. But, surely lots of people are unproductive, right?
And, none of these explain why the corporations that have absorbed and exploited every other rebellious or subversive impulse in the culture haven't rallied around drug legalization. In fact, they seem to be anti-drug as well. Are drugs actually subversive of capital? It sounds corny, but I can't see any other reason they wouldn't be on the pot bandwagon. Again, we may be talking about 17 million consumers here.
Hakim Bey (yet again) argues Against Legalization. It's a hard essay, but here's a thought that is worth working through:
"The “Magic of the State” (as M. Taussig calls it), which is also the magic of Capital itself, consists of social control through the manipulation of symbols. This is attained through mediation, including the ultimate medium, money as hieroglyphic text, money as pure Imagination as “social fiction” or mass hallucination. This real illusion has taken the place of both religion and ideology as delusionary sources of social power. This power therefore possesses (or is possessed by) a secret goal; that all human relations be defined according to this hieroglyphic mediation, this “magic.” But neo-shamanism proposes with all seriousness that another magic may exist, an effective mode of consciousness that cannot be hexed by the sign of the commodity. If this were so, it would help explain why the Image appears unable or unwilling to deal “rationally” with the “issue of drugs.” In fact, a magical analysis of power might emerge from the observed fact of this radical incompatibility of the Global Imaginaire and shamanic consciousness."
Is that it? Is the sort of impenetrable "shamanic" consciousness of drug use the only bullwark left against the slow strip-mining of our mental territory? The idea is really terrifying actually. It suggests that drug use is so subversive because it reclaims a disciplined mind.
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
So, here's an article about some idiot in South Carolina who wants to ban sex toys. Apparently, these laws are common in the South, but this one seems likely to fail. I think these laws appeal to the sort of people who subconsciously believe that anyone who denies them any sort of pleasure must be an expert.
Anyway, because I am childish, here are the parts of the article that made me snicker like Beavis and Butthead:
"The people who are riding us so hard are probably..."
"banning their sale is a backdoor attempt to discourage..."
Here's something I've been curious about lately. I figured that Hakim Bey was opposed to Islamism, since nearly everything he advocates, it condemns. But, one reading of T.A.Z. would seem to suggest that he advocated a sufi jihad back in the 1980s. I do think this is a serious misreading. But, what is the alternative when the old "Three World" model has become two worlds, or even one world with a lot of outsiders?
Here, in his recent article Jihad Revisited, he elaborates...
From the US Empire's p.o.v., Islamism makes the perfect enemy because it's not really anti-Capitalist or anti-technocratic. It can be subsumed into the one great image of Capital as Law of Nature, and also simultaneously used as a bogeyman to discipline the masses at home with fear-of-terror, and to explain away the miseries of neo-liberal readjustment. In this sense Islamism is a false ideology or "Simulation" as Baudrillard put it.
America makes a perfect enemy for the Islamists because Americanism isn't a real ideology either. Brute force, McDisney-kultur, an Orwellian "Free Market" and a frothy "post-industrial" economy based on out-sourcing the entire misery of production to the former third world--all of this fails to achieve even the tarnished and untrustworthy status of "ideology''--it's all simulation. "Money talks," as the popular wisdom has it. Money is the only master of speech here and money speaks only to itself. "Democracy" is now a codeword for coca-colonization by cluster-bomb--"Islam" for the emotional plague. It's the wrong jihad.
Americanism & Islamism: a plague on both their houses. As for true jihad, there's more going on in South America and Mexico now than anywhere else. Maybe while President Tweedledee and the Imam ibn Tweedledum bite each other's throats out on CNN, something interesting might have a chance to emerge from the barrios of Argentina or Venezuela, or the jungles of Chiapas.
Monday, April 24, 2006
Have we survived the death of curiosity? That is to say, without wandering, exploring and erring, do we continue to be-in-the-world? Is our species experiencing a slow braindeath as evolutionary psychic drives are replaced or abandonned like outgrown toys? And replaced with what? Finally, has the synthetic gnosticism of the computer age made our mental existence outmoded?
These are not easy questions, nor are they idle ones. They seem, to me, to be the most important questions that we might ask at this point in our history. Yet we should also remember to ask them in the spirit of play that is so emeshed with curiosity. Po-faced seriousness has no place here. It is part of the negation of curiosity and we await its regeneration. Let us be joking, and serious, but not ironic.
Sunday, April 23, 2006
Here's another one of these koans that I especially like:
Soyen Shaku, the first Zen teacher to come to America, said: "My heart burns like fire but my eyes are as cold as dead ashes."
He made the following rules which he practiced every day of his life.
In the morning before dressing, light incense and meditate.
Retire at a regular hour. Partake of food at regular intervals. Eat with moderation and never to the point of satisfaction.
Receive a guest with the same attitude you have when alone. When alone, maintain the same attitude you have in receiving guests.
Watch what you say, and whatever you say, practice it.
When an opportunity comes do not let it pass by, yet always think twice before acting.
Do not regret the past. Look to the future.
Have the fearless attitude of a hero and the loving heart of a child.
Upon retiring, sleep as if you had entered your last sleep. Upon awakening, leave your bed behind you instantly as if you had cast away a pair of old shoes.
The President says it's going to be a tough summer for drivers.
"We're going to have a tough summer because people are beginning to drive now during tight supply."
Currently, oil is at $75 a barrel.
"We've got a real problem when it comes to oil. We're addicted, and it's harmful for the economy, and it's harmful for our national security."
Well, he's right. We have to change the way we live. For some reason, we seem incapable of imagining that, but it's the truth. Fossil fuels are finite. No kidding. Sure, his family wasn't complaining when they made their fortune dealing the stuff to us addicts. But, he's still right.
I know people are going to be pissed at him, but honestly, this has been a looming problem for decades, and nobody has yet said "Look, this is a finite resource, so you can't live this way forever." No politician was willing to tell the public that, as painful as this is to consider, you don't always get what you want. Blame the Republicans all you want, but nobody knows how to fix this.
Besides, where did we ever get this idea that we elect people and they, in turn, take care of us? Where does this infantilism come from? Why do we need babysitters? Isn't it concievable that we could think of other ways to live our lives aside from pawning our jewlery for gas and hoping that Big Daddy will make it all better? If everything is not exactly the same tomorrow, isn't it possible that life will be more interesting? That the Assisted Living Society will falter, but we will become stronger as people? Why is that so scary?
Is infantilism an inherent problem in democracies?
I just got my funding approved, so I'm going to Nantes this summer! Admittedly, I will be spending most of my time in the archives, but it's still great news! Also, I'm visiting Paris, which is even better news. Again, I won't be working on my tan. But, who cares? This is another one of the joys of academia, and it's like honey on the tongue.
Saturday, April 22, 2006
Ryokan, a Zen master, lived the simplest kind of life in a little hut at the foot of a mountain.
One evening a thief visited the hut only to discover there was nothing to steal.
Ryokan returned and caught him. "You have come a long way to visit me," he told the prowler, "and you should not return empty-handed. Please take my clothes as a gift."
The thief was bewildered. He took the clothes and slunk away.
Ryoken sat naked, watching the moon. "Poor fellow," he mused, "I wish I could have given him this beautiful moon."
Okay, so here's something really exciting... I'm going to complain about a press release from my university.
Title: "Feminist Mentors Rely on "Moralistic" Standards Regarding Sex"
Researchers at my university recently examined the outcomes of a program in which social workers intended to act as feminist mentors to a group of middle-school girls.
(Remember that these are middle-school girls.)
The program was held in a small Midwestern city at a middle school where 60 percent of the 535 students are African-American. Its directors – two social workers, both white women – intended it as a forum where the participants – 22 sixth-grade girls – could "interrupt the processes of traditional gender socialization," according to the study.
(I'm not really sure where social work comes down on "interrupting socialization". I'll ask my wife.)
They report in the current issue of Affilia: Journal of Women and Social Work (Vol. 21, No. 1) that despite their feminist leanings, the mentors wound up falling back on "moralistic, age-based standards of appropriate sexual interest and behavior" and "the suppression of sexuality."
(So far, so good. But, what exactly constitutes the suppression of sexuality?)
They give one example, in which a participant creating a collage on "what it means to be a girl," remarked that it means not only friendship, sports, school work but also "being pregnant." One of the mentors contradicted her, saying "Women get pregnant, not girls."
(Okay, first off, it's pretty annoying that they're arguing that feminism is supposed to be immoral. But, what exactly do they expect from these social workers? For them to tell 14 year old girls that they're mentoring that it's okay to get pregnant? That this won't limit their options as women? And how exactly is this crusty moralism??? What kind of feminism is pro-teenage pregnancy?)
Bay-Cheng doesn't fault the program directors directly, saying she and Lewis believe the program reflects a larger problem about how adults tend to socialize youth on issues of gender and sexuality.
(Huh? Again, why is this such a problem? Wouldn't anyone with a lick of sense encourage these girls to stop romanticizing teenage pregnancy? Isn't it "feminist" to encourage girls to value themselves as something other than sex objects? Who exactly says that feminists are required to oppose the "traditional" teachings that are most useful for young women? WTF?)
I'm very happy to mention that I will likely be working on one of my exam readings with the great intellectual historian Georg G. Iggers. Professor Iggers is a great historian who has led a fascinating life, detailed here, and it is an honor to work with him. Working with great minds is one of the joys of academia, and it is precious.
Thursday, April 20, 2006
Americans are, en masse, leaving the cities. With overpaid yuppie consultants willing to pay a million dollars for an apartment that they can "refuel" in, middle class people are having to move out to the suburbs (quelle horreur!) and even further, desolately shuffling along like the rows of wandering French refugees during the first days of the German occupation. Only their Nazis demand collaboration from Starbucks and various clothiers and a few trendy restaurants.
The Yuppie occupiers turn the cities, long departed by industry, into tourist wastelands, fit only for film school graduates, trustafarians and their colonial charges. Places like Buffalo don't even have enough people to be considered cities anymore. They're just hipster plantations, with underpaid pied noir locals farming irony and edginess in cheap bars, tee-shirt shops and record stores for their colonial administrator's to purchase and bask in the glow of their own unique selfhood.
Meanwhile, these poor refugee cubicle-dwellers are forced to give up everything, even their very dignity as they take public transit to work from their lonely frontier cabins in wastelands that don't even have a single independent movie theatre! They're forced to eat at McDonald's and live in townhouses next to teenagers who blast Creed from their customized street-cars. This is a place where Yoga means nothing! This is a place where overweight middle-aged people still define personality types as: "I bet he was the guy in high school who...." Yet, the refugees persist, knowing that these are the times that try men's souls. Who will help this lost generation?
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
Time is a social practice.
I know, that's a bit obvious. But, it never really sunk in before.
The basis of social control is time, always time.
"Time is a social construction which is used to measure motion through space in order to control it and bind it to a social context. Whether it be the motions of the sun, moon, stars and planets across the skies, the motions of individuals over the terrains they wander, or the motions of events across the artifices know as days, weeks, months and years, time is the means by which these motions are bound to social utility."
Time structures the way we live and the way we think. Yet, we're never given a choice as to what form of time we will live under.
Why not return to the medieval calendar with its rough division into agricultural seasons, punctuated by feasts and festivals?
One of my life's obsessions is the strange book that begins as such:
riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend
of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to
Howth Castle and Environs.
Sir Tristram, violer d'amores, fr'over the short sea, had passen-
core rearrived from North Armorica on this side the scraggy
isthmus of Europe Minor to wielderfight his penisolate war: nor
had topsawyer's rocks by the stream Oconee exaggerated themselse
to Laurens County's gorgios while they went doublin their mumper
all the time: nor avoice from afire bellowsed mishe mishe to
tauftauf thuartpeatrick: not yet, though venissoon after, had a
kidscad buttended a bland old isaac: not yet, though all's fair in
vanessy, were sosie sesthers wroth with twone nathandjoe. Rot a
peck of pa's malt had Jhem or Shen brewed by arclight and rory
end to the regginbrow was to be seen ringsome on the aquaface.
The fall (bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonner-
nuk!) of a once wallstrait oldparr is retaled early in bed and later
on life down through all christian minstrelsy. The great fall of the
offwall entailed at such short notice the pftjschute of Finnegan,
erse solid man, that the humptyhillhead of humself prumptly sends
an unquiring one well to the west in quest of his tumptytumtoes:
and their upturnpikepointandplace is at the knock out in the park
where oranges have been laid to rust upon the green since dev-
linsfirst loved livvy.
One of the first things I did in grad school was to book a trip to the local rare books library that contains the notebooks that Joyce used when writing Finnegans Wake. I ended up writing a long, rambling essay about Joyce and Bruno that was far less professional than anything I've written since (probably another way of saying it was more eros than thanatos!), but which I've considered returning to as of late. Did Joyce escape up his own fundament in this book? I don't know. One thing I've found is that it's a lot funnier than it seems at first. Certain sections of the book are funnier than anything else I've read. But, it's bewildering too. I think it's worth it though.
Ah, now here's an interesting idea:
"Intelligence is function of feedback. The more feedback you get, the more intelligent you become. The less feedback you get, the stupider you become."
-Robert Anton Wilson
I've always thought that the lone genius was a romantic myth mostly. People like Giordano Bruno or Sigmund Freud thrived on interaction (although in Bruno's case, he perhaps got a bit too much interaction with the Inquisition!) and controversy. The trick is in interaction that pushes you further instead of dragging you lower. Maybe we need secret societies.
Lately, I've been wearing earplugs throughout the day and avoiding noisy places. This seems to help me focus on studying and it prevents me from listening to excess noise. Hopefully, I won't eventually turn into Proust in his cork-lined room, but if the outcome of that strategy is writing such gorgeous labyrinthine sentences, then maybe it would be worth it.
I've also been leaving the radio off during my drive to work, which is about an hour and a half, and staying away from the television. The hardest thing is staying away from the Internet, which, as you can tell, I'm not good at. I did stay off the net all weekend, as we were up in cottage country with the in-laws. During that time, I read six books. I think there's a connection there.
I've been thinking lately that there is a need to boycott noise and nonsense. We boycott companies if we don't like the products they sell or their practices. So, why do I click the link every time Yahoo has a story about some stupid thing that Pat Robertson said? Why do I care about "intelligent design" advocates, or Michael Moore, or any of the other shouting stupid voices? Why do the occasional trolls here bother me? Why do I listen? Do any of these people deserve it?
I'm going to start searching for ideas to light me up again. Weirder and more savage ideas than those available on the open market. Maybe only a few good ones. But, no more dumb ones. And, I'm going to try to stop complaining so much. The abyss is staring into me, and I'm tired of it.
Monday, April 17, 2006
It's 2:00 am, and I just got done reading Linda Colley's study Britons: Forging the Nation 1707- 1837 for the second time. I have a meeting tomorrow with a prof in which I have to discuss this and four other books. I will be getting up at 9:00 am, so not so much sleep tonight. This is a hassle, but it is the sort of hassle that grad school should involve. So, it makes me happy.
This fantastic Delacroix painting from 1828 is going on display in Massachusetts, for the first time ever, and I just might go for a drive to see it. Eugene Delacroix is a major figure in French romanticism, and a major inspiration for much of the impressionist painting that followed romanticism. His work is very important for my dissertation. Also, this painting is just striking isn't it? It's of two horses fighting in the rain, but it looks like something from a nightmare.
Former university professor Sami al-Arian has plead guilty to aiding the group Palestinian Jihad. So, he's getting deported.
This case has been going on for a while. I didn't say anything about it earlier for two reasons:
1) I just don't think it's that interesting.
2) A lot of people were piling on to defend the guy against the big, bad government. But, frankly, he just smelled fishy to me. I felt like people who knew as little as I do about the case were rushing to judgment on this one, and it seemed like they might be getting played for suckers.
Sunday, April 16, 2006
I'm a bit tired of posting the dreary stuff, so here's a picture of Bettie Page getting spanked and a similar picture of Gretchen Mol as Bettie Page getting spanked.
It looks like they got the hair, makeup and decor down pat. But, you can see how ideal body types have changed over the years. Bettie got back!
Gretchen Mol isn't sickly or anything, but look at how much skinnier her shoulders are. And she'd probably be a lot less fun to spank. I imagine she'd rattle like a maraca
I love how butch they made the spanker though. I actually think this movie is going to be very entertaining.
Thursday, April 13, 2006
A student in a ninja costume was briefly detained at gunpoint Tuesday at the University of Georgia by federal agents who were on campus for a training event, the AP reported.
Apparently, not a very good ninja costume if he was so easily detected.
The student was dressed up as part of a “ninja vs. pirate event,” and was released when the agents determined that he had violated no law.
Ah yes, but ask the pirates and you might hear a very different take on that...
You know how everything that a person with a terminal illness does is really deeply inspiring? So, if they pass gas in an elevator, it's a "triumph of the human spirit"...
Apparently, if you're gay, you can't do anything without it being called a "political statement".
It's got to be tiring.
You know, I do feel better now having spewed bile about my university, or as I like to call it, "Enron- two years before the crash". It cleared the air to rant.
Now, I can focus on what's really important academically- namely, my dissertation, which is so earth-shakingly interesting that it gives me tingles thinking about it. Seriously. This is no pisher dissertation.
And, you know, honestly, that's what should matter to me at this point career-wise. Because, yes, my school is a joke. But, it's only four more years to get through. Then, I can finish this masterpiece and throw my lot to the wind.
I really do feel a lot better.
PETA finally stages passion play and outs themselves as self-abnegating religious fanatics.
Their Christ died for your lunch.
My wife says that one way to deal with anger and stress is to write about it. This is what I am about to do. Please ignore this if you don't want to hear the regular bitching once again.
Fuck Mall University!!
Fuck them for having no educational standards!
Fuck them for treating me like a goddamn temp!
Fuck them for putting me in a job with no training and no idea of what I am supposed to be doing!
Fuck them for pressuring me to inflate my students' grades!
Fuck them for telling me, right before I do my grading:
"You should probably be aiming for about a B average."
Fuck them for telling me:
"We don't like to call it grade inflation. We call it 'wiggle room'".
Fuck them for telling me:
"Well, everyone around here inflates grades!"
Fuck them for firing me because of some vaguely defined complaint from some mystery source! Fuck them for firing me in my first semester because of some vaguely defined complaint in a student evaluation!
Lastly, fuck them for making this statement in the school newspaper in regards to student demands about TAs:
Rittner also stated that her department takes student evaluations of TAs very seriously.
"We use mid-semester evaluations in which students are able to give honest input about their TAs," she said. "If TAs have to be yanked from their position to benefit students, then we would most certainly do that."
And, you know, I'm not against the idea of laying off people if need be, but what she doesn't say is that this is their first, and only, step. No job training! No goddamn assistance in doing the goddamn job! Just "yanked" if the kids aren't having fun. Fuck them! Fuck them! Fuck them!
Thank you. I feel better.
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
A number of us would like more silence apparently.
Here's Scott McLemee:
The decline of Western civilization proceeds apace. One shudders to imagine life in decades hence. A case in point: People now use cell phones in research libraries.
Wandering the stacks, they babble away in a blithe and full-throated matter -– conversing, not with their imaginary friends (as did the occasional library-haunting weirdo of yesteryear) but rather with someone who is evidently named “Dude,” and who might, for all one knows, be roaming elsewhere in the building: an audible menace to all serious thought and scholarly endeavor.
This situation is intolerable. It must not continue. I have given this matter long consideration, and can offer a simple and elegant solution: These people ought to be shot."
I recently went to the school doctor to find out about an ingrown hair that I was sure was the first symptom of lymphoma. Hypochondriac? A little. But, remember, I've seen Terms of Endearment and Debrah Winger dies from a lump in her armpit. So, I had good reason to panic.
Anyway, the guy is this older Army doctor who has been working at our university for decades, in between fighting in Desert Storm, and various other heroic things. I like old men. They complain a lot and it makes me feel like I don't complain so much.
He told me that he remembered a time when our university enrollment would go down in the Spring because half of the Freshmen would be gone. Can it be true? Could Mall University have had standards? "Ah, now it's just big business!" he grumbled. (Seriously! That wasn't me! It was him!) "They might as well stick them on an island to get drunk for five years and stamp their diploma at the end! It'd be the same in the end!"
Again, I like old men.
Sunday, April 09, 2006
Hegemony: A Marxist theory that seeks to explain why working-class people generally don't care much for Marxism in a way that is the least painful for Marxists to hear. The theory originated in Marx, but was elaborated in the prison diaries of Antonio Gramsci, an Italian Communist who was killed by the fascists. This grim fate gives Gramsci a certain cache that he might not have had otherwise, but he is also that rarest of specimins- the Marxist who understands culture.
Hegemony has made a series return in recent years, becoming one of those terms that academics drop in conversation the way that real estate agents will slip in the fact that they own a Lexus. Let's be honest, the vast majority of people think in cliches, and academics just think in slightly more abstract cliches. T.J. Jackson Lears writes that "For many, he seems to explain why workers under advanced capitalism have not behaved the way that Marx said they would..." which is true if we emphasize the word seems. Also, if we ignore the fact that workers under advanced capitalism have had plenty of time to observe that workers under communism didn't behave the way they were supposed to either.
Well, I was wrong that every impulse a bureaucrat has comes paired with the desire to establish a workshop....
Our school is dealing with the very serious problem of rape by hosting a "Sexual Assault Awareness Spaghetti Dinner".
Saturday, April 08, 2006
The bureaucrat is someone for whom every human impulse comes paired with the impulse to organize a workshop. And so it was at our school, a veritable hive of bureaucrats. The office that I worked for did not actually run the training sessions for their employees- that was handled by a second office, which seemed to exist solely to run training sessions and serve as an example of Kafka's amazing prescience.
The workshop began with a hundred of us future TAs in a room eating stale pastries that had been smuggled out of Bosnia. The instructor began by having us cut out construction paper in the shape of a tree that best represented our "teaching style". I assume that I needn't supply a punchline. We then spent four days listening to people wow us with theories and facts about teaching that have no real-world application whatsoever. It was like listening to an angler explain the inner lives of trout.
The common theme seemed to be "active learning"- a method that the school was pushing because they used to push "passive learning" and the kids kept failing. Active learning involves questions and answers, and games and songs, and any number of things that hung-over freshmen will obstinately refuse to do. Most of these kids are already suffering through the required course that they hate more than poison, and now they have the TA asking them: "So, what do you guys think of Alexander the Great?"
And what if the students don't want to discuss these things? Well, they really had no answer for that. Actually, there was really no answer offered for any of the problems I encountered in TA work. They did have an older biology professor who told us how much his kids enjoy it when he dresses up like Charles Darwin. Nothing commands respect like a Halloween costume.
Active learning seemed, in general, to have a lot to do with entertainment value. I came out knowing how to amuse the students. We learned how to use alliteration to get their attention, how to play music to get their attention, how to do a little dance to get their attention. Powerpoint, of course, made itself felt. The keynote for the week, for me, was when the guy teaching us how to use Powerpoint said:
"You should know how to use this quickly. Because, how would you feel if the information desk guy at the Mall couldn't answer one of your questions?"
The model was customer service? And I didn't even get a paper hat?
Friday, April 07, 2006
The Duke lacrosse story gets stranger by the day. The boys' lawyer is now arguing that the following email from one of the players to his chums is proof that no rape occurred:
“After tonight’s show, i’ve decided to have some strippers over to edens 2c,” the writer of the e-mail wrote, noting, however, there would be no nudity. “i plan on killing the bitches as soon as the walk in and proceeding to cut their skin off while cumming in my duke issue spandex.”
Appalling? A little. But, you have to understand that the culture is so debased that these boys have very few cultural standards to laddishly transgress. Mutilation still has some outre quality.
But, yeah, I'm not really seeing how this is the defense's ace in the hole.
Thursday, April 06, 2006
To be brief, what's happening is that the office that I work for is probably not renewing my contract next year. I would be only the second person that this has happened to, so it's a sort of record. I would likely be switched to another department's class. So, it's off to American History 101.
My problems, as I understand them, are as follows:
1) I seem bewildered or afraid of students. Actually, I seem this way with everyone when I first meet them, but it's not good to seem this way around 18 year olds.
2) I invest too much emotionally into the classes. If it isn't obvious here on this blog, I hate the state of higher education. Instead of just bitching about it on a blog, I tend to make reform of higher education my prime goal. Which is just nuts for a TA who also has to take graduate classes. And it's wearing me out.
Anyway, what sucks about all of this is that I am learning about the complaints third hand. I have no idea who complained, or just what their complaints were. Just that I'm probably getting fired by an office that still smiles in my face when I go in to make copies.
Alienated? Trying not to be.
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
Monday, April 03, 2006
Thoughts on the Ongoing Lacrosse Team Rape Case at Duke:
1. The accused are guilty until proven innocent. Most of these thoughts are, accordingly, on the furor more than on the case itself.
2. The main issue here is certainly not the 'Old South'. The students at Duke tend to come from prep schools in the DC area and further into the Northeast. Most of the kids on this team seem to be from upstate New York and New Jersey. In other words, they were likely not Good Ol' Boys.
3. The flashpoint is race, again. Race is like the nagging toothache that never goes away in America. Ignore it all you want, but it's still there.
But, this issue tends to cloud our thinking. Fundamentally, this is an alleged sexual assault with racist overtones, and not the reverse. In other words, it doesn't sound as much like a hate crime as a sex crime. Race should be addressed, but not at the expense of making the rape of one victim seem somehow more heinous than the rape of another.
4. So, the issue of gender has to be addressed. Parents should be much more worried than they are about sending their daughters to universities with drunken runamok young boys ruling the social scene. Implicitly or explicitly, a part of the package that American universities sell to potential students is the party scene. To put it mildly, this scene seems to have been unquestioned at Duke.
A student writes:
"These same administrators then go to tailgate before football games, an event at which I would venture to guess more than 75% of the attendees are underage (but 100% of the attendees are wasted), and hand out water bottles so that no one gets dehydrated."
Universities have sold their souls for "retention", bending over backwards to admit and hold onto students who have no place in polite society, much less a university. The local stories about lacrosse players getting drunk in bars and yelling at patrons, even now, are shocking because they show the lack of moral gravity that comes with an absense of moral consequences.
5. If the party scene needs to be questioned, it also needs to be asked why town/gown relations are so terrible in Durham. Having gone to a very similar university in the South, I can attest that student animosity towards "townies" is all-too-common. But, this also a side-effect of how the university deals with students. Pumping them full of "you are the special ones, the noble ones" rhetoric, and refusing to discipline them in any serious way for seemingly serious violations prior to this one is a recipe for disaster.
6. Again, this team certainly seems like assholes by all accounts, but we should reserve judgment about whether or not they're rapists. The question that it seems this all begs, for me, is why the university feels that it is none of their business if their students are assholes.
Saturday, April 01, 2006
I think that "Mulder's Razor" describes the way that we now understand the world. There's an incredible tendency to believe the most ridiculous conspiracy theories as somehow more plausible than simpler explanations.
To give an example, when journalist Jill Carroll was kidnapped in Iraq, her captors released a video of her, in which she denounced America. The idea that this was anything but a forced propaganda video seems unlikely. But, following Mulder's Razor, many bloggers said just that.
Now, she's released this statement:
"During my last night in captivity, my captors forced me to participate in a propaganda video. They told me I would be released if I cooperated. I was living in a threatening environment, under their control, and wanted to go home alive. So I agreed,"
Again, this is extremely plausible. But, again following Mulder's Razor, people have claimed that she faked her kidnapping.
"To assume everyone who claims they were kidnapped actually were is naive. Leftists will do anything within their power to discredit our war effort."
Yep. Makes sense, eh? The "our war effort" part is pretty revealing too. Are "we" Americans or Republicans?
I think I'm going to coin a new phrase: "Mulder's Razor" for the tendency to believe that the correct answer to any question is the conspiracy theory, and to search for the conspiracy from the start. To be fair, perhaps we should call this "Wilson's Razor" as a tribute to the stand-up philosopher Robert Anton Wilson, so I can accept that version as well.