Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Lack of Symmetry

Last night I watched Frontline: The Age of AIDS. The first (retroactively) known case of HIV infection was 1959 ... probably due to a viral jump from chimpanzees that took place sometime before 1931. And in the past 25 years, about 70 million people have been infected, most likely from a single transmission.

The last day of May 2006. Windows tightly closed. Air conditioned. Water filtered. An ache in my side, and in my back. Tummy hungry from yesterday's fast. Stretch. Lift. Evacuate. Finding new things online to listen to and watch. Before returning to Marx and the outside. And the internal dialogues that have kept me awake for the past few nights. Coming to the realization that a lack of symmetry in my body is indicative of too much time spent in front of a mirror. And too critical an eye. I've got the messages in my inbox down to 18. Progress comes. Incrementally and glacially slow. Reminded that I need to do some chores, accomplish some minor goals today.

Here's something new to listen to/watch: "Girl and the Sea" by the Presets; and something old: "Mad World" by Gary Jules. Enjoy.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Reassessment

As I finish the seventh year of my online journal I thought it best to reassess my goals for this project. Initially it was a place for my friends and family to keep up with me as I hopped about the globe, but I haven’t been overseas in 2½ years. For quite a while it was an attempt to keep the writing juices flowing as I prepared to go back to school and make my way through all those assignments. My (academic) writing has certainly benefited from these less strenuous exercises on the side. After getting into the swing of graduate school again, it was here also that I played around with some creative projects, providing an outlet for a large part of me that otherwise would have gone untapped for far too long.

At this point, I don’t really know what I’m doing here. Or what I will do here, if anything. In some regards, this blog will continue serving the purposes stated above. But I also hope that it will serve something a little bit bigger than merely documenting my daily grind because, after all, it’s not really that interesting, is it? I will try to keep it smart even as my own intellect grows fuzzy. And I’ll try to live interestingly so that this little corner of cyberspace reflects some of that. Here’s to one more year, groping toward the light.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Time Off! or, What is the Future?

Just scanning the front page of The New York Times brings such joy to my world, especially when the "Quotation of the Day"--"The future, what's that?" from an ex-hunter/gatherer who has just left the Colombian bush--complements/contrasts/conflicts/confounds the first of the op-eds (by David Brooks, no less) entitled "Don't Worry, Be Happy." No, he (or the editor) gets no points for lack of originality/creativity (although it certainly pays Brooks' bills, no doubt), but the synopsis/summary is priceless: "The smartest [sic] people in both the Democratic and Republican parties have shifted attention from the past to the future...." When it comes to the future (if there is one), I'd trust the ex-bush man (no pun intended) any day over those others.

For those who might be interested, here is a brief excerpt from each of my two term papers:
Il est temp! Baudelaire's Logic of Time and the Memory of the Present

In his 1984 The Painting of Modern Life, T.J. Clark introduces the banlieue as the site at which not so much the urban and rural merge as rather the urban and rural dissolve into non-spaces. There is an analogical relationship between the banlieue and Baudelaire’s logic of time, where the fleeting impressions of contemporary Paris dissolve on the periphery of the solidity and permanence of his memories of Old Paris, so that these two timeframes dissolve into non-times (the infinite). Baudelaire offers his own map of time with three distinct "tenses": the past (which is accessed by way of memory and nostalgia), the unstable and contingent present (Paris under Haussmannization), and the eternal, which exists outside of (human/earthly) time.
Tongues of Fire: Articulations of and against Terror

Regardless if resistance could have a truth claim, we are still faced with the issue that terror-power does generate its own knowledge, and any knowledge conjoined with terror (or, terror-knowledge) is little more than an articulation of terror itself. What good is a terror-knowledge if one of the new forms of behavior is (only) suicide? Does that form of resistance to terror-power ultimately mean anything? Drew’s insistence that he captured a moment in the jumper’s life seems little more than word games when faced with the moral magnitude such questions generate. Of course, we want to believe that the jumper exercised self-determination and agency, just as we would like to believe that Benjamin’s suicide somehow prevented the Nazis from their own (purely) negative exercise of power. Unfortunately Foucault does not address these issues. Nor does he flesh out his model of power to where the issue of resistance is perfectly intelligible. For example, if power always and necessarily substantiates resistance, then are we not caught somehow in a type of infinite feedback loop created by various powers and their resistances (or counter-powers)? Would the jumper’s resistance to terror-power (his suicide) automatically mean the jumper is complicit with the hegemonic power of the US? I think Borradori’s definition of terror offers a way out: the “essence of terror is not the physical elimination of whomever is perceived to be different but the eradication of difference in people, namely, of their individuality and capacity for autonomous action” (7). Terror necessarily effaces agency. If this is the case, then perhaps we can conclude that the uniqueness of terror-power/terror-knowledge lies in its utter inability to conjure up any meaningful form of resistance, whether individually or collectively.
Yeah, I didn't think so.

Saturday, May 6, 2006

Coke Blech!

To quote comic genius Jerry Seinfield, "Who are the ad wizards that came up with this one?" Coca-Cola and "essence" of coffee?!?! I like Coke well enough (despite it being the sweet nectar of an evil corporate devil), and I like coffee. I've even tasted and liked coffee-flavored sodas while I was abroad (but not while I was a dude). But after one taste, I knew this drink--which thankfully was freely given to me this afternoon while I was strolling about, taking a break from my terrible 20-page term paper on terror--was not for me. The flavor of Coke: okay. The flavor of coffee: okay. The flavor of Coke + coffee: fine. But the flavor of aspartame knocks all the other flavors in the head and steals their money. Who cares or even knows if aspartame is safe; my problem with it is that it tastes like shit. And is it necessary to add it in with high fructose corn syrup? Do you need sweetener and sweetener substitute? Don't believe the hype. If you want Coke + essence of anything, you should mix it yourself. Skajlab out.

Thursday, May 4, 2006

Liebe ist

After he walked out on her, she immediately returned to the apartment they'd shared overlooking the city center. Turning on the TV to see which song would define the post-breakup experience best, Toni Kater's video for "Liebe ist" came on. She was never the same after that.

Wednesday, May 3, 2006

In the headlines...

Untenable Histories, or Gulag for the Other

One reason why Fascism has a chance is that in the name of progress its opponents treat it as a historical norm. The current amazement that the things we are experiencing are ‘still’ possible in the twentieth century is not philosophical. This amazement is not the beginning of knowledge—unless it is the knowledge that the view of history which gives rise to it is untenable. (Walter Benjamin, Theses on the Philosophy of History (VIII), spring 1940)
One view of history: Solzhenitsyn, after released from his 20-year “exile” in Vermont in 1994, returns to Russia to critique America’s intervention in “historically” Russian issues (i.e., Belarus, Ukraine, and Georgia), praising Russian nationalism and calling for conservative Christian (Orthodox) solidarity. [Source: IHT]

Another view of history: two nights of protest outside a popular gay nightclub in Moscow result in 39 arrests after said protestors pelt people leaving the club with eggs and fruit. “Demonstrators on both nights of the May Day holiday weekend were an unlikely mix of young men from a Russian nationalist group and elderly Orthodox [so-called] Christians.” Furthermore, “Moscow’s first Gay Pride parade is scheduled for May 27, but Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, backed by city officials and religious leaders, has said he will not grant a permit for the event.” [Source: PlanetOut]

I’m absolutely certain there is no connection. Whatsoever. At all. At least historically speaking.

Tuesday, May 2, 2006

Wo willst du hin

His lover listened to Xavier Naidoo after he left for work in the morning. It was tragic, she told him over lunch. Not knowing what else to say, she continued: It’s like a little mouth. It’s tight-fisted and arbitrary like a painting by Anselm Kiefer. He pulled her hair back in a ponytail and watched her lips form the words he knew would come. I’m leaving, he said, before she got the chance to say goodbye. He pulled out the ticket from his back pocket: Lisbon. One way. It was the only way she would believe him, although she had seen it all in the Xavier Naidoo video after he left for work.

Monday, May 1, 2006

Day of (In)Action

Shortly after noon, I submitted my term paper entitled "Il est temp! Baudelaire's Logic of Time and the Memory of the Present." Now I'm exactly 2/3 finished with this semester. I have a 20-page paper about terrorism due a week from tomorrow. To this end, I've been reading lots of fascinating/disturbing essays, articles, and books about the topic.

Last week's episode of Now included a "By the numbers" section regarding human rights which has haunted me since: The number of people estimated to have been killed in wars [state-sponsored terrorism] throughout the 20th century: 60 million. The percentage of war fatalities that are women and children: 75%."

Viva la raza. And happy May Day. (I'll have my own holiday soon enough....)