Day 359: Mad Crocs and Other Forms of Advertising–Crikey!

If you’re like me and drink a lot of coffee to stay awake, you may also run into the occasional upset/cramping stomach. In order to fight this, I have been increasingly turning toward energy drinks as a substitute for late-night coffee–works just as well for keeping up energy and alertness during all-nighters, yet spares you the stomachache (mostly, at least). Also, they are available as low-calorie versions, which is not a bad idea in the face of a general absence of physical exercise. One problems remains, however: these energy drinks tend to taste like moldy ass. In order to spare you some major disappointments, I will therefore provide you with the top five list of energy drinks that pack a nice punch, while still being not too brutal in taste (even though, I must confess, the ass-like taste of some drinks definitely does its part in keeping you awake). Hence, here the results of my totally non-Kantian, yet more than semi-disinterested taste test:

1. Red Bull Sugar Free (the classic, decent taste, nostalgically reminiscent of gummy bears, does its job)

2. Mad Croc Low Cal (more B-vitamins, yet too Guarana-y in taste–overall, not bad)

3. Radioactive No Carb (insane amounts of B-vitamins–5000% of B12–, caffeine and Taurine, also comes with Ginseng, Gingko, L-Carnitine…really does the trick, yet tastes like ass–reason for rating it number 3: it glows in the dark–and I am not even kidding–taste has many faces–and, before you write comments about the sense or nonsense of filling my body with chemicals, let me quickly go Kantian again and remind you that only a disinterested view will prevent the “degustibus non est disputandum” logic–but if you claim to have that kind of view and base your argument on it I will, of course, mock you for being a Rawlsean liberal by showing you the original position of one of my fingers–nicely, of course–just thought I should preventively mention this)

4. Monster Lo-Carb (decent taste, nice variety of vitamins etc. yet overall doses are too low–you’ll have to drink too much of it–which is probably why it comes in large cans)

5. Full-Throttle Low Carb (also decent taste and a variety of ingredients, yet it does not really have the effect it is supposed to have–closer to a sports drink with a little energy blend)

And now for the other part of this advertising post:

please help out some over-caffeintated academics by visiting the following, super-duper-fantastic websites:

www.multiethnicliterature.edublogs.org (the course blog of a class on multiethnic US literature is waiting for your comments)

www.mediationsjournal.org (the journal of the Marxist Literary Group–great new articles!)

Day 347: It’s Bakhtin Time!

Yes, it is true: the dialogic imagination is in the house! (Maybe, if we’re all really lucky and keep our fingers crossed, the dialectic may even stop by–that is, as long as the dialogic does not deteriorate, as is common, into the logic of the carnivalesque).

Ok, enough pseudo-comedic references to weird Russians. The point of this post: the course blog for my Multiethnic U.S. literature class is off the ground (and, in case I have not yet mentioned this yet, my Intro to Multiethnic U.S. literature course this spring is now 25% more multi-ethnic–for the same price–what a great deal!). Students have posted their first response papers and now it is up to the online community to test their logic. What this means is, that I invite you to read some posts and comment on critical method, logic, ask further questions, or voice your criticism. This, of course, should not be competely devastating (remember: they are beginning literature students and this is a general education course), but, as you will see, there are problems with logic and underdeveloped arguments that need to be pointed out–i.e. students need to get into the habit of thinking through their arguments/analyses/logical frameworks in detail and more carefully before releasing them into the world. Any feedback will be greatly appreciated. The next set of papers on Octavia Butler will be posted by Monday.

to visit the site, click this link:

http://multiethnicliterature.edublogs.org/

Day 341: Multiethnic Literature

This semester I am experimenting a bit with alternative teaching and writing formats in my course on Multiethnic Literatures of the U.S. I have created a course blog that will be (at some point–hopefully) pretty much completely student-run. Students are signed up as contributors/authors and will post short responses, as well as longer critical essays on novels. The point of the blog is to ensure that students don’t simply write each paper in one long all-nighter every four weeks. Instead, I want them to be responsible for taking care of and respond to outside comments on their writings (and to each others’ posts). This will hopefully get them into a regular writing routine, which, so I hope, will result in more carefully framed research questions and more complicated critical arguments.

I therefore invite all of you to visit this blog and participate in the discussions, since even very brief comments, ideas and, criticism will help them think through problems more critically. To that end, this blog will not only focus on literary and cultural issues, but also invites students and outside readers to discuss the social and political problems that are mediated by cultural production. The general topic of my course this semester is “race, diversity, neoliberalism.”

You can visit the blog here:

http://multiethnicliterature.edublogs.org/

Check back often for constantly updated student writing (the first batch of papers will be posted next Thursday)–we all greatly appreciate your feedback. Also, feel free to spread the word about this, send the url to people you know, or maybe even advertise the blidget (the blog is also available as a blog widget for your own blog, facebook, etc.)–this would help us a lot and hopefully ensure that we get some outside comments. Thanks–cj

Day 279: No Underwear

After a few weeks that were very busy again (and after another weekend spent at a conference–this time here at UIC) I took a close look at my apartment today, something I haven’t done in a long time. Result: I really need to do some cleaning and a LOT of laundry (since it is getting too cold here to keep going commando). After this conference, I was actually looking forward to having some time for other kinds of writing again (i.e. an article I have to finish, as well as further revisions to my dissertation). It seems, though, that I will first have to devote some time to housekeeping and grocery shopping (which will probably also be good for my health, since pizza by the slice and other forms of takeout, the only food I have been eating for the last few weeks, probably does not contain the nutrients my body needs at this point).

Quick report on this conference: my argument that biopolitics is an analytical paradigm utterly unsuited for the analysis of contemporary power structures (and the ways they are exercised) did not keep people from giving papers on contemporary power/political issues that were based on an uncritical use of this very concept, there were some scary talks fetishizing empiricism and reducing issues of power in governmental information gathering to a problem of trust and informed consent, and some male participants insisted on being referred to as “she” (which I sadly could not consider as revolutionary an act as I was apparently supposed to). Overall, it was a good conference, however annoying the overall praise of a politics of diversity may have been (which too many people still seems to think results in some form of liberation, not realizing that it is actually the politics of neoliberalism).

I will now go grocery shopping and buy some healthy things that will hopefully help me finally get over my cold, which, per Anna’s suggestion (my favorite this far), means: brandy. cheers y’all

Day 149: Revolution, Humanism, Universalisms–Good or Bad Totalities

Dear all,

there has been a very interesting discussion going on between Joanna and myself regarding revolution, humanism, the potential value of universalisms etc. You can find the discussion here: Day 140. I am sure there are some of you who might have valuable opinions to offer. Let me suggest several approaches:

a) the question of totality–there are several ways to talk about this (e.g. Zizek’s defense of Hegelianism, the reliance upon ideas such as “deliberative democracy” regarding, say, the 3rd generation Frankfurt School, neo-Habermassians, etc. [see e.g. Seyla Benhabib, or Iris Marion Young]–in this respect we could also look toward people like Jean Luc Nancy [esp. the “being singular plural” idea]–as well as Kantian liberalism as the basis for speculations regarding cosmopolitanism, hos(ti)pitality, human rights, tolerance and peace as represented by e.g. Derrida’s later writings)

b) the question of totality and universals as raised by Agamben’s recent work

c) the question of universals, esp. as represented by Badiou’s work on St. Paul (and obviously in Being and Event)

d) Deleuze and recent versions of Deleuzian rhizomatic models, schizo-analysis and ideas of de-territorialization, which are combined with Italian anarchism/operaismo and liberation theology to form a seperate idea of universals/totalities (de-territorialized and multiple, yet still “total” in their democratic nature)–obvious examples here: Hardt and Negri, or Virno

e) questioning the idea of/necessity for/alternatives to teleologies as such (in terms of devising a political program that avoids replicating previous paternalistic structures of order much like described by Fanon [a tendency within postcolonial situations])

f) completely non-academic and non-jargon-filled ideas that may be more helpful than any of the above suggested models.

Let’s try to continue this discussion–I agree with Joanna that this is a VERY important issue to discuss, especially regarding the frequent confusion of people who would like to partake in progressive political movements until the point at which they realize that the channels that are being offered to them have no answers, or that these channels have dangerously reactionary answers to our problems (in which case we need to be happy that at least some people are smart enough to realize the dangerous nature of such pseudo-answers [as you can tell, I am trying to avoid naming political organizations at this point–we can get into that later, but I fear that this might easily make this discussion digress into a People’s Front of Judaea vs. Judaean People’s Front pissing contest]).

Oh, I have also been tagged by anaj and need to come up with 8 random things about myself, as well as tag 8 other people (not sure which one’s more difficult)–I think I need a little more time for this.

Oh–and here is what I mean by PFJ vs. JPF:

P.S.: the “New Seven Wonders of the Worlds” were announced (number one, I believe, is the fact that Al Gore was able to organize a worldwide music-event but was unable to launch a decent presidential campaign). Get the list here: http://www.cnn.com/2007/TRAVEL/07/06/seven.wonders/index.html , or look up the campaign’s website here: http://www.new7wonders.com/. Not sure what the point of this was (except for making egomaniac Bernard Weber more famous and potentially boosting tourism). Maybe someone can explain it to me. Should there be an election for the “New New Seven Wonder of the World” I would already at this point like to nominate as one of the candidates the fact that people vote for shit like this but not for, say, the next president of the US, because, let me tell you, this is an occasion of great wonder to me.

Day 105: Season Finale of Lost et al.

 lost.jpg

So the third season of Lost is over. We had good fun with John Locke becoming more and more, well, Lockeian (see Two Treatises of Government). That guy knows how to labor the land! (Locke joke? Anyone? Well, ok then–nevermind). Also we were able to further practice our fear of Others and exercise our conviction that the Western subjects we identify with are the good guys. Hey, after all the most romantic moment in the finale was presented as the Korean fisherman’s ability to speak English! Assimilation is just too cute (and apparently necessary in order to save a marriage, be considered a hero and, well, generally to get laid). Finally we managed to push the Asian subject into its intended role as part of the model minority. Wohoo! And the general fear of Others and Western logocentrism: important ideological practice in times of terrorism, no? It just provides us with a feeling of safety when we can divide the world into a binary system of negative oppositions. Us good. Others bad. Nice.

But let’s talk about the season finale. First: pacing. It was too rushed. Since they seemingly had left so many plot strings open for the finale they really had to rush through all of them to get to this season’s cliffhanger. Slightly reminded me of the remake of the classic film Long Hot Summer (the original stars a young Paul Newman, Ava Gardner and Orson Welles) starring Don Johnson and Cybil Shepherd, which tried to complicate the plot of the original movie (the original script was written by William Faulkner, immediately telling you how necessary a further complication was), ran out of time toward the end of the movie and actually forgot to pick up some plot strings. Makes for one of the funniest endings in film history. You have scenes of a village mob running excitedly into the woods in order to …well, we don’t really know. They forgot to get back to that. Anyway, back to Lost. Badly paced. We did not even have time to do what is expected from us as gullible viewers, such as being outraged that three people were shot. I was just trying to muster up some outrage to get into the spirit of the show (after obviously knowing that they were not dead) and they just ruined it by telling me the shooting was fake. Give me more time to buy into this stuff! This fast-paced stuff was almost ironically Brechtian in its inability to provide me with some much desired mechanism for escaping the real world. Same thing with Locke’s suicidal thoughts. Lasted about 5 seconds. Not even enough for me to say the stereotypical things that are expected of me. I only got to: “oh no, not John, he…”–and the suicidal thing was already over. Nice resolution here, though, via bringing back Walt. Definitely made me smile. Also remarkable in this respect: two black characters that had not even been in a single shot for the entire season had multiple lines in the finale. Seems like they are beginning to realize that killing off all the black people was a little strange (to put it mildly). My favority suspension-of-disbelief-enjoyment moment: Hurly’s rescue. Aah, good old cheering-for-the-underdog satisfaction.

But about the most important aspect: the ending. We have had three seasons of flashback narrative and we have three seasons to go until the end of the show. Will those three be flash-forward narrative? And: was there anyone who liked the flash-forward? Don’t really think so. It tends to appear as a move that limits the previous open-endedness and unpredictability of the show in dramatic ways. But then again, the future, as opposed to the past, is not necessarily static–meaning, we know things may change (see Desmond’s personal struggle). The thing that interests me, however, is the fact that people really hated the future narrative. It is not because it was negative. There were a lot of negative past narratives in the show. It is because it is a determinism arising out of the positing of a(negative) teleology, which again tells me something I have mentioned before about the ways in which we are currently willing to imagine potentiality. Rather than turning toward the future we tend to locate potentiality and jouissance in the past, an affective structure mediated through nostalgia that manifests itself in the escapist fantasies perpetuated by Lost. It is this play on our present psychological struggles surrounding the ways in which we articulate our existence to the changed structural temporality of our global environment (especially in a post-9/11 world) together with the introduction of a new Other that makes me quite excited about season four (and this is also the thing that makes the show for me a valuable object of study–i.e. a mediation of the current US psyche in a post-9/11 global situation). But this is all obviously just the beginning of a discussion I would very much like to continue. So write me your thoughts on Lost and on the finale in particular, especially those that deal with the show’s connection to contemporary forms of anxiety and desiring structures.

Oh: and, of course, send me some possible answers to these important questions:

Will Jack be able to redeem himself and change the future, which seems to be an effect of his tragic decision to make the call?

Is Charlie truly dead?

Kate or Juliette? (I am still very much torn here.)

What’s up with Jacob (and the re-appearance of Walt, for that matter)?

Who is (will/might be) in the coffin?

Day 90: The 2007 MLG Institute on Culture and Society (June 20-24, 2007)

Dear all, instead of useless personal ramblings today the following announcement:

we just finalized the program for this year’s Marxist Literary Group Institute on Culture and Society. After being held at Georgetown University for the last two years the Institute returns to the University of Illinois at Chicago this year. Apart from presentations it will feature an intensive reading group on Capital I, which will be led by Nicholas Brown, Richard Daniels, Neil Larsen, and Ronald Strickland.

All events are open to the public–so if you are in the area, feel free to stop by (my apologies for the formatting–can’t be bothered to fix it right now).

***EDIT: ok, after several failed attempts I’ll try this one more time–crap! remains all messed up–sorry, I’m out of time–this will have to do for the moment:
* * *WEDNESDAY, 20 JUNE* * *
9:00 –10:15 Panel

Kevin Floyd
On neoliberalism, Queer Studies, and the question of totality

Stephen Healy
On the economy of non-all and the politics of health care reform

Heidi J. Nast
On neoliberalism and pet-love
—————————-
10:30 – 12:00 Panel

Peter Gardner
What Class War? “This hyar is the War o’ Races!”

Anna Kornbluh
On the isomorphism of capitalism and Victorian realism

Kat McLellan
On seventeenth-century contract theory

Harvey Partica
On Frank Norris’ dialectical monsters
—————————–
12:00 – 1:15 LUNCH
—————————–
1:15 – 3:00 Reading Group: Capital I, Chapters 1, 6, and 7
—————————–
3:30 – 4:30 Panel

Grover Furr
On falsifying Soviet history of the ‘Stalin’ period

Pat Keaton
On Argentinean documentary films
—————————–
5:00 – 6:15 Panel

Akin Adesokan
On CLR James and Marxism in Africa

Richard Iton
On coloniality and diaspora

Joseph Keith
On labor and the Limits of citizenship in C.L.R. James

* * *THURSDAY, 21 JUNE* * *
9:00 – 10:15 Panel

Robbie Lieberman
On African American radicals and the Cold War

Brian Thill
On Frederick Douglass, Black Power and the Frankfurt School

Aaron Winslow
On Amiri Baraka’s political poetry
—————————–
10:45 – 12:00 Panel

Natascha Müller-Hirth
On the issue of partnerships and neoliberal governance in Africa

Michael Ralph
On Marxism in Africa and Senegalese (im)mobility, post 9/11

Mark Estante
On labor discipline and the maintenance of apartheid in Coetzee’s Life &
Times of Michael K
—————————–
12:00 – 1:15 LUNCH
—————————–
1:15 – 3:00 Reading Group: Capital I, Chapters 2-5
—————————–
3:15 – 4:30 Panel

Christian Dogbe
On Ahmadou Kourouma and Marxism

Aisha Karim
On the movement of political desire in African literature

Allison McGuffie
On Eisenstein and African film
—————————–
5:00 – 6:15

Ato Quayson
On dialectic and failed synthesis in the drama of Wole Soyinka
Presented by the University of Illinois at Chicago’s African-American
Studies Department

* * *FRIDAY, 22 JUNE* * *
9:00 – 10:15 Panel

Laura Hudson
On Marxian species-being and the anthropological machine

Erin Paszko
On historicizing political violence through Leila Khaled’s My People Shall
Live

Michelle Yates
On an ecological contradiction within capitalism
—————————–
10:45 – 12:00 Panel

Paul Smith
On Boltanski’s _The New Spirit of Capitalism_

Ariane Fischer
On critical theory and the concept of ideology

Ed Wiltse
On scientific certainty and criminal justice in Sherlock Holmes stories and
/CSI/
—————————–
12:00 – 1:15 LUNCH
—————————–
1:15 – 3:00 Reading Group: Capital I, Parts Seven and Eight
—————————–
3:15 – 4:30 Panel

Neil Larsen
On the unique difficulty of reading Capital volume I, chapter 1

Eleanor Kaufman
On poetic surplus in Badiou

Reiichi Miura
On singularity and postmodern pluralism
—————————–
5:00 – 7:00

Peter Hitchcock
On the failed state and the state of failure

* * *SATURDAY, 23 JUNE* * *
9:00 – 10:15 Panel

Jeff Carr
On capitalism, socialism, and labor in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

William Q. Malcuit
On the resuscitation of history in McKay

Todd Thompson
On irony and heritage in the Harlem Renaissance
—————————–
10:45 – 12:00 Panel

Lee Medovoi
On Marx, Foucault, and the current conjuncture

Mathias Nilges
On the work of art in the age of cognitive capitalism

Myka Tucker-Abramson
On the labour history of deindustrialized literature
—————————–
12:00 – 1:15 LUNCH
—————————–
1:15 – 3:00 Reading Group: Capital I, Appendix
—————————–
3:30 – 5:00

Walter Benn Michaels
On praising famous (white) men
—————————–
5:15 – 7:15

Fredric Jameson
On the Dialectic
—————————–
7:30  MLG-ICS BBQ

* * *SUNDAY, 24 JUNE* * *
9:00 – 10:30 Panel

Melissa Tandiwe Myambo
On (un)writing diaspora and the route(lessness) of capitalism

Bimbisar Irom
On reification, totality and the agony of the radical novel

Ann Mattis
On domestic service and kinship in Gertrude Stein’s “The Good Anna” and “The
Gentle Lena”

Wesley Sims
On incarceration in Gayl Jones’ Eva’s Man
—————————–
10:45 – 12:15 Panel

Jolan Bogdan
On denial and ideology: the Romanian example

Steve Macek
On Marxism and the media reform movement

Joe Ramsey
On Babouk and revolutionary spectacle

Laura Sullivan
On television and the spectacle of giving
—————————–
12:15 – 1:30 MLG Business Meeting / LUNCH
—————————–
1:45 – 3:15 Roundtable: Labor and Memory

Courtney Maloney, Jamie Daniel, Carol Stabile, and Joel Woller
—————————–
3:30 Susan Willis / Don Hedrick responding
         On playing the penny slots