Day 202: The Non-Smoker’s Playlist

It is day three of my non-smoking extravaganza. I am irritable, fidgety, nervous and incredibly bored. I am a person who is easily bored anyway. I generally tend to get nervous when I don’t do anything and cigarettes were a good way to feel like I am doing something (you know, celebrating the act of smoking with all kinds of small tricks one develops over the years). Now, when I get bored, nervous, or just need something to fidget with, I cannot smoke. I guess the old Micronesian saying is really true: “ye who quitteth the smoking shall be bored at the bus stop.” I walked outside between two classes today and found myself without anything to do. What do people do between classes when they don’t smoke?

Point is, I need something that takes the edge off the non-smoking in certain situations, something to help me be less bored, hence less nervous, fidgety and borderline hyperactive. My current solution: fast and aggressive music at skull-splitting volume. People look at you funny when you walk across campus listening to music this loudly but it truly works (it also seems to scare my students–no one has come to my office hours yet)–I can displace my excess energy onto the aggressive music in my head. Good stuff. My playlist for today:

Machine Head, “Davidian”

Ministry, “Jesus Built My Hotrod”

Nine Inch Nails, “March of the Fuckheads”

Drowning Pool, “Let the Bodies Hit the Floor”

Metallica, “Frantic”

Disturbed, “Liberate”

Static X, “Push It”

Fear Factory, “Back the Fuck Up”

Machine Head, “White Knuckle Blackout”

Sepultura, “Chaos A.D.”

KMFDM, “A Drug Against War”

(BTW: this is not entirely representative of my general taste in music and I am not always this nervous/angry 🙂 )

Oh, and every time I feel like I am losing it I just watch this and tell myself that there may still be a career in South Carolina for me (or as  Miss Teen USA contestant):

Day 201: Hipster Olympics

Laughed my ass off when I saw this. Not only is it so wunderfully accurate, it also precisely describes the ugly underbelly of neoliberal capitalist logic and its social support system as it manifests itself in mass culture, of which counterculture is only one of many facets (i.e. the “counter” is really what defines the diversity of the “mass,” which as traditional mass culture as “mainstream culture” no longer exists). I may use this for teaching purposes. Nothing is as part of the mainstream as not being part of the mainstream. But it sure is funnier than the mainstream–until one realizes that the mainstream has died, of course.

Day 200: 200 Days of Blogging, 1 Day of Not Smoking

Ok, I didn’t really blog every single one of those 200 days. It has been more like 200 days and 109 posts, so a little more than every second day, which is not bad but I would really like to improve upon that quota and get to about a 75% success rate in the fight against laziness.

The not smoking thing: it is killing me. Seriously. I had a job market meeting today, which freaked the hell out of me and marked the beginning of a very stressful period. Smoking a cigarette after this meeting outside University Hall (which is how I usually respond to this kind of psycho-terror) would have been soooo nice. But I remained strong (and instead began wiggling my fingers and toes, a desperate surrogate action that has not stopped yet–hard to type this way). I also went to Whole Foods and got a salad for dinner. I am so healthy right now it’s making me sick.

Today, I also read Vol. 9 of Y: The Last Man–and it was goooood. I never smoked after sex but this was a satisfying experience that truly needed to be celebrated with a good cigarette after. But, again, I remained strong (well, at least I did not give in to my craving–strong may be too flattering a description of my current state). Hmmm…now that I think about it: strange that I never used to smoke after sex. It just never appealed to me. Maybe this means that I should have a LOT of sex, since this may help me not to smoke. Sounds like a reasonable plan, no?

Oh, I also went to a new coffee shop today. Metropolis. I liked it. Good coffee. Lots of people studying. Maybe a little hip for me, now that I am all old n’ shite.

Day 199: Didn’t Miss My Office

Seriously. Not one bit. They gave me my old one again, which means no window. I’ve only been sitting here in this conrete sarcophagus for a few hours and am already developing a serious aversion to the color grey (which is problematic, since I am color blind, which means that other colors such as pink look grey to me as well).

On the bright side: I seem to be lucky in regards to my students this year. They all seem quite nice and rather intelligent (well, there are at least no completely obvious jackasses in the bunch, which, I guess, is all you can ask from a first day of teaching). Consequently, I had a lot of fun teaching and already asked a student: “so, how do you have sex?” It was not really supposed to come out this way (I was just making a basic point about the social construction of desires) but it certainly improved the atmosphere immediately.

Downside: as of today I am officially a lot older than my students. I am considering getting a pipe.

Oh, and beginning tomorrow I will start my new project: not smoking. Not at all. Cold turkey. I’ll keep you posted on how that goes.

Day 198: New Semester

Today marks the beginning of a new semester and of what will (hopefully) be my last year at UIC. It is not that I don’t like teaching here but I am really looking forward to getting a job as an actual professor, which does not pay me dumping wages. No, it’s not all about the money. It’s just that starving is only fun for so long (even within a clearly bourgeois frame of mind where starving merely equates to “paying one’s dues” and not truly to starving, or a situation of permanent lower-class exploitative labor–but still: enough already). I do have a teaching gig here for the next two semesters but I will begin throwing myself on the job market beginning in late September and hope to have an actual job somewhere in the US (or somewhere in the world) come March/April. Initially, I was worried that the last year here would be bad for my teaching morale, as I expected that I would invest less time in it, be less enthusiastic and too distracted by the terrors of the job market and the insane amount of work left to do on my dissertation, but after having been on dissertation leave for a while I am actually really looking forward to teaching again. Hence, I put together what I personally think are two fun classes and I am quite excited to work through the assigned material with my students. Of course, this first-week excitement tends to fade quickly once one realizes that the intro class (which is one of the classes I will be teaching) is full of mechanical engineers and business majors who take it as a requirement and care fuck all about literature–but that is a given by now and I have developed some counter-interpellation strategies that tend to work pretty well. We’ll see how that goes this semester.

Consequently, this week I will begin by teaching some Raymond Williams and Fredric Jameson for theoretical context and we will begin to read Barthelme’s The Dead Father and Sam Shepard’s play “True West.” Should be a good first week–(famous last words).

Day 197: Back in Chicago

I finally made it back to Chicago and it was not all that easy. What was supposed to be a 9 hour flight ended up being a 16 hour flight. After leaving Frankfurt almost two hours late the flight proceeded to be rather uneventful (apart from the cranky-climby children problem, which I already wrote about after the flight to Germany five weeks ago) and when the plane began to descend I already thought we had managed to make up a little of the original delay. Yet, just as I thought this, the pilot informed us that we were in fact not starting our descent into Chicago but into TORONTO! Reason: Chicago O’Hare was closed due to severe Tornadoes and we had run out out fuel, hence were forced to refuel in Toronto and wait for O’Hare to open again. We then sat around in the plane for about three hours waiting for departure clearance. After that happened we headed for Chicago, which was another 1 1/1 hour flight and then circled the airport waiting for the storm to weaken. That did not really happen but we were eventually cleared for a rather interesting (to say the least) landing. After landing seven hours late, immigration, customs, baggage claim etc. took another two hours and since the El had a power outage I had to take a cab, which meant waiting in line another two hours and then standing in traffic on flooded highways for one more hour. Good stuff. When I got here I began to grasp the severity of the situation–it actually looked like a war zone (lots of beautiful old trees knocked over, lots of damage, flooding, destroyed roofs–one of the roofs apparently landed on lake Shore Drive!–and about 350.000 households without power). All in all a good start into the new semester. I am anticipating that all copiers, which we have to use to cope the syllabi for our students, will be broken tomorrow as well. That would just fit into this chaotic situation. We’ll see. At least I’m home now, have internet access again and can begin preparing for Tuesday, which is when I will begin teaching again. But first I need to get more sleep. I’m still pretty wiped and the Indian food from the flight (greasy leg of lamb) has taken a serious toll on my stomach. Hope everyone out there is well–I’ll hopefully get back to posting regularly again from now on. cheers

Day 192: Global Warming Means More Naked People to Look at

This or something else seems to be the message of Spencer Tunick’s latest “installation,” in which 600 people stripped naked on the Aletsch Glacier in Switzerland. The event was supported by Greenpeace and attempted to call attention to the drastic effects of global warming (as measured by the dramatic rate at which the glacier has been melting) and argue for the necessity of quick and significant political responses to this problem. While I certainly agree with the argument here, I am somewhat hesitant to classify this as art (there are some interesting nude “installations” Tunick has done before, yet this recent one, as so many other projects of his, does not quite fall into that category). I am simply not sure whether this fulfills the criteria of political art and would therefore categorize this more as part of a wave of opportunism that attaches itself to the global warming bandwagon, reducing much discourse about this problem to self-serving, empty gestures. So, while I have the feeling that this is not the real thing, it also makes me wonder what true political art addressing the global warming problem might look like. It’s still early in the day for me and I do not yet have a convincing idea. Maybe some coffee will help. Any ideas? The problem Tunick addresses is an important one: slow political change that is willing to make radical changes in order to counter the effects of global warming. Yet, I doubt that his recent project is a very persuasive argument, which, after all, is one of the main characteristics of political art. I am just rambling at this point and I’ll think more about it and maybe offer something of more substance (after all, there is still the question of what counts as truly progressive political art these days anyway and it is hard enough to find art that even displays the ability to imagine the future in any progressive way at all, let alone formulate a possible progressive political strategy–it seems as though the utopian impulse has died and the apocalyptic depiction of scary scenarios is the best we can do–but as we all know this does not count as true Hegelian negativity–it’s purely negative without a dialectical utopian impulse that generates progressive ideas for the future).

In any case, I’ll come back to this and in the meantime you can read more about Tunick’s recent work and see the glacier pictures/videos here.