Day 140: Precarious Superheroes


Dear all,

 I have effectively recovered from the MLG, I wrote my encyclopedia entry and even sent it out on time and now I am beginning a new article on graphic novels. Should be fun. Also, this weekend one of my oldest friends is visiting me from Silicon Valley, where he presently works as a builder of robots, micro-surveillance flies and sharks with friggin lasers attached to their heads (or something like that). Hence I am trying to get as much work done before his arrival as I can (including doing things such as cleaning my apartment and doing laundry, which I really haven’t had the chance to do since I moved in). Ergo, today’s post will not be very long either (well, it will be long compared to the posts of the last three days). I do, however, quickly want to draw people’s attention to something going on in Germany/Europe at this point, which is the court case against a woman who has under very suspicious circumstances been charged and sentenced for being part of a group called the “precarious superheroes.” These people have all my sympathies and I am sure some of my readers will enjoy hearing about their project (if you haven’t heard about it yet, that is). See the two articles below for a quick intro to the project (the second article is followed by an English translation).

I promise I will write something of more substance soon!

Oh: and I cut all my hair off on Tuesday. I just couldn’t take it any more. New color following soon.

Day 137: MLG ICS 2008

Adding to yesterday’s “MLG 2007 Wrap-Up” post, today some things I forgot to mention, including info on next year’s institute coming from Sunday’s business meeting.

Following the success of this year’s institute the MLG ICS 2008 will be longer again. We might not get back to the initial lenght of the institute, which usually was somewhere between 4 and 6 weeks (someone rightly noted: ” I have no idea how anyone survived that”) but next year’s institute will be a seven-day extravaganza. The location has not yet been decided upon but the choice at this point is between UW in Milwaukee, MIT  in Boston and Chicago (not again here at the University of Illinois at Chicago but at Columbia). There has also been talk of bringing it back to the west coast in the next few years. People have also been discussing the idea of increasingly internationalizing the institute (we did have people from Romania, Italy, Canada, Japan and Germany this year), so foreign readers might want to look into this. The topic of next year’s institute will be “anti-globalization.”

One of the things I love about the institute is the increased potentiality of very simple statemets leading to highly theoretical discussions, revealing the in fact highly complex nature of an initially seemingly simple statement. My favorite quote regarding this came from Neil Larsen (in the context of the reading group on Saturday, I believe): “Capitalists are people, too. But they own stuff.”

My overall favorite quote came from Fredric Jameson. At the MLG barbecue (a longstanding tradition), which was held at the house of one my my dissertation directors, Jameson was overheard engaging in an intimate conversation with my dissertation director’s dog Rufus. I did not hear this myself but someone walked by this exchange that happened away from people and saw Jameson take Rufus’ head in his hands and heard him say: ” Hello puppy. Do you have rights? Foucault says you have rights.” I am not sure what Rufus’ response was but this is certainly one of my favorite MLG ICS 2007 mental images.

Day 136: MLG ICS 2007 Wrap-Up

The institute is over. However, much like reaching the object of your desire constitutes the disappearance of jouissance according to Lacan, the much fetishized end of sleeplessness, of dealing with annoying bureaucracy and of generally constantly worrying about doing a decent job organizing this conference ultimately reveals itself as lacking the previously imagined enjoyment. I am still completely exhausted but I woke up this morning and was bored. I do have a whole lot of stuff to do (I have to write and send in the encyclopedia entry today and then get back to articles and dissertation) but the sudden end to hyper-stress is somewhat of a let-down.

In part this may also be due to the fact that this year’s institute was fantastic and simply a great time I will remember fondly for a long time to come. Yes, as organizers we had to deal with a lot of annoying shit but that is always the case. The good thing about all this was that, as far as we know, it did not interfere with people’s fun. Generally speaking, it seemed as though people had a good time and in the end that is really all that matters (and already yesterday afternoon most of the annoying shit began to transform itself into hilarious anecdotes).

As far as the actual conference goes, the presentations were generally very interesting and the level of intellectual production was enjoyably high (with only very few exceptions that shall remained unnamed). Similarly, the Capital reading group was VERY productive and it was good to see so many people participate in it. The highlight of the conference was doubtlessly (as expected) Fredric Jameson’s seminar on the dialectic during which I was frequently distracted by thoughts such as: “I cannot believe I am sitting right next to Jameson while he is discussing the dialectic with us.” The talk he gave was essentially a quick run-through of his newest book Valences of the Dialectic, which, according to Jameson, might be out relatively soon. He said he will give the final draft to the publisher by this fall and the release should happen not too long after that. On a personal note regarding Jameson: he came up to me after my talk while I was smoking outside, told me that he liked my paper/project and gave me some additional ideas/references–my reaction was basically to smile, nod, say “thank you so much” about 12 times and try not to pee my pants with excitement (which might not have shown, since Intelligentsia gave us a leaky coffee container in the morning and so my pants had already been stained with roughly a quart of coffee since 7:30 am–but peeing one’s pants while talking to Jameson is probably still not a good idea)–in a way my reaction was very similar to my interaction with the tribunal I had to face in order to get the German government to allow me to substitute a 13-month alternative service for the mandatory 10-month military service–well, my reaction was similar but I have to say the talk with Jameson was ultimately a lot more enjoyable (and incomparably more meaningful to me).

I will now get back to writing and will probably pass out early tonight–I am still not quite caught up on sleep. I am sure I will think of more interesting info regarding to conference and may post this at a later point but I just wanted to write something in between today’s writing project since I didn’t get the chance to post for the duration of the MLG.

Day 131: Cayce Pollard Units & the MLG

Here a nice example of the fact that within advanced consumer capitalism nothing is a mainstream as not being part of the mainstream (yes, again a sentence that my former students probably cannot hear any more). Not only would Cayce Pollard really love this accessory but it could also be the official shoe of Project Mayhem–i.e. it is a great example of anti-capitalist resistance becoming an integral part of contemporary capitalist accumulation. See the following link:

Other than that the MLG Institute on Culture and Society begins today. To be honest, I wrote this post last night and changed the time stamp, since I had to get up at 6:30 in order to begin setting things up for the conference. Below a PDF file of the conference program for those who have not seen it yet. For more information please visit the website of the Marxist Literary Group, the link to which you can find listed in my blogroll. The website also provides you with instructions for how to sign up for the MLG listserv, which allows you to participate in intellectual exchange, discussions and keeps you in the loop regarding all things Marxist as debated by (not only US) academics (including conference and publication announcements). Let me remind everyone inthe Chicago area again that all events of the Institute are free to the public and that everyone is welcome to attend, listen and participate.


As a quick personal note: I have been searching “Marxism” on youtube (for a reason–Ronald Strickland posted some fantastic lectures that introduce the basic concepts of Marxism) and most of the stuff I found were videos that told me that “Hillary Clinton is  a Marxist. Don’t trust her!” I will not really go into detail about the obvious falsity of these claims, the extent to which propaganda can afford to become increasingly clumsy if you sufficiently de-politicize the public, etc. I will, however, repeat something I have said before on this issue, putting it as bluntly as I can while avoiding to actually engage with this right-wing crap on any truly serious level: the relationship between Democrats and socialism in regards to economic principles is like the relationship between deciding to drag a little less dirt into your apartment and a five-person, deep, spring-cleaning of the place.

Ok, so that’s that. I will try to find time to post updates on the MLG Institute throughout the next few days, which will also mark the transition back to a more serious phase of blogging for me (i.e. I will return to posts about criticism and theory and pick up some unfinished discussions from a few weeks ago–esp. regarding cognitive capitalism/capitalism 3.0). My post-moving phase was mostly marked by blogging about personal issues as a form of talking-cure/anamnesis (yes, anamnesis! my shower problems were very traumatic–see previous posts), but that is not entirely fulfilling (my traffic has gone up, though–strange–maybe I will have to serve some self-help/critical theory fusion cuisine here).

Und schnell zum Amusement der Deutschen Leser hier der neueste Titanic “Brief and die Leser,”: 

»Ausgetrockneter Po bereitet italienischen Bauern Kopfschmerzen« meldet der Bayerische Rundfunk – santo cielo! Ein bißchen Olivenöl/Panthenolcreme wirkt da Wunder! Stellt Euch mal nicht so doof an, sonst fahren wir im Sommer in die Türkei.


Day 130: Brian Walker

I kinda like the work of Sydney-based artist Brian Walker, even though it sometimes painfully reminds me of Cindy Sherman’s PoMo trash I dislike so intensely. Pictures like the one below, however, often seem strangely outdated, as the whole cyborg wave has not been theoretically interesting any more for at least the last decade–but there is something strangely anti-futuristic/nostalgic about these photographs (i.e. an element that undercuts the Haraway-chic that has become so boring and politically useless) that makes them borderline interesting to me. In other words, as illustrated by the image below, the cyborg component is removed from the focus of the work and is replaced by the retro-directed focus on the fruit loops and the yellow drink–it is not a depiction of liberation/addition but rather of loss, which is precisely why I am interested in Brian Walker’s work.


Day 130: Progressive Links

Yes, it is true. I finally have internet at home again. Yay! However, I am still very busy–hence, just a quick message. I updated my blogroll and added a bunch of links you might find interesting (if you share my ideological position, that is). Scroll down and you will find my blogroll on the right side of the posts (below “Archives”). Enjoy.

P.S.: I will update this post in the morning and add a little more substance to it.

***EDIT: here the promised substance:

Liechtenstein Successfully Tests Teeny Tiny Nuclear Bomb

After 5 Years In U.S., Terrorist Cell Too Complacent To Carry Out Attack

Day 129: Grad Student Characteristics

So, after a weekend blogging-break here just quickly the list I promised. The format is still messed up but I don’t have the time to fix it. I really have to get my conference paper done, since the MLG begins on Wednesday. A more in-depth post tomorrow.

You might be a Grad Student if… actually take the time to compile a “you might be a grad student if…”
list and then begin silently crying because it is WAY too personal think you should be paying rent for your office/library chair instead of
your home.

4.your office is better decorated than your apartment. have ever discussed academic matters at a sporting event. regard ibuprofen as a vitamin. find the bibliographies of books more interesting than the actual text. find yourself explaining to children that you are in “20th
grade”. look forward to taking some time off to do laundry. have more photocopy cards than credit cards. wonder if APA style allows you to cite talking to yourself as
“personal communication.” are thinking “I’ll be golden in 2012…just you wait and see get irresistible urges to use in-text citations in casual e-mails. start referring to stories like “Snow white, et al” have a coffee maker, phone charger, and food in a lab. have a janitor-like collection of university keys. write programs for classes that have nothing to do with programming. look at undergrads and long for the “simple life” refer to late work as an “ongoing project” “fill up your car” with 75 cents worth of gas procrastinate on one project by working on another project. are staying in school simply to avoid paying off the tens of thousands
of dollars you owe the government in student loans. are working on one thing but feeling guilty that you aren’t working on
the other thing. think your communication with God would be cited under “interview”

28.your significant other (who’s not a grad student) says that they thought
your Chicago Manual of Style was about fashion and you piss your pants laughing
about it and tell that story to all other grad students for months and months
and every time still find it funny. can’t calculate a mean unless you’re using SPSS or SAS buy the 2nd copy of your thesis to be burned at the “after
thesis” party to which 3 other people show up–your roommate who can’t
remember your name because you hardly spend any time at your house, your
neighbor who’s there for the free booze, and the significant other who has
somehow has managed to stick it out w/ you for the process.

32.the only style you recognize anymore is APA Style

33.You might be a grad student if you feel slightly sick whenever the thought
occurs to you that the entirety of your thesis will be read by a maximum of
five people: your advisor, an external examiner, a selfless friend editing the
spelling mistakes and perhaps one or two nerds who – for some reason or another
– are interested in the same stuff as you. The feeling of sickness is soon
accompanied with the related question “Is it really worth all
this???” might be a grad student if you choose beverages on the basis of caffeine
concentration cannot see the surface of your office desk anymore because it is covered
in books, photocopied/printed articles, printed spreadsheets/graphs, half-eaten
junk food, at least three empty cups of coffee stained in various colorations
and a half-full cup of coffee, pens, worn-out computer and a calendar marking
the days left until you have to hand in the thesis. food is the high point of your day.

37.people (non-grad students) ask you “Are you going to be done
soon?” and you laugh but inside a little part of you dies.

38.the local coffee shop experiences a “noticeable” decline in
profits should you leave the city for more than 4 days. refer to a particular microfiche reader in the library as
“yours” and get annoyed if you find someone else on it when you go to
use it. sleep in your office/lab (in a sleeping bag) and shower at the school
gym because it’s more convenient to stay the night (while running a sim or
analyzing data) than to go home and come back.

41. 14 hours a day on campus is typical, even on an elusive day known as

42. sleeping in means sleeping until 8:30 don’t remember the definition of “evenings” or “weekends.” You’ve been
told that they exist, but you are highly skeptical.

44. the books on your desk are piled so high that people cannot see you sitting
at your desk

45. the area under your desk is never vacuumed because you are occupying your
desk when the cleaners vacuum at 4am

46. you know Denise, Kevin, and Carlos, the security and cleaning personnel
personally because they’re your only company when you work through holidays and
nights in the library

47. you pick up a little Spanish from saying hello to the janitor every night,
and the first thing she teaches you to say is “I’m very tired”

48. you get hate mail notes on your desk by undergrads complaining about your
extended occupation of a library desk

49. you can’t help but sigh with envy when you overhear undergrads stress over
10 pg final papers in the elevator

50. you find comfort, company, and solace in visiting Facebook/Myspace in the
wee hours of the cold morning in the library all alone

51. you consider power bar + extra large coffee a proper lunch/dinner

52. you procrastinate by counting the number of empty coffee cups on your desk

53. you sleep with your laptop at your bedside.

54. all of your office plants die because you procrastinate on your thesis by
watering your plants (note: for those of you still wondering, plants do not
need to be watered 40 times a day)

55. you can no longer count the number of times you have fallen asleep and
woken up with “QWERTY” imprinted on your forehead

56. you have figured out the exact way to balance your head on your hand so you
can take a nap during a lecture while making the professor thinks you are
looking at a piece of paper.

57. the number of library books that you have checked out at one time= 20
library books checked out from two university libraries, 2 books on hold, 2
books from a different state, and 2 books borrowed from professors… and then
you wonder why you are online instead of reading them…

58. you can analyze the significance of appliances you cannot operate.

59. you have ever, as a folklore project, attempted to track the progress of
your own joke across the Internet.

60. you are startled to meet people who neither need nor want to read.

61. everything reminds you of something in your discipline.

63. you have ever spent more than $50 on photocopying while researching a
single paper.

64. you actually have a preference between microfilm and microfiche.

65. you can tell the time of day by looking at the traffic flow at the library.

66. you look forward to summers because you’re more productive without the
distraction of classes.

67. professors don’t really care when you turn in work anymore.

68. you have given up trying to keep your books organized and are now just
trying to keep them all in the same general area.

69. you have accepted guilt as an inherent feature of relaxation.

70. you reflexively start analyzing those greek letters before you realize that
it’s a sorority sweatshirt, not an equation.

71. you frequently wonder how long you can live on pasta without getting scurvy

72. you can identify universities by their internet domains.

73. you are constantly looking for a thesis in novels.

74. you have difficulty reading anything that doesn’t have footnotes.

75. you understand jokes about Foucault.

76. the concept of free time scares you.

77. you consider caffeine to be a major food group.

78. you’ve ever brought books with you on vacation and actually studied.

79. Saturday nights spent studying no longer seem weird.

80. the professor doesn’t show up to class and you discuss the readings anyway.

81. you’ve ever travelled across two state lines specifically to go to a

82. you appreciate the fact that you get to choose which twenty hours out of
the day you have to work.

83. you still feel guilty about giving students low grades (you’ll get over

84. you can read course books and cook at the same time.

85. you schedule events for academic vacations so your friends can come.

86. you hope it snows during spring break so you can get more studying in.

87. you’ve ever worn out a library card.

88. you find taking notes in a park relaxing.

89. you find yourself citing sources in conversation.

90. you’ve ever sent a personal letter with footnotes.

91. you have a favorite flavor of instant noodle.

92. you have ever said (and meant) “I’d be delighted to proofread your

93. you spend more on books than on tuition.

94. you actually _hope_ your professor assigns homework.

95. you get a 3-hour final with 5 questions or less.

96. you spend Saturday morning waiting for the library to open.

97. you’ve memorized your professors’ home phone numbers.

99. more than 25% of your textbook is “left as an exercise for the

100. you are on a first-name basis with everyone on the library staff.

The Top Ten Lies Told by Graduate Students
10. It doesn’t bother me at all that my college roommate is making $80,000 a year
on Wall Street.
9. I’d be delighted to proofread your book/chapter/article.
8. My work has a lot of practical importance.
7. I would never date an undergraduate.
6. Your latest article was so inspiring.
5. I turned down a lot of great job offers to come here.
4. I just have one more book to read and then I’ll start writing.
3. The department is giving me so much support.
2. My job prospects look really good.
1. No really, I’ll be out of here in only two more years.