Day 399: I Need To Vent

Not a lot. Just a little bit. About academia. Nothing dramatic happened. I was just a little upset by a number of talks I recently attended (well, upset may even be too strong–disappointed, rather).

I went to see a Franco Moretti lecture (on the history of the novel). Verdict: terrible! Bad, bad old-school literary scholarship and that from a person whose work I have admired for years (to be fair, I never considered him to be a cutting-edge theorists with truly radically innovative ideas–aside from the whole graphs and maps thing, which I will not discuss here, since there is a whole set of problems with this approach–yet, Moretti was still always my go-to guy for the good kind of historicism–I assume I don’t have to mention names in regards to the bad kind of historicism) .

Then I attended a Richard Godden colloquium (another person whose work I’ve admired for a long time and who has produced absolutely brilliant books in the past) in which we discussed with him some of his recent writings. Verdict: terrible+terrible! He was underprepared, the articles were full of theoretical errors (both in regards to Marx and Freud/Lacan) and the arguments presented were underwhelming at best. Upside here: he was at least a good sport about us questioning his work and engaged in a good discussion.

Immediately after the Godden colloquium, I rushed over to an event with Slavoj Zizek. At that point I was rather unmotivated, since Godden had disappointed too much and since Zizek, while often entertaining, had essentially been doing the same thing the last few times I saw him (i.e. semi-educated audience pleasing, “you’d think this is a true logical relationship, but it surprisingly turns out the opposite/reverse is how it works,” softcore Hegelian analysis with Lacanian fireworks for critical theory groupies). Surprisingly, however, Zizek delivered a long talk (almost 2 hours) that actually tried to engage rigorously with the problem of ethics (especially with Levinas) and, even more suprisingly, produced some actual cultural analysis (sadly, I think it is safe to assume that the only thing the autograph hunters that crowded the room remembered about this talk was Zizek’s reading of Rammstein lyrics and performances). “Cultural analysis? Duh!” some may say, “that’s what he does.” No, I would respond here. That is not what he generally does at all. Using culture to make a theoretical point is very different from using theory to make a point about culture and it precisely the latter Zizek did for once in this lecture.

Overall verdict of recent talks: a 33.3% success ratio is less than satisfying. So, all you critical theorists and cultural/literary critics who get paid a shitload of cash for your talks: step it up and deliver some effort and rigorous thought! This ain’t fucking Broadway!

***EDIT:

Ha ha! Wouldn’t you know it: the only segment of the talk somebody filmed and put on youtube is the Rammstein part (and that was a very weak example in support of his argument–soft-serve Zizek, if you will). Here the segment nevertheless:

Day 216: Know Your Enemy…

… is a fantastic song. However, it has nothing to do with what follows. Or does it? No, no. Not really. I am a very friendly person. That is, if you are not…

ok, this may take too long 🙂

I have been tagged by anaj to answer 19 questions. Apparently, this is some new thing going around the blogosphere. I wonder: why 19? And who cares? (Do we actually care to find out something of substance about the people whose blog we read? Is this really an attempt to build a social community that has depth? Or is this purely an exercise in narcissism? I suspect it may be the latter. Seriously, Hardt and Negri aside, isn’t the social component of the internet less about finding and connecting with someone you find interesting than doing things so that lots of people will find you interesting–the desire to connect seems less democratic than purely flowing into one single direction [i.e. the enjoyment arising from building a community of virtual stalkers who stalk an ideally, digitally projected version of yourself?–i.e. is the the consentual, collective creation of social simulacra?]) In this spirit, here are my answers:

1. Pick out a scar you have, and explain how you got it.
I have LOTS of scars. I used to be both a very stupid child and a rather self-destructive teenager. There are also lots of weird medical or embarassing stories to tell here. Ask me if you really want to hear more. (Ok–one quick, harmless one: I have a big scar on my upper lip that is the result of a toilet door splitting my lip completely in the middle (vertically)–was hard to get back together but now it is not too noticeable) 

2. What does your phone look like? List your reasons to buy it?
It is black and silver. It is scratched and banged up. It allows me to communicate with people who are otherwise not visually or audibly accessible to me.

3. What is on the walls of your bedroom?
A Che flag and a painting/collection of quotes of Sacco and Vanzetti. Oh, and a Metropolis poster and prints of van Gogh’s Guernica and Man with Guitar.

4. What is your current desktop picture?
Yves Tanguy, Indefinite Divisibility

5. Do you believe in gay marriage?
I don’t believe in marriage, period. However, I also believe that craziness is not specific to gender or sexual orientation, so if a gay person is really crazy enough to want to get married, he/she should be allowed to express his/her craziness in the same way heterosexual people are allowed to do.

6. What do you want more than anything right now?
I want to be done with my dissertation and have a job lined up so I can concentrate on drinking and hiking through the desert/mountains by myself for a few months.

7 . What time were you born?
no idea

8. Are your parents still together?
nope

9. Last person who made you cry?
Don’t want to say.

10. What is your favorite perfume / cologne?
Cool Water (that is what I use most frequently, at least)

11. What kind of hair/eye color do you like in the opposite sex?
Every combination, really (well, red and white is a little freaky but who am I to judge–I had a bunny once who could make that shit work!). I have to admit, however, that I do have a serious fetish for black hair and bright blue eyes.

12. What are you listening to? Why?
Wind in trees. My window is open.

13. Do you get scared of the dark?
If I do, I pretend to be Chuck Norris and then the dark gets scared of me. 

14. Do you like painkillers?
Muchly.

15. Are you too shy to ask someone out?
Yes. In fact, I have never done so.

16. If you could eat anything right now, what would it be?
Anything that would require outdoor fire/barbecue to be prepared, which in turn would require me drinking beer while preparing it, which would mean that I am done with writing for the next few days, because otherwise I would not have time to do this.

17. Who was the last person who made you mad?
Myself.

18. List one habit you have that has the potential to annoy people?
I tend to isolate myself for long periods of time and unintentionally alienate people when I write (it is apparently quite annoying, bordering on the cruel).

19. Who was the last person who made you smile?
Someone in the street who gave me what seemed to be a really big, uninhibited and honest smile and said: “hi!” this morning when I got back from buying coffee. Isn’t that just the best beginning for a day?

I guess I also have to tag other people. Let’s see. I hereby tag: Joanna, Shannon, Red Crochet, Dejan, caveblogem and ELECTRA.

Day 214: Frost, Death Proof and BJs

Still: writing day. Still: minimalist. Hence, two short public service announcements:

I have been getting lots of traffic from people who want to know what the poem in Death Proof  (second, Tarantino-directed, part of Grindhouse) is. First: have you never taken a literature class? It is one of the most recognizable poems in US literature! And, as all other poems by this writer, they seem conducive to being misused, misinterpreted and mis- lots of other thingsed by popular culture (because no one ever reads up on Robert Frost himself and realizes how deeply ironic, yet connected to New England his poems are–or bothers to read poems CLOSELY, as in the case of “The Road Not Taken”–right, monster.com advertisers?). So, here the answer: the poem in Death Proof is “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost. Maybe the only thing that really bugged me about an otherwise decent movie. Terrible use and completely over-Tarantinoed.

The second PSA is for women. Doo-Wop Bee-Jay. Go nuts.

Day 210: Rambo 4 Trailer

Cerebraljetsam is experiencing cerebral overload.

too many insults

too many cynical jokes

too much disappointment

too many (frankly way too obvious, one would think) points of critique

here the trailer:

The trailer above might not work any more (copyright). If so, try this one instead:

Day 209: The Bank of Common Knowledge

Read about this in a Bruce Sterling piece. This is interesting and theoretically screwy in so many ways. Interesting concept, which, however, will once again illustrate the many similarities, yet the final political/practical differences between Hardt and Negri and viral marketing strategies. Let’s just call it “deliberative democratic capitalism.” What really happens to knowledge and its political “use-value” on the individual level if it is increasingly applied, disseminated and stored in a way that, as Lyotard suggests “externalizes knowledge with respect to the knower?” The very concept of “urban survival” becomes re-defined along the lines of this increasingly totalitarian form of alienation (of the knower from knowledge), transforming the networks of knowledge often thought to contain the possibility for creating democratic networks (directed at action) into alienated, exteriorized networks of knowledge, purely functional as a means of viral distribution, not connected to concepts of use as much as primarily and maybe singularly to the logic of exchange and reproduction. Take a look:

http://openserver.cccb.org/bck/

P.S.: “exchange and gift economy”–hee, hee! Yeah, as noble a transaction as the interaction between the knowledge-gift receiving person and the Astroturfer!

Day 207: The Dark Knight (teasers)

Already found trailers/teasers for the new Batman movie (The Dark Knight–release: July 2008). It’s a sequel to Batman Begins, as the previous movie directed by Christopher Nolan and starring Christian Bale as Batman (I really like Christian Bale as an actor anyway–no and not just because of his portrayal of Patrick Bateman–the movie also features a bunch of other actors I generally tend to like, such as Gary Oldman and Maggie Gylenhaal). I am not a huge Batman fan (or a fan of any comic/movie adaptation of comics, excluding works by Alan Moore, or Brian K. Vaughan), but Batman Begins was not bad. Also, I have a strangely personal relationship to this new movie: it seemed to follow me throughout Chicago. When I still lived downtown they filmed right in front of my house, beneath the El tracks, in Lower Wacker, etc. When I moved up here they began filming in Lakeview, renting out entire houses/condo buildings, closing down entire streets and lighting up huge sections of the neighborhood during the night (which also recently happened for the filming of a new Angelina Jolie movie–something about car racing and a beefy Dodge Viper) and shut down a part of West Chhicago last week, since they decided to blow up an entire abandoned factory. The Batman crew was/is very secretive about all of this, trying not to let people know what it is they are filming, but if there are hundreds of people in a neighborhood lighting it up all day and blocking the access to my coffee shop with dozens of film trailers people begin to wonder. Upside of all of this, though: they had lots of catering tables standing around and since the security people were too busy making sure people could not see any part of the filming process, take any video they would later post on youtube, or even find out details about the film, I was often able to grab dinner for myself in the form of some muffins and fruit without anyone noticing. I am now officially a fan of big budget movies filmed in my neighborhood. Oh, and on a very different level: just as this new one, Batman Begins was filmed in Chicago and I do enjoy the city as shown in the movies. There is no US city that is more Gotham than Chicago, dark, brooding, large, threatening, crazy architecture (but, if need be, also all fluffy, cute and filled with nice people–apart from North Clark/Wrigleyville and frat-boy Cubs fans, of course). Ok, so here the trailers:

Day 206: Brian K. Vaughan…

… has been on the writing staff of Lost for over a year now (executive story editor!). Why does no one tell me these things? No wonder season three was better again than the slightly underperforming second season. (For the uninitiated: Vaughan is young, brilliant, handsome and responsible for, among other things, Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina and The Pride of Baghdad. And now Lost. Very impressive.)

What else..hmmm.. let’s see. Labor Day weekend was slightly boring. I had to do a lot of work, I did not get to barbecue, which may have annoyed me even more than having to stay inside all day during this beautiful weather…oh, and labor in the US remained exploited–nothing new, thus. Last night I went rollerblading, realized that I need new wheels and bearings and was shocked to find out how expensive those are in the US. Damn! I may have to wait until next season to get them. I may just have to spend the few remaining warm days running–crap skating was the only speed-fix I was able to get here. Ok, gotta run to the coffee shop again and continue reading. Oh, I am currently re-reading the Preacher series before I sleep. He, he. Fantastic!