Wednesday, December 31, 2008

End of It to Begin

Today is the last day of 2008--an arbitrary date and an arbitrary number. The older I get, the more in sync I become with natural time: the phases of the moon and length of day.

I've come to the realization this year that the energy I want to have relies upon its necessary "opposite": the time I take to rest, reset myself, and recover from the mental and physical drive to accomplish my goals. To have more energy then means to spend much more time asleep, in relaxation, in meditation and glacial movement. This upcoming year I hope to allow the process to take over.

This year, I'll write my exams and begin my dissertation (although I've really already begun drafting). I'll shift from student to scholar. I'll present at and attend more professional conferences. I'll have many more conversations about deeply meaningful subjects.

And I'll display impatience with the things that interfere with my goals. And I'll become angry with stupid people who don't bother to have goals. All the while aware that goals are merely unnecessary, external hoops I've set for myself. But I'll jump through and applaud for myself just the same. All the while aware that jumping and applauding are equally unnecessary.

I'll write and I'll read. Hopefully more than before. And with less distraction. And I'll listen to much more music, which really is the most proper nourishment for my soul.

Debts will be paid. Time to travel and time to stay. Love to love and love some more. Kitties to pet and brush and nap with. More body hair to shave and trim. Longer hair to wash and brush and style. All mere externals. All mere child's play.

And play and play and play.

Happy "new" year!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Project Blog It: Red

Better red than dead.

We've been watching the film version of Angels in America slowly over the past few weeks after recording it off Logo. It's so dense, tightly woven, and painfully brilliant, reminding me with every scene that I will never write anything so pure and elegant.

The scene in Kushner's work when Ethel Rosenberg visits the dying lawyer who helped place her on the electric chair:
ROY: So what? Are you going to sit there all night?
ETHEL: Till morning.
ROY: Uh huh. The cock crows, you go back to the swamp.
ETHEL: No. I take the 7:05 to Yonkers.
ROY: What the fuck's in Yonkers?
ETHEL: The disbarment committee hearings. You been hocking about it all week. I'll have a look-see.
ROY: They won't let you in the front door. You're a convicted and executed traitor.
ETHEL: I'll walk through a wall.
Even the dead red discloses how nothing compares to the living death of Roy dying in the mid-1980s, his body marked by the red pocks of AIDS.

We now move to 2003, when Miguel Murphy's A Book Called Rats was published. (Today is Miguel's birthday, which probably accounts for why I'm picking up this brilliant text again.) He writes, in "In the Garden of this Night":
I ache
in a dangerous skin. Love's
leaving lives
in my body the way
wine lives
in its redness, deep in

a night made for forgetting.
The breath touching me now is not here.
In my own insomnious garden--I woke up at 3:30 this morning--I found myself unable to relax. Fists clenched. Jaw forward. Legs tense. It was easier to rise and read than to return to my dreams that only mirror and mimic the redness of the mundane real world. It's the way I live. In my skin. In my dreams. Better red and forgotten by my dreams than to live otherwise.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Bullet-Point Friday

How academia is turning me into a stingy and petty academic.
  • When resources are already stretched too far, the small benefits afforded students and professors in the humanities become necessary carrots to keep us coming back to the job. These days I feel more like a hippo battling other beasts for a sip of water from a drying lake than a scholar high atop the ivory tower.
  • I applied for the paltry $250 travel grant for graduate students to present their research at conferences. My application was accepted, along with too many others, and my "refund" check came out to $135. The actual cost of the conference was closer to 10 times that amount.
  • Last June, when I received notice that my proposal was accepted for the conference, I asked my supervisor at the community college about the possibility of getting reimbursed for travel. His response: "I'll check on it." Finally, in November--months after the conference--after asking again about the possibility of getting some funds to help cover the costs, he did check on it: $500. With one catch: you absolutely must apply at least three weeks prior to travel. Fuck you, M.T.--you incompetent fuck. I hope your house burns down for Christmas! Fuck you, B.M.--you insipid fuck who can't even respond to an email in complete sentences. I hope your car crashes off a mountain!
  • Last week I was chatting with one of my colleagues who told me about a recent holiday departmental party he attended. The get-together was also to honor the TAs who were awarded a $500 prize for being such fucking good TAs. So much for the rest of us who do our fucking senseless jobs with no recognition whatsoever without complaining (to the administration, at least) about how grading 80 exams in US history three times a semester for the past three fucking years is really beneath me and a waste of my intelligence, education, and training. I hope the fucking department is swallowed by a hole that opens up in the earth!
  • A year-and-a-half ago I organized an informal graduate theory reading group as one way of supplementing the utter lack of training in theory at my institution. (My department, in fact, prides itself on its anti-theory stance! So much for the real students getting a fucking job when it's all over with.) One student who has shown no interest at all in attending the reading group, in ever reading anything theoretical or philosophical, or has ever attempted to actually learn a foreign language, or for that matter ever develop as a scholar who does more than summarize other "scholars" recently received a fellowship consisting of a "three-year award that includes tuition and a living stipend." Congratulations, motherfucker, for underachieving your way out of the poor house! And congratulations to the faculty who saw such promise!
  • Thankfully, I am done with this semester--this last semester of coursework. I could have taken useless, fluff classes that didn't challenge me, or that didn't even require any effort at all on my part. But instead, I signed up for the most challenging and difficult courses of my life. And over the winter break, I'll be preparing papers and proposals to send off to spring conferences all over the US. And I'm even prepared to pay all my own expenses if need be. And I'm going to be the best (and smartest) professor my students have ever had. All because--even with all the systemic flaws and deficiencies in higher education--it is worth it.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Project Blog It: Words

I’ve been reading Ricoeur as a near-end-of-the-semester treat, so I’m not sure if I even have anything to say about words.

What I can say is that words speak themselves: I am utterly—in being uttered—superfluous. Words have intention not merely derived from their speaker’s intention. Words are signs to transcendent referents all the while remaining immanently sense. Words are the crossroads of the dialectical problems of event and meaning, of sense and reference.

Words are phoneme, lexeme, and grapheme. Words bridge the gap between syntax and semantics. Words are the gap between what is said and what will never be expressed.

Words de-scribe what is written. Words fall away when meaning gives way. Words exteriorize themselves in endless self-referential wording. Words are the wording of the word.

The word of God is the exteriorization of the wor(l)d as God, the necessary confluence of word and world per God. If in the beginning is the Word, then infinite λόγος wor(l)ds God as whirlwind and storm and brimstone. God reigns down on our heads as pure word.

I languish in the languid language, this temple of being.

When I (last) lived in Germany, I grew tired of words (grew tired of me) and attempted to use immediate, nonlinguistic semantics to dis-course with myself. I tried sound and tone. I attempted color and hue. Always returning ceaselessly to the ever-ceasing, ever-increasing word that subsumes all that is said and that which will never be said.

Now it’s time for me to hold my tongue.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Academic Pro-/Mastur-bation

Only two classes down. But for the third class, I already have an incomplete/extension. So, for the most part, I'm done with the semester. Done with coursework altogether. Not counting, of course, the 70 US history final exams I'll have to grade next Wednesday. Or the grade calculation for the philosophy course I teach online.

As per usual, here are excerpts from my academic work this fall term. Should you be so inclined, enjoy!
Jew - Poet - Exile: Reading Jabès through Derrida
One wonders if there is ultimately any difference between God and the Book of God. But because we are familiar with the Derridean notion of différance, we know that this question is a ruinous trap: God in position a can never be the selfsame, identical God in position b. Each repetition of “God” is kept apart in a deferring difference. If God could coalesce into a hegemonic and boundless totality, there would be no word that could contain “him.” This “God” would be unspeakable and hence unknowable. Jabès can write “God” only insofar as he cannot write God (himself), thereby relying on the necessary apophasis of the divine. Moreover, the “Book of God” stands in synecdochically for the manifest universe—all that is, including God—but cannot ever merely substitute for God; otherwise, the entire universe (including God) would have to be contained within this one sentence. Additionally, the book of man is on the same scale as the Book of God. Both texts must incorporate infinity without overlapping or subsuming one under the other. This logical impossibility opens an aperture through which we can begin to understand both the divine and the mortal: in Jabès’ literary and theological systems, rationalism is not the route proper to our knowledge. The manner in which Jabès employs both apophasis and synecdoche requires a metaphysical framework that continually attempts to annul itself. Every word he writes both names and nullifies its referent.
Heidegger's "The Thing"
Although we stated earlier that a jug as a vessel is capable by its very form of containing something within its sides and base, we see now that we were speaking too hastily, for it is not the jug’s sides and base that actually do the containing after all. While it is true that the clay used to form the jug’s structure allows for its impermeability, that which is impermeable is not what does the containing. Rather, the emptiness “within” the jug is what does the jug’s containing; it is the jug’s nothingness that makes manifest the being of the jug. If this is the case, then the potter does not really produce the jug at all. Whereas earlier we saw how the jug stands forth on its own in an ontic sense, we now see how the jug, in divesting itself of the potter altogether—because, after all, nothing does not need anyone to produce it—stands forth ontologically by itself in its singularity. The potter merely shapes the clay that brings forth the void that does the jug’s containing. But even though the jug requires an emptiness in order to be a containing vessel, the jug is never really quite empty. We can of course view the jug scientifically: it is not empty per se but rather filled with air that is displaced when we fill the jug with wine. Yet it is precisely science that annihilates the thingliness of the jug, thus transforming it into a nonentity. Our scientific perspective is indeed paltry when we allow what the jug truly holds to escape our attention; namely, the outpouring of the gift. But what gives? What is offered by the jug? And how is the jug’s outpouring made manifest? For Heidegger, earth and sky, the gods and mortals all are ingathered into the jug’s empty center. These simple, singlefolded [einfältig] four dwell in the gift of the outpouring, gushing forth from the spring of being.
And here's my proposal for the as yet unwritten term paper:
The Already Ethical: Spatiality and the Problem of Da
Emmanuel Lévinas concludes his essay “Apropos of Buber” by putting into question the Da of Da-sein: “being-there, is that not already occupying another’s place?” His claim that Heidegger’s Da is “already an ethical problem” opens an aperture wherein a questioning of ethics within Heidegger’s articulation of Da-sein’s being can occur. How is ethics a problem—something thrown forth—for Heidegger? Does Da-sein’s thrownness into a there necessitate an ethics as Da-sein finds herself among other beings? How are we to measure the ethical dimension of Da-sein’s leeway [Spielraum] as she not merely fills up space but rather “takes space in” [“Das Dasein nimmt – im wörtlichen Verstande – Raum ein.”] (BT 336, SZ 368)? My essay will be a hermeneutical engagement with relevant passages dealing with spatiality within Being and Time—especially §70 The Temporality of the Spatiality Characteristic of Da-sein—in an attempt to tease out an ethics grounded within Da-sein’s there.
And yes, I do tend to overuse the word "aperture."

Friday, December 5, 2008

Bullet-Point Friday

  • That's right: I'm bringing bullets back into fashion. Just in time, since some whack-ass bastards are trying to get an open-carry law passed in Texas. Just what we all need: asshole Texans waving their fucking guns in our faces as we try to fight traffic on the way home each evening. By the way, I fully embrace my own assholiness, but God gave me middle fingers to wave in your face instead. Even point blank, they barely pierce the skin.
  • I've finished one class so far. Only two term papers to go. And grading 80 US history final exams. And submitting grades for my own philosophy students. I already know the majority of the winter break is going to consist of finishing this term's projects and planning for the spring. And yes, I'm currently avoiding working on a term paper right now.
  • The ways in which I have allowed myself to become distracted so far today instead of drafting my essay include
    • checking email and Facebook updates as if my life depended on it
    • petting and playing with my cats
    • attempting yet again to set up a live webcam feed on my blog ... with no success
    • organizing my notes for the one class that I've completed this term
    • coming up with bullet-point content to post on my blog
    • thinking about shredding the stack of papers laying on the floor behind me
    • reading articles about African singers, the death of Patriarch Aleksy II, and the attempt to deem protestations of animal rights violations as a form of terrorism
  • I've just finished my fourth cup of coffee today: two over breakfast, one mid-morning, and one afternoon. I think it's time to introduce a late afternoon version of the tried-and-true.
  • My goddamned feet are still freezing even after wearing thick winter socks in my house-shoes and turning up the thermostat to almost 80 degrees. Cold feet make Frankie real mad!
  • Maybe I'll go see what the topic on Oprah is today while I heat up that fifth cup of coffee.