Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Meez, Myself, and I


I spent the past hour or so designing my Meez.com 3D ID, but I haven't been able to figure out how to have both sideburns and a goatee. Or to add about 40 lbs. Or wrinkles around the eyes. I still think I prefer the real me to the virtual one; although it would be nice to take Boleslaw to Japan someday.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Overachieving Incompetence

There is very little that’s worse than dealing with overachieving incompetents. I have (at least) one course this semester that is organized and administered by such people. The schedule has changed no less than four times since it was officially set in stone back in December. If I would’ve bought all their required texts, I would’ve paid about $500. If I would’ve been keeping up with the required reading of said texts, I would’ve read more than 1000 pages … per week. As if I would’ve had time buying texts and reading them when I’m required to attend class every Monday for three hours as well as the required seven-hour session at least once a month on a Saturday. Luckily I haven’t bought any of the required texts, and I’ve read no more than 10 pages altogether just to get the gist of what there are going to try to discuss in our meetings. I’m now getting to the point where I have absolutely no desire to read their own submissions of their work. The requirement is to submit 2-10 pages per workshop, and the average submission has been closer to twenty pages. It would’ve been much higher if I wouldn’t have stuck to the minimum two-page requirement. That’s one requirement I can get behind! Also, there’s no reason I need to read something that hasn’t even been proofread and spellchecked. When I download their papers and open them in MS Word, my screen is filled with red squiggles under every misspelled word. Are they fucking blind? Or have they in their sheer incompetence managed to turn off this function on their own computers? Am I really asking too much for a Ph.D. student to know how to use commas properly? For my own required presentation I’ll do on the last day of the semester, I borrowed the required text through interlibrary loan, chose five pages that I’m going to introduce and talk about, and photocopied the excerpt for myself and my colleagues. Anything more would be asking too much. At this point, it should be required (and enough) to be a functional and useful human being.

Monday, February 12, 2007

An Attempt toward an Elegy for A.N.S.

I just wanted to write something for you, not only because your death affected me more than my own father’s, but also as an apology from one of the many voyeurs into your private life.

Every newscaster has dragged out the Dictionary of Clichés to talk her/his way through your life: “train wreck of a life,” “famous for being famous,” and “not so much a ‘candle in the wind’ as a matchstick in a hurricane.” But you were more than all that. You were human after all.

You were an angel-bunny sent to teach us about our own shortcomings and to remind us of the seven deadly sins: lust, gluttony, and avarice, etc. etc. And let’s not forget envy.

You performed your celebrity duties with a sense of humor, slurring and stumbling your way into our homes. It was hard not to laugh. And the lesson you taught—that it’s no less difficult to be a punch-line than a punching-bag—will stay with us for a long time.

You were a devoted mother, and we shared in the tragic loss of your son, just as we shared in your daughter’s tragic loss of a mother mere weeks later.

If I were a praying man, I’d pray for your soul. And for the lives of those you left behind. For her, for him (and him, and him, and him, etc. etc.). But instead I can only offer one final cliché: rest in peace.

Nothing abides. Nothing is lost.

May your guardian angel-bunnies attend thee.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

The Unnamable (A Protocol)

9/11 is an American quasi-logo denoting the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, which becomes in its use an ideogram in which we continually re-inscribe the Twin Towers. Lower Manhattan is the public face of those attacks: the destruction of the World Trade Center and the ever-present absence of those towers, which have since been temporarily replaced with columns of smoke, light displays, and nothing.

Throughout history, major events (read: battles) have always been site-specific and therefore marked geographically: Carthage, Troy, Waterloo, Crimea, and the Alamo. Even in our Christian teleological worldview, the battle at the end of history (the battle to end all history) is geo-positioned: “Armageddon” is the Latinized-Anglicization of Mount Megiddo in Israel. However, in our naming 9/11, we seek to remove it from the realm of merely human, merely earthly events, displacing its geographical specificity (that is, New York, Washington, D.C., and rural Pennsylvania) and assigning it instead a place in history. 9/11 is, after all, a historical date.

Derrida reminds us that “referring to an event with a date automatically gives it historical stature: it monumentalizes it.” Yet it is a date on the Gregorian calendar, a calendar with its origin in Roman Catholic Europe. So, when we write 9/11, we not only inscribe the World Trade Center again and again, we too denote our own Christian and European heritages as Americans (as well as perhaps deny our indebtedness to Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America).

The use of the month before the day, however, specifically indicates the style typically employed in the United States. Thus, 9/11 is also an inscription of American exceptionalism and difference. But every date on every calendar repeats every year; therefore, we cannot completely extract the marker of those events, dispersing them into pure timelessness and monumentalization. September 11 will repeat, even if that particular September 11 is over and done with.

9/11 too denotes the fragmentary and fractional—a literal fraction (nine-elevenths): a whole unit minus and missing two pieces (the Twin Towers?). Most significant, however, is the fact that despite all the rhetoric of us (Americans) versus them (the Muslims, or the Arabs), we Americans use what is commonly referred to as “Arabic numerals.” Considered an important milestone in the development of mathematics, these numbers were developed around 400 BCE in India and were later transferred via the Persians to Western Europe.

9/11, in this way, also exposes our reliance on Eastern “others,” including Arabs, for the development and advancement of our science and technology sectors that would come to create skyscrapers and jet airliners in the first place. Ultimately, there could be no “us” without “them.” 9/11, in this way, inscribes as well as denies a common world heritage and a common world event.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

H. B-day, Yo!

I feel compelled to speak. To write. Something brilliant and profound should come out any moment now. But it does not come. Today I turn 39—an age that doesn’t sound very profound at all. At least I’ll have greater cause and public support for a revolution next year. But this birthday comes, came, and will soon be … is gone. In this, it’s a reminder that revolutions are not turning the status quo on its ear but rather the cyclical nature of the universe as this one planet revolves around that one star. And knowing full well that there is no “this” and no “that,” I still have nostalgia for a here and a now. Yet I remain now and here: nowhere. Nostalgia for an I that can experience something deep and profound. Yet meaning eludes me, alludes to something tricky, concludes something without my input, excludes me altogether. On this, my birthday, I feel quite arbitrary and contingent. Ill-defined and infinitely pretentious. Superfluous. A spectre, a non-spectacle. Unseen, unmoving, and unfelt. Unreal. No, really, I’m happy to have a day all to myself (although shared with Lisa Marie and Pauly Shore), but it’s difficult to continue on with this life knowing full well that the babies were mixed up at birth and that someone somewhere else is most truly me and I sit here languishing in the life of a has-been, never-was-to-be. Smile. Wink. Nod. I’m god yet again … and good to go. H. b-day to me, bitch.