24 October 2006

Get to it

a google image search of 'cultural critique'OK - so i've just started reading Barak Obama's The Audacity of Hope, and recently finished a Chomsky documentary and Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion, and additionally just saw a good friend show up on a random episode of Nightline...

And so, this story which is my life (in which you all must be bit or not-so-bit part players) rolls on as i start to get serious about applying to grad school and am a hardCore greenGod bookseller, but i wonder to myself what am i doing here exactly... and what will i be doing.

I would like to model myself (as Un-uChi of myself it may be) off of Chomsky's model... in the sense that he started off as a dreadfully important academic in his own area... becoming one of the most important linguists ever... Then
moved on to be somebody who thought it was vital to try an change the socio-political landscape and essentially abandoned his normal life to pursue it... But the bridge from some random field of academic solitude to the battlefield the current political fight isn't so far as i might once have thought. And so i can fall back to the original 'what am i doing here' question and voila!, i'm a cultural critic, whatever the hell that is...

An Intelligently Designed Argument

Just think of how different things might be today if William Shakespeare had won, when he ran for king in 1604. Just imagine that world. There would have been no Hitler, the French Revolution would have happened gradually, but sooner, and with less bloodshed. The world would today be a vastly different place had the powers that were not stolen that election.

It is a well documented and indisputable fact, that Adolf Hitler descended from the lineage of Will Shakespeare. William’s eldest son, Ronfrey, married late in life & he and his wife Jane had a daughter who was forced to leave the country in her middle-teens. The daughter, Lizzy, was thought to stay with family in France, but recently discovered evidence now shows, clearly, that Lizzy moved on to Vienna and lived there to the end of her days with a child she had out of wedlock. The child grew up to be a servant in a wealthy house and bore the master of the house two children, one of whom would go on to be an ancestor of Adolf Hitler, and the other an ancestor of Walter Benjamin.

It is a truly harsh historical irony that the great thinker Walter Benjamin was separated only by a few generations from the man who not only made his life so difficult but to whom he (Benjamin) dedicated his life’s work to combating.

This fact of Hitler’s heritage is not in dispute. The only interesting, and worthwhile question, is what would have been different had Shakespeare won that election? To be sure, the family would not have returned to Stratford on Avon, so Ronfrey would likely have married earlier and to a more stately woman, but this change is not the least of what would have been different. Although Shakespeare’s success in his writing career afforded his family some comfort in Stratford, the family was somewhat outcast by locals because of the social oddity that accompanied Shakespeare’s ‘artistic nature’ (not least of which the insistence on being called “Shakespeare” all the time). As a duly elected king, these ‘social oddities’ would have been taken as kingly discretion, the right to behave as one will, but with the disputed Tudor victory, Will was forced to stay in his lifely station and pretend that he hadn’t even run for king. The loss was hard on Shakespeare, particularly because it was so disputed and the outcome questioned.

Shakespeare’s concession speech, recorded only in personal journals and writings of the time (since newspapers would not be invented for another 73 years!) was succinct and not malicious (though it was surely full of irony): “Although I strongly disagree with the decision reached by the powers that be, concerning the election, I will not fight the decision and split this population and declare myself the (il)legitimate leader… rather, I concede to the decision and will move on, as we all must move on.” (No blank verse for this soliloquy).

Sadly we will never know how history might have turned out differently had Shakespeare won in his effort, but we too, must accept the decisions of history, and live with it’s consequences.

23 October 2006

the Blind Rice Cooker

Within a period of 24-hours brooke & i have accrued two rice cookers where previously we had (and presumeable needed) none. I've never had a lot of trouble cooking rice, so when i learned we had accrued one at a garage sale i was skeptical. But when i saw it i was impressed. our rice cooker is not this niceProduced by Sanyo (who incidentally also manufactured both of our cell phones), the rice cooker is a 50's-style retro design, though, i'm guessing it wasn't originally retro.

The other rice cooker we accrued was as a late wedding gift from my aunt & uncle. Made by Kitchen Gourmet, this rice cooker is retro more in the sat-in-my-basement for 10 years sort of way. Having decided that we definitely don't need 2 rice cookers (and likely don't need 1) the trick now is to figure out how to unload a rice cooker.

All in all i now have in my possession a lot of machines i never had before, and i think i was doing quite fine without them. I'm not sure exactly how this happened and haven't decided really how good or bad a thing it is...but it certainly is a thing.

16 October 2006

At least i'll be gone by then...

I went to see Al Gore's movie An Inconvenient Truth this afternevening & it was, i think, the scariest fucking movie i've ever seen. It's one of those movies that you see and you think, just what is it, that i think i'm doing here? Al Gore, who is decidedly not a scientist (but is a pretty damn smart guy), dedicates his work to solving Global Warming... Me, i dedicate my work to thinking about zombies & corpses... I suppose it all amounts to the same

I'm also currently reading Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion. Both of these texts are of the life-changing sort... at least in their textio-mission statements are concerned. Inconvenient Truth first and foremost is a work that wants to convince all viewers (and by extension [six degrees of it, seemingly]) the world needs desperately to sort this whole "we're all gonna die" situation out, but is also, in the end a 'what-can-i-do' today sort of conclusion.

Dawkins - who i've never read before, but loved for quite some time (via Douglas Adams) - creates a text whose stated goal in the first chapter is to convince agnostics that they should entirely abandon the idea of an active, interested God & that believers should similarly abandon their faith in the face of such absolute improbability of the existence of God. I'm not too terribly far in, as of yet, but the project seems to surround first breaking down "logical" arguments for the existence of God and then constructing the vast improbability of the existence of God (versus the odds/likelihood of a Darwinian-style natural selection of the universe).

Now i've just witnessed the Bears come back from a 23-3 deficit near the end of the 3rd Quarter and if i were more desperate to find God in the world than i am i'd say the victory was a minor miracle (a miracle in the tradition of the unexpected parking space close to the destination - which, as Dawkins points out takes the space away from someone else), because they were terrible offensively & scored 3 defensive/special teams touchdowns to win the game in the 4th Quarter. I'm sure there's some amount of 20 years of suffering (20/40 what's the difference) neccesitating great glory and happiness in the land to come (by which of course the first 6 weeks of the 2006 season)

Anyway... point being (was, beed?) a movie & a book that everyone needs to experience. Go now... you here four hours, you go now!

11 October 2006

...Excuse me, do you have an appointment...television

For the first time ever, tonight, i watched Lost as it was intended, as a weekly television show. Having seen season 1 on DVD & downloading all of season 2 off of iTunes, then having to miss last week's episode, picking up my brother (and waiting for brooke to finish season 2 {and ultimately having to download the first episode of season 3 from the increasingly inferior iTunes 7, because my other brother [not Daryll] either failed to record the premiere or gave me the wrong tape this, i think is my favorite lost character...[although he did give me a tape with most of the Comedy Central Roast of William Shatner, so all was not lost]})

I non-figuratively cannot recall the last time a show was on that i truly felt i could not miss. Of course, with the luxury of being able to see anything you miss on abc.com or iTunes or even (if you are so archaic) video tape the necessity to absolutely be there is less extreme, and, since this is the first time in a long time since i've been in this situation, i am, clearly, no expert... But damn i've missed it. I've spoken before about the beauty/loss of the TV-on-DVD (o fuck... we've got one of those giant ass late season flies in the house {he seems to have gotten a lot bigger just over the course of the afternoon/evening} and i've just watched him, seconds ago, get caught in a spider web. Now, i know this spider. He's a big guy & i've killed members of his family in my house, but i generally let spiders live, because i know it is their policy to kill other pesky bugs. $10 prize to the first commenter who tells me how i came up with this image... NO JOKEBut to see the brutal reality laid out in front of me... i wonder if i sit here long enough, if i will be able to watch him actually come out and chow down on this fly...) anyway... I loved the wading through the commercial breaks, the rush to grab a fresh drink and the challenge at the end of the episode to have to wait a whole week to find out what might happen next (truth be told, i figured out this evening what the scope of the storyline is for the next 1 to 1.5 seasons, but i'll not spoil the suspense for you all)

And so, i'll wait for a week. I'll play along with the bargain you're striking with me, ABC, just this once. Mostly it's not worth it, but occasionally it is... and i have the next Battlestar Galactica, Season 2.5 DVD coming from netflix tomorrow, so i'll have that to tide me over. Galactica is in fact the other show that i would be willing to log in as my appointment TV show of the year, but alas, i have not yet caught up (i discovered it too late), i don't get the Sci-Fi channel (something i would remedy if i were caught up and cable companies allowed you to just choose a couple of the channels you wanted), and it's on friday nights... come on, even Friday Night Lights isn't on Friday nights...

Anyway, get Lost, that's the first thing... as you're catching up on it, start trying to find your way back to Earth with Battlestar Galactica. These are the two best shows on television right now, and you can take it from me, someone who really doesn't watch or enjoy much tv.

07 October 2006

Presenting... The dead.

I've now made my first ever conference presentation. And it was much more painless than i expected. Attended by only about 12 or so people, I talked about Gunther von Hagens' Body Worlds and how it helps us/hinders us thinking about our own deaths (as individuals and as a society). I was the 3rd of three folks to present at my session, and thus garnered the most questions, both because i had lots of cool pictures to look at (see left) & because i was freshest in all their minds. It was the first time i'd ever tried to simply read a paper i'd written straight out (i wrote it in a slightly more conversational tone than i normally do because of this plan) and i felt like i was looking straight down at my paper non-stop, not realizing anyone else was in the room whatsoever. Perhaps had i gotten the words down on paper (and by paper i mean Word) earlier than the morning of the presentation i could have looked around a bit more during my presentation, but as it was, i felt that i could not risk losing my spot and looking like a total boob (until the point when my paper just stopped & i then started talking about the things i thought i might have included, but couldn't figure out how to fit in).

I think part of the reason my presentation went so well, despite not being fully thought out or "finished" was because i didn't (as i usually do) pretend to know everything about anything. I admitted that there were parts of my thinking in this paper that didn't quite work & that it was a work in progress and so a lot of the questions/comments garnered were helpful, pointing me in new directions... sometimes possibly helpful (Foucault's "Birth of the Clinic") and sometimes perhaps less so (J.G. Ballard's Atrocity Exhibition), but overall i was pleased as hawaiian punch to have received a response other than pretensious scoffing & academic one-upping & felt a huge success afterward... so much so that i drank myself into a stupor later that evening in celebration.

02 October 2006

Got Wins!

Today was a huge day in the world of Sport Joel. In addition to the 7 or so mile walk along the Iowa Riverside Trail, the Twins won their final game of the season, securing the AL Central title over the Tigers and the Bears had a huge and convincing win over the Seahawks on a national broadcast.

Both my teams won in a big way today, and though i'm not normally one to write about my sports excesses, today is a rare day indeed. The Twins managed to avoid a first round showdown with the Yankees, which (no matter what "expert" columnists say) is a very good thing. Of course you can speculate on whether a 5 or 7 game series against the biggest threat is better, but in my mind ending on a winning note, securing home field in the series against the A's, and possibly letting someone else be the team to knock the Yankees out doesn't seem like a bad situation to be in.

The Bears, meanwhile, decimated last year's Super Bowl losers (& only other remaining undefeated NFC team) the Seattle Seahawks. They clearly won out in every phase of the game and proved, i think beyond all doubt, that they are a serious Super Bowl threat. It's been so great this year watching the Bears play a balanced game. They can suddenly throw and catch and (occasionally) run & for the first time in a long time they don't seem to have a better chance at scoring when they're on defense.

At one point, when i was in Vegas in July, i got it into my head that i should put money down on the Twins to win the World Series and the Bears to win the Super Bowl. Both pretty far-fetched long shots (and still, to be sure, rather unlikely). But i was waylaid with alcohol and failed to put down the money (at least 1 person, my brother Tim, can attest to my intention in this matter). Just think if i'd put those bets down, how wealthy i would be in a few short months. Hundreds of ones of dollars could be mine all mine.