07 December 2009

Why You Should Major in English

In a couple recent conversations I've had with some colleagues and a student in my 101 class, i've come to a realization that really has no business being a realization at all (because it's so obvious): English, as a discipline, is really bad at marketing.

The thing is, though, that I'm not convinced that English should be bad at marketing. In a recent conversation with setherick, i brought up my "new" concept of "Applied Metaphorics", which he explained to me was, essentially, a marketing major.  I disagreed with this, having taken some marketing coursework in my undergrad, and having discussed a variety of homework that my business, advertising, and marketing majors in my comp classes are assigned.

Near as I can tell, the business and marketing courses at most mainstream colleges and universities has not changed much. Sure, it's added a  squalling assurance that 'social media is the relevant', but otherwise the courses seem, essentially, to teach young people to fill out paperwork. 

Produce a marketing plan, put together a proposal or (arf) a PowerPoint proposal. What's missing, of course, is thought. 

*  *  * 

Now of course, professors of marketing and students thereof and such will object: "...but SWOT analysis and Marlow's hierarchy of needs" &ct., and yes, these are concepts which are learned and internalized, which is well and good as part of a curriculum. 

What English offers that few other disciplines do - you can find it in Philosophy, and well taught History and Psychology courses - is a course of study that questions the underlying assumptions, both of itself and anything that it takes aim at.  This process of inquiry is a great basis for any course of study.

I heard someone at an academic conference (or maybe it was an English class...) once opine that English was the fundamental discipline.  That any other course of study could fit within our purview, and (almost) before you start to work in any other area, you need to "do an English class" on it, and be sure that your terms and underlying assumptions were solid before proceeding.  Someone else had the thought that Physics was in fact the fundamental discipline.  I love this idea, although I think the way that sciences are taught, it can't be used in the way that it naturally would fit.

So, as you're looking at a course of study - consider English... I know when I am looking through resumes and trying to find someone who stands out, a humanities degree, and especially an English degree, make me look a little more carefully at their other experience and qualifications - regardless of the position.

(the second section was composed on 8/27/17 - finally semi-finishing this thought...)

28 November 2009

The Choc-a-lonic

Here's a superb after-dinner cocktail. After you've had a lovely dinner out (or in, i suppose), and are looking to wind down and taste something sweet (actually, this seems a bit TOO sweet, but it's really not, if you want a seriously boozy dessert cocktail) this is just about the perfect cocktail:

The Choc-a-Lonic

2 oz. vodka (chocolate vodka may be substituted {or partially substituted})
1 oz. Kahlua
1/2 oz. Frangelico
1/2 oz. heavy cream
1/4 oz. Cointreau
some chocolate sauce

Mix the first five ingredients (or reasonable substitutes) and shake them together vigorously in a cocktail shaker over ice. Line your martini glass with chocolate sauce (as much as you want). Pour into glass & get ready to enjoy. Seriously.

14 November 2009

Grape Nuts & De Certeau

everyday life, indeed...

25 October 2009

a pretty nice little saturday

On Saturday i went - with brooke, eric, bethany, shane, & grant - to the quaint (don't look up etymologies, as a general rule) little town of Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin. It was my first visit to Mt. Horeb, though i'd known it by reputation and street sign for more than a dozen or so years.

The drive there is the same drive (at least at the start - US Hwy 18) as the road to Decorah, so even en route, i am calm and content... On entering Mt. Horeb you pass through a series of roundabouts. The great thing about roundabouts is that you never quite have to stop & wait at them as you would a stoplight. The lousy thing about roundabouts is that Americans don't really quite get them... or trust them.

On arrival, after Rex Grossman walked around and screamed at people downtown, we made a brief stop at the Mustard Museum. There was quite a lot of mustard there.

After this visit, we moved on to the main stop, The Grumpy Troll, a well-run, really pleasant brew pub & pizzeria at 2nd St. & Main St. We sat downstairs, at the bar (the best way to get to know any place is to sit at the bar) and sampled some of the beers. The Troll's beers tend not to fall victim to the great failing of many micro (or home)-brews. Often a small brewing operation tends to rely too much on flavor, forgetting that beer-drinkers, in fact, enjoy beer. A chocolate stout tastes a bit much like chocolate, an ale with a hint of citrus too often gets drowned out by that citrus, but, for the most part, the Grumpy Troll avoids this pitfall. Their jalepeño beer (Slow Eddie) has just a touch of spice, on the finish, and adds a lovely compliment to a pizza (more on that in just a sec). Their only beer that does tend to fall victim to over-flavoration is the Maggie Imperial IPA and, in fact, the way it's over-flavored isn't offensive, rather, pushy. The Maggie measures 100 IBU's (International Bittering Units?), and is, in some ways, an IPA drinker's dream beer, but the bitter almost (but not quite) overpowers all else. In the end, the Maggie is good for a pint, but i'm not sure i'd want much more than that. The champion beer for me, though, was the CCCP Spetsnaz Stout, a lovely, dark stout with chocolate & coffee undertones.

Finally, at 4pm, the pizzeria upstairs opened. The pizza was some of the best i've found anywhere. I think maybe even better than (and certainly distinct from) Mamma Lilla's in Clinton, which is my favorite (comfort food) pizza. The crust was really quite good and they had several well-designed specialty pies. Also adding to the place's charm were the sort of retro video games, including a Sunset Riders knock-off in which we (Shane & I, natch) played some sort of mutant bulls...

After leaving the wonderful company of the Grumpy Troll, we headed back into Madison & hit the Great Dane Pub & Brewery at the Hilldale Mall in Madison. A diverting stop, though, no beer for me...

Finally, on the drive home we made a stop at Tyranena Brewery in Lake Mills, having some pints of their Pumpkin Spice Ale and Chocolate Porter as well as picking up a Growler of the Stone Tepee Pale Ale. And, with a gassy belly & a really quite mild beer buzz, we returned home to Milwaukee.

23 October 2009

on this date in history:

joel was awash in consumer electronics (and actually being read)

20 October 2009

Lo-Fi Authenticity: a review of Paranormal Activity & Capitalism: A Love Story

*Note: This entry went unfinished for a long time (currently writing most of it 13 January 2010), so it isn't very well thought through or specific... but that shouldn't do much to the credibility of RNJ as it is already in question (see rest of blog).

The fairly simple premise of both these films gets carried through to their structure and feel. What you've got here is a couple movies about terror (as opposed to horror) and an amateurish, 'thrown-together' feel, which makes the terror feel real.

Perhaps the best scene that tells this story is when Micah leaves a Ouija Board on the coffee table and (SPOILER ALERT!) the 'cursor' moves a little bit, it starts spelling something out, then starts on fire. This is a cliché more often than not, but it works because it looks like it HAS to be real, because there're no 'special effects' in this movie (because it looks like a home video, see).

What, you may be asking, is the distinction between terror and horror. Well, Ann Radcliffe thought that terror is the sensation of feeling immanent horror. Horror is actually experiencing the event.


I remember when I first conceived of this post and it was going to be so good... so interesting.
Sorry about that.

Oh, and there was a great parallel to Capitalism, but by this time it's pretty well gone, so... yeah, the economy is horrific... so that's that.

09 October 2009

Zombie Day!

Source: Dumb Things I Have Done LatelyFor reasons inexplicable to me, Monday, October 12th will be zombie day at the UW-M Student Union. Max Brooks will be speaking at 7pm (unfortunately, it seems to be a "zombie preparedness presentation", but i'm holding out for a good Q&A).

Additionally, the UW-M cinema is showing Dead Snow, a Norwegian zombie, Nazi comedy. I haven't seen it, nor have I read a lot about it, but what I have heard has been generally positive. I'm looking for it to be a hilarious update on the French non-classic, J'Accuse.

But, in addition to both of these events (each exciting and worthy of note in its own right), there is also a lecture being given by Patrick Bellegarde-Smith, a professor of Africology called "Do Zombies Exist?"

Overall, Monday promises an array of zombie thinking, satirical zombie preparedness conversation, zombie comedy (zombedy?), & (hopefully) rigorous academic attention. Hope to see you all there.

***Updated: 19 October 2009***

Although I had the pleasure of meeting Professor Bellegarde-Smith after his talk (and he seems like he's a fascinating guy), I very much regret the extent to which he gave up the floor both to a documentary created for Canadian TV & to an open "discussion" of the question. While the documentary did make a fair number of claims, Professor Bellegarde-Smith, an (ordained?) Voodoo Priest merely talked around the issue - he seemed most interested (and this I got mostly from our conversation after the lecture) in the fact that Voodoo, unlike other mystical religions (Sufi, Zen, Kabbalah, even Native American religions) has never had any sort of modern renaissance. No young folks, looking for answers turned to Voodoo en masse as they seemed to many of the other mystical religions. This was accounted for because of race, but these claims didn't go much further, nothing more interesting was said, really.

Now, with Dead Snow, there really was absolutely no disappointment. The movie was quite funny, quite gory (the demise of movie geek Erlend is particularly gruesome {and simultaneously hilarious}). The premise of the movie is a lot like Evil Dead, except in Norway, with Nazis, in the snow...

Finally, Max Brooks' (evidently, son of Mel Brooks) talk was entertaining (and very well attended). Because the premise was a zombie-preparedness lecture, I wasn't too disappointed, but I did feel like his responses to the Q&A was overly glib. Something akin to Stephen Colbert appearing on other shows, still fully in character.

07 October 2009

A Nigh Sci-Fi Guy

For most of my life, i've generally tried to avoid being (or being perceived as) a total sci-fi (or SyFy, as the pre-eminent nerd station would have it) geek with a generally complete success.

1. The Stargate canonical viewing order -

- from a website called "Hixie's Natural Log" - The link seems a bit flickery (I find I can't often find it), so I quote it here. Hope you don't mind, Hixie (let me know if you do) & your work is much appreciated.

Stargate movie
Stargate SG-1, episodes 1.1 to 8.2
Stargate Atlantis, episodes 1.1 to 1.15
Stargate SG-1, episodes 8.3 to 8.20
Stargate Atlantis, episodes 1.16 to 2.1
Stargate SG-1, episodes 9.1 to 10.2
Stargate Atlantis, episodes 2.2 to 3.4
Stargate SG-1, episodes 10.3 to 10.12
Stargate Atlantis, episodes 3.5 to 3.19
Stargate SG-1, episodes 10.13 to 10.20
Stargate: The Ark of Truth
Stargate Atlantis, episodes 3.20 to 5.1
Stargate: Continuum
Stargate Atlantis, episodes 5.2 onwards.

2. Online Role Playing (via message board) - setherick & his friends are playing an old school dungeon crawl at the moment.

3. SyFy Network's original shows, I've actually gotten into a couple of them (and more to come from what I've seen)... Warehouse 13 wasn't a great show, but it was something to keep up with. There were characters you could sort of care about, and a lot of actors that looked like other actors... And Roger Rees (of my so called life fame - as the substitute teacher), who I just love. What was most fun about Warehouse 13, though, was the artifacts, the blending of literature with the literal - in many ways, this is my favorite type of text, that which blends what we all think, in fact, is with that which we assume is "fiction".

I've also gotten into another new SyFy show, Stargate: Universe. For (somewhat) overly-frequent readers, this isn't too much of an admission... I have in fact watched 6 seasons of the Stargate TV series, but the new series has the lovely benefit of the 'Lost Wanderer' premise that so many sci-fi shows have tried before (Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek: Voyager, ___(fill in the blank here)___).

02 September 2009

Kennedy & Corleone

Over the last week or so, two media have acted as a sort of touch-stone of my little life - one is the coverage and instant memorialization of Ted Kennedy (Brooke just recently decided she was "in to" the Kennedys) and the Wii game The Godfather: Blackhand Edition.

*   *   * 

November 2017:
I remember when i had this idea for a post, but don't remember the exact parallel i had intended.  It's now been several years since i've played the godfather game, but i do recall that i wished that game had more functionality for favors.  The economy of favors is an underlying part of the mafia economy (at least the fictional mafia economy).

Favors are also a central function of the economy of wealth and power.  The back-scratch economy as opposed to favors held over the threat of violence, but the principle is the same.  

11 August 2009

On Soap

I have now firmly decided that I prefer bars of soap to body wash. Not necessarily a new bar of soap (a song, by the way, written by a brief girlfriend of mine, Chrissy {sorry Chrissy}), but a mostly new bar of soap is far superior in a showering situation to me than body wash.

Despite the fact that body wash is much easier to transport (though not so by air), I would still prefer to tote it along because of the payoff. The experience of concave/convex on my body’s own concavities/convexities is really quite enjoyable (I notice that I seem to have several more convex parts than I once did). The ability to palm the soap and move it around easily and to never run short (until you do) instead of scrambling to get all the faraway parts. Bars of soap, you’re back in my life. Toiletries bag, get ready to accommodate the travel soap dish again, because I am back to being a bar of soap guy.

Sometime after college, I succumbed to the seduction of the loofa. Body washes came in such enticing smells (recently, in fact, i've showered with scents such as thin mint cookie, gingerbread, and eucalyptus) and the idea that while washing myself, i was also "exfoliating" was very exciting to me, but this evening, i was taking a shower and realized just what it was that i most love about a bar of soap... I love the way a bar of soap feels after I rub it two or three times over a three-day growth of stubble. It's like some kind of bizarre moon rock, or something, for the moments immediately following washing your face and that, in and of itself, is enough to make my day.

Other household/personal hygiene preferences:

1) I love cologne now, particularly old, possibly spoiled cologne. Not a cologne that makes me smell bad, but one that makes me smell odd, i just love. I mean, i also love good cologne, smelling sexy, or nice, or boisterous, but the cologne i have on just now is between 15 and 50 years old. It's a bottle of Montage found at the house discussed in this footnote. I also have my first bottle of cologne still, a bottle of Drakkar Noir... i haven't had the nerve to put it on since rediscovering it since I got it in high school, from... um... __(insert name here?)__

2) to be continued...

27 July 2009

Oh Fwuck...

Sorry... i am now a part of Twitter... and by tweetLaw (a subordinate of generally accepted law), i cannot keep this a secret.

I tweet. I guess i'm tweeting at my twitter site.. I can't promise much, i Can't promise anything, really... (if you ever read this blog, you can clearly understand what i'm de-promising here), but the forum is interesting to me (not just because of the fweakin' Iranian elections...) so we'll see how it goes.

Follow me...

21 July 2009

Does this make me a 'commish'?

Tonight, as i was watching Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire in an effort to prepare my wife & me for seeing 'the new one', i was switching back and forth between the movie & the Brewers game (Mike Cameron is my hero... today)... After we got through with the movie, i looked about the baseball world & found that i could actually EXPERIENCE the baseball world...

Just now, i'm watching Delmon Young battle Dallas Braden (?) with Joe Crede at 2nd. I actually get to watch the Twins set up a come back against the A's (which they had something of the exact opposite of yesterday)...precisely the opposite, actually...

I'm not exactly sure what I want to suggest here, but today, i found, i am allowed to watch just about any Major League Baseball game i want to...
Other than the fact that Shane will likely be at my house from now on to the end of the summer, i'm confused as to how the DirectTV world works. I've certainly never subscribed to MLB's network, but by randomly switching networks in order to not have to pay extra for Brewer's games, i've somehow come into extensive coverage of all sorts of baseball (as well as complete - 6-matches-at-a-6-time Wimbledon coverage)...
I guess what i'm suggesting is that i have suddenly become a much bigger baseball fan than i would have been and i'm not sure i'm ok with that. My only fear is that i won't see how much worse the Brewers are than i've thought them to be... As far as i understand, the Brewers are the best team in the NL Central by far... but they're just 'underachieving'...
It's an odd place to be in... I'm wondering (idly, obviously, or i'd look into it) if this is a mid-summer situation so that i might get suckered into buying this package or if it's just mine... for nothing (in which case i will plan to become a crazy-ass baseball guy)...
Getting to watch the bottom of the 7th of the A's - Twins matchup is really something... to me, at least... What it means is that i can really try to understand more of how baseball really works... I can watch another team i would like to support try to battle their way back into a pennant run and it's really, quite, exciting... don't you think so, shane?

22 June 2009

I was shot with a nail-gun, and it wasn't that bad

Today, as i was continuing to assist in the clintonSeeger's basement project, i was unexpectedly shot in the back. It had little to do with my aces over eights, Russ (my Jedi-Master-Contractor) assured me it was an accident. It hurt for a moment, didn't break the skin (it hit me flat - i was 5 yards away, or so). After being shot, verifying that the nail, in fact, didn't go in, and deciding i was alright, i started reflecting on my summer a bit.

During the past four weeks I have forgone (for the most part, sorry Lane, sorry Peter) my life of the mind in favor of a life of the hand... of the back. Familial obligation has dictated my summer, thus far, in a direction of hard labor... After flooding for the first time in 25 years, my parents' basement is going through a fundamental remodel. After installing a couple of sump pumps and a tile drainage system, the whole space is being re-created and I've been allowed to play along. I've framed walls (almost shooting a nail through my finger in the process), built soffits, and installed wiring. The day Rick shot a nail through Russ' finger (i know, it seems like a theme) i stood amazed as we neglected to call an ambulance or bring someone to the Emergency Room, and instead watched Russ tape paper towels around his finger with electrical tape and "call it good" (that night, he hit 4 home runs in his softball league).

This series of events got me to thinking about relative genetic makeups... (which might have brought me to a reminiscence of a certain trip to Alabama {not to mention a certain day of SeegerOlympic Events, which inexplicably occurred}, but that's the story for another day). I am, decidedly, not of 'tough breeding', but i think there is something to me that makes me a good sufferer (historically, some of the best sufferers i can think of {people who really don't seem to take it too bad when things go wrong} are Dave Wake, Walter Benjamin, and, well, i dunno, someone else.)

Clearly, my breed are not good sufferers, but somehow, i feel myself to be an adequate sufferer... not only in terms of actual suck-i-ness endured, but also the idea of physical pain... I'm not sure, but somehow, i feel myself 'greater than the sum of my parts.' I don't want it to seem arrogant, and i'm sure there are 'pain-factors' that will equalize this thinking, but just generally, when i picture myself in a time of true calling (any time other than now, other than a time of true reclination is a time of 'calling')...
I guess what i'm seeing is a lack of 'now' in anyone's time. Before now... there was always a possibility of something else... something that meant something... Nazis or Racists or... well... Communists... Now there are Terrorists... but they look like anyone (except they don't, right), but no longer are there real terrorists... as we know...

04 June 2009

The Problem is that we call them "Slower Traffic"

As i've been driving back & forth between Clinton & Milwaukee over the past few weeks (I'm helping re-do my parent's basement), i've noticed the

*   *   *

December 2017
This was planned to a post that i am still somewhat interested in.  "Slower Traffic Keep Right" signs are a challenge, an affront really to drivers, particularly those who are pre-disposed to take umbrage.

Driving is an interesting social phenomenon.  It's a daily interaction we have with hundreds (or sometimes even thousands) of people each day, but we never meet them and most of the time never see them.

I read a comment by Elon Musk lately about why people hate mass transit (this in relation to his Boring Company) where he said that being together in a common space with a bunch of strangers was weird and also someone could be a serial killer sitting next to you and you wouldn't know it.  Of course, this is also true of public spaces in general, and generally mitigated by the fact that we have a civilization.

Traffic, though - it's like steampunk Twitter...  Anonymous interaction with many strangers per day.  People behave badly - in ways they likely wouldn't if they had to actually look the people in the eyes when they cut them off or assumed right of way dubiously.

I remember driving through Kentucky once, and seeing a sign that said the left lane was for passing only, which i really liked.  Rather than challenge a driver - "pshaw, you're not fast enough to be in the left lane" - they restrict why you can be in the left lane.  In Europe, they don't have to tell driver's these things, because there is a mutual recognition and appreciation for the humanity of others...
Here in the States, we still need these friendly reminders, because while were trying to have a civilization here... it's a work in progress.

13 May 2009

Confessions of a Closet Utopian

Spoiler Alert! This post will undoubtedly give away plot points of J.J. Abrams’ new Star Trek movie, so if you haven’t seen it, & you’re affected by ‘giving away the ending’ read no further.

Nerd Alert! Though I will endeavor to remain analytical, intellectual, and generally charming, I can not be held entirely responsible if I occasionally fall into bouts of gleeful gushing, obscure referencing, or utopic dreaming during the course of this post, as I am, admittedly, a Trekkie

J.J. Abrams’ reboot of Star Trek was, at least to this fairly hard-core Trekkie, superb. The new movie not only opens up the possibility for new fans to get their feet wet in the Star Trek mythos without feeling overwhelmed or mildly embarrassed, it also significantly ‘cools up’ a franchise that has been in desperate need of a make-over. (Nerd translation: Think Vampire: The Masquerade for role playing)…

While both earlier movie Enterprises had moments (say, Wrath of Khan and First Contact) of thrilling, adventure sci-fi, I’m sorry to say that what has most held Star Trek back over the past 15 years or so are its ties to Gene Roddenberry’s original vision (I know, I know – sacrilege). I don’t mean by this that that vision isn’t central to what makes Star Trek great (I’ll do whatever I can, short of wearing a uniform around town, to help foster the creation of our first warp engine sometime in the next 50 or so years), but it’s impossible to look at Trek’s more recent forays (Voyager & the later Next Gen movies particularly) as being overly tied to the somewhat false mission of Gene Roddenberry’s of creating not only a utopian world, but a utopic lesson-book of sorts. (Though the most recent Star Trek series, Enterprise, certainly had its share of fable-ous episodes, I think it might have been able to redeem itself with a full run of 7 or 9 seasons – the larger, more complicated story arcs of the Temporal Cold War and the Xindi were an attempt, I think, to keep the show driving toward something {namely the Star Trek timeline}). These longer narrative arcs also tend to give writers something better to do than moralize, the utopianism is embedded rather than being explicitly taught every week (or 5 years)…

To my mind, Abrams’ solution to the ‘problem’ of dealing with the canonized history of Star Trek was truly inspired. Of course there will be purists out there who will mourn the loss of certainty of things to come, but not knowing just how much of the future history of our galaxy has been altered makes for a much more interesting work of utopian fiction. Though critics may be right to point out that Star Trek’s time travel based plot might be a bit pieced together (likely just for an excuse to plop Leonard Nimoy in), it also brilliantly allowed Abrams (& Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman) to blur the Star Trek historical record. This Kirk (well played by Chris Pine) need not necessarily be our Kirk – hell, this Kirk wasn’t even born in Riverside, Iowa. This allows the movie some breathing room. We know Spock & Kirk & Bones will eventually become the very best of friends, but there’s a new pleasure in the unfolding.

And, speaking of pleasure in meeting old friends, Uhura (Zoe Saldana) is not only wonderfully sexy, but also slides perfectly into her pre-future-historical role. If you look back over the original series, all those sidelong glances and quiet smiles from Uhura make much more sense in lieu of what we learn from this new Uhura. And Scotty (Simon Pegg), oh my god, Scotty. When I first heard Scotty would be played by Pegg I was simultaneously ecstatic and flummoxed. I love Pegg from his work on Shaun of the Dead & Hot Fuzz (& anywhere, really), but I didn’t see the peppy Brit fitting the role of Scotty very well. But what Pegg gives us is a fuller understanding of the character of Scotty. Sure, we know Scotty’s a fun-lovin’ drinker, an engineering miracle worker, and a chronic nay-sayer, but Pegg wields all of those previously caricature-istics simultaneously, effortlessly. It’s the Scotty we see in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, when he’s playing around with a 1980s PC, but rarely see anywhere else in the entire run (at least not that fully). And Zachary Quinto as Spock, enough has been said about how perfect a choice this was, but to watch Spock’s emotions deep below the surface occasionally bubble up in a facial tick or a glance, really quite remarkable.

But all this, the casting, the characters, the plot (was anybody else concerned about starships flying around the galaxy opening up black holes everywhere? Jess Peterson told me it was ok, that black holes in fact have no more gravitational force than a normal star, but I’m not convinced… It seems like some sort of set up for a future galacto-eco-crisis in Abrams’ Star Trek 7: This Place Sucks) is really secondary to the fundamental vision, the fundamental voice of Star Trek. The stories are, at heart, truly utopian. It’s imagining something that might unfold tomorrow that’s a little better than today. It’s figuring a way that we make it, but what’s so great about Abrams’ take on it, is that his movie need not hit you over the head with these ideals. Instead, it hits you over the head with a good, crazy villain – awesome new/old beaming technology – Slusho – great fights… but through it all, that hope that makes Star Trek great is still there.

Score: 3 Shots

04 May 2009

Reformed, Refragmentalized, Referential

Note: Loyal RNJ readers will, i'm sure, quickly note that i already posted these ideas earlier, but i think i see them a bit more clearly now, and i'd like to offer them up for comment, ridicule, or questions before i submit them to my (as yet not fully formed) committee.

My prelim areas will focus on the postmodern concept of the fragment, but i'd like to tie this idea of, which i've referred to as 'supermodern' elsewhere, to the 'pre-postmodern' formulation of the fragment as well, which comes through especially for me in the work of Walter Benjamin in the form of the aphorism and short essays. Mostly, though, 'the fragment' or 'fragmentation' is being used as a way to connect seemingly disparate areas of interest for me, namely:

1. Fragmented Bodies - This section, which starts at my interest in zombies - and so, extends itself to ideas about corpses, death, funerary tradition, and display - might more aptly be called "Fragmented Bodies, Fragmented Lives". I want to consider not only the unfortunate case of the zombie, of the undead, of we might term 'bare life', but also the parallel bare life that is stripped bare by human forces, namely that of refugees, of die Flüchtlinge. This section will also consider other implications of zombie theory, such as theories of revolution, consumption, and ressentiment (thanks Patrick). Fragmented Bodies is also the place in which i will explore representations of bodies (mostly dead, but also alive) in film (The Act of Seeing With One's Own Eyes), fiction, and exhibitions (from Body Worlds to funeral homes). Finally, this representation theory will bring me to the representation of non-human bodies (animals & Cyborgs, for instance).

2. Fragmented Cities - Again, i come to this section through a specific project, namely my interest in urban exploration, but my formulation of urban exploration as an alternative form of tourism gives me a larger body of work in which to place this section. Starting from 'theory of tourism' (Dean MacCannell, for one), i want to explore the concept of redefining and remaking place both from the perspective of the tourist and from the perspective of urban planning (think Milwaukee's Third Ward as one example of this). In a post-industrial economy, former warehouses, factories, and mills are being transformed into places of leisure, luxury, and amusement. A very different kind of rebranding occurs when places and events of atrocity become memorialized. The resulting Museum Kult, the draw of seeking out 'authentic experiences' of history, is a kind of 're-placing', a re-creation of space. The tourist's experience of an actual space of 'historical meaning' alters that meaning. I want to examine this process of alteration.

3. Fragmented Narratives - Finally, i want to look at places where 'pure narrative' breaks down: in postmodern narratives (Think House of Leaves), in frame narratives (and more interestingly broken frame narratives like Frankenstein and Transit), and, finally, in non-narrative forms such as avant-garde cinema. Traditional narrative theory (Noel Carroll? Lewis Carroll?) tells us that narrative is a construction of suspense. A sequence of readers asking 'whatnextwhatnext-whatnext?', but i will also investigate (through Ricouer at the outset, then others) what happens when the reader doesn't necessarily ask this question, or asks it out of fear or desperation (think of a Kafkian-bureaucratic nightmare). Alternately, in a novel of boredom (sorry, Ron), nothing seems to happen next, causing the reader instead to ask something more like 'so what?' (sorry, Professor Veeder).

How's this sound? Can i really go to school for this?

02 April 2009

the Jay Cutler Era

This evening marks the dawning of a new era for the Chicago Bears. Today, the Bears made what may be their most audacious move in team history, trading their first round picks this year & next year, plus a third round pick (this year) & Kyle Orton (all round nice guy, but not a great dog name) for Jay Cutler & a fifth round pick.
Jay Cutler's addition to the Bears will mean that fans in Chicago (not to mention Bears management) will finally have to take a sharp, critical look at the rest of the team they're fielding.

For years now (how many years since Sid Luckman {hell, i'd take a Jim McMahon} was in town?) Bears fans have been able to look at the quarterback position as the source of all of our woes. While i was a long-standing supporter of Rex Grossman (going so far as to even name my dog after him), i always had the sense that he wasn't a real answer to our problems, but the Bears management had put so much into him, wagered on him, that i wanted to believe.

Now they've got a bona-fide, honest-to-goodness quarterback in Jay Cutler. Tomorrow, the Bears will have to start to realize that they haven't had a viable Wide Receiver since, what, Willie Gault? Their line seems a bit shored up this season, assuming Chris Williams pans out, but it's still cobbled-together & kinda old. On a bright note, they do have pretty good Tight Ends. Hooray, we've got good tight ends (note, several, not just one, so whenever we're in a 2 TE set, look out world).

Their defense, the erstwhile strength of the team, is all but gone. Tommie Harris may never be Tommie Harris again. The rest of the D-Line is on something of a precipice, they could work out, but didn't get it done last year. Linebackers, well, Brian Urlacher... John Madden loves him. He's good, isn't he? And Lance Briggs (is he still with us? did he successfully escape? {NOTE: this blog is quite possibly the worst informed blog on the planet, i literally know nothing of which i speak}). Once you get back to the D-backfield, we're fairly lost. A lot of players who've proven they are players, but not recently.

Finally, Devin. Oh Devin. I can only assume you were a real thing. That you, indeed, are...ridiculous. There were all sorts of reasons that we gave for you not returning half a dozen kicks for TDs, but i've still got faith (Bears fans need a good deal of this).

Ultimately, i think if Devin (or some combination of Devin & Manning) can pose the scary-ass danger they did up until this season, and the Bears can start most drives between the 40s & Jay Cutler doesn't arrive in Chicago and realize just how low the bar is set here, and the defense behaves as a Bears defense is meant to behave and if the coaching staff doesn't coward their way toward a long sequence of losses... we might actually be okay this year. I am feeling fairly optimistic, but, then again, i've had this same feeling each of the last 20 or so seasons, so don't trust me on this...

01 April 2009

unBecoming Animals

I'm interested in a distinction that i don't actually see Steve Baker making very often in his book, The Postmodern Animal, namely between representations of animals and actual animals used in representations of animals (what i might call representative animals). My initial interest in this question stems from looking at Gunther von Hagens' Bodyworlds exhibition and wondering to what extent the bodies (animal and human) presented there in fact are 'real', that is, are we seeing dead bodies when we look at the pieces or representations of bodies (the assumption of the question being, of course, that the answer matters).

It seems to me that the lack of this distinction in Baker's book might be the very definition of 'the postmodern animal'. Baker lays out the progression of animality from the 19th Century 'symbolic animal' to the 'modern animal' (which for him doesn't exist, but i would like to think of as the industrialized animal), through to the postmodern animal (p. 20), where the distinction between representative animals and representations of animals breaks down to some extent. For Baker, this eroded distinction gets most interestingly questioned in works like Olly and Susi's in which representations of animals are placed 'on the border' where they will (hopefully) be interacted with by the animals depicted. Sharks bite pictures of sharks and deer urinate on their own image… which reminds me of this one time… in Copenhagen…

But in a case like Olly and Susi's (or Mark Dion's Library for the Birds of Antwerp as another example) the answer to the distinction seems obvious, at least until you start thinking about zoo theory in which even the living animals become representative (and perhaps representations). Far more challenging, I think, are works like Damien Hirst's This Little Piggy and The Physical Impossibility of Death in which actual dead animals are preserved in formaldehyde and presented in glass casing. And this is where the connection to von Hagens' work comes into play. The most common question asked by critics of the Bodyworlds exhibit is 'why not just use platic molding to recreate the human interior'. In other words, if we, as good little postmodernists, are going to dissolve the barrier between actual animals and representations of animals (see zoo theory as a starting place for this), why then does Damien Hirst need to cut an actual pig in half for his artwork, when a realistic molding would accomplish the same thing (and essentially, be the same thing). (Plus, such a rendering by Hirst would demonstrate much more 'artistic expertise' than cutting an animal in half and dunking it in preservatives - and therein lies the answer to my own question, methinks).

02 March 2009

against My better Judgement...

i'm watching Jimmy Fallon's premiere episode as the new Late Night host. I gotta say, it's not terrible. Ever since David Demarco helped me realize that Jimmy Fallon sucks as a Saturday Night Live player because he cracks up & laughs during almost every skit The Apiary, July 21, 2005he's in, i've assumed i hated the guy (Fallon, not Demarco) himself.

But i'm beginning to suspect that late night talk show host may be the perfect setting for Fallon's sputtery, clodding style. Assuming that his guests are entirely uninteresting, at least his awkward-ness might be somewhat distracting. Sure he's no Craig Ferguson, or David Letterman, or Conan O'Brien, or Jimmy Kimmel really & hey, that's a second Jimmy. That seems, perhaps, overkill.

Like any premiere episode, the lineup is very good. Robert DeNiro - funny, but made less so by Jimmy Fallon. Justin Timberlake - i'm waiting to see if there will be any nipple jokes. My guess is yes. And, possibly the only possible more interesting musical guest than Letterman had tonight (U2), Van Morrison.

Also, the 'lick for 10' bit was sort of funny. Not great, but fairly Letterman derivative (which is a place to start). So, as you might have guessed, tonight has been a 'late nite' night. Just thought i'd get an early review out there... Overall, the final word on Fallon's Late Night, not bad, but really, why aren't you watching Craig Ferguson.

25 February 2009

Damn it, I need to yell sooner

After watching Obama's 'not-a-state-of-the-union-speech', i stuck around for Bobby Jindal's "Republican Response" and had a thought, as The Daily Show suggested, Jindal sounded like he thought he was addressing a class of 1st Graders, rather than the general American public.

Now, i've never been one not to talk about the American pubic as if they were pre-pubescent spoiledRotten children, but, seriously, when he followed up Obama's speech, the first serious (if a bit pie-in-the-sky) speech coming from the white House in at least a decade, Jindal just sounded embarrassing.

It's hard work, though, being the arbitor of all that is prescient & cool. The Daily Show takes at least a full day for news to filter down and while i'm sure there are blogs and other 'significant thinkers' satirically stating the state of the state for us, they aren't, i think, quite as sweet-ass-cool as i am.

In other news...
I've got a sense of what my 'prelim areas' will be... Finally. So, evidently, people in my "situation" need to choose 3 'areas' that define their areas of knowledge so that they can then, in turn, sell those areas to future employing universities...

Anyway, i've 'recently' becomed obsessed with the idea of "the fragment" and until today i wasn't quite sure what i meant by that. I mean, i know that i want to think about ideas of the archive and the aphorism and 'the fragment', but so far i wasn't sure how to fit that into a (sort of) system of thought. But i think i've got it... (Prelim 'areas' consist of 3 categories of thought that overlap in your area).

The Fragment
the two areas i've had pretty well sorted out until now are:

1. Fragmented Bodies - This is an area i've been interested in for some time. As a fundamental area, this is related to zombies, as well as 're-constructed bodies' (like Frankenstein stories & cyborgs) and dead, dying, and decomposing bodies (i'm thinking here of things like Brakhage's Act of Seeing With One's Own Eyes, or similar {ha})

2. Fragmented Cities - Looking, similarly, at decomposing cities, first and foremost through the lens of Urban Exploration, the practice of exploring (and to some extent explaining) industrial spaces that have been abandoned or remodeled. Additionally, the idea of 'fragmented spaces' comes into play (though i'm not sure what those spaces might be)... Places that are, essentially, altered (or 'othered'?) in their experience. Places like tourists sites might be a good place to start

finally, i've figured out a 3rd area that actually makes sense to these other areas and i connect it to particularly the Urban Explorers in area 2, through the idea of 'supermodernity' - which i've discussed before.

3. Fragmented Narratives - Looking at an updated 'narrative theory' that follow's up on Robert Bird's ideas of 'all is narrative' by looking at abstract art and postModern narrative, exploring the way 'time & narrative' is explored in things that might consider themselves 'non-narrative'.

Now, for something completely different...

10 February 2009

Can Zombies Eat the Recession?

So, i've done a good bit of writing 'outside the blog' today (this is the problem with telling people your goals, btw, you suddenly find you have people you have to justify yourself to {at least if you're a neurotic quiffler like me} and you sound less convincing than if you just assert things willy-nilly), but i felt this post was... prescient, today.

Yesterday (which we'll call Monday for the sake of argument), in a class about sovereignty & the distinction of man vs. animal vs. 'savage' Professor Peter Paik posed a question about the possibility of the end (or at least the beginning of the end) of the American economy, which is to say, and end to infinite growth of an economy based on the creation and purchase of endless amounts of stuff (i think of George Carlin whenever such a conversation arises).

Today, our United States Senate passed a Stimulus Package amounting to over $800Billion of new spending and tax cuts. And the question naturally arises, "whabuwhey?" In talking to friends and others about 'the Recession' (by which i mean talking to my TV whenever Anderson Cooper comes on), they (he) often assures me that the Economy need only get 'back on track' and then everything will go back to normal. This is troubling to me, not only because, to me, everything kind of seems normal now, and the 'track' people seem to refer to as something to shoot for is undeniably unsustainable. It seems fundamentally logical to me that an economy cannot just continue to produce more shit for people to buy, even if, for a really long time, people continue to buy it, thereby securing their own jobs at companies and organizations that are producing different shit.

It simply makes no sense. And so, i would submit, a solution that is already really quite underway. Our economy (and really the global economy) is moving toward a 'service economy'. Now unlike things, the limitation on services you can buy is only limited by time (and so, somewhere down the road, this to must fail). But i think there is some importance here in basing most of our economy on selling ephemera. Watching Movies, Seeing Tourist Attractions, Drinking Whisky (i guess, technically, a thing, but it's really the effects i think most of us purchase)

Do you see where i'm going with this? I did, but the, umm, ephemera is making me want to sleep. Mostly, i wanted to wonder aloud why it's in the interests of media corporations to report recession so uniformly. Badbadbad financial news, 'Stay-Cations', 'here's how to best get the jobs that nobody is hiring for any longer, you Sad Sack'. On the most basic level, you keep tuning in to hear the latest worst news, (and really, what else are you doing at 2 in the afternoon?) but looking one corporate level up kind of unhinges that argument. News organizations are not in the business of increasing viewership... they're in the business of helping their parentOrg make money, and telling people there isn't going to be any money left come next Tuesday every Wednesday (the 'slow' news day) kind of inhibits folks from spending money on whatever it is they're selling, no?

Anyway, "i can't figure it all out tonight, sir. I'm just gonna hang with your daughter..."

Oh, and speaking of fiscal matters. If anyone dropped some money on the floor of Curtin Hall (1st Floor, by the Central Stairwell) today (Tuesday, around noon), let me know...

09 February 2009

7 Days of 1000 Words

During an AA meeting in 8th Grade, Dan Wallace (ahem, i mean "Mr.") told us that the best thing to do with your goals is to write them down & tell them to people. Well, my on again/off again goal over the last few years is to read 100 pages a day and write 1000 words (though, because i'm a total pussy, i make little deals with myself like 'today i'll write 1750 words and just read 25' or 'if i read 200 pages of comic books, that'll count for today)...

Today, Roman Numeral J reader(s), i invite you to join in a mini-verbal revolution & take on the 1000-4-7 challenge. You needn't start today (in case your today is tomorrow), but start. Write 1000 words, post it to the internet, stuff it away in your sock drawer, or send it off in a letter to yourself (or someone else), just write. My sense is (and i'm not sure i'm write) that the world can't be hurt by more people writing & expressing themselves and might very well be helped enormously by it.

For my own part, though i have a vague notion of writing more often on RNJ generally, i will publish the majority of each day's fodder here online over the course of the next week as an example. Some days it won't be pretty, as i'll be wanting to go to sleep and won't yet have written my daily quota, or 'won't have anything to say', but i think too often (and here, maybe, i'm preaching to my ENG 102 students as much as i am to myself) we look at writing as an end-result of "inspiration" or 'muse', but really, what it amounts to, is a habit.

A couple of personal ground rules, i guess, might be in order. First off, the "per day" limits run (for me only) from the time i wake up in the morning to when i fall asleep at night, so reading (my personal goal also includes the previously mentioned 100 pages of reading/day - which, really, wouldn't be a bad idea for you either, would it?) and writing done after midnight surely count if i'm still up. Any reading or writing done after first falling asleep, but having awakened in the middle of the night can go toward either day (though, assuming i succeed in my goal will generally be counted toward the next day, to get a head start). Also, no 'working ahead' or 'behind' is allowed, as in promising yourself on Tuesday that you'll catch up with the missing words tomorrow... If you miss a day, ok, just start over with the 7.

Let's see, new to the site is a link to Robert L. Gard's whisky endeavor. Rob is a friend of the blog & true expert in the field of all things of the brown booze (though, as far as i know, Rob has never been to the Dundee Dell, a shortcoming in the scotch field that, i think, maybe even living in Scotland, working at a distillery can't entirely overcome).

Ok, well, i started off with a bit of a head start for the day, so i will sign off here from my call to ball-points. Just a couple of final tips, don't word count too often lest you get bogged down in counting words, rather than writing. And, the biggest best piece of advice i can give is avoid worries about 'not having anything to write' just now. Even if you just write the same word 1000 days (i can almost guarantee you won't do this more than 1 time), some really famous poems have been comprised of just 1 word repeated over & over and in the act of such writing, you draw attention to the act of writing itself (think Michael Snow's Wavelength, but on paper)

30 January 2009

Hail Hail, the gangs all here

Note: all page references refer to MAPH reader Fall 2005.

In “Ideology and the State” Louis Althusser uses the terms “interpellation” and “hailing” to refer to the everyday reproduction of subjects as individuals. Althusser uses the example of a police officer calling out, “Hey, you there!” to illustrate hailing as one aspect of interpellation. Franz Fanon, in “The Fact of Blackness,” uses a child’s hailing to begin an attempt to create a Hegelian scene of mutual recognition with white culture through various mediums (such as an exploration of Negro culture) which ultimately fails, but in his examination of Negro cultural texts he comes to a moment of interpellation and does find a moment of subjectivity within the boundaries of his own Negro culture.

Interpellation and hailing both refer to the act of becoming a subject, not temporally or as a causal relationship, but as “always-already” subjects. While Althusser frequently uses both terms together, without any distinction between them, hailing refers to a specific aspect of interpellation involving two unmediated subjects, one calling to the other, thereby making obvious the other’s subjectivity. There is no movement toward becoming a subject because “you and I are always already subjects, and as such constantly practice the rituals of ideological recognition” (Althusser 172). Both the hailer and the individual being hailed are already on equal footing as subjects and the interpellation serves simply to reaffirm that obviousness.

When Franz Fanon attempts to stage a similar scene of mutual recognition in “The Fact of Blackness” he uses a Hegelian-style dialectic to try to become an equal subject in the eyes of whiteness. Hegel’s “self-consciousness exists in and for itself when, and by the fact that, it so exists for another; that is it exists only in being acknowledged” (Hegel 111). Fanon goes through the steps of mutual recognition, using several different tools to try and achieve it, but at the beginning of the chapter he says “every ontology is made unattainable in a colonized and civilized society…the black man has no ontological resistance in the eyes of the white man” (Fanon 109-110). Fanon is ultimately unable to find subjectivity through the Hegelian dialectic because he cannot attain acknowledgement, as a black man. There can be no mutual recognition when his person constantly has to be qualified as a “black friend” or “the Negro doctor.” In order for either Hegel’s or Althusser’s version of attaining mutual recognition to work both of the individuals involved must be able to see themselves as alternate versions of the other, each as an equal subject, and Fanon’s encounter cannot come to that conclusion.

The very first line of Fanon’s chapter can be looked at as an instance of hailing. When the child says “Look, a Negro!” (109) there is no doubt who is being addressed, so according to Althusser he now “becomes a subject…because it was really him who was hailed (and not someone else)” (Althusser 174). And of course Fanon is a subject and always already was, but the instance of Fanon’s “hailing” is also vastly different from the way Althusser describes it. The content of the hailing is very different from Althusser’s “Hey, you” or “It’s me” and while there is no mention of hailing needing to take a specific form, the disparaging nature of the child’s hail makes the two subjects dissimilar. Furthermore, the hail comes from a child rather than a policeman or friend and the child is white, which further complicates the encounter. Because the two subjects involved are so different, each unable to view the other as an independent subject, no mutual recognition is possible.

When Fanon turns to Negro culture as a possible medium of mutual recognition he has already tried and discarded, among other things, reason as a mode of recognition. Fanon says he chooses this “method of regression” out of necessity and challenges “the white man to be more irrational than I” (Fanon 123). He previously had tried to gain recognition by working within the confines of white culture, appealing to science for justification for his equal status, but now admits to regressing and desires to meet as equals on this new plane. Fanon explores poetry, music and tribal practices as rich emotive rather than rational experiences in Negro culture and this attempt momentarily looks like it may work: “At last I had been recognized, I was no longer a zero” (129). But in the end this medium, too, failed. The inherent inequality shows itself when Negro culture is dismissed as “a stage of development” for white culture. The dominant culture then adapts Negro culture for its own claiming origins of “earth mystics” that are far superior to what they have and taking “a little human sustenance” from Negro culture when they “become too mechanized” (129). In the end mutual recognition is again impossible because Fanon has seen white culture co-opt the aspects of Negro culture that he had tried to use.

Both Althusser’s interpellation or hailing and Hegel’s mutual recognition have at the core the necessity for a subject to gain recognition from another subject. While Fanon was explicitly working, in “The Fact of Blackness” at producing a Hegelian scene of mutual recognition, his chapter also works to illustrate Althusser’s ideas. His reading through Negro cultural texts serves as a perfect example of interpellation. Each response to the various texts—“Yes, all those are my brothers…Eyah! The tom-tom chatters…Blood! Blood!” (123-125)—can be seen as a moment of Althusserian obviousness. In this way Fanon, while ultimately failing in his goal to find mutual recognition among white culture and coming to the conclusion of “Nothingness and Infinity,” does achieve mutual subjectivity with the texts of his own Negro culture.

09 January 2009


*Note: The following is taken (and only slightly adapted) from a seminar paper of mine for Fall 2008. It examines the idea of 'super-modernity' and fragmentary history...

...as Marc Augé points out in his book, Non-Places: introduction to an anthropology of supermodernity, this collecting of fragmentary histories into ‘history proper’ is what anthropological history (which he seems to equate with history generally) consists of. A modern historian, working within the confines of the social sciences, takes a collection (a sample) of personal histories and constructs a narrative from them. This narrative, then, becomes ‘recorded history’. Augé’s concept of ‘supermodernity’ (which operates as something like a ‘happier’ alternative to postmodernity), however, problematizes this ‘final narrative’ due to the fact that the time between history and the present becomes ever smaller. That is, ‘historical events’ need no longer be from 50, 25, or even 5 years ago, instead, the personal event can, in some sense, be aware of itself as historical event. Supermodernity, then, is the coming together of unfathomable numbers of historical events, so that, like in postmodernity, there can exist no over-arching historical narratives. Unlike this postmodern history, however, supermodern history does not dismiss the possibility of the existence of these narratives, these ‘truths’, but only acknowledges the impossibility (or perhaps merely extreme unlikeliness) of knowing them.