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projekt enlightenment

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July 20, 2007 at 10:52 pm

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but were they nappy-headed spear carriers?

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Richard Stern, perhaps the most baffling near-octogenarian in the blogosphere, chips in an only-somewhat hesitant defense of Don Imus today at TNR’s Third Way Open University.

Imus, following the low lead of his complexly semi-racist producer, Bernard McGirk, laughingly said that the triumphant Rutgers University women’s basketball team looked like “nappy-headed hos.”

Protests, soon spearheaded by the usual spear carriers, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, called for Imus to be permanently denied the publicly financed airways.

Lots and lots of spears in that last sentence. Wow.

I’ve been following Stern relatively closely since this post a few weeks ago, which just might be the most inscrutable piece of webloggery I have ever seen. Anyone who can explain the last paragraph to me (and to all of us really) wins some sort of prize to be determined, likely a prize without products, but still. Stern even wrote a follow-up, meant to explain, but which only makes things worse.

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April 10, 2007 at 2:35 pm

Posted in blogs

banned in china (thread)

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(xposted to Long Sunday)

Henry Farrell over at Crooked Timber has banned abb1 from further comments on any threads that he authors. I’d rather not rehash the entire issue at hand, so go take a look and come back.

From what I can tell, the tipping point seems to have been reached with a comment of abb1’s on the Tiananmen Square revolt and suppression of 1989.

Marc: remember the students in TS?

Funny, though, that according to wikipedia:

Although the initial protests were made by students and intellectuals who believed that the Deng Xiaoping reforms had not gone far enough and China needed to reform its political systems, they soon attracted the support of urban workers who believed that the reforms had gone too far.

Obviously there are many more urban workers than students and intellectuals, so, why don’t you hold your venom and think about this one for a few seconds.

This drew quite a negative response from several of the other commenters. But, as I’ve said in the comment thread in question, everything that I’ve read – and I’m not an expert, just an amateur – indicates that the story of the June 4th Movement and the suppression of it was quite a bit more complex than “they wanted democracy, votes and Levi jeans, and the commies ran them over with tanks.”

From, for instance, an interview with Wang Hui in One China, Many Paths (2003):

In 1989, why did the citizens of Beijing respond so strongly and actively to the student demonstrations? It was largely because of the adventurist reforms to the price system that Zhao Ziyang had twice imposed, without any benefit to ordinary people. Their earnings suffered from the agreements they were forced to sign by factories, and their jobs were at risk. People felt the inequality created by the reforms: there was real popular anger in the air. That is why the citizenry poured onto the streets in support of the students. The social movement was never simply a demand for political reform, it also sprang from a need for economic justice and social equality. The democracy that people wanted was not just a legal framework, it was a compreshensive social value (64-65).

It seems clear that this point is at least open for discussion, but, it seems that challenging the conventional wisdom on sacred moments of the end of political history, like Tiananmen Square, provokes a flailing response from the Timberites… In short, an inappropriate response…

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March 4, 2007 at 12:30 am

bergen street was my stop, btw

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If you’re not familiar with Paul Ford’s ftrain, or, erm, you gave up on him after his 2 year disappearance from the scene, go back now. He’s apparently made a new year’s resolution or something to post every day… But he’s in rare form.

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January 12, 2007 at 12:38 pm

Posted in blogs

not blegging for compliments, really…

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So, yes, we’re at a bit of a crossroads with this site, clearly. I’m not really updating it anymore. Dylan youtubes don’t count.

In short, I’m trying to decide what to do. The three (or, perhaps four) options.

1) Keep going with this site, redoubling my efforts. Update like I used to, back in the day.

1a) Keep going with this site, but just like I am now – trying not to worry about the frequency of my posting. Pretend / believe that this is just a dry spell, and that I’ll become vigorous and prolific in bloggery again soon, or at least at some point.

2) Start a new and fully-anonymous site. (Enough folks know who I really am, that this is only semi-anonymous…)

3) Quit the game altogether, as my time might be much more profitably spent on, say, reading real books and writing real books and articles and suchlike.

Decisions, decisions. I think I’m going to start a fully-anonymous site – obviously, you won’t hear about it here – and see how that feels for a bit, while keeping this one in a limp. Full-anonymity is tough work though – when you live in a place like the place where I live, the ip addy is enough of a giveaway that even visits to and comments at other sites could spoil the secret.

Obviously, the big question is why am I so worried about anonymity? The job, the career, of course has a lot to do with it. But more than a fear of discovery, and the possible ramifications of it, I know that the more people there are who know who I am, the less (and less adventurously) do I write.

In my other job, the real one, you see, I’m a terrible perfectionist. Hours hovering over the sentence – headachy bouts of real-time self-editing, that sort of thing. The blog releases me from that. The style (?) of my writing here is developed over, well, as close to a lifetime as someone my age could have spent in the on-line world – mostly anonymous, always on the same topics. I started when I was, what, 15 or 16, with bulletin boards on Prodigy (!) – which is, almost exactly, half my lifespan.

(I hadn’t ever done the math before. That’s rather stunning. I’ve been messing around on here for half my life… I doesn’t seem like half my life. But there’s aging for you… Accelerates, apparently, the passage of time. Viciously.)

In short, the public persona meets pseudo’d bb nut at the crossroads. (Not “public persona” as in famous, jesus, no. Just the part of me that publishes or tries to, holds a job, teaches classes…) The former bristles at the sloppiness of the latter, he willingness to hold forth on topics that aren’t his, his willingness to engage in questionable arguments sure to yield nothing good… In particular, the former carries around with him a phobia about materials being read in less than optimal state – materials that fall somewhere short of the explosively intelligent…

On the other hand, well, there are the friendships I’ve formed on here, the very obvious pleasure that I take in interacting with everyone and being interacted with. Along the lines of what Scott is talking about here, I guess. I may go to the MLA panel that he’s talking about. I think that I’m not alone in being almost stupidly excited by the idea of it…

I probably keep in better touch with people that I’ve met on here than most (not all but most) of my good, good friends from grad school, who have scattered, just as I have… Blogging provides a degree of social stability amid the flux of early-career academic itinerancy, when all those people who you saw on a daily basis for five or six years, lived just above you or around the corner from you, dissolve into postdocs and assistant professorships, leave the field under their own power or on a stretcher, stay behind for “one more year” back at “the department” and so forth…

It’s so complicated… Humpfff…

Anyway, I’ll work it out. There may or may not be a new, nearly empty, anonymous blog out there in the left-cultural-academic b’sphere. We’ll see which – or whether either – wins…

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October 31, 2006 at 12:11 am

Posted in blogs, meta


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Just as I was getting a bit tired of this whole blog phenomenon, some good posts pull be back in:

K-punk eloquently sends us back to Virilio and his predictions that have come true.

An ad without products from Beirut

And a note to publishers: were Owen Hatherley given the opportunity to write and publish a book expanding on his series on modernism, I would wait by the mailbox for my copy to arrive. Here’s the start of his newest:

Of all the anti-modernist critiques that these pieces have been mocking and picking apart, there was one that stood out, not necessarily for its originality or surprise, but in eloquently putting across an old politico-aesthetic rivalry. The piece is by J.G Ballard, but states an objection that was made implicitly and explicitly by Dada’s mutation into the Surrealist International, regardless of the fact Tristan Tzara got Adolf Loos to design his house. The reassertion of the irrational by the dreaming wing of the artistic left, essentially, or more generally the psychoanalytic objection. Though Ballard isn’t as scathing as say, his hero Dali- who, on learning of Le Corbusier’s death in 1967 wrote derisively of a man who ‘wanted us to live in reinforced concrete when we’re sending men into space, who wants to build in reinforced concrete on the moon’ but nonetheless, amid some fairly pointless digressions on German military architecture, hits a few nails on the head.

Specifically- ‘I have always admired modernism and wish the whole of London could be rebuilt in the style of Michael Manser’s brilliant Heathrow Hilton. But I know that most people, myself included, find it difficult to be clear-eyed at all times and rise to the demands of a pure and unadorned geometry. Architecture supplies us with camoflage, and I regret that no-one could fall in love inside the Heathrow Hilton. By contrast, people are forever falling in love inside the Louvre and the National Gallery. All of us have our dreams to reassure us. Architecture is a stage set where we need to be at ease in order to perform. Fearing ourselves, we need our illusions to protect us, even if the protection takes the form of finials and cartouches, Corinthian columns and acanthus leaves. Modernism lacked mystery and emotion, was a little too frank about the limits of human nature.’

This last part will, then, try and imagine what happens to the libidinal imaginary when all this is stripped away, what happens without camoflage, and try to argue against this profoundly depressing suggestion that one can only fall in love in buildings of the 18th century- try to imagine instead love among the Siedlungen.

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August 3, 2006 at 1:02 am

Posted in blogs, modernism, war


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July 18, 2006 at 10:25 pm

Posted in blogs, war


Brilliant, electrically humane and, well, poundingly right over at sweet-nothing, one of the best blogs going.

In part, he’s captioning this photo, and I want to clip some prose, but, no, you just have to go read the thing as a whole yourself.

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July 18, 2006 at 10:13 pm

Posted in america, blogs, war

not normal

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I’ve been thinking quite a bit about images like this one, iconic expressions of our era. The pillar of smoke rising at a distance (we’re often on top of a building? telephoto…) Never humans in the frame, or rarely. Or then there are those of this sort:


Very familiar, right? The neighbors pitching in, the pile of rubble that somehow, minutes ago, was a free-standing structure. The perspectival disorder – is the camera level or the house in the background, on the right?

There’s a temporality implicit in the “standard” set of images we are given after a bomb attack. Something that I’m thinking about – not ready yet.

But for now, a blog that’s worth a thousand photos (via Le Colonel Chabert):

Newest update, it’s 4:26am, Israelis are attacking the city, Saida, from sea. They are targeting the bridge that connects to Saida.

Another really loud bomb. My heart is racing. I can only pretend to be brave.

Everything that is happening now is because Israel is trying to wipe out any trace of Hizballah in Lebanon. In the process of doing all this, they have wiped out our infrastructure. Our roads, bridges, etc., civilian homes, innocent lives.

It’s 4:32am and I have a knot in my stomach. I am praying they don’t hit the electricity. I want my Internet. I think it’s the only thing that will help me stay normal.

Latest update: 9 missile raids into Dahiyeh in the last hour. There are now several parts of Beirut without electricity.

I am praying for the people in Dahiyeh… Another really really loud bomb. I guess that makes it 10 now.

I am angry now. The things that cross your mind… I just set up a new installation last week, now, noone will get to see it.

I was just about ready to launch an international residency program here… Not going to happen now.

Was just planning to start a family… who wants to get pregnant now?

Ladies and gentlemen, I did not want to burden you with the troubles of war but I think it is really important that the world knows what is going on. We are under attack by Israel. It is unjust and unfair. I wonder what the media coverage is like out there.

All this must end. Israel must be stopped. This is so unjust and unfair. Everything we’ve worked on for the past 10 years is gone now. So, so, so unjust and unfair. We had so many cultural events planned for the summer… exhibits… concerts… plays, etc. — all gone.

Dear friends, pray for us. For this madness to end. Pray for the Lebanese people to stick through this together and not lose their cool.

Believe it or not, the sun is beginning to rise and I actually hear birds chirping.

With love,
Zena el-Khalil

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July 14, 2006 at 10:20 pm

Posted in blogs, teevee, war


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Wow. I’m really jealous and a little depressed. Maybe in seventeen years.

I’ll be let’s see 45 or 46 or so. Hmmmpfff…

Boy am I ever being cheesy tonite. Where I’ve been* – but obviously not in one shot like these folks.

create your own visited country map

* Keeping myself honest, I’m not counting the hours spent in the glorious Incheon Airport in South Korea. Though I did spend some serious won in hyper-fetishy little shops there, stacked and color-coordinated to the hilt. Pharmacies that would fit in my bathroom etc… You have to leave the airport for it to count, right? So I am counting a few hours in Malmo, Sweden on the way to Copenhagen when I was 19. All I can really remember is that the chewing tobacco was displayed as prominently as the cigarettes in the appropriate stores, which struck me as funny and not at all what you’d expect. Uruguay was just an afternoon’s expedition to Colonia from BA. And I didn’t obviously spend months and months in Luxembourg either…

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July 5, 2006 at 12:51 am

Posted in blogs


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So I’ve been writing a ton this summer, and it’s not a new thing but when I write I constantly click open the rss reader to siphon it down as it fills. It is one of my many, many bad writing habits. And unlike some of my bad habits, which are a bit edge-sharpening, give me a little burst of clarity and fixity as I circle and stream along, the feeds are purely distracting. When I’m lucky, it’s a single sweep through, no links followed. When unlucky, I get caught up in it, end up leaving comments somehwhere or ordering books from Amazon etc. When I’m shit out of luck and concentration, I’ll blog about something that I’ve read. (You might notice I’ve been posting way more than usual of late…)

Addictive. I’ve always been a bit of an info-freak, newspaper fetishist, trend gnawer, whatever. But rss is a whole nother story. After, what’s it been, two years or so, my collection of feeds is heading toward some sort of tipping point where I’m provided constantly and instantaneously with everything that I have to read right now. And it takes a toll on the work…

…I mean, I guess it takes a toll. It should, right? I’ve already mentioned my complete inability to read Actual Books this summer. But I’ve written quite a lot, am relatively happy with what I”ve written, etc, etc…

Ok – the point: during my writing time, quite a bit of mental energy is spent holding the world (in the shape of these feeds) out. They have nothing to do with what I’m working on, and I’ve got this reflex developing that

A kind of banally deconstructive question: How is my current work shaped by what I spend so much effort excluding? And what would work that embraces rather than walls out distraction look like?

A few Benjamin cites to help out. On the one hand, from “The Work of Art” essay:

The painting invites the spectator to contemplation; before it the spectator can abandon himself to his associations. Before the movie frame he cannot do so. No sooner has his eye grasped a scene than it is already changed. It cannot be arrested. Duhamel, who detests the film and knows nothing of its significance, though something of its structure, notes this circumstance as follows: “I can no longer think what I want to think. My thoughts have been replaced by moving images.” (Georges Duhamel, *Scenes de la vie future*, Paris, 1930, p. 52.) The spectator’s process of association in view of these images is indeed interrupted by their constant, sudden change. This constitutes the shock effect of the film, which, like all shocks, should be cushioned by heightened presence of mind. By means of its technical structure, the film has taken the physical shock effect out of the wrappers in which Dadaism had, as it were, kept it inside the moral shock effect.

But on the other hand, from “The Storyteller”:

Every morning brings us news of the globe, and yet we are poor in noteworthy stories. This is because no event any longer comes to us without already being shot through with explanation. In other words, by now almost everything benefits information. Actually, it is half the art of storytelling to keep a story free from explanation as one reproduces it. Leskov is the master at this (compare pieces like “The Deception” and “The White Eagle”). The most extraordinary things, marvelous things, are related with the greatest accuracy, but the psychological connection of the events is not forced upon the reader. It is left up to him to interpret things the way he understands them, and thus the narrative achieves an amplitude that information lacks.

(BTW: do you see the funny turn here, so characteristic? We expect the news to be disjointed, not the story, right? But then it is the story that lacks the connective tissue that runs between events….

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June 30, 2006 at 12:38 am

Posted in benjamin, blogs, distraction


In case you’re not already reading it, go check out signandsight’s weekly world magazine roundup. Just fantastic. Definitely worth picking up their rss feed as not to miss this.

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June 27, 2006 at 12:07 pm

Posted in blogs

buying / renting

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So I am contemplating a move over to my own site / WordPress. But holy shit is it ever time sucking, playing around with this stuff. Can’t decide… I’ve bought my domain name… But I’m very worried that, really, at base, typepad is good for me because it does everything that I need it to do with a minimum of difficulty. Anyone want to chime in, pro or con?

UPDATE: I think the grand WordPress experiment may have come to a close on my end. It’s a lovely little bit of software, and I actually succeeded in launching a site, importing my posts from here (minus images, as they’re tough to untangle), and I learned a ton about how this crazy internet thingy works. But I think I’m going to stick with Typepad. For a few reasons:

1. While I was relatively successful playing around the ftp uploading and even a bit of code editing, I can’t see wanting to do that on anywhere near a regular basis. And I think you’d have to.

2. I really like the backside post composition in typepad. Between the on-line imputs, and Marsedit, I’m all set, and I’d hate to leave those behind. WordPress would theoretically work with Marsedit, but it seems very complicated to get it to work correctly…

3. My ultimate goal was to start using my own domain name, which should still work under typepad. I’ll set it up soonish

In sum, while it’s nice to head into Open Source territory, right now it would simply add a layer of obsessive complexity to my life which I really don’t need… So typepad it is.

Luckily, I only bought a month of hosting from a small orange for $5. What a deal. And I do recommend it as a host if you’re looking for one. But I’m not going to be out all that much cash for my little vacation into the world of web formalism…

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June 24, 2006 at 2:14 am

Posted in blogs, meta

the telescopic sublime / criticism in 3D

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As I work on my “real” writing, I increasingly find myself looking to embed images within my text, just like when I’m tapping away at adswithoutproducts. (Obviously, I could insert images – like, I know how to do that in Word – but I work in a field, literature, that doesn’t let you get away with gratuitous illustration.

And then there’s the burgeoning world of video. No one gets to put that in their book…

For instance, I am working today on this famous passage from A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man:

He turned to the flyleaf of the geography and read what he had written there: himself, his name and where he was.

Stephen Dedalus

Class of Elements

Clongwoes Wood College


County Kildare



The World

The Universe

That was in his writing: and Fleming one night for a cod had written on the opposite page:

Stephen Dedalus is my name,

Ireland is my nation.

Clongwoes is my dwellingplace

And heaven my expectation.

He read the verses backwards but then they were not poetry.

And at one point as I worked on it, I found myself momentarily thinking that I would embed this into my text ((Via here):

But of course I did not, I could not. I will have to make do with a footnote and a link that will assuredly look strange to anyone who is not a blogreader. Blogreaders, I think, would get the not quite non-sequitur-ness of the gesture.

Now see, if was writing for an appropriately electronic medium, a freeform one that’s not, say, just a repository of print-type articles, the stub of a new book might have grown out of this right-angle point of contact with my first. The Joyce material might have proceeded along down the page while a new line of thought, taking up the topic of these particularly modern anti-narrative narratives like Stephen’s list, like the Eames’s film, these synchronic stories which gesture at a new fictionality both impossible and absolutely necessary, dictated by changing world conditions, the erosion of forms, technological emergences, etc…

Perhaps I would have dropped what I’ve been doing with the work that includes the Joyce chapter and taken up this new line. Or maybe both at once. Working in this fashion – a fashion that’s a bit closer to blogging than the academic mongraph, or perhaps would be a hybrid of both, would give a whole new meaning to the notion of scholarly oeuvre. One work per life time, branching 2 dimensionally, and then 3, and so on. And it would end up – or start out – looking something like this:

(which is a visualization of adswithoutproducts, from here, via here)

So while this might sound like a circa mid-1990s paean to the radical new possibilities of HTML for criticism and imaginative works, it’s not. That has all been said before, many, many times. Rather for me this youtube epiphany makes me realize that the technology is already getting old – we are getting used to it, it’s becoming second nature. And it’s starting to show, as is bound to happen, in the way that I work, but more importantly the way that I think.

UPDATE: It dawned on me only after posting this that the issue I’m working through with the Joyce quote above actually has quite a lot to do with the issues I’m working through in this post. The subtle registration of the important question very young Stephen has asked about the “poem,” the experiment that he has conducted, and what his author’s ultimate answer to that question will be… Stephen’s question is about the limits of conventional form and the conventional temporalities that these forms drag along with them…

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June 15, 2006 at 11:12 pm

Posted in blogs, design, joyce, meta

what if he had said “blog” instead of “photograph”?

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From Henri Bergson’s Matter and Memory:

The whole difficulty of the problem that occupies us comes from the fact that we imagine perception to be a kind of photographic view of things, taken from a fixed point by that special apparatus which is called an organ of perception – a photograph which would then be developed in the brain-matter by some unknown chemical and psychical process of elaboration. But is it not obvious that the photograph, if photograph there be, is already taken, already developed in the very heart of things and at all the points of space?

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March 8, 2006 at 12:23 am

Posted in blogs