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Archive for May 2007

back tomorrow

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We’ve got a long flight ahead of us tomorrow morning. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about – among other things – blogging that is yet to be processed. More to come… *

This went far too quickly, I’ll say that…

* If you happen to have super-drug-resistant TB, would you mind staying off the transatlantic flights tomorrow, see voo play?

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Written by adswithoutproducts

May 30, 2007 at 6:30 pm

Posted in meta

socialist melodramaticism

with 6 comments

You’ve heard about what is going on in Venezuela with the tv stations, yes? (The link there is not an endorsement… Too tired to sift through to find a fair report…) But did you notice this?

Radio Caracas’ soap operas such as The Ex and My Cousin Ciela are popular, regularly attracting more than 50 per cent of Venezuelan viewers.

Two opinion polls have shown that more than 70 per cent of Venezuelans, including many of Mr Chávez’s own supporters, are opposed to the decision not to renew the licence. Arturo Sarm-iento, a Caracas businessman who runs Telecaribe, an independent regional television station, and supports the government’s policy, admits the measure will “have a huge political cost”.


A public-service channel, Venezuelan Social Television (Teves), is to replace RCTV. […] Elsewhere in the world, with few exceptions public-service stations have not won a sterling reputation for slick popular programming. Lil Rodriguez, the channel’s new president, hardly encouraged optimism when she announced last week that “we don’t intend to make Teves really boring”.

Teves is planning to develop its own soap opera based on the lives of Simón Bolívar, Venezuela’s nat-ional hero, and Manuela Sáenz, one of his lovers, but until that is ready viewers will have to make do with a range of cooking, travel, music, opinion and other documentary shows, as well as an opinion programme.

One hell of an article, there waiting for someone to scoot down to Caracas and write, about the emergence of a new sector of socialist mass aesthetic form. I’d for one would love to know what comes of it, and what goes into it…

Here’s the question: say you were a socialist head of state of wherever you currently live, and had decided to pull network X off of the air and replace it with Your Own Social Television Network. What programming would you schedule as not to make it “really boring”? Mine would feature, of course, lots of ads without products, but I’m still thinking about what would provide the filler stuff, the actual shows, that folks would skip over with their TiVos to get back to the publicités

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May 27, 2007 at 7:05 pm

rough day to be a state interventionist…

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I mean seriously, I had read about the Swedish issue with alcohol, but come on now. The one adult pleasure we get on this trip is the couple of drinks we get to have, either solo or together depending on the room configuration, after the baby goes to bed. And here, right now, I am drinking 3.5 percent beer. My wife is drinking 2.5 percent cider.

They mark the percentage in big numerals right on the can, just in case you delude yourself into thinking you’re getting the real deal. It is amazing to think of all these great breweries turning out a separate batch of tamer stuff just for the Swedes (or do all the Scandinavians do this? I seem to have some memory of this sort of thing from way back when in Copenhagen…)

Nanny state? WTF? Feel free to tell me that this is my nascent Yankee libertarianism kicking in. That it is a good thing for me to be protected from real beer by law and custom and tax.

Another (related) question: given the near-beer problem, why (how) is everyone so drunk here? (UPDATE: I wrote that Saturday night. Things seem much more sedate now as I write on Sunday…)

Anyway, it is an interesting thing, figuring out your socio-political comfort level based on travel – and then comparing this experientially-tested version against the abstract-intellectual ideal that you hold or think yourself to hold. On the level of ideas, I am probably a few clicks to the left of Sweden. In practice, I miss the Netherlands. It does feel a bit, dunno, dull here. The trains are gorgeous, everything is really, really expensive ($300 in walking around money disappeared just like that, after a dinner and a trip to the very cool Zoo / Aryan history museum at Skansen), which is probably as it should be, and everything is green, green, green, but also everyone seems a bit bored and sad.

That’s not what socialism is supposed to be! Tweak the fun meter, Stockholm! Set up vodka stands on the street corners! (Not sure I’d really love that either – but there has to be a healthy medium, right?)

Finally: for some reason, every thought I have lately is taking the form of an imagined graph, x-plot against y-plot. An impossible one that I’d like to see: the correlation between social welfare and kids going uber-goth. My rough estimate has a higher proportion of gothy types in calm Canada vs. the manic US. And there are tons and tons here, in everyone’s favorite living exhibit of sustainable and actually existing social-democracy. Anyone else notice this?

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Written by adswithoutproducts

May 26, 2007 at 4:17 pm

Posted in meta

one other thing…

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Why is my travel blogging becoming a running list of awkward moments? I’m actually having a great time. But, for some reason, this stuff seems worth recording in a way that “drank, yet again, a liter of beer at lunch. Felt good. It was sunny” does not…

So we’re staying tonight right by the University of Amsterdam, and they seem still to be in session. On the way to the hotel, you pass very close to some first floor classrooms, and one was occupied – a class in session. I stopped short, baby in my arms, and stepped back to see what was on the powerpoint presentation, and to check the language used (something on global trade in, of course, English…)

But when I did, the prof stops, stares out the window at me, and then does a great big “fuck you, doofus!” wave in my direction. Like one of those “yeah, this is what a college classroom looks like. We are so glad to be a living history diorama at the Amsterdam Museum! Stop staring, fucker!”

Which is exactly what I would have done if someone did that to my classroom. But… ouch. I wanted to pull out my Prof ID card and slap it against the window or whatever.

It’s been a rough day.

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Written by adswithoutproducts

May 25, 2007 at 3:17 pm

Posted in academia, meta

tough day to be a good socialist…

with one comment

…and a card-carrying union man to boot.

Arrived at Schipol this morning only to find that the flight to Stockholm had been cancelled on account of a baggage-handlers’s strike in Sweden. Go labor! (Seriously, these euro baggage guys strike a lot, don’t they?) But after many trials and tribulations, we seem to be booked in tomorrow. But for tonight, Amsterdam again and exhaustion.

For discussion: seems to me that each Greater Cultural Unit has their own distinctive modes of dicking the customer. I’m trying to figure out exactly what the American version is, but I am sure I know what it is that goes on on the continent.

Here’s how it went today: SAS booked us a room back in the city – since we are three, they explicitly booked us a double + another bed. They also threw in some comped meals. When we get to the designated hotel, the guy at the desk says, no, the voucher is only good for a double – an extra bed (and room that it will fit in will cost an extra Euro 75. This is so much bullshit, but as always happens in Europe, they claim that it was the last guy, the guy who booked the room in the first place, who has screwed you. (The first time this sort of thing happened to us, when we were kiddos on the Eurail Pass, we bought round trip boat tickets from Brindisi, Italy to Patras, Greece. When it came time to return, the guys in Patras assured us that whatever it is that they had sold us in Brindisi, they sure as hell weren’t tickets, but a mere $25 each would make them, as if magically, into valid tickets… Reader: we paid.)

At any rate, back to tonight in Amsterdam. So we go to the bar to get dinner, and ask to use our vouchers. The bartender scrambles around for 15 minutes asking what to do with these, only to return and assure us that we were comped up to an astounding Euro 160, and that we should order whatever we like, drinks and all, and they’ll put it on our tab, and clear it up in the morning. So we eat and drink profusely. He tells us to come back for a drink later – it’s free after all.

This starts to seem a bit fishy, so, in the course of figuring out something else at the front desk, I ask about the vouchers to make sure that what we’ve done is OK. “Hmmm. The bar. No, no, no… That will not work…” I think we’ve settled on the food being free, but me picking up the drink bill. On the other hand, after much “we’re not very satisfied” type stuff, the manager has agreed to give us back our Euro 75 for the big room, but insists that he himself can’t actually do this, “there isn’t a button,” and so the morning staff will take care of it. Sure, right…

Good christ, what a whine. But hopefully you see my point here? So what is the American equivalent? There certainly were some very threatening scams you could get caught up in as a tourist / young Jersey kid back in the pre-Giuliani period, which I will not discuss here out of Jersey-kid embarrassment.

Does it go like this: Europe commits active sins against you – fucking with the reservations, drilling you for more cash to make things right, whereas America’s sins are passive, bureaucratic: without enormous amounts of arm-wrestling, the US-based airline simply won’t find you a new flight when yours has been cancelled? Or, say, Expedia and its cancellation policy. I ate a night at a Stockholm hotel tonight without grumbling, as their “policy” is no changes after a certain point….

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Written by adswithoutproducts

May 25, 2007 at 2:59 pm

Posted in meta

travel notes…

with 3 comments

1) Somewhat refreshing to take a break from posting and even scrolling through the RSS feeds. Amazingly, I took this break despite having free internet access here in Amsterdam. For me, it’s been nothing but the IHT and the Guardian at night, and some hotel bar writing (on paper!) and that’s that. I think I have a slight case of nostalgia for pre-totally-immersive ‘net days, which I’m not sure what to do with. Surely the boredom of being back stateside in a week will take care of that.

2) Amsterdam has won me over. If it is possible for my wife and I ever to haul off and make it as independent intellectuals (she’s much further along on this than I am, what with her book underway and agent and so forth), I vote for right here. Paris is lovely. But Amsterdam, it’s something else. The magazine store alone, up in the little square along with the American Book Store, is reason enough.

3) Looking for a place to calm the kiddo down for a nap while in Paris (by “calm the kid down” I of course mean seriously overdue unweaned boobie action but whatever. STFU) we wandered into the Place Dauphine, which is the sort of thing that happens in Paris. See Andre Breton, Nadja, for the significance of the place, the “clitoris of Paris”…

4) All for now, but thanks for continuing to read… I’ll be back on regular schedule soon enough…

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Written by adswithoutproducts

May 24, 2007 at 4:19 pm

Posted in Uncategorized


with 3 comments

I am a strange bird, when it comes to travel.

For on the one hand, the number one reason I crush the credit card to
go, and the number one deciding factor that informs the choices I
make in terms of where to visit, is that I am almost pathologically
addicted what we might call the banally exotic quotidien. Look, I go
to museums, I see the sights. Or at least I did in the past. But what
gets me out here is stupid stuff like street-signs and supermarkets
and the way people serve coffee and when they buy their newspapers
and where they buy them and what they look like. Laugh at me all you
like – perhaps you are a gourmand, or a sex-tourist, or you only go
where you’re likely to find, what, the best thriftstore buys.
Whatever. But in a certain way, my special preoccupation with the
everyday in my travels undoubted comes close to what travel for
pleasure and edification has always boiled down to…

People are always asking me, in the real world, if my work intersects
with that of Michel de Certeau, and the answer is always no, not
really. But, strangely enough, I am a practices of everyday life guy
through and through when it comes to those couple of weeks a year
that I’ve paid to remove from my usual activities and (at the moment)
incredibly bleak surroundings. Go figure.

But on the other hand, my little addiction to the small stuff is, in
a certain sense, something that my personality-construction is almost
categorically unfit for. Why? I am one of those people – I can’t tell
if we are rare or not – who is compulsively fearful of making little
mistakes in everyday performances. I hate not knowing, for instance,
whether it is appropriate or not to ask for a coffee à emporter at
this establishment or that. I hate not knowing how to use a subway
turnstile. I hate being baffled by menus, I hate not understand how
to hail a taxi, I fear running afoul of written or unwritten rules
about smoking in public. I am addicted to foreign newspapers, even
those I can’t read – but I am terrified of buying them, for fear that
the newsagent will wonder after I leave “Why the fuck was he buying
that if he doesn’t have the language.” It is ridiculous, I agree.

There are a few major factors that go into this personality defect
(and it is, for sure, a defect): my upbringing by fastidiously-
correct anglo-canadian parents, who made minor forms of impolite or
awkward behavior feel like, what, public urination. An pathological
need to “be in the know” about everything (this need is one,
obviously, that intersects with my internet compulsion, blogging,
etc…) doesn’t help. And with Paris in particular, it also has
something to do with my weird relationship to the French language,
which I really am supposed to know, both because of my education and
because, for chissakes, I write on and teach French authors
constantly… but even if I can read French authors in the original
at a level that has permitted me to develop, from what I can tell,
some very very insightful arguments based on microscopic close
readings of the language itself, I still cannot properly order a
fucking coffee in French, and I stand blankly stunned whenever anyone
says anything that I am not prepared for.

So I am, yes, a strange bird in my own quiet little way. (I wish my
psychokinks were more interesting – for your sake, as readers…) But
what I am wondering about today is what this combined fascination and
fear has to do with my work, the issues and texts that I am
interested in and the arguments that I am trying to articulate about
them. For one thing, it clarifies quite a lot of the backstory of why
I am so interested in a figure like Neurath
– clear, international communication-methods, which make it at once
easier to order coffee and, perhaps, less interesting to do so. But
it goes well beyond this as well.

More posts are coming, if I can keep the battery charged…

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Written by adswithoutproducts

May 20, 2007 at 3:25 am

Posted in Uncategorized