Day 169: Gary Busey’s Teeth

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A four day blogging break. Wow. I just realized that I have indeed not blogged for four days. I will give you two possible reasons for this and you can choose the one that is more to your liking: a) I have been lying on a beach, getting a tan, doing some occasional surfing and spending the rest of the day being fed seedless grapes by Donald Rumsfeld, or b) I have been so stressed out during the last few days that I did not have the nerve to write something, since I have been pulling all-nighters in order to meet writing deadlines and each and every word I would have posted would have been pissy.

>No, Donald, I am writing a blog entry. Be quiet, go sit over there and stop telling other people how much smarter you are when it comes to the correct way of feeding grapes to people in a foreign country. I’ll tell you when I’m ready for my foot massage. NO! That’s a BAD Donald!<

Sorry. It’s so hard to find good staff these days. As I was saying, I have been writing a lot of stuff lately, which makes this suposed vacation quite exhausting. I’m glad when the semester finally starts again and I can relax while grading papers.

What else has happened? Let’s see: they ruined the Tour de France for me (well, at this point it has become quite funny, actually–in an insane laughter, “we’re all going to die!” kind of way)–I gotta say: all of this doping-witchhunt weirdness should be stopped and they should legalize it. Then it would just be up to a few weenies left who fetishize being “clean” (treehuggers on bikes, basically–and we all know never to trust a hippie) to step up and get with the doping business. Yes, your testicles will shrink but from the limited bicycling experience I have I believe it is safe to say that those things are a nuisance in that sport anyway. So, there we go. Problem solved.

Hmmm… maybe that was too sarcastic. Sorry. I also generally like hippies, despite the John Lydon dictum. I even saw my first jogging hippie a while ago. That again was disappointing. The long hair and beard swaying in sync with the rythmic flow of the siren-like music of the ultra-commodifier called body cult. Sad. But strangely energizing.

Huh… not a lot else happened. Oh, I can share with you a line from yesterday’s chapter, or rather the claim that sets up the discussion of the second half of the chapter (hyper-vague summary: class and race throughout US history). Maybe that line is worth discussing:

“upward-bound class mobility is anti-American.”

Do with this what you will.

Finally, I would like to come back to the Tom Cruise post from a few days ago and to some of the comments made in response to it, stressing one aspect of the post that did not get enough attention: Gary Busey. He is fantastic. He acts. Well. He smiles. Like a God. I want his teeth. Once I can afford to get them, I will singularly sleep in 30-minute increments for the rest of my life, just so that I can brush my teeth more often before and after bed. Gary Busey. Wow.

Also: I miss The Deadliest Catch. I haven’t had TV for almost two months now. Surprisingly, I survived. Now I think I am starting to be scared of my TV. Since yesterday I am also scared of giraffes–well, the rear half at least. Not sure why. Everything from the shoulders on (in direction of the giraffe butt) is scary.

And: today I decided not to like hydroculture potting soil/stones. They are too light when you pick them up. This confuses me and I really cannot afford to become any more confused than I am at this point. Oh, and just to make sure that bunny isn’t losing sleep: I like AAA batteries again.

Day 164: Le Tour de France + Mountain Stages + Fans = Yay!

Despite the fact that I can barely sleep at night due to the fact that I have so many writing deadlines coming up, there is still this daily one hour of serenity in my life, induced by the fact that my conscience apparently permits me to watch the last hour of the day’s Tour stage. Sadly, this year’s Tour is somewhat overshadowed by the whole doping discussion and the fact that they did not even have the decency to reveal that the winner used illegal substances to win the race until a few weeks AFTER the end of the Tour (at least leave us the chance for the construction of an illusion!). This year the more than likely winner (Rasmussen) is already facing more than slight suspicions regarding his ability to sprint up mountains like no one else, never tire and even excel in time trial racing, which his 50 kilogram body is definitely not built for. So, my afternoon hour of watching the Tour mainly consists of two things these days: watching all the previous favorites for the Tour victory disintegrate one by one and enjoying the audience. In fact, I believe that the two stages leading the field through the Pyrenees are the last chance to avoid a Rasmussen victory. No, not really because any of the other riders might be able to challenge him. Rather, I believe that the Basque fans (whom I love most among the crazy folk crowding the mountaintops during each Tour) may yet have it in them to punch him off the bike. It is not really the case that I am hoping for this. It is just that I think that this is the only thing that can still prevent a victory by Rasmussen, last of the chemical brothers.

But let’s depart from such morbid thoughts for a moment and instead let’s enjoy some of the interesting, colorful characters that flock toward the mountain stages of the Tour. This video shows a supported of Astana, the team from Khazakhstan built around their former captain Vinokourov (who is pretty much out of the race, which means that thay could finally commit themselves to pushing German rider Andreas Kloeden toward a potential podium finish!). You might recognize him.

Day 162: Stauffenberg, 07.20.1944 and…TOM CRUISE???

Today a quick post regarding something that just pisses me off to no end. Yesterday marked the 63rd anniversary of the most well-known attempt to assassinate Hitler. Centered around Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg, a small group that came to be referred to collectively as members of the “conspiracy of the 20th of July” organized the military resistance against Adolf Hitler and plotted his murder and a subsequent coup. The plan referred to as “Operation Valkyrie” ultimately failed to kill Hitler, the participants were killed or imprisoned and their families were severely punished (concentration camps etc.) and their last names were changed in order to try to erase their lineage (the Stauffenberg children were re-named “Meister”).

Just in time for this anniversary a new film project called Valkyrie, telling the story of this part of the German resistance against Hitler, was announced together with the pleasant piece of news that Stauffenberg’s role will be played by Tom Cruise. Now, we all know that Hollywood has a limited number of pretty, overpaid actors who are randomly assigned to roles in an utterly de-historicizing manner without any real concern for what the roles are, but letting Tom Cruise, a missionary for the totalitarian organization Scientology, play the role of a person who managed to turn away from totalitarianism and finally decided to wake up, opt for sanity and try to produce progressive change, is just beyond bad taste to me. I know I should not be writing this, since several German directors already proclaimed that too severe a critique of this ideological clusterfuck and affront to history may have negative effects on the appeal Germany has for Hollywood movie productions (“one call to L.A. by a disgruntled producer who has heard people in Germany make negative remarks about Tom Cruise may be enough to severely damage this industry for Germany”), but you know what? Fuck Hollywood! There, I said it. Scientology may be accepted in L.A. as well as among the Hollywood chiqueria who apparently see no contradiction between their assumed political “liberalism” and not speaking out against Scientology activity in their midst, but I for one would be glad to criticize the hell out of Cruise and his fellow Scientologists, especially if this were to destroy an industry whose primary function seems to be to obfuscate the precise history of ideological and political systems. I wish I could find the picture I saw of Tom Cruise dressed as Stauffenberg–let’s just say that, in typical Hollywood fashion, there is little difference between Cruise’s Stauffenberg and Depp’s Jack Sparrow. So much for historical movies coming out of great, fantastic, please-associate-with-us Hollywood. In reference to my earlier post on Die Hard and Bruce Willis: even though he is not from my hometown I will hereby add Cruise to my list of idiot actors I would like to challenge to a duel (since arguing with such people really does not seem to do any good–hence a stupid, boorish, reactionary and unpolitical whacking with a big stick may be the only way to keep them from … well, being themselves).

Sorry for the rant–I am not even that angry at Cruise. His relationship to Scientology is probably taking place on the same intellectual level as the relationship between Mike Tyson and Don King. I am just really annoyed at Hollywood today and maybe even more so at German directors (such as Volker Schloendorff!!!), who let themselves be strongarmed by that industry. It is really, really embarrassing.

P.S.: aaah…here we go! Please see for yourselves: http://www.valkyriemovie.org/.

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Day 161: Miro/Democracy Player

August 2007 will mark the launch date of Miro, before its official launch still called “Democracy Player.” Miro is a free, open-source internet TV and video player designed to facilitate the distribution and easy access to video files, shared TV programs, etc. It includes a guide of at this point already over 1500 channels, has HD capability and relies upon BitTorrent. You can already download version 0.9.8 here.

More interesting than the technological aspects of this player are to me the political implications. The player has been created by the Participatory Culture Foundation, an organization aiming to “enable and support non-corporate creativity and political engagement.” Funded by several private donors (since the PCF is a non-profit organization), the PCF seems to advocate democratic participation via the proliferation of knowledge exchange and the creation of independent intellectual communities. This project is supported by their video player, since, as their slogan states “open media matters.” I am convinced that it does. However, I am not entirely convinced that it primarily matters for democracy and the creation of progressive political communities. I am sure this kind of engagement does indeed create some form of politics. It certainly does. But just like the slogan of token liberation projects “raise your voice” never really guarantees that the voice that is finally heard is a progressive one, projects such as these create a different kind of democracy than the kind progressive political projects would like to see. Democracy does not always equal radical political transformation and a power structure based upon the decision of a popular majority (in other words, what is created here is not the Hardt and Negri, “total” brand of democracy). Apart from the progressive kind,  we also have the kind of democracy that is really imperialism (I assume I do not have to spell this one out), as well as the kind of democracy that is really contemporary capitalism. Post-Fordist capitalism principally relies upon a decentralization of the production process, a “democratization” of creative projects and impulses (connected to what we call “immaterial/affective labor”) and the increasing integration of every fiber of the human subject (down to emotions and affects) into the production process. Hence what some call democratic particitation facilitated by e.g. Miro also serves the purposes of contemporary capitalism, which in a less democratic than increasingly totalitarian fashion implicates the human subject on every level singularly as a consumption/production machine. Hence, while I certainly agree that Miro will produce some form of democratic action (the form which we are told is now shaping elections), most of its effect will aid the creation and re-creation of a subject included in the production process of contemporary capitalism in increasingly totalitarian and alienating forms. However, this inclusion, maybe for the first time in history, can produce consent and thus exist hegemonically as never before, increasingly succeeding in removing its own contradictions from the center of the conditions of its production. Democracy is good. Miro is democracy. Miro is fun. Plug me in.

Day 160: EPO for Writers?

As expected, writing at home is not as easy as it is in my tiny, boring, free from distractions apartment. But having my dog to keep me company is a nice touch. Still, I am not progressing as fast as I would like to, which, especially in light of yesterday’s events, begs the question: is there any form of doping that can help writers make it over the next hill (chapter)?

This question is raised for me by the piece of news that moved through Germany like a firestorm (well, at least through the parts that are interested in cycling). A member of the German T-Mobile Tour de France team Patrick Sinkewitz has been accused of testosterone doping. “Accused” is here more a legal term, as it is pretty certain that the B-test will confirm the results of the first test. The ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone found in Sinkewitz’ bloodstream (which should be about 1:1, maybe 2:1), for which the borderline ratio (beyond which one has to assume some form of external manipulation) is 4:1 (and let’s remember, the ratio found in Floyd Landis that cost him his 2006 Tour de France title was 11:1), was a whopping 24:1. Immediately after the news broke, Sinkewitz (who after a severe crash on the previous day was undergoing reconstructive facial surgery at that very moment) was suspended from the team. The most interesting reaction, however, occurred on part of the first and second channels of German television, who year after year broadcast this event (which is a HUGE summer event/tradition in Germany millions of people follow for multiple hours every single day). They decided to discontinue their live reports of the Tour de France. With this incredibly drastic reaction the two public channels intend to pressure teams into more responsibility, vowing not to resume broadcasts until things improve, simultaneously also warning other sports that similar things will happen if serious attempts to keep sports “clean” are not being made. While some people have applauded the courage of the ARD and ZDF (and mentioned the value of such a boycott, which would never have been possible for non-public television, depending for its existence entirely on commercials), others have criticized them for aligning themselves too closely with the Tour de France as an event, prioritizing the effort to save the Tour over journalistic integrity.

In any case: while I certainly miss my afternoon Tour break (which for me is more about the beautiful pictures of the French countryside, as well as the  mass of cultural and historical info one is usually provided with than about cycling [at least until the end of the respective stages]–because, let’s face it, 5 hours of cycling cannot just be accompanied by talk about cycling), I will obviously have more time to write. My initial question remains, however: can EPO, or any testosterone product help me write faster? It seems as though a little roid-rage might do wonders for my productivity (even though Hegelian negativity might turn into actual negativity, hence the less valuable kind for critical purposes). Does anyone know of writing-doping products (aside from blow, various forms of amphetamines [which, to make this clear, I obviously, officially and wholeheartedly reject, mister government official, sir]  and, of course, gummy bears)? Just wondering. Because: 24:1. That seems like it also corresponds to the procrastination to writing ratio of the average grad student, no?

Day 159: Back in Germany

Mes amis digitales,

I have officially set up camp for the next few weeks in my mother’s house and while I am trying hard to get work done (and I will need to get a lot of it done), it is always rather difficult to not just sit around and relax, or play with my dog in my mother’s beautiful back yard. Just to give you an idea, I posted some pictures I took last night on flickr. They should appear soon in my sidebar (bottom right), or you can click on the link in the sidebar (“more photos”) to get to the cerebraljetsam flickr photos (or click this link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cerebraljetsam/).

The flight here was quite an adventure. The food on Air India was actually great (if you like Indian food, that is, of course). I had lamb curry and it was among the best airline food I have had. Sadly, the aisle seat I had reserved apparently went to a higher bidder, so I had to sit smack in the middle of the middle row (oh, yes, the best seats on any long flight). Initially, I was glad that the people sitting next to me were small and skinny (something that cannot neccesarily be said about me–well, it is not that I am fantastically large but about 200 pounds @ about 6″1 just need a little more space on flights and am always uncomfortable, since the seats are too small for me). The initial excitement about the small people next to me faded very quickly, though, as the older gentleman on my left quickly colonized my space in a quite spactacular manner (probably thought I was British and launched a spatial payback-campaign). Pressing my arms tightly against my torso in order to leave him some room (“he’s older, let him have his space,” I thought) apparently still was not enough and so the nice older man began to elbow me (with a very skinny, thus pointy elbow!) in the arm and ribs, a workout regimen he surprisingly was able to keep up for the entire flight (scared of thrombosis, I assume–I was tempted to point out that the complete anti-thrombosis package should also include kicking me in the shins). In addition to this I had three little children behind me who kicked the back of my seat for about 7 of the 8 1/2 hours of the flight. At one point I almost fell asleep, an action that, of course, needed to be immediately corrected by the passengers surrounding me. In this case, the person correcting it was the child behind me who tried to climb on top of my seat (I had gotten used to that spiel at that point), slipped, fell and tried to secure himself by holding on to my hair. Good stuff! So much for sleeping. Needless to say I spent yesterday catching up on sleep and only got to set up my workspace this morning.

But I do have to say that I am quite relaxed, even after just one day of being here. The weather is nice, I had some good food, some good beer, went running/hiking with my dog and spent three hours napping while “watching” yesterday’s stage of the Tour de France. Today it’s back to work. I’ll keep you posted on the events over here, including my confrontations with small, old men.

Day 157: Leavin’ on a Jet Plane

Not sure why Cat Stevens was necessary but there you go. In any case, I will be hopping on Air India flight 126 at 7 p.m. and fly home to Germany (well, to Frankfurt and then I’ll drive the rest). While I very much look forward to seeing my family and my dog, this trip comes at a somewhat inopportune time for me, as I am in the middle of putting together my applications for the job market this fall. This means I will also have to finish my dissertation by this fall (at least make a concerted effort), polish the existing chapters, come up with a writing sample, etc. So, this will be very much a working family visit for me. I hope I won’t get too distracted. I always bring work when I go home but I usually do a lot less than initially planned due to the multitude of possibilities for relaxation. I guess I will just really have to suck it up this time–after all: if I work my ass off this summer and fall I might actually get a job, finish my dissertation and be done with this grad school thing. Let’s hope the job market will kindly reward my efforts.

After finishing this post comes my least favorite part of the day: packing (apart from the actual flight, that is–I am always ridiculously uncomfortable on these long flights–my knees and my shoulders hurt, since I never have enough room, I cannot sleep and hence tend to get very cranky during the last four hours–SOOOOO BOOOORING!!!–they also tend to punish me with really bad movies–last time I had to watch Blixa, for crying out loud–I’ll just have to make sure to take sufficient reading material). Regarding packing: no, I have not started yet (which always seems to be my problem–I just cannot make myself pack until a few hours before the flight). Fun addition to packing this time (not that I would not dislike it enough already): I have to plan out chapters, revisions and two articles I have to write while in Germany and then decide which books I need to take (i.e. a whole additional suitcase filled with books). Well, I guess I will have to get started sometime soon. So: I might not be able to blog immediately but I should be back to writing by Tuesday night (or Wednesday morning). Apparently, the weather is nice in Germany at the moment, so I’ll post some pictures. Bis bald, y’all!

***EDIT: it is now about 3 p.m., I am still not done packing and I should be leaving for the airport in about an hour. Not good. Why I am writing this when I have really no time to waste? Good question. Wow, I hate packing!

Will I need sweaters? A Jacket? A llama?

Day 155: Cheating Death

I just read a list of things that will help you not to die. I would like to share with you two such guidelines, guidelines that, it appears to me, should be respected by each and every one of us.

1. Never EVER (even think about) mock(ing) an owl.

2. Never EVER imagine it is Saturday when it’s not.

There. Now everyone is safe.

I have also been thinking about the reasons for which George Washington could not tell a lie (in fact, I just wrote about two pages on this as part of chapter five of my dissertation). I keep seeing more and more people who ride their motorcycles not just without helmets but also without hair. I keep hearing radio ads for the Simpsons movie in which Homer talks about a “spider-pig.” I am not sure what spider pigs do and if I should be scared of them as part of my whole arachnophobia extravaganza. I am off to Powell’s now to buy Vol. 9 of Y: The Last Man. I also need to do a lot of laundry later. Today is the strangest today since yesterday. I may also need to do a lot of laundry tomorrow. I will keep you posted on that, though. Seems to me the future is not what it used to be either. Oh, and after not liking AAA batteries yesterday I decided not to like Ryan Seacrest today.

Day 153: Will it Blend? (and centipedes!)

Courtesy of Albert Hammond, purveyor-of-all-things-strange extraordinaire, comes this clip. “Will it Blend?” is one of the most successful viral marketing campaigns in recent years, using youtube to promote the new Blendtec blender. In the clips (and there are LOTS of them) Tom Dickson, founder of Blendtec, attempts to demonstrate the quality of his blender by, well, blending all kinds of shit. Among the most famous of his blending extravaganzas are: lightbulbs, glowsticks, marbles, cell-phones, a video camera, a now famous blending creation called “cochicken” (a can of soda and a rotisserie chicken), a broomstick, etc. The video you see below is the one Albert sent me and I do like it quite a bit: the i-Phone. This campaign has become so successful that “Will it Blend?” is now a searchable meme and apparently it is possible to buy merchandise, such as shirts that feature the slogan “Tom Dickson is my homeboy.” Furthermore, Blendtec also welcomes suggstions for blending performances. The two suggestions that are the most eagerly awaited but have as of yet not been attempted are the blending of a crowbar and the blending of another Blendtec blender. What a beautiful example of American craftsmanship and participatory democracy within consumer capitalism. The only question left for me to ask is: will it blend Al-Qaeda? Please all rise for the anthem.

And if you cannot get enough of the blending, here are all present blending experiments on youtube: www.youtube.com/user/Blendtec.

***EDIT: I feel as though I have been working within the confines of contemporary capitalist marketing strategies (the viral kind) too much, so I find it high time for a little hard-hitting Marxist cultural critique. For this purpose, I give you Monty Python’s “Communist Quiz.” I could not find it by itself, so here it is surrounded by a few other sketches I find quite amusing as well (to go straight to the quiz begin at about 5:30, or so).

***EDIT 2: today I found a centipede for the third day in a row in my apartment. Not only are they incredibly ugly and doubtlessly very dangerous (well, they are not really dangerous but I did reveal my arachnophobia and general fear of all things with more than four legs a couple of days ago, so this exaggeration should not come as a surprise), but they are incredibly fast and also act unnecessarily silly. I am ridiculously scared of them and don’t really know what to do except from killing them with my Norton Shakespeare (after having screamed into a pillow for about a half hour in order to work up the necessary courage)–at the same time I feel bad for them (they are animals, after all and despite their tendency to act unnecessarily silly they may not really deserve to die–unlike many politicians who, precisely due to the fact that they often act unnecessarily silly, do at least warrant an in-depth argument regarding whether or not they should be clubbed to death with a large anthology). Consequently, I am trying to find out if there is something like a centipede-repellent (a large rodent I could keep, maybe–a possum would be ideal, as the horizontal storage space in my apartment is limited but I am still able to expand vertically and could thus hang a possum from a small rack on the ceiling)? Maybe someone can help me with this. If not, I will just chalk it up the the joys of living in a crappy, tiny studio where the grad student of today can try to write the great literary critical work of tomorrow in the comfort of yesterday.

Day 152: European Orgasms

The European Commission recently uploaded a clip on youtube that is designed to celebrate and promote European cinema. It features lots of people having orgasms and ends with the line “let’s come together” (and celebrate film, unimaginative marketing campaigns, etc.) Apart from the fact that the clip is not really that spectacular and really not that clever I am quite surprised by the protest wave it sparked–if you click this link to youtube and read the comments underneath the clip you can see a few examples of what I am talking about–sometimes I really cannot believe how incredibly repressed people truly are. Maybe there is really a strong Marcusean/DeSadean/Reichean connection between sexual repression and the potential for violence–see Theweleit on fascism as well. In this case: congratulations to the USA! Well, anyway…here the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=koRlFnBlDH0

And there the clip:

And here, to add a more scientific basis to my above speculations, a clip that explores that interconnection between sex, violence and societal repression: