Archive for February 2011
Well, a good night last night. Within the course of an hour or so I was a) recruited to pitch for a London baseball team and b) took enthusiastic part in a (re)new(ed) occupation at my university.
The personal and the political, as it were. I know where my glove is, but I hope I can find my cleats…. And hope the rotator cuff doesn’t blow five minutes in….
Excellent blogpost on one of the most interesting things to me about the student occupations… That is, “consensus decision-making.” Am marginally more anarchist than I used to be a few months ago. The meetings were boring, but despite that I would stand watching in rapt fascination.
Went weeks before to sample canapes, some served on the night were not the std. we tried – Arancini tasted like absolutely nothing. Specified music we’d like the DJ to play weeks before as well; on the night he played few songs people wanted, when we went up to ask for 80s he said he wasn’t allowed to play it (although we said we’d like some when we first met Laura, the manager/operator)!? After repeated attempts to get the music changed he just said that what we were asking wasn’t really his speciality! It was agreed security would tick people off the list and hand out the drink tokens on arrival but on the night the security guy refused to do both so we had to have someone handing out the tokens while he found names (and he still took an age). One bartender had some serious attitude – asked if my drink was a double, to which he replied, “who’s the bartender, me or you?”(!!!). At the end of the night there were two security staff (or one and his mate), at the front door but weren’t opening it to let people out as they left, just talking to eachother and texting. Venue itself is funky, however wouldn’t book it for a work do again, maybe just go there for an afterwork drink?
From Lars Iyer’s Spurious, as quoted in a nice review here:
’Compare our friendship,’ says W., ‘to that of Levinas and Blanchot’. Of their correspondence, only a handful of letters survive. Of ours, which takes the form of obscenities and drawings of cocks exchanged on Microsoft Messenger, everything survives, although it shouldn’t. Of their near daily exchanges, nothing is known; of our friendship, everything is known, since I, like an idiot, put it all on the internet.
Looking forward to reading this, when my copy arrives. Feel a strange kinship with LI, despite never having met him, as it feels like we’ve both been doing our versions of the depressive lit blog for a long time, almost from the very beginning.
Ah, feel vindicated today. During the UK student occupations, I accepted any invitation I received to address student occupations and did my best to come up with something good to say to them… Even though that increasingly amounted to saying something like “Christ, you guys know better than I do at this point… Look at what you’ve done!”
A few weeks ago, I received an email encouraging me to come up with something for the Really Free School. After thinking about it for awhile, I decided to ignore the request… But not without feeling a bit guilty for not pitching something in, especially since the aspects of this movement that have provided opportunities for me to usefully participate have gone into remission for the moment. But reading this this morning, I realize that the hunch I had – that I’m on a different side of this from them – was right. Here’s the post in full:
!Education’s Napster Moment
As a result of the emergence of a virtual marketplace that encourages the forming of community and the sharing of ideas, we have inadvertently been equipped with the tools needed to undo the current rules of engagement.
Ours is the first generation to be given the toolset by which to produce, collectively organise and display our message/ideology/product to a global audience; an audience that, like you, has an equal opportunity to subvert the current trajectory of our education system.
Universities are collapsing. Not as a result of dramatic cuts but because they represent an outmoded model for their primary function, the exchange of knowledge and research. The education industry is about to experience the same death blow to its infrastructure and profit model that Napster issued to the music industry back in 1999.
Everyone within our generation is aware that the construction of ideas and the execution of research has shifted its locality to a sprawling virtual space that is open to collective input.
Let us not draw out the death rattle of our institutions by allowing concessions to be made and minor battles to be fought and ultimately lost – instead let us accelerate the pace of their demise.
Abandon the institution and declare it’s death, the point at which our apathy for the current state of play is declared, the better. With this change we will be able to destabilise the mediated control of our social trajectory, causing a genuine crisis for those that stand to profit both politically and financially from our existing system. It is the institutions and those that control them that need us.
Create a real crisis, torrent your syllabus, duplicate your id cards and give them to strangers, scan your entire library and post it on AAARG, distribute maps of your university online, relocate your seminars to a space outside of the institution. Invalidate the universities existence, so that together we can begin to build fresh foundations on its grave.
Invite anyone and everyone to participate, saturate your institutions and make them a true open space. The path to knowledge does not end on the day of graduation.
This document was put together on the spur of the moment as a direct response to this situation, its ideas are not fixed. Instead it seeks to act as a provocation or suggestion that we should consider the complete reformation of what we currently have. More money/Less cuts cannot cure the decline of our institutions. We have now a unique opportunity to create something new, independently and autonomously.
Wow – sounds like someone’s been reading Kpunk et al – at least before Kpunk et al’s dextrous sidestep into allegiance with the generally non-accelerationist protest movement late last year. (Short version of my critique: saying “They’re not as apathetic as I wrote” is not the same as saying “Perhaps the embrace of apathy is not the right way forward…” Harder to admit that your argument was wrong than your diagnosis…) But that is some pretty hardcore accelerationism cum depressive despair in the blogpost, per what we’ve seen from the likes of the left-theoretical blogetariat. I am fully in-line with the desire to open university admissions, to grant as much access as possible, deheirarchize institutions etc. (If CUNY wants to go back to open admissions and offer me a job, I’d be there in a second, despite the fact that I do indeed get on very very well with my hand-picked and quite brilliant students where I am now…) The only reason I don’t want anyone to video and release my lectures for free on the internet is that I’d have to rewrite my lectures every single year for fear that some or most had heard it all already. Trust me, I have enough work to do as it is…
More seriously, I am absolutely sure that the way forward is not the abandonment of what vestiges of socialized education remain in the UK or anywhere else. I think it’s safe to say that they’re missing an absolutely enormous, gaping difference between the napster-fucking of the music industry and doing the same thing to what is left of publically funded university education. In short, most of us don’t care in the least about the survival of, say, Sony. We don’t care about cutting into to their profit margins, we don’t care if they go under, and we might even have faith that if they and their competitors no longer existed we would still be able to find good or even better music without them.
On the other hand, I’d like to think that we do care about the continued existence and viability of not-for-profit and (let’s hope) state funded educational centres. At this point in history, there are far better targets for anarchistic rage than the ISAs that administer higher education, at least in the humanities and social sciences. (At the moment, I am being force-interpellated by institutional pressure – from a University Press – to add more Badiou etc into my book. That’s not exactly the stuff of Christian conservatism…)
I used to talk to someone who from time to time would kick around the idea of dropping out (or being evicted from) regular academia and “taking it on the road” – giving talks and passing the hat. She also was a sometimes theorist of the sort of university without walls idea that is behind the RFS communique above. When we talked about it, the thing that I always said was that sure, it’s a nice idea, but if I were her I’d just plan to give, say, the porn talk over and over again and probably forget about giving the Hegel lecture quite so often or even at all.
Some of education isn’t fun – it can’t be fueled by people hitting “like” on some social networking website. I’m lucky. I get to teach the attractive stuff from the modern period, the stuff that just about everyone wants to read. But I am incredibly grateful that my students are forced to read lots of other materials that, given the choice, they likely wouldn’t. Lots would skip Chaucer if they could, and much else besides that they complain about to me but ultimately they need to have in order to understand – and in particular to see the limitations of – the hip fun but ultimately sort of narcissistically angled stuff that they get to do with me.
I have no moral qualms with downloading music or television. I will say however that my ability to do so doesn’t necessarily lead to the best use of my time. This morning for instance, feeling in a bit of a rut, I finished up the newest season of Mad Men rather than reading Peter Hallward’s excellently lucid book on Badiou, which I started yesterday. Perhaps you see the problem? The infinite availability of what I like isn’t necessarily a conduit to my successful continuous self-education.
And of course there’s another side to this. Destroy the university and no one pays me anymore. I spend an awful lot of time and energy on teaching – most months, almost all of my time and energy. The students seem to want me to do it. Maybe it’s their interpellation by their ISA of choice, but they’d be pretty upset to run the seminars on their own or if I just put my syllabi and lectures on-line. But if no one’s paying my fine but meagre salary, I’d obviously have to find something else to keep me in hotdogs and buns. Call it me defending my financial interests, but even given the rough job market I’m pretty sure I could find something amazingly more lucrative to do for a living than this.
I think it’s become clear – it seemed very much so at the occupations last year – that faculty are no longer viewed with suspicion. We’re all on the same side here… Save of course for those who go over to administration, which is another matter altogether and something that I sure as shit will never do. At any rate, I’d bet six cans of Grolsch that within a few months, Cameron et al rolls out some sort of Big Society e-learning initiative. When you’re coming up with ideas that happen to be exactly the same as those of the party in power, it might be time for a bit of an decelerationist moment. If so, maybe the folks at the Really Free University could be hired in to administer it.
Scattered post – sorry about that. Anyway, glad I didn’t go. This is not something that I support. I hope there will be many opportunities in the near-term to give talks at occupations whose interests and aims I share.
Wait, say it ain’t so Joe? Where am I going to go (periodically, everyothermonthly at best, obviously) for my one-stop blogshop experience about my ostensibly nascent homosexuality, the size and efficacy of my male bits, someone’s fantasy of my engagement in paraphilias unattempted yet in prose or rhyme, abuse of my unwritten novels, or, as actually happened at one point, a debate about the upsides/downsides w/r/t the death of my daughter posted as my daughter was being traumatically born?
Just opened The Diaries randomly to this, the entry from 14 August 1913:
Coitus as punishment for the happiness of being together.
Have little to say, other than that we might all have just watched one of the most colossal political fuckups of all time. Let’s hope.
(Interested in the tweets, and sure things like this, as a strangely now form of prayer. No one is listening, but one feels the need to say it anyway….)
- a sense that somehow the historical and cultural situation has somehow turned such that it is arranged in a configuration that is on longer receptive to you, your thinking, your interjection.
- that ever so recently the world was a workbook of problem sets you were consistently able to solve and so very rapidly
- having done some sort of intellectual damage to yourself through the struggles (biological, psychological) you have endured recently in simply living
- you are aging and as you age time speeds up
- stuffy head, the pressure behind the eyes, the tightness in the chest
- there simply isn’t in the day, no matter how clear, the when and where
- again and again, the same thought of Kafka, whose image hangs about your neck on a string of wellworn rosary beads
- the internet, or missing breakfast
- always another obligation, which preoccupies you from the second that you get up
- you are not taking things in the right order
- perhaps it’s all of us at once
- problems that you are spending so much energy trying to solve are boring and thus you are bored
- becoming forgetful, a memory issue
- there is something or someone you are missing
- there is probably a computer program available to help
- the old forms are broken and your frustration and inability is itself a mark of your deeper aptitude
- the sense that there is another way to work, one fully compatible with or even a development directly out of your current situation
- or that if you wait for a bit, if you are patient, perhaps the high pressure system will settle once more over your life and the world itself, and you will find yourself standing in full light under a blue sky again, able at last to see
I know this sort of thing has been done before… But what a conceptually tangled if viscerally stirring ad spin here. The usual American car marketing jingoism gets translated into a half-coherent riff about uneven internal development and productivist aesthetics. Check out, for instance, the strange pseudo-Ruskinism mixed with rust belt exoticism in “Because when it comes to luxury, it’s as much about where it’s from as who it’s for.” As well as, of course, the tag line of the ad as a whole, “Imported from Detroit.”
Most of the other ads from last night are banal crap. * But in ones like Chrysler’s, complete with the somnolent semi-logic of lines like the above, it is interesting to see what they dream that we are or could be dreaming.
On the other hand, quite funny that Chrysler is increasingly owned by Fiat, and so a more accurate ad would be about the politics and finance of one post-industrial city buying another via the mediation of the US government….
* All that I’ve found that was even mildly interesting is the Audi spot that seemed to position itself as the car of choice for slightly less twittish upperclass twits. And I suppose there’s something to be said about the Motorola ad, itself a winking sendup of Apple’s very famous 1984-themed ad that aired in 1984.
Of course there is an interesting difference between the two versions. If the stakes of corporate conflict translated into consumer choice once was registered in terms of the political thematics of Orwell’s novel (the subversion of IBM as the subversion of the totalitarian state), now buying a MotoPad vs. an iPad is allegorized through the minor key romantic plot of the novel. And even in doing so, diminished stakes again: instead of a righteous fuck in the woods, the best we can hope for is a Youtube video goofily edited into an electronic Valentine’s Day Card which leads this Julia not to drop her overalls but merely to take out her earbuds.
This is from the English version of the Venezuelan state newspaper. Interesting to think of “consciousness” itself as something that could be quantifiably raised by government intervention. And further, I’m pretty sure it’s something that most of us would say we have too much of to begin with.
From a review at The Millions of Public Enemies, “the record of twenty-eight letters Bernard-Henri Levy, the French intellectual, and Michel Houellebecq, the French novelist, exchanged between January and July of 2008″:
Some readers will be stirred by the discovery that BHL considers his “ego” “fireproof, shatterproof,” and that he likes to make love in a state of lucid wakefulness, whereas Houellebecq prefers to be a little out of it—to do it in “the early hours, half asleep.” Others (all, perhaps) will be amused by the sheer Frenchness of BHL’s claim that only writing and love (“and I mean that in the strict sense, in the sense of loving women”) make life worth it: “Why do you write? Because you can’t make love all day. Why do you make love? Because you can’t write all day.”
Okay…. But this is better, in an ads without products sort of way:
[Houellebecq] describes the “Soviet-style displays of enthusiasm by those in charge” of little poetry journals and, more stingingly still, the prose of another writer:
Everything about the man rings false, his every sentence oozes speciousness and affectation. The restrained emotion, the walks across the moors ‘lashed by the bitter wind’ . . . you feel like you’re in a BMW commercial.
Listen! Your education is complete! The trigger
sense of chemical life, the flicker of your eye
across the pages, resting nowhere but the edge -
these malformations swell and bloom in the dirt
of only just right now. The trucks of you arrive
by the minute, on the minute, according
to the plan of the world and, implicitly, yours.
Take your tear to market and make it pay. The only
ones who win are those who took it seriously.
Look out the window. The stars you see are nowhere
but your ruggedized strips, the strings you pulled
only tight enough to grip within the last few months.
Let’s hope my book-finishing turns out this way instead of, you know, the other way. I’m not all that hopeful, honestly.
I’m guessing that there’s not an incredible amount of crossover audience between my blog and The New York Times Sports Section. Maybe I’m wrong. But you might want to take a look at this strange and interesting article from today’s edition about Hugo Chavez and… a PGA tour golfer.