Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Two-Track Tuesday: Disintegration

Saturday evening was “opening time down on Fascination Street.” Stephen and I went out to the Halloween street party on Cedar Springs for the first time in several years. Overall, it was a very casual evening. We ate at Buli’s, and after walking around the “parade route” a couple of times and checking out the hot costumes, we came home in plenty of time to catch the opening of Saturday Night Live. You know it’s a good night when you get home before 10:00 pm!

There was a time once—perhaps around the time when I received this cassette (which was a gift from Michelle and Alf (spit! spit!) for my twenty-third birthday—when I would’ve stayed out until the sun began peeking over the horizon. Walking past what used to be Below Xero, the greatest dance club of the early 90s in the gay district of Dallas, brought lots of things back to me: dancing there with Marc and Toni to great house, dancing there with Michelle and Sophie to great retro 80s, and dancing there with James and Daisy to heaven only knows what they were playing that evening.

All I remember from that night was James doing back-flips on the dance floor because it was Tuesday and so few people were out. Only the die-hards who had sworn to party every night of the week were there. (Thank you, Daisy, for joining that mad, mad crusade.)

It was at Below Xero that I first heard Deee-Lite’s “What Is Love?”—the B-side to “Groove Is in the Heart”—another two-track that brings back memories of dancing with Marc and Toni all those years ago.

There was a time once—about a year before then—when I listened to the EP of “Lovesong” over and over again over a weekend until I forced myself to fall in love with someone (Toni from the previous paragraphs, in fact) I had previously despised. It worked. And now I still feel a tinge of regret years later for the love I let die.

Thinking of Toni reminds me of the two-track of Peter Murphy’s Deep, which I had borrowed for a few weeks. Now Peter Murphy himself reminds me of the love I once let die after trying so hard to cultivate it to a song by the Cure over the course of a weekend. Indeed, “poor is the man whose pleasures depend on the permission of another.”

In my final semester in college (as an undergraduate), I produced a performance art piece with Maureen—another love with other songs in mind—entitled “Rain and You” and based on the lyrics to the songs on Disintegration. I’m not quite sure anyone got what was going on: I was dancing and writhing on the floor after waltzing with Maureen. We were dressed in black. I think there was a rainstick involved and perhaps a few other props, perhaps sponges soaked in water. “It was sweet; it was wild. And oh, how we….”

Monday, October 27, 2008

Project Blog It: Wishes

I wish that I didn’t feel like I had to choose among
  • getting a decent amount of sleep/rest
  • completing all my reading assignments
  • exercising
  • having a social life
  • having a sex life
  • being creative
  • meditating
  • organizing the budget
  • beginning term papers
  • brushing my cats
  • grading my students' papers
  • cleaning the house
At most, I get a handful done every week. And most of them from the academic requirements as I neglect my cats, my friends, and myself. Sorry.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Project Blog It: Migration

They came from Mexico to work our fields. They came from Russia to marry us. From Poland to clean our offices. From Japan to serve us tea in expensive restaurants. Passports and visas define their existence in our world. Some we hate—most we hate—but others we adore: the Cuban dancing for dollars on the bar, Armenian and Turkish club kids in San Francisco (but of course, not at the same time), German tourists asking for directions and making w sounds instead of v. So many borders to cross, so many miles to go. Across continents and time zones.

Once—over the course of seven months—I traveled around the world. All the way. From Dallas to San Francisco to Kyōto to Pusan to Frankfurt to Amsterdam and back to Dallas. I felt like I had betrayed myself by going in a circle. Instead I should have zigzagged around until I somehow broke free from my orbit—sometime before breaking my own bank account—and flung myself out further, beyond time. Beyond space. And meaning. I still contend to this day that my day is actually tomorrow.

I am a time traveler. I have traveled beyond being, deep into the heart of nothingness. Across the event horizon of my own temporality. Yet I always manage to get back home before the end of the day. To shave and take a shower. To clean the cat boxes. To watch another sitcom recorded on the DVR.

At times, I stop to talk with my fellow travelers. Some I lead. A few I follow. Most I ignore. Although space is vast, it still is finite. Time, however, runs adjacent to eternity and parallel to perpetuity. Yet my time is a function of my space that will someday run out. We will meet again, though, at our final destination. Someday. But we’ll cross that desert when it’s our time to migrate to our mother country whose language we no longer speak. I’ll see you there, sitting at a café beside a bridge and a cathedral in a land on no map.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Two-Track Tuesday: Songs for Drella

It was while forcing my friend Shayne to listen to this tape on the way back from Fort Worth in 1990 that I realized that our friendship had an expiration date. Or at least the person I was—the kind who would practically force one of my oldest friends to listen to the kind of music that I was obsessed with at the time but who had no interest in this type of music at all—thought, perhaps too easily, that if we couldn’t share a common taste in music, then my friendship with her was hanging by a thread.

I realize now that I was probably being the kind of jerk who in his infernal enthusiasm for arty music of the early 90s (as well as other periods) insisted on listening to this tape whenever anyone else might be listening (or should be listening). How would the masses know how sophisticated and intelligent I was if they didn’t hear the kind of music that would let them know?

Of course, I wasn’t that self-conscious about it. I was probably just too enthusiastic for my own good. I still really like this tape. Listening to these songs this past week made me want to run home to paint and write poetry. I never got around to dragging the paints out, but I did sit down to work on some writing that I’ve been neglecting far too long.

I’m sure Shayne doesn’t remember this “event” from eighteen years ago. That’s the kind of friend she is. And even if she did remember, she probably wouldn’t hold it over me too badly.

So, in honor of Yom Kippur 5769, which I missed a few days ago, I just wanted to apologize for making everyone listen to my kind of music. I’m sure it wasn’t the first time. I’m certain it won’t be the last. But I really do love music. Too much. Even some of the shitty pop music that probably rots my mind the way saltwater taffy from the state fair rots your teeth. I’m addicted. And when good stuff comes out, I’m even more fanatical about it—to the point of pushing it on all my friends. At least it’s not crack cocaine.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Fragments & First Beginnings

Protokoll: M. Heidegger’s Being and Time

Έν άρχη ήν ̀ο λόγος…

“Wherever I begin, it is all one to me, for there I shall return again.”

– Parmenides

At first, a word toward “fragments and first beginnings,” the “fragmentary and incipient” [“bruchstückhaft und in ersten Anläufen”]: how are we to begin with Heidegger’s text? How to receive its message? If it is purely original and autochthonic, sharing no common ground and outside all horizons, then who are we to break its hermetic seal? But if this text is open to us—indeed, if we are open to this text—we may in fact find we have a share in its message (being) as mediated through a shared language (wherein being resides).

Yet the question remains: how to begin? Within which horizon? If by way of Plato’s Sophist—the manner in which Heidegger himself begins—then we find we understand neither is nor is not, yet conclude with Theaetetus and the Visitor from Elea that we nevertheless must go on with our inquiry. If by way of Hesiod’s Theogony—from where the reference, via the Sophist, to the gigantomachia comes—then how are we to think our own beginning from the blood of giants vanquished by gods? Or if we take a different route, via Elea, back to the Paremenidean fragments themselves, then how are we to think being when being and thinking are the same? Do we need to read Being and Time if we already adequately think being? Is everything, including Being and Time, always already merely quotations of quotations, a palimpsest par excellence with no beginning and nothing new to say?

As we begin to read this fragment, we come to understand that there is not ever a pure beginning but always already a beginning-entering—a beginning to enter something already there, the necessary and fragmentary processuality of coming to understand that we are already within our own horizonal frame. Our content is our (temporal and historical) context. Regardless, it is only by beginning do we begin to recognize our own inadequate cognizance of being. Even though we daily use this term, we still do not understand what being is, what we mean by it. Therefore, we must raise the question of the meaning of being anew. But before we can begin to answer that question, we first must begin to try to understand what we even mean by that question. What does the question what is the meaning of being? demand of us, especially as the only beings from whom being can demand any sort of answer? Our approach needs to be grounded within our lived, everyday existence; that is, the concrete and experiential. The only understanding of being we could possibly have is one that is informed by our experience of time, our self-understanding that we are finite and limited beings defined by finitude.

Not only do we not understand being, but we, for the most part, have forgotten being altogether. Yet the question of the meaning of being is of prime importance. It once served as a stimulus to the philosophical projects of Plato and Aristotle. Yet since, philosophy has not considered it a subject worthy of thought. Instead, it has even trivialized being, thoroughly dogmatizing its neglect, thereby making being (seem) utterly superfluous. Most thinkers contend that being is so universal as to be self-evident, requiring neither thought nor attempt at definition. Despite the fact that pre-Socratic philosophers found being to be disturbing enough to devote their lives to exploring its hidden and unfathomable truths, we charge any contemporary philosopher who thinks about being with misunderstanding and methodological error.

To counter these claims, Heidegger asserts that being is not a universal category subsuming all beings; that being truly cannot be defined by beings (i.e., being cannot be depicted as having the same characteristics of any being qua entity), but its indefinability itself demands a re-questioning of being’s meaning. The fact that we already have an albeit undisclosed awareness of being necessitates further the raising of the question of being’s meaning yet again. We may begin only by first formulating an adequate way to raise the question of being in order to make being transparent.

Questions have their own horizons, their own limits. When we enter into the questioning, we allow ourselves to be guided by what is sought. In this case, being will guide us toward itself if we allow ourselves to be in a position of being guided. Asking toward being is a way of being itself. More importantly, being is already available for our inquiry even though we may fail conceptually to grasp the is in our undemanding, preliminary question what is being? We seek that which we know beforehand only tacitly, but despite the fact that being is not a being, we can only approach the question of being by way of questioning beings themselves.

Since being encompasses all that we see, all that we know, and all that we comport ourselves toward—everything that is, is (within) being: the totality of what we include in reality, the objective presence of things [Vorhandenheit], subsistence, validity, Da-sein, and the there is [es gibt, il y a]—we must choose a being whose interrogation will guide us to being itself. Da-sein is that being whose questioning of being is a mode of being, and interrogating Da-sein will make this being transparent to her own being. Moreover, Da-sein is not merely yet another being among (other) beings; instead, Da-sein is the being whose being becomes a question for her. Da-sein’s ontic uniqueness is that she herself ontically is ontological; Da-sein’s essence, therefore, is existential. Our pre-ontological understanding of predicative being is our entry into the question-frame of existential being. It is only by way of questioning the being whose mode of being can question being itself that being can be questioned. The essence of Da-sein is that Da-sein already knows being—knows that she is—even before being becomes a question for her. However, Heidegger’s project is not mere abstraction and theorization; instead, he seeks an understanding of being that is grounded within the everyday and concrete: the fact that something is, is a call to (call into) question its “isness.”

We can only conclude here with an anarchical word: being. And now, at the end, let us begin to enter, to re-question the ever-fragmentary Being and Time. Even though we may “believe that we are spared the exertion of rekindling” the gigantomachia, perhaps Heidegger would rather we stage our own authentic [eigentlich] reenactment: let us therefore divide ourselves into giants and gods. To arms to battle for being!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

New Track Tuesday: Love

Since I had no free time over the past several days to listen to any of my old two-tracks stored away in the closet of the office, I decided to venture out from that series and instead offer a "new track" of sorts in the form of an iTunes iMix.

I searched song titles for the word "love," edited the original list of 111 tracks down to 25, then had iTunes "delete" all the ones that weren't popular or worthy enough according to their standards (or their collection). I hope you enjoy the 15 songs that made the final cut.

You gotta admit: that's more love than most of us have survived....

Friday, October 3, 2008

My Big Gay Vice-Presidential Nominee Debate, or Thank you for your tolerance, or Some of my best friends...

IFILL: The next round of -- pardon me, the next round of questions starts with you, Senator Biden. Do you support, as they do in Alaska, granting same-sex benefits to couples?

BIDEN: Absolutely. Do I support granting same-sex benefits? Absolutely positively. Look, in an Obama-Biden administration, there will be absolutely no distinction from a constitutional standpoint or a legal standpoint between a same-sex and a heterosexual couple.

The fact of the matter is that under the Constitution we should be granted -- same-sex couples should be able to have visitation rights in the hospitals, joint ownership of property, life insurance policies, et cetera. That's only fair.

It's what the Constitution calls for. And so we do support it. We do support making sure that committed couples in a same-sex marriage are guaranteed the same constitutional benefits as it relates to their property rights, their rights of visitation, their rights to insurance, their rights of ownership as heterosexual couples do.

IFILL: Governor, would you support expanding that beyond Alaska to the rest of the nation?

PALIN: Well, not if it goes closer and closer towards redefining the traditional definition of marriage between one man and one woman. And unfortunately that's sometimes where those steps lead.

But I also want to clarify, if there's any kind of suggestion at all from my answer that I would be anything but tolerant of adults in America choosing their partners, choosing relationships that they deem best for themselves, you know, I am tolerant and I have a very diverse family and group of friends and even within that group you would see some who may not agree with me on this issue, some very dear friends who don't agree with me on this issue.

But in that tolerance also, no one would ever propose, not in a McCain-Palin administration, to do anything to prohibit, say, visitations in a hospital or contracts being signed, negotiated between parties.

But I will tell Americans straight up that I don't support defining marriage as anything but between one man and one woman, and I think through nuances we can go round and round about what that actually means. [Hint: It means that one man can marry one woman at a time. But since divorce is such a favorable option for the "straight ups," you can certainly marry more than one spouse throughout your goddamned, holier-than-thou sojourn on this earth with no penalty.]

But I'm being as straight up with Americans as I can in my non-support for anything but a traditional definition of marriage.

IFILL: Let's try to avoid nuance, Senator. Do you support gay marriage?

BIDEN: No. Barack Obama nor I support redefining from a civil side what constitutes marriage. We do not support that. That is basically the decision to be able to be able to be left to faiths and people who practice their faiths the determination what you call it.

The bottom line though is, and I'm glad to hear the governor, I take her at her word, obviously, that she think there should be no civil rights distinction, none whatsoever, between a committed gay couple and a committed heterosexual couple. If that's the case, we really don't have a difference.

IFILL: Is that what your said?

PALIN: Your question to him was whether he supported gay marriage and my answer is the same as his and it is that I do not.

IFILL: Wonderful. You agree. On that note, let's move to foreign policy.

Thank you, Governor Palin, for not traveling the tacky road most taken and resorting to the typical paradigm of "some of my best friends are gay." Instead, you subverted any good sense you may have been born with and as an alternative simply stated that some of your best friends are indeed gay-bashing homophobes. What a diverse crowd you run with!

For Palin's real stance on this and related issues, I recommend On the Issues, where you can find links to her record, including:
  • Vetoed bill denying benefits to gays, as unconstitutional
  • Comply with same-sex partner benefits despite disagreement
  • Ok to deny benefits to homosexual couples
  • No spousal benefits for same-sex couples
Finally, I do acknowledge that Palin has shown tremendous growth since the time she listed as one of her top priorities, "Preserving the definition of 'marriage' as defined in our constitution." It seems with all of that executive experience came a crash-course in "constitutional" [sic] law.

And Senator Biden's major blunder on this issue was to conflate civil law with ecclesiastic practice. My dictionary--as well as Palin's "constitution" [sic]--defines those in opposition. So what Biden effectively said was that he will gladly allow a religion's (or any religion's) anti-homosexual prejudice to dictate what any queer American can and cannot do. (Just so you know, Senator, I'll gladly use my Second Amendment rights to protect my First Amendment rights.)