Friday, June 29, 2007

Wrong Side of the Tracks

Skajlab Simpson-ifiedI was spending my otherwise unproductive afternoon buying tracks on iTunes, eating cheese and crackers, and browsing blogs that have been repeatedly recommended to me but that I rarely make the time to visit. On one such blog--Blogography--I found a link to the Simpsons Movie, where one can create her/his own Simpsonesque avatar. If Skajlab lived in Springfield, I'm afraid this is what he would look like. He would probably be friends with Lisa and the foreign exchange students, and he would probably be gay with Milhouse. Such is the life of my cartoon identity....

3 Great Films

It was the end of the world...

...and Claire couldn't care less.

And somewhere on a desert road from Vegas to nowhere...

...I'll talk it over with Brenda.

I have the right to testify in my native language...

You have to do what nobody expects.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Simple Things

It really is the simple things that make life worth living. The complicated shit only makes me mad.

I’ve been spending much more time at the local YMCA. Lately I’m exercising at least five times a week, mostly there but also sometimes in the neighborhood. I’ve even been much more able to engage in the senseless chitchat with the woman behind the counter at the Y. I think it’s funny she wished me a happy fathers’ day and then asked if my father was still alive. Do I not exude the fatherly vibe myself? Am I (visibly) at that age where fathers typically die off?

I’ve been diligently reading since the spring term ended, preparing for the courses I’ll be taking as well as those I’ll be teaching this fall. I’ve read some really hard books. I wonder why all knowledge always comes in book format? To study music, you have to read books about music. To study art, you have to read books about art. I’m beginning to hate books more and more.

I’ve been slacking when it comes to studying German on my own. I’ve only gotten through the first six lessons in the Pimsleur program. Last summer I’d gotten through the entire Russian I course (30 lessons) in the same amount of time and had began Russian II. I hope my dedication comes back once I’m actually sitting in class in Germany next month.

Tomorrow I’m returning all the books I’ve checked out to the university library. I have eleven. And the Pimsleur German CDs. I need to get them back since I’ll be gone when it’s time to renew them online. And when I return, the fall semester will already be in its second week.

Today, the CIA released hundreds of pages of internal reports on assassination plots, secret drug testing, and spying on Americans. That’s nothing: you should see the secret reports I keep on the government.

What’s in heavy rotation on my iPod this week: “North American Scum” by LCD Soundsystem, “Everyman Everywoman” by Yoko Ono w/ Blow Up, “Hammering in My Head” by Garbage, “Girlfriend is Better” by Talking Heads, “Bump!” by Nylon Room, and “Guilt is a Useless Emotion (Mac Quayle Vocal Mix)” by New Order. Maybe I should write a book about it.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Podcast-aways

Here are my favorite podcast subscriptions. There's something for everyone. Well, maybe not you.

  • Twelve Byzantine Rulers
    This history of the Byzantine Empire is a lecture series written and presented by Mr. Lars Brownworth who teaches history at The Stony Brook School in Long Island, New York. He has traveled extensively from the furthest reaches of the Byzantine Empire all the way to its heart at Constantinople. Join him for an engaging look at the history of the Byzantine Empire through the eyes of 12 of its greatest rulers.

  • Alan Watts Podcast
    Alan Watts is one of the most widely read philosophers of the 20th century. In addition to his 28 books, Alan Watts delivered hundreds of public lectures and seminars the recordings of which have been preserved in the archives of the Electronic University, a non-profit organization dedicated to higher education.

  • The Meditation Podcast
    A free monthly podcast of guided meditations with Jesse and Jeane Stern.

  • PDX Ripped
    Pampelmoose.com's weekly podcast with Gang of Four's Dave Allen. Discover new music and catch interviews with up and coming new bands.

  • Global Hit
    PRI's The World presents the Global Hit podcast, a daily spotlight on international musical artists or trends. Created by The World's Marco Werman, the Global Hit features interviews with musicians, critics and deejays around the globe.
Am I missing anything? I'm always open to suggestions on what to listen to.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

"conversant on existentialism"

After hearing about yesterday's NPR article "For Shakira, an Emotional Homecoming Show," I imagined an encounter between Shakira, Beyonce, and French existentialist Jean Paul Sartre.
Being is. Being is in-itself. Being is what it is.

Shakira: (Twisting Beyonce's hair into braids.) You know those lyrics from "Hips Don't Lie"? It goes, "Oh boy, I can see your body moving / Half animal, half man / I don't, don't really know what I'm doing / But you seem to have a plan / My will and self restraint / Have come to fail now, fail now / See, I am doing what I can, but I can't so you know / That's a bit too hard to explain."

Beyonce: (Giggling.) Yeah, I remember.

Shakira: I was really trying to articulate Sartrean nausea in the face of overwhelming freedom.

Beyonce: Yeah, I got that.

Shakira: God, Beyonce, you're so smart! Your friendship is like the unavowable gift Derrida writes about: it unhinges the narrative contingencies of pure spirit and opens the word into the openness of being.

Beyonce: (Twirling her own hair.) Uh-huh.

Shakira: It's like what you sing in "Irreplaceable." It reminds me so much of Rilke's first Duino Elegy. (Taking the text from the nightstand, she reads from the original German. Then she paraphrases into English.) "Beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror."

Beyonce: For sure!

Sartre recedes in disgust. Derrida turns in his grave. And Rilke wishes a rock would fall on Shakira's head. (Actually, we all wish a rock would fall on Shakira.... But really a rock should fall on Juan Forero, the idiot NPR reporter who wrote such drivel.)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Minority Report, or Little Frankie's Big Gay Dallas Election, Part 2

Here's the link if you want to see the anti-homo political promo promising a Starf*cks of one's own ... unless you take it up the ass.

As if living through the death of political culture in the United States wasn't enough, now we have access to the zombification of the citizenry through elections results based on a mere 12.85% of registered (not eligible) voters. Who are the real idiots: the 95,343 who mistakenly thought their vote would count, or the 646,782 who couldn't be bothered to spend the five minutes it took to cast a ballot in the runoff election even though at one point in their lives they had the initiative to fill out an entire voter registration card?

Oh, and the stupid fuck who "won," you may ask: his only concrete platform was the possibility of enjoying "a Starb*cks in your own neighborhood." You'd think that, considering this was "the most expensive mayoral race in Dallas history," wealthy retired businessman Tom Leppert would've come up with something a bit more insightful or necessary than overpriced burnt coffee. From early May to early June, Leppert raised $855,000 and spent about $1.1 million [source: Star-Telegram.com]. I wonder how much of that came from the Green She-Devil of Seattle....

One more minority report: why the fuck were all the black and Hispanic kids at the YMCA wearing David Neumann tee-shirts Saturday morning? Couldn't they find some other rich white Republican to support? And isn't there some sort of law about nonprofit organizations (such as the YMCA) not getting involved in political activities? I hope those damned campaign shirts come in handy when.... Yeah, I better just stop right there before I have my own Michael Richards moment.

When the revolution comes, make mine a venti soy latte. Peace out, mofo.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Beaver Dreams

I've taken this magic little pill (Rozerem) for the past two nights: the first night I dreamed I bludgeoned two people whom I love, last night I barely slept at all, and for the past two days I've felt stoned and strangely euphoric ... in a dazed & confused/Donnie Darko sort of way. One would think that with all this science and all this technology, somebody somewhere would create some good meds that can put my ass to sleep at night and wake it up in the morning. Before getting this prescription, I was self-medicating with melatonin. But when I take those magic little pills too regularly and consistently, I suffer from severe depression. That was something I learned only too well after a particularly rough case of jetlag after returning to Japan one time. Now I make sure not to take it every night, and never to take it more than two weeks at a time. I'll keep up with the Rozerem dosage until I return to the sleep lab; that is, unless I get involved in some Homer Simspson antics like when he was taking sleep medication a few weeks ago. I'm not interested in being a volunteer firefighter.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Marked by the trace and the testament


Derrida's Learning to Live Finally--his last interview before dying in October 2004--is a brilliant testament to learning, living, and loving. This little book arrived today, and I eagerly read it in its entirety this afternoon. Here are a few of my favorite passages:
I don't want to renounce anything, indeed I cannot. Because you know, learning to live is always narcissistic ...: one wants to live as much as possible, to save oneself, to persevere, and to cultivate all these things which, though infinitely greater and more powerful than oneself, nonetheless form a part of this little 'me' that they exceed on all sides. To ask me to renounce what formed me, what I've loved so much, what has been my law, is to ask me to die. (29-30)
At the moment I leave 'my' book (to be published)--after all, no one forces me to do it--I become, appearing-disappearing, like that uneducable specter who will have never learned how to live. The trace I leave signifies to me at once my death, either to come or already come upon me, and the hope that this trace survives me. This is not a striving for immortality; it's something structural. I leave a piece of paper behind, I go away, I die: it is impossible to escape this structure, it is the unchanging form of my life. Each time I let something go, each time some trace leaves me, 'proceeds' from me, unable to be reappropriated, I live my death in writing. It's the ultimate test: one expropriates oneself without knowing exactly who is being entrusted with what is left behind. Who is going to inherit, and how? Will there even be any heirs? (32-3)
[S]urvival is an originary concept that constitutes the very structure of what we call existence.... We are structurally survivors, marked by this structure of the trace and of the testament.... [D]econstruction is always on the side of the yes, on the side of the affirmation of life. ... This surviving is life beyond life, life more than life, and my discourse is not a discourse of death, but, on the contrary, the affirmation of a living being who prefers living and thus surviving to death, because survival is not simply that which remains but the most intense life possible. (51-2)

To get a lucid and direct taste of this philosopher "whose entire work pays homage to the subversive intensity of existence," I recommend this little book, this blur, this tear--a mere paper left behind when a great thinker ceased to exist.

Monday, June 11, 2007

One Old Message, or Little Frankie's Big Gay Dallas Election


Yeah, this shit was left on my answering machine Saturday. My commentary is in brackets.
Hello. Crime, education & homosexuality are the three hot issues in the mayor’s race Saturday, June 16th. [Actually, the hottest issue of the Dallas mayoral election is to keep douche bag Tom Leppert out of City Hall.] Did you know that the crime rate in Ed Oakley’s city council district is eight times higher than the rest of the city? His district also has one of the highest dropout rates among residents. [The use of such statistics only obviates the real issue while revealing Leppert's "classist" (that is, elitist) and racist bent. I can only assume that if elected, he will tear down all bridges that connect downtown to the southern sector. (And yes, I meant that figuratively as well as literally.) His views on South Dallas/Oak Cliff are just as bent. Check out this website for a little background.] And the Dallas Morning News reported that Ed Oakley would be the first openly gay large-city mayor. [First off, that is non-issue, especially in this election. Secondly: 'bout fuggin' time, I says. Who cares that Ed's a big 'mo': he's experienced and has proven to be a leader, the kind of leader that this shithole town needs.]

We encourage your vote for Tom Leppert—a Christian, married, father of three children. [It's easy to get lost down the rabbit hole (not warren, but ass) of this "logic": "Christian" and "homosexual" are not mutually exclusive categories, as evidenced by the largest gay Christian church in the world sitting on the other side of town. I guess Tom ignores the north side as well.] For more information, go to www.isuckthedevilsteet.com. That’s www.isuckthedevilsteet.com. This call was paid for Heritage Alliance PAC. [Of course, some of the most revealing anagrams of "Heritage Alliance" include "Alienate Each Girl," "Ethical Reel Again," "Cheater Nag Ail Lie," and my two favorites: "Eager Anal Itch Lie" and "Anal Rage Lie Ethic". I don't know if this is important; I'm just saying.] Thanks, and have a great day.

I'm beginning to see the sense in firebombing telecommunication networks if not headquarters of fascist organizations. I mean for fuck's sake: I have paid to be put on do-not-call lists so I wouldn't be harassed by telemarketers but campaigners for Satan himself can still call and peddle their political shlock and version of salvation?!?! Instead of trekking down the stony path of a terrorist, I decided to merely blog my frustration. I hope you've enjoyed.

Oh, and if you're interested, you can call Heritage Alliance at 214.348-2220. Go nuts!

Saturday, June 9, 2007

We’re changing our ways...

I always ever only as a rule per my self-proclaimed identification to be a musical purist (read: arrogant snob-prick) loved original versions of songs. Case in point: I spun into retrograde when Sinéad O'Connor covered “Nothing Compares 2 U” and only listened to The Family’s 1985 version from their self-titled album. (Apparently the kitsch factor was never a problem....)

In an effort to change (or releasement from changing)—because looking back I sense many unlikable qualities I displayed, particularly when I look at the kind of people (unkind) I attracted into my life back then—I sometimes “force” myself to listen to various covers (including badly rendered pop versions) of some of my favorite songs, developing a more nuanced palate (or ear).

Earlier this morning I watched the trailer for Anton Corbijn’s Control, the biopic of Ian Curtis, which sent me in search of covers of Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart.”

Here are some of the more listenable and less objectionable covers I found on YouTube:

If the above cover from Norway's Susanna and the Magical Orchestra didn't do it for you, then try the even more bare-bones version by California-based Timothy Gregory:

For those who just can't stomach new visions of old favorites (or how something so personal can escape the gravity of its own origin and be re-visioned and apropriated by others), here is the original. Now who's the snob?

Friday, June 1, 2007

Bringing Sexy (and Consumption) Back

Who would've thought that TB could be so fuggin' sexy?!?! This photo from the AP (or perhaps it was Jeff Koons or even Pierre et Gilles) does more to glamorize the disease than any lackluster nineteenth-century painting or even Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge. I wish I was coughing up blood with both of them....