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Archive for April 2008

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I may have mentioned this before, but if you’re not reading signandsight.com’s weekly magazine roundup, you’re really missing it. Wish there was more like this around the nets. 

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April 22, 2008 at 11:16 am

Posted in Uncategorized

notelitism

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Beyond even Mr Centerpiece here, just the look at the shot. I remember, back when I was in college and we did the eurail-pass thing, we ponied up for a deluxer room in Roma once because we wanted the air conditioning. Deluxe came with a tv too. The shit on it though – Berlusconi’s channels, I suppose, or maybe RAI too. All guys in chicken-suits surrounded by bimbettinos, all chortling, and a dude in a bad suit serenading a pig with the spotlight on. Forty midgets in a phone booth, my secret secret talent, look at what my neighbors dog or daughter can do.

Felt like the end of everything, watching it. The final lurch back in to the marsh. 

And now that’s home and everywhere. Except, in the US, the president begs onto it rather than simply owning the network. Or I guess it depends what the definition of “own” is.  

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April 22, 2008 at 1:46 am

Posted in america, distraction, teevee

lots of love

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From MoDo’s column today: 

Asked about his friendly relationship with the former Weather Underground anarchist William Ayers — an association that The Wall Street Journal suggests could turn into the Swift Boat of 2008 given Ayers’s statement that “I don’t regret setting bombs; I feel we didn’t do enough” — Obama defended him with a line that only the eggheads orbiting his campaign could appreciate. Ayers, he said, is “a professor of English in Chicago.”

And then this via Inside Higher Education:

On Saturday night, Charlie Gibson, the ABC anchor, was introducing a question in the Democratic presidential debate about proposed tax increases for wealthy Americans and his example of those who might be affected: college professors at a liberal arts college.

“If you take a family of two professors here at Saint Anselm, they’re going to be in the $200,000 category that you’re talking about lifting the taxes on,” Gibson said. (The exchange comes toward the end of the debate, a transcript of which is available from The New York Times.)

The audience at Saint Anselm College laughed, and the three leading candidates for the Democratic nomination suggested that Gibson was off on his estimates, with Sen. Hillary Clinton saying: “That may be NYU, Charlie. I don’t think it’s Saint Anselm.”

Sherman Dorn wasn’t laughing — because two full professors at Saint Anselm, not to mention most academics — don’t earn enough to be a decent example for the impact of raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans. Dorn is a blogger about education policy and is president of the University of South Florida’s faculty union (affiliated with both the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association).

Dorn checked the annual data compiled by the American Association of University Professors and found that the average salary for a full professor at Saint Anselm is just over $77,000 while the average for assistant professors is under $50,000. Dorn said in an e-mail that the question showed “astounding ignorance” of faculty salaries.

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April 21, 2008 at 12:35 am

Posted in academia, america

not safe for viewing at work (or in communal apartments)

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Whoa…. I… Excuse me… I thought that no one was… I’m sorry…. I’ll come back later… 

Fascinating, strange photo-collection from Françoise Huguier, who in 2002 subleased and moved into a room in one of the still extant communal apartment buildings in Russia. Apparently, 11 million Russians still live in the kommounalki, as they’re called. The story’s a little bit hard to follow, at least for me, but you should go take a look at the Rue89 piece about it. 

I’d love to see the book, but won’t likely, because it costs €46, which comes out to something like $460 or so according to current exchange rates.* But what is interesting about the images on display at Rue89 is the fact that they seem to enact what I imagine to be a relatively common fantasy of one upside of life in this sort of situation would be like, a fantasy that takes up probably the oldest and deepest utopian projections going. I mean, of course, the combination of communal economic life with sexual commonality. I have no doubt at all that these places weren’t at all like that, and if they are now I’m sure it ain’t a pretty scene, but it is something that Huguier makes it seem so, for her and our benefit now. 

How long do you imagine it will be before we see the first ad spread derived from Huguier’s pictures? American Apparel? Beyond what I’ve said above, what are we to make of the fact that they are so deeply reminiscent of one of the dominant ad aesthetics of our time? It may well be that the photographs are simply derivative of the ads themselves, but if something like the reverse is or is also the case, then, well, things do get a bit more interesting… 

* Unrelatedly, I visited Buenos Aires not long after the devaluation, and noticed in the big bookstores that were clearly set up to cater to a very cosmopolitan population, with big sections bracketed off for libros en Inglés, francés, alemán, that clearly a resupply hadn’t happened in quite awhile and only the unsalable dregs were left. This seemed incredibly sad to me, the thought that a place like Argentina suddenly simply couldn’t afford to import books. I don’t rely all that much on imports, but I used to buy them sometimes, but not so much anymore… 

 

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April 20, 2008 at 12:39 am

Posted in socialism

odder than the rocks among which she sits

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(via voyou desoeuvre)

you need a close up don’t you?

“Set it for a moment beside one of those white Greek goddesses or beautiful women of antiquity, and how would they be troubled by this beauty, into which the soul with all its maladies has passed!”

You can get the link, if you’d like to see more, at VD’s site, linked above…

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April 15, 2008 at 11:02 pm

Posted in america

back from vacation, illustrated

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(my vacation, as illustrated by photos found in today’s Evening Standard….) 

Well, I got lots of beachtime in during the last two weeks, and now have a bit of a tan. My wife says it make me look hot… Which is unusual, so there you go… 

 

Anyway, to take advantage of all the third-world deals on in the home country, we did some shopping, like all the other pasties who flew in on BA. I bought some stuff at Banana Republic, because I’m very posh, and had a stack of bonus gift cards from my old credit card. My wife bought a few things at some of the other stores in the mall…

The return flight wasn’t too bad, but we’d brought so much back that our original plan to take the train back into the city seemed less attractive once we actually made it to terminal 5. Oh, and there was (as usual) a problem with the trains today anyway. 

No matter, I’d saved so much on duty-free cigs and all my “nothing to declare” items, that a cab back to the house seemed very much the sort of affordable luxury that, well, one ought to gift to oneself now and again.

(sorry. I have absolutely no idea why I had to put you through that just now….)

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April 15, 2008 at 9:44 pm

Posted in wtf?

gemeinkitsch, the alienated majesty of alienation, loving the emergency, etc

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I know that I pound on Adbusters all the time, and there are, I’m very well aware, better things to pound on, but what the fuck is this about? It’s from Kalle Lasn’s opener to a recent issue…

This is the magic moment in which capitalist cool can stumble and authentic cool can start bubbling back up again. And after decades of wandering around the wilderness, we on the Left are finally realizing what that magic moment is all about. Clive Hamilton – author of Growth Fetish and Affluenza – nails it in his 2006 article, “What’s Left? The Death of Social Democracy,” when he writes, “The defining problem of modern industrial society is not injustice but alienation . . . the central task of progressive politics today is to achieve not equality, but liberation.”

Forget about treating the symptoms. Forget about the hedgemaze of identity politics. Break away from the glorious equality and social justice battles of the past. Instead, liberate yourself from the capitalist mindfuck. Learn to live without dead time. Start generating authentic cool from the bottom up again. The rest will follow.

I shouldn’t be surprised, I know. But it’s starting to look like something of a meme, perhaps the early smoulders of a new/old political formation that could become increasingly central as things fall apart one way or another in the next few years. Since I’ve been on vacation, I’ve been allowing myself time to read (for me) tons of brand new fiction, which is a pastime in some senses as depressing as it sounds. But one thing I read that was especially interesting – and probably more scary than depressing – was James Howard Kunstler’s new “peak oil” novel World Made By Hand. Now, Kunstler has a blog that I’ve commented on before…

I might actually try to put something into real paper print about this one, so I’d rather not give away everything here. But just for now: we often say that we live in a period without utopias, a period that somehow gives itself only to the construction of dystopian fictions and films and visions. (Remember this piece by Jameson from the NLR?) All sorts of good and easy and subtle and complex reasons why this is so of course. But whatever the reasons, it has seemed true for quite awhile.

Well, Kunstler’s new novel – like the wild-eyed catastophism of his blog and non-fiction writings – mark a turn in the genre, a turn towards a new (no, again, new/old) quiet, disturbing utopianism emerging out of the ashes of economic collapse and world war. Long story short, we’ve got here a sensible post-technocratic alliance with the fundies, the black population of america katrina-ed right off stage, and the last standing minority in opposition to the new order of later-day settler-patriots with blacksmith shops and Olde Style Dentists and lots of horses and cows are the White Trashers who live up the hill, Mad Maxing the future with live-action porn reenactments and monuments to the Harley.

Resentment+gemeinkitsch+handkraft+catastrophe. It’s not really hard to see where it goes. (I even think there are signs that Kunstler knows himself what horrific echoes the things he writes about have, and writes them anyway out of an “exception times require that we not be pansies about the inevitable emergence of fascism” sort of ethos. Again, all to familiar this stance, no?) But just like the Lasn bit at the start, it is “alienation,” in a sense, that Kunstler’s dystopian utopia is bent on resolving at the expense of just about everything else that we hold dear.

Long story short, it bears remembering that “alienation” may well best be considered a value-neutral term, at least in my book, useless without further qualification and explanation for the telegraphic establishment of the pro or con. Take up arms against this abstraction as an abstraction, and you may well have simply taken the next (il)logical step from the war on “terror”….

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April 13, 2008 at 7:09 am

Posted in distraction